11 February 2010

American Samoa Political Status Discussions

Territorial discussions on political future conducted in Samoan
Samoa News
By Fili Sagapolutele fili@samoanews.com

The government launched this week the first two awareness programs to educate the public on various issues dealing with the constitution and the territory’s political system before the Constitutional Convention is called in June. Both programs are in Samoan, without English translations.

Gov. Togiola Tulafono on his weekend radio program announced the outreach program to begin this week saying it will focus on the current constitution as well as other issues to assist American Samoa in preparation for the convention.

The first 30-minute program was aired Tuesday night on KVZK-TV with a roundtable discussion that included the Governor, Secretary of Samoan Affairs Tufele Li’amatua, Constitution Review Office executive director Afoa Moega Lutu and Fofo I.F. Sunia. Tufele was the chairman of the Future Political Status Study Commission (FPSSC) and Fofo was the executive director of the FPSSC.

Togiola said Tuesday night on KVZK that the first program focused on the two deeds of cessions— one for Tutuila and Aunu’u and the other for the Manu’a Island group. He said the two separate deeds of cession have been the subject of debates and questions in the past.

Tuesday night’s program touched on some interesting background history of Manu’a, and the move by the U.S. government, which kept asking then-King Tuimanu’a for his island kingdom to be part of the United States, joining Tutuila and Aunu’u.

KVZK-TV said part two of the program, taped Tuesday morning, was to air last night.

The discussions are considered to be of great interest— especially to help students and others become more familiar with the history which led to this territory becoming an American possession. However, they are in the Samoan language, with no English translation.

During his radio program, Togiola said the constitutional convention is a very important milestone in the territory’s history and public input will help pave the future of American Samoa. He said full community participation is needed. The Governor said the FPSSC has already done its work, which will guide the constitutional convention.

(It should be noted that the FPSSC Report is in English and Samoan.)

In his State of the Territory address last month at the Fono, Togiola said the constitutional convention will be held on the third and fourth weeks of June, which is timed with the opening in July of the 4th regular session of the Fono to present any recommendations and findings for lawmakers’ review and consideration.

He said American Samoa’s relationship with the Untied States requires re-examination. “We should be very worried about the march towards re-federalization of American Samoa that we see today here on our soil as well as other insular areas,” Togiola told lawmakers. “We need to make some hard decisions some time as to our political future, and I believe that time is now.”

The Governor also said that there will be public service announcements and town hall meetings that will take place between now and June and urged everyone in the territory to get involved.

He encourage participation by families, villages and churches; adding that ASG officials will make public appearances to explain the process and enlighten local residents as to the choices for American Samoa’s political future.

“It is anticipated that after the main convention, a youth forum will be impaneled to review the outcomes of the Convention at the same time the Fono will be examining the final proposals. We expect these to all happen this year,” he said.

The Governor will soon be announcing members of the Constitutional Review Board.

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