ASG Office of Political Status presents at annual UN decolonization seminar

reporters@samoanews.com

The three-day 2017 Caribbean Regional Seminar by the United Nation Special Committee on Decolonization was held this week in the Caribbean nation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

ASG’s Office of Political Status, Constitution and Federal Relations executive director Tapa’au Dr. Daniel Aga presented American Samoa’s perspective at the seminar. Details of Tapa’au’s presentation should be available soon.

The seminar’s theme is “Implementation of the Third International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism: the future for decolonization in the Non-Self-Governing Territories”, according to a statement a UN statement last week.

American Samoa is considered by the UN as one of the world’s non-self-governing territories. The annual regional seminar is rotated between the Caribbean and the Pacific.

For this year’s seminar, it took into consideration recent developments in the Caribbean, Pacific and elsewhere. Therefore, the seminar reviewed the situation with respect to the Non-Self-Governing Territories, including the issue of support from various entities with in the United Nations system and other organizations, according to the Decolonization committee, which will present the Seminar’s conclusions and recommendations at its June substantive session, and subsequently transmit them to the General Assembly.

Tapa’au and his staff have been holding outreach programs for high schools since early this year explaining American Samoa’s political status. Last month was a student forum for all public and private high schools.

The executive director was also called before the Senate and House to answer questions posed by lawmakers. Perhaps one of the biggest issue Tapa’au’s office has been trying to get people to fully understand, as it was also raised by lawmakers, deals with American Samoa’s constitution and its political status with the United States.

“The Constitution is an internal document to American Samoa, while the political status is an ‘external’ matter dealing with the territory’s relationship,” he explained during last month’s House committee hearing.

“American Samoa’s Constitution can be amended but not the political status. If amendments to the constitution are approved by voters and the US Congress — which has the final decision — then changes will be made, while American Samoa’s political status as an ‘unorganized, unincorporated’ territory remains,” he said.

American Samoa’s working papers released in March this year by the UN Secretariat “strongly urged the administering power [the United States] to refrain from undertaking any kind of illicit, harmful and unproductive activities, including the use of the Territory as a tax haven, that are not aligned with the interest of the people of the Territory.”

The General Assembly requests that American Samoa and the administering power take all measures necessary to protect and conserve the environment of the territory against any degradation, and once again requested the specialized agencies concerned to monitor environmental conditions in the Territory and to provide assistance to the territory, consistent with their prevailing rules of procedure.

American Samoa’s presentation to the UN committee two years ago had the governor saying that the territory should remain on the list of non-self-governing territories, under the purview of the Special Committee, until such time as its people have exercised their right to self-determination.

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