Update: AG Ale stepping down to get into the political fray
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga says that after presenting American Samoa’s verbal arguments for a federal appeals case early next month, Attorney General, Talauega Eleasalo V. Ale, will be stepping down to pursue his political aspirations.
Lolo made the revelation at last Friday’s cabinet meeting, telling those in attendance that this may be the AG’s last cabinet meeting, as he will be resigning the weekend after arguing American Samoa’s case pertaining to the LVPA on Feb. 5th at the federal appeals court.
The governor said the AG has already spoken to him about his future plans and as governor, he understands Talauega’s reasons. Lolo said Talauega didn’t tell him whether he plans to run for governor or lieutenant governor.
(Samoa News notes that since early last year, Talauega’s name has been mentioned in political circles as a candidate for lieutenant governor for the November 2020 gubernatorial race).
At the cabinet meeting, the governor said he has a lot of trust in the AG - the reason for appointing Talauega to the post. “And you have stood up strong for American Samoa throughout your term in office,” Lolo said to the AG. “Continue to do good work.”
Lolo said that what’s important to him is to place people first. He said the same goes for all leaders in government, including cabinet members - as well as those planning to run for public office this year - always “put people first” because anytime people are not priority, there will be problems with the work being done.
He reminded cabinet members that the administration’s theme and goal has always been: “People First” and that’s the reason for the many successes since the administration took over Jan. 3, 2013.
To Talauega, the governor said, be strong in your future plans and don’t be afraid to make the right decision. Lolo wished him the best with his plans and advised him to always continue to work hard to serve the people - in government and the private sector.
The legal battle at a federal appeals court between American Samoa — through ASG — and the US National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) over the reduction of the Large Vessel Prohibited Area (LVPA) goes through oral arguments on Feb. 5th at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
The LVPA case is one of the five cases out of the Honolulu federal district that will be heard by the appeals court. Oral arguments on these cases - including the LVPA case, which will be argued by Talauega on behalf of ASG - will be held at the US Bankruptcy Court in Honolulu, according to court records.
NMFS had appealed to the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals over the Honolulu federal district court’s decision last year, in which a judge sided with plaintiff ASG, citing the Deeds of Cession (1900 for Tutuila and Aunu’u; and 1904 for Manu’a) invalidating the federal agency’s final rule in 2016 that reduced the LVPA, which was put in place more than 10 years ago to protect the local 'alia fleet.
At last Friday’s cabinet meeting, Talauega gave a very short briefing on the case, saying arguments on such matters are very difficult, as American Samoa is faced with an uphill battle.
He acknowledged that the feds have the authority to oversee and govern US waters, including territorial waters, but ASG will continue to pursue the case through appeal with the hope that “we will, again, win” as ASG did in the lower court. He asked cabinet members and the public for prayers as ASG enters into the appeal stage of the case.
“If we win, we praise God,” he said. “If we lose, at least we know the reason behind our lawsuit, which is focusing on the importance of our Deeds of Cession.” He stressed that American Samoa’s argument with the feds, is that American Samoa has the right to the protection and control of its waters, under the two Deeds of Cession.
Secretary of Samoan Affairs, Mauga T. Asuega said the case, to him, “is a milestone case” as it involves the Deeds of Cession. “We are very blessed in more ways than we know” through the Deeds of Cession and as “American Samoans, it’s your duty and my duty to stand up, protect it, teach our children and our generation, going forward,” he said.
ASG has long argued that the 2016 final rule reducing the LVPA, “threatened cultural fishing rights protected” by the Deeds of Cession.