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Culture, political status and economy focus of Admin’s call for changes

Changes are for the betterment of everyone, the governor says

With families being burdened with huge contributions to the Samoan culture and younger family members not willing to participate in the culture, Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga has called on traditional leaders to look at ways to change the current practice.

Speaking at his cabinet meeting last Thursday, Lolo said that as the administration prepares to start its new four-year term, “we have to take a closer look at the path” going forward.

He said that government in the past four years has responded to the public accordingly and in the next four years, the government should look at changes for the betterment of everyone. Lolo identified three main issues for change: the Samoan culture, political status and the economy.

For culture, the governor told his cabinet that the younger generation has questioned various aspects of the fa’aSamoa — especially as to how the culture can better the lives of people.

Lolo said people often cannot afford to provide for some of the practices that have been imposed through the culture. For example, when there is a “fa’alavelave” and the family is asked to provide $500 and 100 fine mats.

Some couples end up returning to either Samoa or Manu’a, and that means people are rejecting the cultural demand, because it has become burdensome to them, he said, adding that the culture is simple and it’s to bring people together, but that has not been the case lately.

The governor then asked the Secretary of Samoan Affairs, Mauga Tasi Asuega and other traditional leaders, including district governors, to look at what can be changed to ensure families are happy and youth are involved in the Samoan culture. He said it’s important that people live in happy and harmonious ways and thereby support the culture.

Concerning the territory’s political status, Lolo said the administration with the help of the US Interior Department, has established the Office of Political Status, Constitution and Federal Relations. He said this office plays an important role in the territory’s political status as the office is tasked with providing awareness programs for the public.

For the economy, the governor said that in recent communication with federal officials, they shared what they (the feds) saw of the economy in the past 100 years.

The federal officials believe, Lolo said, that what the federal government did, in the past 100 years was to find a way to create a “sustainable economy”; however, the governor believes up to now the feds still don’t know what should be done.

And the reason for that, he said, is because American Samoa is located so far away from the rest of the United States, so far away from other nations and far away from major communication centers.

Lolo said recommendations have been given to the American Samoa Visitors Bureau to focus on tourism development, which is something the federal government has also looked at for American Samoa.

However, he said that it’s not easy to depend on tourism for the local economy and that’s the reason the feds have pushed for the canneries here, because they believe American Samoa can “sustain” this (fisheries) for an economy — and Lolo believes this to be true too.

But, the governor said, the canneries now face new problems, such as the shortage of fish supply; and he believes that in the next five to ten years, it’s going to be difficult for the canneries because of the various issues they are currently facing.

Lolo suggested that it’s best for government leaders to think about a “sustainable economy” for American Samoa in the future and provide recommendations to the administration as such.