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DOI acknowledges receipt of voter-approved amendments from Am Samoa

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Commends Am Samoa on “working towards self-determination”

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Assistant Secretary Carmen G. Cantor of Insular and International Affairs (DOI-IA) has commended American Samoa on “working towards self-determination” upon receiving the Voter-Approved Amendments to the Revised Constitution of American Samoa last month.

This is according to a statement issued by the Office of the Governor this week.

“Your administration, your fellow elected and traditional leaders, and the people of American Samoa should be proud for conducting a process not just to allow, but to encourage the public to participate in shaping the future of the territory,” stated Assistant Secretary Cantor.

The Department of Interior has officially acknowledged the submission of the amendments and indicated the actions they will take.

“We will review the amendments you transmitted to the Secretary in the same spirit of respect for self-determination as well as the laws and policies of the federal government for appropriate action. We will keep you informed and consult as needed throughout that process,” Cantor stated.

According to a press statement, Governor Lemanu conveyed his sincerest appreciation to Cantor for her response and her continued support for our territory.

“I want to ultimately thank the people of American Samoa for participating in this collaborative decision-making process; we are at the final stages of this historical occurrence.”

Lemanu in his State of the Territory’s Address said the last time American Samoa’s Constitution was amended was in 1979 when the Secretary of Interior still had unilateral authority to amend the Constitution.

“These amendments were for Article II, Section 8 which changed the length of the legislative sessions from 30 to 45 days, and Article II, Section 20 which changed the manner of appointment of the counsel and changed grade level.

“In 1983 with the passage of P.L. 98-213, Sec. 12, 97 Stat. 1462 (codified as 48 U.S.C. Sec. 1662a), the power of amendment was transferred from the Secretary of Interior to Congress. Section 12 states: “Amendments of, or modifications to, the constitution of American Samoa, as approved by the Secretary of the Interior pursuant to Executive Order 10264 as in effect January 1, 1983, may be made only by Act of Congress.”

A third Constitutional Convention was held in 1984, but its proposed changes were withdrawn because of objections raised by the U.S Justice Department, and then further changes proposed in 1986 were rejected by the American Samoa electorate, primarily due to proposed changes in the selection of the American Samoa Senate.

Lemanu said there have been 5 constitutional referendums on the “Veto Override” amendment. None of them passed.

“These referendums were in 2008, 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2018. (The 2010 referendum was part of an “All or Nothing” package after the 2010 Constitutional Convention.).

“The veto override amendment for this year’s 2022 referendum (amendment #3) did not pass.

“With the passage of 5 amendments in the 2022 Referendum, American Samoa has its best chance in 43 years to break out of constitutional stagnation.”

The five amendments submitted to the Department of Interior for its review and consideration for Congress’s ratification included the right given to the Swains Delegate to vote in the House of Representatives — after the 116 years Swains has been a Territory of the United States, since the Guano Act of 1856.

Swains Island, a remote coral atoll, was made a part of American Samoa by an Act of Congress, not by a Deed of Secession, on March 4, 1925, and has been administered as part of American Samoa for 97 years.

Other amendments are the impeachment process of the governor and Lt governor; amending the government’s official name from Government of American Samoa to American Samoa Government; changing of Ma’uputasi to Ma’oputasi and the amendment changing Leasina to Leasina ma Aitulagi.