Gubernatorial teams asked about population increase in the Territory
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — While the territory’s 2020 mid-year population is estimated at over 57,000 — a slight decrease compared to last year’s estimate, according to ASG Commerce Department, there appears to be local residents that believe there is a population increase in American Samoa.
“How do you plan to address the population increase in the territory. What reforms are needed and what strategies do you propose?” was one of questions from the public, posed to the candidates, during the second gubernatorial forum early this month hosted by the American Samoa Bar Association.
The Gaoteote and Fa’iivae gubernatorial team had a prior commitment and didn’t attend the forum, held at the American Samoa Community College Multipurpose Center.
I’AULUALO AND TAPAAU
Candidate for governor, I’aulualo Fa’afetai Talia, first points out that the question “goes against the principle of Samoans having an extended family. Samoan family and culture believe in having a lot of kids, [who] are blessings from the good Lord.”
He noted that “we have to be vigilant with our immigration law. We need to reform immigration and make sure we have a limitation on people coming into the territory.”
He explained that he and Tapaau were in Manu’a recently and “there’s hardly anybody in Manu’a. So there’s more space in Manu’a. And we need the people to move there. Also there’s nobody in the Swains island. So there’s actually a lot more land here than we thought.”
Candidate for lieutenant governor, Tapaau Dr. Dan Mageo Aga shared with the audience what research says — from the World Health Organization and many other studies looking at how to manage population.
“And it has to do with women and gender equality. The research shows that, the better educated the women of a society are, the smaller their families,” he said, noting that the “issue of gender equality is an all important issue in American Samoa.
“This even impacts the issue of domestic violence because domestic violence is gender-based violence. It’s based on the belief that women are inferior to men,” he said.
“This is no small issue. When you look at the teachers in American Samoa, 70% to 80% are women. Its women who will impact the future of education in American Samoa,” he said.
“And across all Polynesian societies, it’s the women who bear the burden of health care in the family. Education and health care is the responsibility of women.”
NUA AND SATELE
“Nua and Satele do not understand who posed this kind of question,” said candidate for governor, Sen. Nuanuaolefeagaiga Saoluaga Nua, to laughter from the audience. He wondered out loud, if the person who posed this question understands that many locals have migrated off island.
He said the recent census for American Samoa will probably come up with a population that would not reach 60,000 people.
He believes the reasons local residents migrated off island is due to poor service provided by the government in every area, such as education, hospital, jobs, immigration.
“All kinds of government service,” he said and points out that people are moving away because they “don’t like our government, even students.”
He said students go off island seeking degrees and then return home only to get nothing. “So they’d rather go back to the states and get a good pay and life over there,” he said. “If the government provides good service, there would be more people on island.”
He reiterated as to who posed this kind of question, when people are moving off island.
The moderator said all questions were from the public, as stated at the beginning of the forum.
LEMANU AND TALAUEGA
Candidate for governor, Lt. Gov. Lemanu Palepoi Sialega Mauga first pointed out that he is not sure if American Samoa has a population growth issue, as the 2020 census was only completed recently with results to come out early next year.
He also said that the question is not really clear, if the population increase means “our own or the [number] of foreigners” in the territory.
As to the question, Lemanu said he and Talauega believe that it’s not a matter of increased number of people in American Samoa, but it’s a matter of “keeping people of American Samoa in American Samoa.”
He noted that other candidates cited the reasons local residents migrate off island such as in the area of public health.
“We need to do a little bit more better job in taking care of our people providing for our people to make sure they are taken care of,” he said, adding that the other area in keeping American Samoans on islands, is providing jobs and the other part is taxation.
He also believes that another reason people are migrating off island is the Samoan culture — it’s becoming too expensive.
(Lemanu didn’t elaborate further, but there have been growing concerns over the high amount of money or other material contribution to Samoan fa’alavelaves.)
He said the importance of the question for American Samoa is how to keep sons and daughter of American Samoa here, and how to implement programs to attract them back home.