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Lolo: Our people’s lack of faith in gov’t will stall any attempt to amend political status

Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga
The other reason: Lack of understanding of issues at play

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga says “our people’s” lack of faith in government and lack of understanding of issues at play will stall any attempt to amend American Samoa’s political status and constitution.

The governor made the comments in his written 40-page official State of the Territory Address earlier this month.

Lolo noted the Dec. 12, 2019 decision by the federal court in Salt Lake City, Utah granting US citizenship to three American Samoans living in Utah — although the federal judge on the following day put a hold in carrying out the ruling. (See Samoa News Dec. 13 and 16 editions for details).

According to Lolo, the federal court’s decision, “necessitates immediate attention to the issues involving our political status, our relationship with the United States, and our Constitution.”

He added that the ruling more than two years ago by the federal court in Honolulu on the Large Vessel Prohibited Area (LVPA) surrounding territorial waters, in which American Samoa won, “grants us hope that our Deeds of Cessions will be recognized by the federal government as being legitimate and binding.” (This case is on appeal with arguments to be heard Feb. 5th.)

“It is certain that our people are desirous of maintaining our political ties with the United States to continue access to financial assistance,” Lolo said.

“Our current political status prohibits us from seeking assistance” from other countries nor does it qualify American Samoa for U.S aid given to development institutions such as the World and Asian Development institutions or United Nation programs.

“From an economic perspective,” said Lolo, being a U.S. territory subjects American Samoa to federal economic policies such as the cabotage, federal minimum wage, U.S. Coast Guard enforcement, federal monuments and sanctuaries, and others, “which have stifled the development of our economy to move us towards the attainment of our aspiration for self-sufficiency and self-reliance.”

“Regrettably, our people’s perceived absence of faith in our government and lack of understanding of the issues at play will continue to stall any attempt to amend our political status and constitution to reflect our aspirations relative to the protection of our land-based culture,” he continued.

Lolo pointed out that local fisheries is being threatened from many fronts, thus the economic future of American Samoa is in jeopardy which necessitates exploration and implementation of drastic actions.

He referred to letters sent to the US President and US Department of Transportation seeking a waiver to allow Samoa Airways to pick up passengers in American Samoa destined for Hawai’i and the mainland. (See last Thursday an 16 edition for details).

“Invariably our people must hasten the consideration of our political status and propose actions to change our relationship with the United States and our Constitution or the decision will be made for us by others lacking understanding of our historical socio-economic landscape, [and] the passion and love for our homeland,” Lolo concluded.

At a recent cabinet meeting, Secretary of Samoan Affairs, Mauga T. Asuega wondered if there is a possibility of calling a Constitutional Convention this year, saying there are many urgent issues that require urgent discussions.

He noted that the Administration has only about 11 months left in office, but he’s hopeful that such an event will be called in the near future. (He didn’t go into details about the issues he was referring to).

Samoa News points out that instead of calling a Constitutional Convention, the governor suggested in 2015 using the legislative process to propose any amendments to the American Samoa Constitution.

The last Convention was held in 2010, where more than a dozen proposed amendments to the Constitution were approved and presented to voters during election that year.

Voters rejected all the proposed changes, which were put under one question for a vote of “yes” or “no”.