Lt. Gov. Lemanu addresses rumors of Gov. Lolo running the gov’t when off island
At last Thursday’s gubernatorial forum hosted by the American Samoa Bar Association, three questions were asked of the candidates for lieutenant governor, with one of questions, “How do you see your role as lieutenant governor, if your team wins the election?” causing Lt. Gov. Lemanu Peleti Mauga to publicly address — for the first time — rumors and unconfirmed reports that Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga runs the government from Honolulu when he is off island for a long period of time.
The rumor-mill went into overtime, about two years ago, when the governor was off island for several months due to an illness that befell him in Washington D.C. and later he was recuperating in Honolulu. At the time, Lemanu was acting governor, and there were many unconfirmed reports that Lolo was running the government from Honolulu, without Lemanu having a say in daily ASG operations.
And, every time the governor is off island for a long period of time, the rumors and unconfirmed reports continue to echo this hearsay.
Lemanu was the first to respond to the question, saying, “We’ve been in office for almost four years now and the role of lieutenant governor is to recommend and advise the governor and making decisions [as well as] executing [them].”
“It doesn’t matter what your recommendation is. The betterment of... our territory is priority on the governor’s list and it’s mine as well,” he said and then noted that the question is probably, or trying to relate, what happens to him and the governor, “when he was off island or something related to that.”
“If that’s the case, I can tell you for sure, I make the decisions, there is only one governor of... American Samoa and in order for the team to work together that team has to have the trust of each other,” Lemanu said.
“You might see all the news that came out that the decisions were made from Hawai’i [by the governor] and that’s not the case,” he said but didn’t identify the source of the news. “All decisions were discussed over the phone between me and the governor.”
“So let me stress and make it very clear — I think that’s what the question is referring to — the lieutenant governor has many roles,” Lemanu said and the first one is lieutenant governor and second is the Secretary of State.” (In US states, they have a separate Secretary of State.)
As Secretary of State, “I make sure that the process of administrative law is processed,” he said and noted the Secretary of State also oversees the local Election Office, but that’s a grey area of the law. So those are the roles that I have,” he said.
Another role for the lieutenant governor, Lemanu says, is to make sure, all the laws, both administrative and laws by the Fono are collected and put into a form of a book or into the computer system of the government.
“We have not done it yet, I know it’s a very enormous task and it’s going to take a lot of funding. But in due time, I think the governor, if we do get re-elected, that will be accomplished as well,” he said.
Candidate for lieutenant governor, Salanoa Iuni Maeva Saveena, running mate to candidate for governor, Tuika Tuika, was the next to answer the question saying, “Tuika and Maeva team is the best team,” which is “fit to govern because we are the only honest team in this race. It’s our first time, no record.”
Rep. Larry Sanitoa, candidate for lieutenant governor and running mate for candidate for governor, Faoa Aitofele Sunia, responded that he and Faoa have “talked about the importance of the role of lieutenant governor” and “I think it’s important that we have a unified team, that God willing that we come together and make this thing happen, he’s [Faoa] going to rely on his lieutenant governor to be his number one advisor.”
“He’s going to count on the lieutenant governor for his opinion, [and] as a confidante for him,” Sanitoa said. “I believe that my role is to support the governor as the lieutenant governor and be able to assist in which ever way we can to support what ever policy and directions the governor will have.”
The second question to the candidates was: “In our increasingly global world, what is your plan, for balancing our culture with the need to be globally competitive?”
Salanoa was the first to be asked and he responded, “Lets face it American Samoa is just a little island and we try to compare globally with people out there, it’s pretty hard for us.”
“So I think we have to stay and do the best we can to our culture, not even try to compare to the outside world” where there are many problems, he said and noted that, “our culture remains the same and we try to do the best we can with our culture and forget the outside world [sic].”
In his response, Sanitoa said, “Faoa and I have talked about this, to keep our Samoan culture thriving. It’s important to preserve our culture. And more importantly, it’s important to keep its uniqueness. We have a very, very unique culture and that’s something that we need to continue to promote, not only locally here but throughout the world.”
He noted the question is framed talking about global influence and probably influence with respect to the culture.
“Again it’s that simple, we have to continue to maintain the importance of our culture and to continue to promote our culture,” Sanitoa said. “Our position is very clear, we need to keep our culture thriving and also make sure that we continue to promote it.”
Responding to the question Lemanu said, “I’m not sure if culture in terms of ‘aganu’u’, or culture in terms of what we do every day in the government.”
“Now if you ask me to compare life styles, culture in terms of life style, to those of the mainland and Europe and so forth, then I would say that we are on the advantage compared to the whole world,” he said. “And I say that because we Samoans, at least we know who we are. We are deeply rooted to the language, culture and blood.”
The third question asked of the lieutenant governor candidate’s deals with whether or not to elect senators, and was reported in yesterday’s edition in detail.