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Questions posed on safety of “full-fledged” 2022 Flag Day celebration

Sen. Soliai Tuipine Fuimaono

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Is it safe to hold a full-fledged 2022 Flag Day Celebration amid the COVID-19 pandemic, was the focus of Sen. Soliai Tuipine Fuimaono’s question during the Senate session on Wednesday, after Lt. Gov. Talauega Eleasalo V. Ale at last week’s cabinet meeting announced planned events and activities for this year’s celebration.

Soliai noted that concerns remain over the COVID-19 virus but Talauega has already made public the full fledged Flag Day celebration. Soliai said there is no problem with Samoa’s new Prime Minister, Fiame Naomi Mataafa and other officials traveling here, as this is the appropriate and proper protocol.

However, it’s not clear yet if there will be “traditional entrainment” groups from Samoa to be invited.  Soliai asked whether Fono leaders were consulted or whether the final decision on Flag Day was made solely by Talauega.

Tuaolo responded that the governor requested a meeting with Fono leaders this morning, Friday, and will learn at the time the issues for discussion. He did say that prior to the start of the joint session on Monday, Fono leaders were informed by the governor that discussions had already been held with the Secretary of the Samoan Affairs about the Flag Day celebration moving forward this year.

Additionally, the Fono leaders had called attention to the pandemic and the Administration’s response was it’s “safe”, said the Senate President, who noted that issues and the outcome of today’s meeting will be shared with senators afterwards.

Talauega announced at last Friday’s cabinet meeting that this year’s Flag Day celebration will include a fautasi race, cricket tournament, fishing tournament, farm fair and a marching band competition.

He said the Samoa Prime Minister and other officials will be invited and it will probably be during this time that the Two-Samoa Talks will be held.

Prior to Talauega’s remarks, Secretary of Samoan Affairs, Mauga T. Asuega also spoke about the planned Flag Day festivities, saying that all these planned activities — including the usual Arts Council Flag Day program, “is to bring a sense of normalcy back to the Territory,” according to a news release from the Governor’s Office.

Flag Day celebrations in 2020 and 2021 were scaled back to a very minimum due to COVID-19 restrictions at the time, with no fautasi race or cricket tournaments.