Standardized Samoan translation of Census questions put forward to prevent different interpretations
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The American Samoa 2020 Census Office has come up with a standardized Samoan translation of the questions on the census form, to ensure that enumerators don’t have different interpretations of the English questions, says local Census area manager, Meleisea Vai Filiga.
Samoa News received several inquiries on whether the census questions will have Samoan translations, to ensure that people understand, and so accurate answers are provided.
During the Census office presentation last Wednesday at a cabinet meeting, Meleisea explained that a “major issue that was argued” with the US Census Bureau dealt with “enhancement” for the 2020 count. He said 90% of the territory’s population is Samoan but the questionnaire is all in English — without Samoan translations. Therefore, the local Census Office argued for a chance to have the questionnaire translated to Samoan.
This will prevent different Samoan interpretations of the questions, he said, adding that the local office was able to convince the Census Bureau and a standardized translation will be available.
In his official written State of the Territory Address last week to the Fono, Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga urged lawmakers to support the upcoming census count, which helps American Samoa with — among other things — federal funding allocation.
Lolo shared what has been a long standing argument from territorial leaders since 2011, that the 2010 Census didn’t accurately count the territory’s population. (The 2010 Census had American Samoa’s population at just over 55,000 but local leaders argue that it should have been at least 60,000 people, or more).
“I am of the opinion that our 2010 Census failed to count every individual that was in American Samoa during the time of the 2010 Census enumeration,” Lolo said in his address.
“Consequently, reduction in federal fund allocations was evident.
“It’s imperative, therefore, that we take all the necessary steps to make certain that we do not repeat the same problem with the implementation of the 2020 U.S. Census,” Lolo continued. “We all bear the responsibility to guarantee that every person living in American Samoa is counted in the 2020 U.S. Census.” He said the population count “will materially impact the financial capacity of our Territory in the next 10 years.”
The ASG Commerce Department announced last year that the territory’s mid-year 2019 population was estimated at 58,500 — another recorded loss of 1,110 from the mid-year 2018 estimate — “due to high outmigration, increased mortality, and declining fertility.”
CABINET MEMBER QUESTIONS
Among questions from cabinet members during the Census presentation, is whether someone who was born in Manu’a but residing in Tutuila can be counted towards the Manu’a population so the island group will receive additional federal benefits.
According to Meleisea, current Census laws state that the person is counted where he/she resides at the time of the population count. The census in Manu’a will be conducted by people living there, who will be hired for census purpose, he said.
DOE deputy director, Fa’aui Vaitautolu wanted to know what actions will be taken by the Census Bureau if an individual refuses to be counted. She recalled the time she was part of the Census field team two decades ago, saying there was a male — a U.S. national who is still alive today — that just refused to be counted, saying it’s his right to decide.
Vaitautolu said the field team reported the individual to the office at the time. “So what’s going to happen in cases like this” during the 2020 census? she asked.
Meleisea said it’s very sad if this happens again this year. He said those who don’t want to be counted show no love — “leai se alofa” for American Samoa. He reminds these individuals that they are receiving services from the government, such as electric, water, and healthcare; and an accurate census count helps with federal funds and grants for these types of services.
He emphasized that there are laws in place to address the issue but they don’t want to take that route — of taking the person to court. According to Meleisea, this was one of the issues raised by pulenu’u and officials from Samoan Affairs during a recent meeting.
Secretary of Samoan Affairs, Mauga T. Asuega said they have already held discussions on the upcoming census. “What’s very important, is that the count… is accurate,” he said, and urged the entire community to fully participate.
Mauga said he has already informed the local Census Office that if someone does not want to be counted, to bring that matter to the Samoan Affairs Office right away and “we go through the fa’a Samoa” — through traditional village councils — to have the matter addressed.
He assured the governor and Census officials that pulenu’u and fa’alupega (county chiefs) and others, will assist the Census staff.
More than a week ago, the Census office started its program on KVZK-TV to kick-off public awareness, explaining the population count both in English and Samoan. Last week, Census officials held another meeting with pulenu’u and fa’alupega at the Samoan Affairs Office, where Mauga spoke at length to the audience, which included district governors.
Also last week, the Census took their message to the territory’s senior citizens during a gathering at the Territorial Administration on Aging (TAOA) center in Pago Pago. And early this week, the target audience were students at the American Samoa Community Center.