Three teams field questions at Chamber of Commerce forum
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The American Samoa Chamber of Commerce hosted the gubernatorial forum last Thursday, for just over two hours under the theme “Let’s Talk Business” at the American Samoa Community College’s Multipurpose Center.
Supporters of the candidates, friends, business members, along with young voters attended the well prepared forum, which raised some of the many issues that American Samoa still faces today, such as telecommunication development, health care, taxation, and the procurement process.
The crowd appeared very pleased with responses from the candidates based on their applause after every candidate answered a question. The questions and issues were prepared by the Chamber and presented by three moderators.
Ahead of the forum, the Chamber had publicly announced a cover charge for both Chamber members — at $10 — and $20 for non-members.
Asked why a service charge to attend the forum, Chamber vice chairperson, Luisa Kuea told Samoa News that due to the COVID-19 impact on American Samoa’s many small businesses, they are struggling financially.
“As a non-profit organization, the Chamber decided to conduct a fundraiser in support of the Local Small Business Fund. We asked for donations and sold tickets to the event,” she explained. “Several donated more than the ticket amount to support the cause. ASCC students and young voters were invited to attend the event with or without a donation.”
Of the five gubernatorial teams that have publicly announced their plan to run for office in the Nov. 3, 2020 general election are the three teams who participated: I’aulualo Fa’afetai Talia for governor and Tapaau Dan Mageo Aga as lieutenant governor; Sen. Nuauaolefeagaiga Saoluaga Nua for governor and Tapumanaia Galu Satele Jr., for lieutenant governor; and Lt. Gov. Lemanu Peleti Mauga for governor and Talauega Eleasalo Alo for lieutenant governor.
The gubernatorial team of candidate for governor Senate President Gaoteote Tofau Palaie his running mate, candidate for lieutenant governor, Sen. Fai’ivae Iuli Godinet, weren’t able to attend as they were holding a campaign event that day.
When the Chamber promoted the event on radio, it was noted that of the four gubernatorial teams, only three had committed to the forum. Samoa News notes that the fifth team is the female gubernatorial team of Fatumalala L. A. Al-Shehri, candidate for governor, and Leah A. Smith, candidate for lieutenant governor.
Responding to Samoa News inquiries, Kuaea that “we were aware that there were potentially five teams. Weeks prior to the event, we contacted the Election Office for a list of Gubernatorial candidates so that we could extend an invitation to... the forum.”
According to the Election Office, “there was only one gubernatorial team that had submitted all of their paperwork and were officially registered to run for office. We did learn that another team was off-island,” she explained.
Samoa News understands that Al-Shehri is among local residents stranded in Honolulu with Hawaiian Airlines flights suspended through Aug. 31st.
Samoa News observed with interest that for the first-time in the past two decades covering election forums, a moderator had follow-up questions to a candidate’s answer in English. However, John Raynar — one of the three moderators — didn’t do the same with follow-up questions, when some one of the candidates - mainly Sen. Nua and Lemanu — answered in Samoan.
(See story elsewhere in this issue that examines the forum questions on the procurement process and the candidates’ answers. Other questions will be covered in upcoming issues.)