TERRITORIAL AUDITOR “ BOY FROM UPOLU”
I would like to commend and thank Honorable Governor Lemanu Peleti Palepoi Sialega Mauga for nominating Tofa Sualauvi Su’a for the position of Territorial Auditor of the American Samoa Government.
I am writing not about the Nominee’s qualifications but only about his place of birth and the way it was discussed in the Fono according to what was reported in your newspaper late last month and early this month.
I thank the Fono and especially, The Speaker of the House, Honorabe Savali Talavou Ale and Representative Vailoata Amituanai and others who spoke up to caution Representative Lavea Fatulegae’e P. Mauga about his speech concerning the nomination of Tofa as Territorial Auditor. I have the highest respect for the Fono and all the honorable members of the House. I also respect Representative Lavea and consider him a friend.
However, the words spoken about the nationality of the nominee and the disparaging remarks about his place of birth as “Tama Upolu” has raised some serious concerns which I think need to be publicly expressed in order to help correct what I had long considered as an injustice in the political system as well as the laws of American Samoa concerning people from “Upolu” and many other nationalities who have legally resided in American Samoa and have adopted this country as their own, yet they are still treated and classified as “second class citizens.”
There are thousands of legal residents like Tofa who have lived in the Territory for decades. Many of them are upstanding residents who have lived and married local US Nationals or Citizens, have had children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, born in American Samoa. Many are leaders in the local community serving in all kinds of vocations and professions for decades. Some of these honorable people are now in the US Military and many are now Veterans. Many are key leaders in the churches, businesses and community and have impacted this Territory in many ways that are too numerous to describe. There are also many in the ASG work force. Thousands are just hard working long time honest residents seeking a better life and doing ordinary and less desirable jobs that the local people avoid. These are “ the salt of the earth”.
Most important of all is that these thousands of legal residents have been paying taxes all of their working lives, yet they cannot exercise some of the most fundamental rights of any human being. They cannot vote and are thus deprived of a voice in selecting the political leaders of this Territory. They are not entitled to important Federal Programs. Many are often abused by their sponsors who invariably control their everyday lives and often resort to deportation as a weapon of vengeance. There are many other areas of inequities which I do not have time and space to address.
Samoa citizens who used to be able to own land are now deprived of that right. Long time residents from other countries definitely cannot own land in American Samoa. If you emigrate to any other country in the world including Samoa, after a few years of legal residence, you can apply to be a citizen and when you do, you are given all these rights and privileges as a citizen. However, you can emigrate from Samoa or from any other country to American Samoa, and legally reside here for the rest of your life, yet, you can never be eligible to be a citizen of American Samoa or a US National because the laws do not permit it.
These “ Tama Upolu” or “aliens” have lived in American Samoa for decades and they constitute the majority of the legal residents and are helping keep this Territory “afloat.” (Just ask StarKist Samoa how many workers from Upolu are in its workforce) and yet are still treated as “second class citizens” and cannot even hold key government positions because of their place of birth.
This is not only “ Un-America” but also “Un-fa’asamoa”
I welcome the move by The Senate President, Honorable Tuaolo Manaia Fruean to establish an American Samoa Law Revision Commission. This is long overdue. It is my hope and prayer that the Fono and all the Political and Church and Village leaders of this Territory will take a hard look at this injustice and do something to correct it.
American Samoa, Fa’amuamua le Atua.
Asaua Fuimaono — TAMA UPOLU