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Senators still undecided on Joint Resolution to “restore” and add Senatorial seats

With the current 3rd Regular Session ending at the close of business today, it remains unclear as to whether the Senate will act on a Senate Joint Resolution, which was originally meant to restore two senatorial seats for Manu’a.


Manu’a senators had argued that Manu’a has five traditional districts, but they were taken away from the island group during a Constitutional Convention more than three decades ago.


The Senate agreed to restore the seats, however, they also amended the measure two weeks ago in second reading, based on recommendations from Sens. Soliai Tuipine Fuimaono and Tuaolo Manaia Fruean, who agreed upon changes in order to make it easy to approve the measure. The changes included two additional senatorial seats — one each for Tualauta and Ituau.


Then, when the measure was presented last week Monday for the third reading and vote, Senate President Gaoteote Tofau Palaie, who was off island during the committee discussion of the measure, informed senators that he too wanted to made amendments —this time pertaining to his own county’s senatorial seats and he sought a delay in the third reading until his amendments were able to be presented.


The following day (Tuesday), during the Senate session, a brief recess was called so that senators could review Gaoteote’s amendments, which called for two additional senators for Vaifanua County — one for the traditional area of Falelua, which includes the villages of Aoa and Vatia; and one for the traditional area of Faletolu, that includes the villages of Alao, Tula, and Onenoa.


During the discussion, Gaoteote pointed out that after sleeping on the proposed changes he was worried that the changes already made (adding one senator each for Tualauta and Ituau) — as well as the change he proposed — may affect the outcome of the original measure dealing with Manu’a, that is, to restore the two seats for Manu’a. He said he decided to withdraw his amendments and work on appropriate measures for Vaifanua County. 


Alataua Sen. Faletagoai Tuiolemotu said he supported the original language of the measure dealing with Manu’a, which has its own flag, but he was concerned that any amendments to the measure may end up being rejected by voters.


Tualauta Sen. Magalei Logovi’i, who was out sick when the measure was debated two weeks ago, moved to withdraw the amendments dealing with Tualauta and Ituau and let the measure stand with its original language.


He says he is concerned that the amendments may result in voters rejecting not only the additional senators for Manu’a, but also one each for Tualauta and Ituau. He suggested a separate resolution to be introduced at a later time for Tualauta and Ituau.


Gaoteote reminded senators that the only changes they were discussing — and the reason for the session taking a brief recess — are the ones that he wanted for Vaifanua — nothing else. He asked senators not to debate the changes already approved — those dealing with Tualauta and Ituau — and he withdrew his changes.


Sen. Galeai Tu’ufuli, who sponsored the original language of the Joint Resolution, said he doesn’t want to see any conflicts in the Senate due to what Manu’a was seeking. He said that he was thinking of withdrawing his resolution until a later time.


Magalei moved to withdraw his suggestion and have the Senate move forward, which Gaoteote did, ending any further discussion.


Last Thursday and yesterday, the Joint Resolution (with approved amendments) was not yet presented to the Senate floor for third reading and a vote. It’s unclear if the measure will be presented today for third reading.


Because the measure seeks to change the Constitution, the final decision on any change to the make-up of the Senate will be put on a referendum for voters in the next general election. The next general election is slated for this November.