Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The American Colony of American Samoa


Everytime Dr. Carlyle Corbin from the US Virgin Islands visit Guam I love listening to his stories of the times when Guam's governors were passionate about political status and decolonization and, at least at the governmental level, there was alot more collaboration and communication. I say this now because Guam's current Governor Eddie Calvo speaks every once in a while on the issue of political status, but doesn't seem to have a real interest or passion for the issue the way some of his predecessors did. Previous Governors invested heavily in the idea of educating people on the issue and working towards making decolonization a reality. This Governor, even now in his second-term where he is no longer running for election or re-election, still doesn't seem to really care about the issue and isn't investing in the process. It is unfortunate, as the longer we wait, the more difficult it becomes. 

One reason I really enjoy seeing Carlyle is because he brings me up to date on the world of decolonization. For example, American Samoa, one of the fellow current official colonies of the United States (as opposed to those who are unofficially colonized) has been much more active in terms of talking about their political status and conceiving of it as colonial and in need of decolonization. Here are some article to give you more background.

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American Samoan Governor Keen to Review Political Status
Radio New Zealand International
November 14, 2015
http://www.radionz.co.nz/international/pacific-news/289675/american-samoa-govt-keen-to-review-political-status

Governor Lolo Matalasi Moliga says the American Samoa Government is submitting a proposal to the US Department of Interior to fund an office that will begin the work of reviewing American Samoa's political status.

Our correspondent says this was decided at a meeting that the Governor held with Fono leaders and Congresswoman Aumua Amata Radewagen this week.

Governor Lolo told KHJ News that the proposed office will have one or two staff members and from the review of the political status he hopes to convene a constitutional convention.

Lolo says he would like to handover a government and territory that can make its own decisions.
The Governor has been increasingly frustrated with US federal policies that have negatively impacted the Territory, such as the minimum wage, fishing treaties and conservation regulations.

The last constitutional review was held in 2010 and changes that were approved were put to voters in a single question that was defeated in the general elections that year.

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American Samoa still listed as colony in latest UN annual report
By Rili Sagapolutele
Samoa News
5/12/12

The United Nations annual report on American Samoa, submitted in March by the Secretariat to the UN Decolonization Committee, covers several issues such as economic and social conditions but cites no new position by the territory’s administering power (the United States).

The 14-page report provides part of last year’s testimony by the territory’s representative Lelei Peau, Commerce Department deputy director, where Peau recalled for the Decolonization Committee that American Samoa in past years has called to be removed from the list of world colonies (or Non-Self Governing Territory) because its “unincorporated and unorganized” status was akin to that of a self-governing Territory.

Peau noted that, while the territory’s position is unchanged, it was time to be more concerned about how American Samoa could progress politically and economically while respecting the concerns of the United States and the United Nations in the process. (See Samoa News story on Jun. 9, 2011 for full details).

Congressman Faleomavaega Eni’s September 2011 letter to the decolonization committee was also recalled in the report, part of which “highlighted the importance of resolving the ambiguities in the two deeds of cession that formed the basis of American Samoa’s relationship with the United States before seeking further negotiations on the Territory’s political status.”

Faleomavaega recommended that the leaders of Tutuila, Aunu'u, Swains Island and Manu’a should officially declare a union as one political entity or governing body and that a territorial convention should be called to discuss the existing political relationship with the United States.

The UN report cites the territory's June-July 2010 Constitutional Convention where several amendments were proposed to the current constitution — including those related to the prohibition of further individualization of communal lands in the territory which were all overwhelmingly defeated in the November 2010 general election by voters.

Also included in the report was the federal government’s official position of the U.S. pertaining to American Samoa.

The Assistant Secretary of State said, in a Nov. 2, 2006 letter to Faleomavaega, the status of the insular areas regarding their political relations with the federal government was an internal United States issue and not one that came under the purview of the Special Committee. Furthermore, the committee has no authority to alter in any way the relationship between the United States and those territories and no mandate to engage the United States in negotiations on their status. This was echoed by Faleomavaega in his September 2011 letter to the committee. (See Sept. 13, 2011 Samoa News story for more details).

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, responding to Samoa News queries on American Samoa pushing to be delisted as a “colony” during her stopover in Pago Pago in November of 2010, said, “…I, of course, reject that characterization… “We think it’s not accurate, [and] does not describe the relationship we have had over all of these years.”

“But, I do think we have to work more closely together to meet the needs of the people of American Samoa and that is my pledge to you that we will do all that we can to ensure that we have a very close respective working relationship, now and far into the future,” said Clinton.

The UN Decolonization Committee confirmed last month that this year's Pacific Regional Seminar will be held in Ecuador’s capital Quito, from 30 May to 1 June, to review progress in the UN decolonization process.

The Governor’s Office has yet to release who will represent American Samoa this year at the annual seminar which rotates every year between the Pacific and Caribbean areas.
- See more at: http://www.samoanews.com/node/5176#sthash.WucEz4Pu.dpuf

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Amer. Samoa Governor Calls for Political Status Modernisation

Now is the time to revisit our relationship with the U.S. says Togiola

Samoa News
 By Fili Sagapolutele fili@samoanews.com
http://www.samoanews.com/viewstory.php?storyid=15832&edition=1275991200
June 29, 2010

American Samoa’s relationship with the U.S. government is becoming a difficult one with no relief in sight, says Gov. Togiola Tulafono, who calls on the community to revisit this relationship in order to resolve matters dealing with federal influence as American Samoa moves forward to find a better future.

Now is the time for American Samoa to discuss this important issue and for American Samoa to move towards greater self-governance without more outside influence, Togiola said on his weekend radio program.

Although there is a consensus for American Samoa to continue the close relationship with the federal government in the areas such as economic development, the Governor says there will be no relief for the territory in the future unless there is a solid stand on self government.

This means American Samoa should enact laws for itself without the current status, which requires federal approval for any new laws before they are enacted, he said, adding that this requirement is something that he is pushing to be removed.

Whatever laws enacted in American Samoa are created by its people and should not require outside approval, he stated, adding that a big problem now facing the territory is local economic development being affected by laws created outside the territory, without thinking about their impact on American Samoa. He cited, for example the federally mandated minimum wage hikes.

He said he believes that there will be no improvement in the future as a new generation of Americans enters the U.S. Congress and this new generation is not familiar with American Samoa as compared to past Congressional members (and some current ones) who served in World War II and are familiar with the Pacific and their unique needs and circumstances.

He said these past Americans from the 1950s and later years, have been to American Samoa and the Pacific and witnessed the difficulties faced by island residents.

Based on research, Togiola said these Americans made it easy to move issues on American Samoa in Washington, but he noted that that has changed.

According to the Governor, the territory can constantly raise with Washington the point about long standing military service by American Samoans as well as the high number of American Samoan casualties in wars, but no one will consider it anymore.

Togiola says his big concern is that American Samoa has no power to stop a U.S. Supreme Court decision when it comes to our land.

He said current laws require certain Samoan blood percentage to own land and it’s one issue that may be challenged in the Supreme Court if American Samoa’s lands becomes permanent lands of the United States.

The Governor says there is a similar case pending with the court in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and it has not yet reached the Supreme Court, who looks at the entire U.S. and not just one sector. He said American Samoa has made it through the past 110 years, but in the last 20-years many changes have occurred in our relationship with the U.S. and many of those changes are not beneficial to the territory.

Togiola said he expects a lot of criticism regarding his views and statements and many in the opposition are concerned with what will happen to federal grants and programs for American Samoa.

He said these concerns can be addressed if a good agreement is in place with the U.S. so that American Samoa has more self-governance of its own affairs in the areas such as law and operation of the judicial system, which he feels should be in the hands of American Samoans.

The Governor says American Samoa needs to stop the practice of dependence on the federal government and strive for more self reliance. He said this is the big problem he sees — that residents are depending more on others.

Togiola said he raises this issue as part of public discussion, as American Samoa prepares for the two-week Constitutional Convention set to begin on June 21. He encourages the public to share their views on this issue.


1 comment:

Tao Dao Man said...

http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/world/article45241053.html

Quietly, Guam is slated to become massive new U.S. military base

Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/world/article45241053.html#storylink=cpy

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