Faleomavaega submits statement to U.N. Decolonization Committee

(BASED ON PRESS RELEASE) —In a press release issued, Monday, September 12, 2011, Congressman Faleomavaega announced that he has written to His Excellency Francisco Carrion-Mena, Permanent Representative of Ecuador to the United Nations and Chairman of the Special Committee of 24, also known as the Decolonization Committee.

A full text of Faleomavaega's Sept. 12 letter, which was copied to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice, Governor Togiola, the Lieutenant Governor, President Gaoteote Tofau and Senators, and Speaker of the House Savali T. Ale and Representatives can be found online at samoanews.com.

The congressman's letter requests it be made "part of the record regarding certain issues relative to American Samoa's current current political, social and economic relationships with the United States of America; and summarizes these issues.

One of the concerns in Faleomavaega's letter is the ambiguities that exist in the Deeds of Cession, one ceding the islands of Tutuila and Aunu'u in 1900 to the U.S., the second ceding the Manu'a Islands in 1904, according to Faleomavaega. He discusses these ambiguities and says they must be resolved "in order to move forward on the issue of political status."

The full text of his concerns on this issue follows:

American Samoa's Political Status

I continue to remind the leaders of American Samoa, in order to move forward on the issue of political status, we must first look inward to resolve ambiguities in the two deeds of Cession that form the basis of our relationship with the United States. As I gave in my testimony in 2006 before the American Samoa Political Status Commission hearing at BYU-Hawaii in Laie, there are several ambiguities in these documents that may frustrate any negotiations for an agreement with the United States in the future.

One source of ambiguity is that in the Samoan version of the Deeds, our chiefs consistently used the term feagaiga, which means treaty. To our Samoan chiefs this treaty relationship meant that Samoans would maintain a measure of autonomy. However, in the English version, the word "treaty" is never mentioned. Instead, the agreement is referred to as a "deed." The problem inherent in this ambiguity is that the term "deed" suggests ownership of property rather than a sense of the rights and privileges of a sovereign people. Therefore, a deed of Cession offers the people of American Samoa something less than the sovereign status that a treaty would provide.

Subsequently, while these two deeds have proven helpful in providing stability to the people of American Samoa for more than 100 years, they do not cover many of the most basic issues of concern for our people, such as citizenship, immigration, international trade and commerce, national security, marine and communal property rights, or membership in international organizations, etc.

Another source of ambiguity stems from the fact that the two deeds of Cessions were negotiated separately between the United States and Tutuila and Aunu'u in 1900, and with Manu'a in 1904. As such, there is no official declaration of a political union between the island groups of Tutuila, Aunu'u and Manu'a.

Therefore, in moving forward:

I suggest that the leaders of Tutuila, Aunu'u, Swains Island and Manu'a officially declare a union as one political entity or governing body, thereby sanctioning its authority to deal with the United States as we negotiate our future status.

I recommend that a territorial convention be called to deliberate on the existing political relationship with the United States. Subsequently, I believe that the American Samoa Government (ASG) must officially declare a statement of principles underlining the desire of the people of American Samoa to either amend certain provisions of the two deeds or establish an entirely new agreement with the United States. Such an agreement should define our political relationship with the United States, whether it is a "Covenant" status like the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, "Free Association" status like the Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, and the Marshall Islands, "Commonwealth" status like Puerto Rico, or even an Organic Act such as the one governing Guam's relationship with the United States.

Once we have defined what American Samoa's relationship should be with the United States under the terms of an agreement that is agreeable to both sides, ASG should then call a constitutional convention and organize a government based upon the terms and conditions outlined in the agreement, not the U.S. Constitution.

Until the leaders of Tutuila, Aunu'u, Swains and Manu'a have dealt with the issue of political status, we will continue to be subject to the agreement under the deeds of Cessions. As it stands, we cannot claim loyalty to the United States and at the same time refuse to apply standards and protections that are required under federal laws.


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