On the Campaign Trail 2012
GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATES SPEAK UP ABOUT LACK OF LOCAL LAWS TO PROTECT OUR CHILDREN
by Joyetter Feagaimaali’i-Luamanu
In their active campaign on breaking the silence and heightening the awareness in American Samoa on all aspects of family violence, the Multi-Disciplinary-Team (MDT)has taken full advantage of the 2012 Election period.
The first in the territory’s history, a Family Violence Forum for the Gubernatorial Candidates was held last month on September 19, 2012, at the Gov. Rex Lee Auditorium where a public discussion about taboo/sensitive community issues or family censored subjects — sexual violence, child abuse, pornography, elderly abuse, etc., — was the focus.
Gubernatorial candidates who attended this forum were Faoa Aitofele Sunia & Taufete’e John Faumuina, Afoa Leulumoega Su’esu’e Lutu & Le’i Sonny Thompson, Lolo Matalasi Moliga & Lemanu Peleti Mauga, Salu Hunkin-Finau & Iuniasolua Savusa, Tim Jones & Tuika Tuika.
Team Save Liuato Tuitele & Sandra King-Young did not attend upon advice of their counsel, as they were challenging the legality of some of the gubernatorial candidates to run in this year’s election.
The moderator was Tauili’ili Silivelio Iosefo who is also the Chief Probation Officer in the Justice System. This is the second article published in Samoa News about the Family Violence forum, with the first one found in the Saturday, Sept. 29 i_ssue.
CHILD ABUSE LAWS
One of the most important issues raised during the forum was the absence of Child Abuse laws on the law books. Tauili’ili noted that back in 1977, Gov. Peter Coleman signed into law what is known as the Child Protection Act; making it the first time in the territory’s history that a law was enacted to protect children.
However, he said American Samoa has never had child abuse laws; and as governor what would be done to address this issue.
All the gubernatorial candidates agreed that American Samoa should have child abuse laws, and if elected they would do something about it. They also agreed that family violence is a priority for everyone, not just one person and it should be an obligation for everyone to report any type of abuse against children to the authorities.
For the act of sexual intercourse with someone 16 years old or less, it is an offense that is increasing with tremendous frequency locally in recent years, if elected Governor what would you propose to do to address this problem?
TEAM JONES & TUIKA
Jones responded that firstly it should be understood why this is happening, were talking about forced rape, consensual (statutory) rape, and circumstances surrounding the issue, i.e., “…leaving a child at home while they are off to BINGO, while the father is out drinking… This is a complicated issue as victims are not always so easy to point out.”
He said the courts have the mechanisms for investigating and finding the truth and some of these things are difficult which is pointed out by the attorney general’s office. Sometimes you only have an accusation.
The AG’s office has an awkward situation where they have a child at risk, and they can’t prove it, and it also puts enormous power in the hands of a child or maybe a teenager who is angry at somebody and wants to get back at that person and makes an accusation.
“There are two types of situations on-going here, a situation where it’s difficult to prove, and a situation where it’s difficult to prove it isn’t… I don’t have the answer sitting here today, but I can tell you the worse scenario possible is for a young person to have to go through with her family, to go through a scenario of something that really happened and it’s also equally painful and powerful to be accused and not guilty.
“And it’s difficult for the court to sort out; I can’t tell you how to sort it out, however I can tell you that there are laws that can completely investigate any accusation, all you need to do is report and it triggers a mechanism that allows the AG’s office and the Social Services to come straight to your home… the tools are there.”
TEAM LOLO & LEMANU
Lemanu believes that statutory rape is something that Samoan families should be educated on, because some people just don’t know that it’s illegal for a 16-year old to engage in a sexual relationship — “Because literally everything happening is prompted within families…it’s not happening in the schools, bars and clubs, but it’s initiated within the families.
“Education is needed regarding these sensitive and difficult issues and it should be one of the subjects addressed in church.”
TEAM AFOA & LE’I
Afoa said there are laws and all that is needed is enforcement. However, he pointed to contradictions in the laws, noting that marital laws have it that a female can be married at the age of 14, and the male should be 18, while statutory rape is enforced at the age of 16 and under and these are one of the issues that should be addressed.
Afoa said that there was a movement in the Fono to increase the age of the female under the law to be married from 14 to 16 while the male remains at 18. He said that laws should be equally enforced, and the age to be consistent.
“I believe while we should enforce the statutory rape we also should look at changing some of these laws” said Afoa.
TEAM SALU & SAVUSA
Salu made note that a report by Deputy Attorney General Mitzie Jessop has it that the rise of sex crimes in the community in the year 2010 was about 300 sexual crimes, and the following year in 2011 the sexual crimes doubled mostly on 16 years old girls and younger.
“These sexual related cases are frequent now days and it’s common to read about the report in the daily newspaper of the sexual crimes on the young girls and sometimes the young boys.
“As a mother of four daughters, a 16-year old is what is called a teen and they are very immature, not socially stable, still learning about herself/himself, maybe that’s is why this law names the age at 16, because they are still immature, even when it’s consensual, 16 is just too young. She added that many of the laws of American Samoa needs to be looked at, so that it’s clear — much more understandable.
“We always got to look at the victim and the predators… there should be laws that mandates rehabilitation for the predators.”
TEAM FAOA & TAUFETE’E
Faoa said no matter how many times anyone under the age of 16 says yes, it’s against the law to have sexual intercourse with that person, and also pointed to the marital consent age versus the statutory rape age.
He said the consequences of having sexual intercourse for those 16 years old and under are sometimes there’s a baby and yet the young girl is not mature enough to care for that baby.
Faoa added that these issues are quite sensitive and being with a minor is deplorable and almost unforgivable. “We all agree that they have not reached the age where they can make a wise enough decision for one whether to engage in such an activity.
“I believe that the law should change the age for statutory rape from 16 years old to 18 years old or maybe 21 years old.”
AFOA-LE’I ADDRESS CROWD AT FAMILY FUN DAY
“YOUR VOTE IS YOUR FUTURE”
by Joyetter Feagaimaali’i-Luamanu
Held on Monday, the Gubernatorial team of Afoa Leulumoega Su’esu’e Lutu and Le’i Sonny Thompson briefly addressed an overflowing crowd that gathered to celebrate, on Columbus Day or Discoverers’ Day, the candidates’ “Family Fun Day” event.
The event focused on the youth and their power through their vote to affect the future of the territory.
To the youth, Afoa emphasized the Afoa & Lei vision to make sure that all the youth of American Samoa are equipped with the education and training to use for their future.
“…Yes, we have the VocTech, but it is [our] vision that we will educate and train you in three main areas — academics, commercial and business and trades."
“That’s our promise to give you the best future and the best way to do it is to equip you so that you can be equipped…”
He said, “Your vote is your future, and we are offering a future to begin a future with your vote today.”
Le’i noted that the youth of American Samoa are the true leaders of tomorrow and beyond, add___ing that he and Afoa do not look at the youth as just supporters but as true leaders.
“You came here because you believe we are important to you and we believe that you are important to us.”
Le’i then reiterated their promise made three weeks back, if elected into office they will work for free for one year with absolutely no pay as their commitment to the territory, or “until we fix the high risk status that is upon the American Samoa Government.”
“This is our commitment to you with all our hearts, we love you the people of American Samoa unconditionally…”
A powerful message was delivered by Youth Pastor Todd Laulusa, before the opening prayer. He told the crowd of more than 2,000 that God’s plan for humanity was to change the world and not to be changed by the world. “The bible says we reap what we sow”.
He said the T-shirts the youth are wearing says, “my vote… my future” and that is exactly the principle and truth behind Afoa and Lei’s youth committee. “To have the next generation understand that it is your life and you have the vote and you have the power to make the difference,” said Pastor Laulusa.
The pastor, who is legally blind, noted the majority of the time the youth just go with the flow, thinking they can’t change anything. “Legally, I’m blind, but what I learned in life, what I am and who I am are totally different — I may be put on earth blind but I will not allow my condition to determine the type of person that I am.”
He told the youth, “…you can change your future, you can change your life, people can get angry around you but it’s up to you whether you left their anger change you or your joy change them.
The Pastor encouraged the youth to step up and be recognized and understand that it is up to them to make the change. “Make the decision, let your vote be your future, stop going with the flow and stop fitting in the status quo,” he said.
FAOA-TAUFETE’E SUPPORTERS HOLD PRAYER MEETING
by Leua Aiono Frost
The Mafutaga Tina of the Faoa-Taufete’e ticket for Governor & Lt. Governor held its early Prayer Meeting at the Lee Auditorium on Monday, Columbus Day, from 6am — 8am.
The sermon was delivered by Mrs. Fialaui’a Malesilia of the Methodist Church in American Samoa, the prayer was offered by Mrs. Maria Aigofie of the Catholic Church - Nuuuli, Mrs. Mae Mageo of CCJS of Pago Pago and Mrs. Ailini Umaga of the VOC Full Gospel Vatia. The President of the Women’s Council Suavai Tagaloa, addressed the full house of supporters, who came together to ask for God’s guidance in the days of selecting our government leaders.