Jennings selected again as Swains Island delegate
The first preliminary result of the 2012 general election became public on Saturday when Su’a Alexander Eli Jennings was again selected as Swains Island delegate to the House of Representatives for the next two years.
The selection process was made during an open meeting at the Election Office Saturday afternoon in accordance with the local constitution. Jennings was selected unanimously by more than 20 people of Swains Island descent in American Samoa for his fourth consecutive 2-year term.
His was the only name nominated for the position to represent Swains Island in the House of Representatives, similar to his selection in 2010, where no other name was offered.
Wally Thompson conducted the selection process in the presence of Deputy Commissioner of the Election Office Meleisea Vaito’elau Filiga.
Following his selection Jennings said he was humbled and thankful for the peaceful selection process, given that it’s very important that the legislature sees that the Swains representative has the support of everyone.
Jennings in his acceptance of the selection said he will continue to seek clarification of the Swains Island relationship with American Samoa and the United States of America. “Because until you do… you won’t know what you’re entitled to or what you’re not entitled to” he said. He added that while American Samoa is trying to fix the political status with the US, Swains is also trying to define their relationship with the US.
Prior to the selection process, Jennings gave a presentation where he spoke on issues surrounding Swains. Jennings noted that the most important issue at hand is what type of relationship Swains Island has with American Samoa and the United States of America.
He added that under State Department rules, the unincorporated governments are American Samoa and Swains Island. Jennings said this caught his attention and he asked “isn’t American Samoa… Swains island”? He noted that Swains Island is lost in the political arena.
Jennings pointed out that in the past, Swains Island brought coconut (copra) to American Samoa, then later fish were brought, and still later, an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of 200 nautical miles was given for American Samoa and yet Swains has no voice in the government.
He asked: Why is Swain’s representative selected and not voted?
“…there is only one way to fix this: if the Swains representative is removed from the House of Representative to the Senate (if it’s the will of government leaders and Chiefs of American Samoa). It's been 85 years since we have served this government…”
Jennings said senators are selected among county councils, while representatives are elected among districts.
“Why can’t we do the same thins… because we are selected as senators are selected… then we don’t change anything… but we can vote. We keep our culture and we preserve our rights in this government,” he said.
“We're part of American Samoa, [our] government was established by the US and represents one third of the EEZ with no voice,” he said. He added that he will continue to pursue where Swains Island stands in relation to American Samoa and the United States of America.
He assured the people of Swains descent that he will fight for more recognition for Swains in the American Samoa Government and the US government. Regarding transportation to Swains, Jennings said there were three trips to Swains Island this year, however there should be more opportunities for Swains people to visit Swains.
He added that New Zealand government conducted research on how to get air transportation to Tokelau (it is under the New Zealand government) and all the studies showed that the best and more practical way to get air transportation to Tokelau is through the Swains Island, because there is not enough space on Tokelau for an airport, while Swains has a lot of room for an airport.
He added that the planes could go from Apia to Swains and smaller planes can be used to travel to and from Tokelau. Jennings explained this was why he underwent recertification to get his [pilot] license, to ready for this.
He quoted an article on Radio New Zealand which said the Ulu of Tokelau says some ideas being considered include sheltered runways, an airstrip on Swains Island and facilities for sea planes. Jennings noted that he’s a member of the Board for the National Marine Sanctuary, so Swains can have a say in what goes on in the waters of Swains.
He explained that everything has been marked, including the bay into Swains.
Jennings assured that he will continue to look for ways to develop Swains Island through the National Marine Sanctuary programs. He also noted that a solid relationship with government leaders, senators and representatives is very important for Swains.
Following the selection, several of those who attended performed a traditional Swains dance to “Au e Manaia”.
The Swains delegate votes in committee but does not vote on the House floor.