Dear Editor,

Mr. Mark Cunningham was NOAA’s Station Chief in American Samoa.

Mr. Simeti Lualemaga is a resident of the village of Tula.  He was an honorable Vietnam War Veteran and a recipient of the Bronze Star Medal.

Sometime, somewhere, someone either sold, leased, or maybe just gave NOAA land somewhere in the village of Tula in American Samoa. Mr. Simeti Lualemaga returned home to Tula, retiring from the Armed Forces.  He built his house upon the land where NOAA had control and called it Federal Property.

Mr. Cunningham had admonished Mr. Lualemaga that the land where he built belongs to NOAA. Lualemaga ignored it and believed otherwise and continued to build.

On March 29, 2010 Mr. Cunningham took pictures of Lualemaga’s house and again told Lualemaga that the land is NOAA’s property. Lualemaga then strike Mr. Cunningham with a bush knife causing a severe cut to the neck and he severed the left ear. Mr. Cunningham managed to escape and sought help and he was taken to the hospital while bleeding profusely.

Lualemaga was arrested and was charged with 1 count of felonious assault and striking Mr. Cunningham with a bush knife, a violation of Title 18 U.S.C Section 111, US Government Employees, and a crime punishable by 20 years in prison. It further alleged that Lualemaga committed a crime of violence and he is dangerous to other persons and the community. Lualemaga was convicted by the Court in March 2011 and was sentenced to 12-15 years in prison.

However; the Court reduced his sentence to 5 years.  The Court opined that since Mr. Lualemaga served in the War in Vietnam and received a Bronze Star clearly demonstrated that he is not a threat to the community and being released he made himself available to serve out his term. Some of this information was extracted from FBI Special Agent Tom Simon’s report.

I don’t advocate the aggressive behavior of Simeti; I don’t know the details of the land deal at Tula.  However, I advocate the right of the indigenous people when intrusion from foreigners (NOAA) threatens their survival.

Suppose that this land was not sold or given up to NOAA; or suppose NOAA never came to Samoa, I believed that this crime could have been avoided. The situation is sad for both Mr. Cunningham where he was injured while Simeti Lualemaga was jailed for his crime as a result of using his customary land.

I brought this case to substantiate my objection to NOAA’s Fagatele Bay Expansion. I want every indigenous Samoan to look at what happened to you when you violate these expansion sites.  Only time will tell in ten years from now. Maybe your grandkids will suffer the consequences of your actions now if you let NOAA.

I’m a resident of Amerika Samoa, Samoan ancestry, and Vietnam Era Veteran. I am a High Chief and displaced by ambiguous laws and policies like this.  I’m a victim of the negative impact of lies and misrepresentation of trust.  May this letter serve as my written objection to stop NOAA’s intrusion on lands and waters of Amerika Samoa.

The Samoans had lived two thousands years ago on these lands and waters.  Their existence was sustained by these lands and the sea. Where was NOAA then?  NOAA was not in existence then. How could they come here and tell the indigenous how to conserve.  Who are they to tell us how to live?

My forefathers were fooled before when they were led to believe what they signed was a treaty (feagaiga).Instead, little did they know what the Navy guy wrote on that piece of paper was the word “Deed”, meaning property. With other connota tion like “Unorganized and unincorporated” what a shame. My ancestors gave up everything. The only thing they didn’t give was their souls and their malos.

However, the hand of the Divine intervention prevails, that in February 1929 the Congress dropped the seawaters and the submerged lands provision when they ratified the Deed of Cession. Please visit the ratified Deed of Cession in 1929. The only thing the US cared about at that time was a fueling station in Pago Pago for its warships.  And my forefathers gave up those lands and others to satisfy their need.  From 1900-2012, fair compensation is a moot point to date.

Mr. Kevin Grant, I will not be fooled twice with these sugar coated scheme. Please stop now.  Find a job in Haiti, Puerto Rico, Mexico, or Africa.  You are not going to take away my freedom of choice.  I will fight to right that wrong.

HC Papaliitele Faalataitaua


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