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Op-Ed: WE NEED TO MOVE OUR SHIP FORWARD

Governor Togiola Tulafono’s final Flag-Day speech was a lamentation of a missed opportunity during his time at the helm to change the territory’s political status. He didn’t say what exactly that status might have been, but it was “written between the lines of the deed of cession” he said. 

If indeed the political status our forefathers desired for us was buried in the Deed of Cession, then we have wasted all this time and money on political status commissions (who have traveled afar in the Pacific and western states of the US in their political status quest) and very expensive constitutional conventions. 

I must say I agree with the governor that too much effort (which cost too much money) was spent trying to define the territory’s political status so as to arrive at a preferred status, which was implied in the Deed of Cession all along. I can only imagine what our health care system would have been like by now if the funds expended on these political status activities were used instead as seed money for a public health insurance pool for local and off-island health care. Alas, such was the real missed opportunity.

I will not delve into the history of the territory as the governor had aptly summarized it in his speech, and the readers can read the history themselves and draw their own interpretations. However, I would like to state as a reminder if I may that what occurred as a result of the Treaty of Berlin was not specific to the Samoas; colonialism was universal and reactions to it produced the world as it exists today. 

Involuntarily Western Samoa took its lot in 1900 and travailed the unavoidable rough waters; and they not only gained their independence in 1962, but took advantage of all international aid that came with their political status to help develop their young and humble country.

Prime Minister Tuilaepa referred to it in his speech as “pamu fa’atamali’i” (royal begging).

And, lo and behold, we have a nicely developed worldwide tourist attraction and a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) as a neighbor, albeit it cost them the case of the “mulipipi” (turkey tails) to the United States. 

Along their difficult, if a bit cheeky, journey, they drop-kicked the word “Western” from their name and proudly called themselves — “Samoa”.

Was that a show of pride in their political status or an economic ploy? Did Tuilaepa foresee that China (especially) and Japan would emerge as world economic powers one day, and therefore remove “Western” from its name since they were already benefitting from the United States via American Samoa? 

If the latter is true and given the multi-million dollar projects China and Japan had funded and are funding in Samoa, Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Neioti Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi is not only a prime minister but a fortune teller, an economist, opportunist, brilliant salesman, shrewd negotiator, savvy businessman, and above all a “pamu fa’atamali’i” for his people (and doesn’t apologize for it). Notice his list of qualifications is as long as his name, how clever this fellow!

Samoa recently opened a branch of one of its non-profit organizations dealing with social issues in the territory, and they will show the locals how to do it and no doubt acquire a piece of the federal pie along the way.  The Marist Sports Club, led by and comprising Marist alumni of Samoa, took over the operation of the Flag Day sevens tournament and they put up the most successful show of rugby talent ever seen in the territory — to date.

Samoa also boasts a world ranked rugby team and one of the most exciting rugby teams to watch in the world called (what else) the “Manu Samoa”!  And the success story continues for this small but proud South Pacific island country whose fifty years (112 years since the Treaty of Berlin) of stable and enviable development will be celebrated in a little more than thirty days from now. And celebrate they should.

Well done Samoa, well done!

What about American Samoa? What did we do with our lot since 1900? What if fate would have had the United States opt for the islands west of the 171st meridian of the west longitude? 

Exactly; that’s why we should always be grateful for our blessings and not forget on every Flag Day to thank, not only our forefathers, but the United States of America, the greatest nation on the face of planet earth as Governor Togiola correctly referred to.

Let us take the hint from the governor’s Flag Day address and not waste any more time and resources on the political status issue, but focus our attention on the mundane but real problems that affect the everyday lives of our people, i.e. health care, economic development, education, public works, etc. 

In anticipation of the upcoming and final legislative session of the year and the handing over of the gubernatorial baton in January 2013, I am hopeful that the governor, Fono and various candidates vying for governorship would consider the issues and recommendations I will discuss in the next two parts of this three part series.

We need to move our ship forward, or God forbid… there will be a Tuilaepa running for governor in 2016, to show us how to move mountains, and propel our government ship towards the promised land. On second thought, maybe that’s exactly what our territory needs — a Tuilaepa.

(Updated 04/25/12)



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