“THE PEOPLE WILL ALWAYS BE FIRST” PROMISE LOLO AND LEMANU AT KICKOFF
Candidate for governor, Lolo Letalu Matalasi Moliga told supporters over the weekend that it’s insulting and wrong to publicly state that the only problem with the LBJ Medical Center is money.
Lolo’s comments were also supported by his running mate, candidate for lieutenant governor Sen. Lemanu Peleti Sialega Mauga, who said the health care system in the territory is in “crisis” due to poor management.
The statements were made at Saturday afternoon’s official campaign kick off for the gubernatorial team of Lolo and Lemanu held at the Samoa Sports Complex in Tafuna. The event was packed with supporters, friends and families — who braced for the afternoon rain, especially the many who were housed at several large tents in the front and back of the Sports Complex.
Lolo, the current president of the Development Bank of American Samoa, told the crowd that the Lolo and Lemanu team makes the official and very humble announcement that they are seeking the post of governor and lieutenant governor, under the theme “People First”, and if successful in this election hear, everything that team Lolo and Lemanu does, will follow this theme of “always putting people first.”
“We have laid the foundation for our administration... that will set the stage for a prosperous future for our people here in American Samoa,” he said and pointed out that their focus is unity, equality, transparency and accountability, which are also the team’s four pillars, or values for this campaign, as well as their focus, if elected in November.
He said these values will restore integrity in government as well as restore public trust in government. Other issues for the gubernatorial team to focus on is health care, education, a stable economy and infrastructure improvements, said Lolo.
Lolo also said that there is one issue in which he is “deeply concerned” following recent public statements that the tough issues currently faced by LBJ Medical Center are “based solely on financial difficulties” and “are not life threatening” — but didn’t identify where they originated.
(During the Faoa and Taufete’e team official kick off two weekends ago, candidate for governor Lt. Gov. Faoa said, the “tough issue currently faced by LBJ hospital is mainly money and is not life threatening, as some people want the public to perceive.”)
“That is absolutely wrong,” said Lolo, adding that if money were the only issue at LBJ, then why did Gov. Togiola Tulafono ask the Fono to dissolve the LBJ medical center authority and transfer the hospital back to the Executive Branch under the Health Department?
“We believe that there is more to this issue than just money,” he said, and noted that he and Lemanu believe that “one of the biggest problems in LBJ’s operation is management,” along with other difficult issues the hospital is going through now.
To say that “the problem is only financial and not life threatening... is insulting and morally disturbing,” Lolo said, adding that when there is lack of funding, the “quality [of service] then becomes life threatening”. He said “life and healthcare should never be compromised.”
He also addressed what he calls is an issue of concern in the community dealing with the fairness of policy in setting rates for all people of American Samoa — referring to LBJ’s proposed new hikes, which set different rates for residents and non-residents.
Lolo said he and Lemanu believe that decent rates should be set for health care but not to base them on whether the person is a resident or non resident of American Samoa — a statement which prompted loud cheers from the crowd.
Lolo called on the community to take time to review the team’s platform, qualifications and other documentation distributed to the crowd and to reach the decision that the “most qualified... to lead our territory in the next four years and beyond” is the team of Lolo and Lemanu — as governor and lieutenant governor.
“We stand for... honesty, integrity and humility,” he said, noting that “these are values that define who I am” and will be the same values that the Lolo and Lemanu team will focus on in leading the territorial government for the future.
Lolo said he and Lemanu share these same values and “together we will lead our government and our people to a prosperous future.”
“This is our promise — that you, the people, will always be first,” said Lolo, who also told the gathering that he has served American Samoa in the last 40 years through government services, in the private sector with his own business, in the village setting and through the church.
In his speech, Lemanu told the gathering that the government’s efforts to improve the economy was devastated by the loss of more than 2,000 jobs due to closure of one cannery, and the health system is in “crisis” due to poor management and lack of ASG subsidy.
He noted the new fee hikes for LBJ set for May 21 “will cause more hardship to our people.”
The cost of living and basic necessities “will force some of our people to revert to traditional systems” to meet rising costs of subsistence, water and electricity, he continued — pointing out that businesses are struggling to survive as well; and the government needs to provide services so that the local economy can grow.
These are just some of the challenges that will be faced by the next administration and proven leadership skills and experience will be required to overcome these challenges, according to the candidate.
“It is without any doubt that Lolo and I possess the skills and experience... required to successfully overcome these challenges,” he claimed and cited some of Lolo’s experience as a leader, saying that Lolo has served as a cabinet member under three different governors.
(Lolo has served as ASG Budget Office director, Chief Procurement Officer — two terms — and is currently president of DBAS. He has also served in the House and later in the Senate where he was Senate President.)
Lemanu has been serving as a senator since 2009 and is currently vice chair of the DBAS board. He is a retired U.S. Army Major and has served as assistant professor of military science at the American Samoa Community College; the ASG military liaison officer; and served as director of ASG Office of Property management before joining the Senate, where he chairs two committees including the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.
Lemanu told the crowd that he is humbled to be part of this gubernatorial team led by Lolo, with the quest to improve the quality of life for American Samoa. He said that while there are many issues of importance to the territory, the Lolo and Lemanu team focus is on economic development, health care and education.
With regards to the economy, the gubernatorial team says: “We are committed to getting our people back to work. We want to create a robust business community that enables job diversity. A thriving private sector is the key to our overall economy.”
“We have prepared a plan for the government to put people first by putting those who have lost their jobs back to work,” Lemanu told the cheering crowd.
In health care, the team claims, that if elected, it “will ensure a well trained-medical staff and adequate facilities that meet the demand for medical attention… will pursue technology and up-to-date medical supplies and practices.”
For eduction, the team says “we will enhance our current educational system by providing optimal conditions for learning, with qualified instructors, prime facilities and a healthy environment that allows the student to reach maximum potential.”
As for improving infrastructure, team Lolo and Lemanu promised that, if elected they will “improve our weak and deteriorating infrastructure” by focusing on roads, electricity and transportation problems with the goal that they are safe and reliable.
Similar to Lolo’s call, Lemanu also requested everyone to read the information package on the candidates distributed to the public about the gubernatorial team and their vision, platform and the four pillars. The public was also encouraged to check out the team’s website for their complete political campaign platform. The website also provides detailed information about the candidates and their plans, if elected governor and lieutenant governor.
Gov. Togiola Tulafono was among the many guests and relatives who were invited to the kick off. Togiola, a cousin of Lemanu, was in attendance as head of the family clan from Sailele village. The family did a Samoan siva for the candidate for lieutenant governor, a usual practice for any large Samoan gathering.
Samoa News notes that it does not have a specific dollar figure — the money raised during the kickoff, but understands $40,000 was mentioned for just the first ‘siva’ of the event.
Read Samoan version of this story in Le Lali