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OP ED: Tamaseugogo #9

A Message of Appreciation, Challenges, and Hope

The determination to be free, along with the skills and bravery of the brothers Tuna and Fata — who led Samoa to war that ended Tonga’s rule in Samoa — moved the Tui Tonga to utter these famous parting words on Samoa’s historic victory, “Ua Malie Toa, Ua Malie Tau” (“Brave warriors, well fought). Hence, the chiefly title “Malietoa” of Samoa was born.

To all candidates who contested the popularly elected public offices of American Samoa on November 6, 2012, I say — “Brave warriors, you have fought a great fight!” In the spirit of democracy, there are no losers, but only if the elected leaders move forward to serve the best interest of the public, not their own.

The 2012 gubernatorial election was distinguished by the candidacy of highly educated women, relatively young military retirees of high rank, a smart and outspoken “palagi”, and the fact that it was fought on issues by most of the teams. 

The energy, articulateness, scholarship, genuine concern for the people’s condition, and determination (to do something about it) the new corps of politicians brought to this election was refreshing, therapeutic, and promising — it’s medicine to the broken soul.

The resources, financial and otherwise, they and their supporters have expended to help advance the cause of humanity in the territory should be deeply appreciated. It is our prayers that may God return the favor manifold to them all, their families, and supporters. You are appreciated — Fa’afetai tele!

CHALLENGES

There were some important underlying questions this election posed and somewhat answered. First, how would political issues that affect people’s lives, and family/village/church/cultural-affiliation impact the election outcome?

Second, is the territory ready for a governor and lt. governor of non-traditional (or perceived) relatively “insignificant” cultural status — women, younger military retirees of rank, non-Samoans, and others?

I think the outcome of the gubernatorial election tips the scale towards family/village/church/culture over issues affecting the public as the deciding factor of the 2012 election.

The two teams that engaged cultural visits in villages are the ones out of which the governor and lt. governor for the next four years will be chosen in less than two weeks. The team however that participated in all public forums and observed the traditional village visitation was the top vote getter (even though the outcome was a virtual tie statistically). With a few days before the runoff election, I believe “issues” will play second fiddle to ‘all else’ that will help ‘bring home the bacon’ for each team. 

To the second question, it is obvious the young — male or female — the college educated and more, the military veterans and heroes, and the non-Samoans are ready to serve the territory as governor or lt. governor. The territory however isn’t ready to accept them as leaders at the highest level- perhaps due to fear of the unknown on the voters’ part, or the power of persuasion imposed by the “traditionalists” to respect the status quo, or both.

Secondly, the gubernatorial and House of Representatives elections posed some interesting trends and challenges. Given the role of the ‘incumbency’ in the electoral process, it is how well financed a campaign that is defining the outcome of the 2012 election. The governor’s race certainly reflected the power of money; but not as striking a manner as the Tualauta election for its representatives. 

The president and CEO of a local insurance company, Vui Florence Saulo, distinguished herself from the rest of the pack by conducting her well-oiled campaign as if she was running for governor (number and size of signs and village visitations in groups).

Vui may be new in the arena as a candidate, but certainly she and her husband have been effective campaigners for the current and previous administrations. It is however the fact that she’s not of the Tualauta in the traditional sense that’s making the power of money stand out in her sweeping and convincing victory to claim the second seat, behind Larry Sanitoa.

Thirdly, the return or election of representatives who are affiliated with private companies as key employees or owners to the Fono is a matter of concern, or should be to all concerned. These private companies include Florence Saulo & Associates, McDonald’s, GHC Reid, and Blue Sky Telecommunications.

In points in time where conflict of interest is unavoidable, how will these representatives carry out their public duties to the people in villages they represent? Time will tell; but one wise person warned “the inevitable danger is that they will confuse their private interest with the common good”.

Fourthly, ASPA’s involvement in the Override Amendment voted on in this election is worrisome — as it appears inappropriate for a government agency to be involved in this regard

 What bothers me is that there’s an allegation that ASPA as a group was influential in the outcome of the previous gubernatorial election, and perhaps ones before that.

One wonders then if ASPA played a role in the gubernatorial election this week or currently playing a role in the runoff election. Who created this monster and how was it created? The incoming governor and Fono have a load and a half on their hands, no doubt about it.

HOPE

Those unsuccessful candidates who ran clean and issue-oriented campaigns may have lost the election; but there’s no doubt in my mind that they have made a lasting impact in the minds and hearts of the people of the territory.

The clean energy, sincere tenacity, and caring hearts with which they tirelessly brought their platforms to the people in all avenues will not be in vain. You have instilled hope in goodness and decency; and in all of us.

God bless you all, God bless American Samoa!



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