SAMOA NEWS EDITORIAL: BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR
With the abuse of the people’s trust going on in the Fono and in government, it’s easy to point to the federal government for help or call for the return of US appointed governors — as if we are asking Almighty God. It’s simply not the case.
I don’t think the Feds care, beyond our misusing their money — that’s why they have us on “High Risk”. Right now, IF THEY ONLY SUSPECT SOMETHING IS WRONG... they will do an audit, and if necessary — close the program down, cut off the funds, then insist on a refund where misuse is found, and put the people responsible in jail if corruption and stealing is found. Think AmeriCorps.
I also hear they are now asking to hear from the workers in the trenches, rather than the upper managers or directors about the different grant funded programs — their overall effectiveness and progress. I’m told they just don’t trust the lead people to be truthful or to actually know what’s going on; they’re tired of the lip service.
All in all, I would say, they’re treating us like adults — you know, those people who are supposed to be old enough to make sound decisions based on pertinent facts and issues at hand. Throw in a little tōfā mamao and fa’autaga loloto” and what we would have is the best of both worlds — American-Samoan decision making that embraces our “unique circumstances”.
I think we should also make note that many of the high-risk problems stem from the lack of paperwork filled out properly and not submitted as reports to the feds in a timely manner. Doesn’t that sound familiar? It’s the same problem internal audits by the TAO of ASG departments have identified over and over — lack of source documents to account for expenses and lack of timely reports such as financial statements, including reconciliation of bank statements.
Asking someone else to solve our problems goes against everything we have being saying to and about ourselves, and to the Feds since we first chose to elect our own governor — “Samoa mo Samoa”. How do we ask for help, if we cannot even clean up our own backyard? Why should they clean up our mess? They are not our parents, nor even our grandparents, and they certainly are not our forefathers.
Local leadership is certainly called for in our current situation — our economy is tanking, new jobs are close to being a myth, and what little we do have going for us is mired in greed and dishonesty.
As our Congressman Faleomavaega said during ASCC’s commencement ceremony, “…in our Samoan culture, if you do not include the two most important character traits of our culture which are — tōfā mamao and fa’autuga loloto, your atamai or poto (intelligence or smarts) becomes hollow and without meaning or substance. In fact, you are no longer poto, but you’ve become a fiapoto.”
Our congressman then went on to say: “The person who truly personifies the highest level of tōfā mamao are our tamaliis or high chiefs. When a tamalii is said to have tōfā mamao — it means he is a man of vision — a leader who can see what is beyond the horizon or that mountain — a leader who is honest, and when he speaks he commands the respect of his peers and members of his community.”
Can we truly say that of our leaders that deck the halls of our Fono? Can we, the people point to a single faipule or senatoa that is currently sitting in the Fono, who is leading us with vision? Can they point to a single law they have passed recently that puts us on a path that will lead us to the Promised Land? When they speak, do we pause and listen respectfully, because we know they are speaking for our well being?
The Fono expense report says, “no”. The ledger accounts of the Eastern and Western districts’ $1 Million spending say, “no”. We don’t have the Manu’a ledger account, yet, but I doubt it will say “yes”.
Instead, these documents speak of selfishness and greed, and of personal agendas that point to keeping themselves, who are matai — in power — in the Fono, as well as in their own villages and districts. Their actions speak to us of a betrayal of public trust — of corruption.
So — how can we ask for help, when our own leaders are helping themselves to our pockets?
The third point is that in the ‘bigger’ global scheme of things, American Samoa is perhaps the smallest fish in an ocean of whales, sharks and tuna. The US has bigger problems, and quite frankly we are most probably like a “pimple on the backside” of a gnat —and I mean no disrespect to our men and women in the Armed Forces and the great service they do for us, Americans and American Samoans alike.
But, if the US leadership can lie about weapons of mass destruction in order to send men and women of the US Armed Forces in to the Middle East to die over oil, then in the broader picture — where do you think we stand?
We manufacture cans of fish for a nation that would rather protect the fish than eat it, and we send our youth into the Armed Forces because they offer the most job positions. That’s it Folks!
AND, American Samoa is listed as #1 in the amount of Iraqi War Casualties, per capita, something, if you remember, our leaders, including our Congressman had to remind the US leaders about a while back, when they were going to cut off further economic incentives for the territory.
They certainly didn’t ask us either, when they decided to make us raise our minimum wages — we were in fact a fatality of that little political war, and we weren’t even invited participants.
Does the US disrespect us? No. They just can’t see that little pinhole on the map. Out of sight, out of mind.
What’s left on the table then is us, the people, to take responsibility for allowing the abuse of power, authority, and the corruption to continue. To stop it — it has to come from us.
Transparency and accountability puts us on the right road, but our collective resolve is needed to put leaders with vision, honesty and commitment to our community, our island-country into positions of authority, i.e. both legislative and administrative positions of our government.
It needs us to speak up when we see something wrong, and to speak out with our vote — in our families, our clans, and our government — for leadership that reflects the best of us, as American Samoans.
That is what I wish for… and in this case, patience is not a virtue.