Lolo to UN: Economic overtones fashion our voluntary relationship with U.S.
Because American Samoa was not invited to this year’s United Nations Decolonization Committee regional seminar, Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga has submitted his written official position, which reflects the views of previous governors.
Lolo stressed the importance of having residents make the final decision on its political future, and not the U.S. Congress. He also noted that “American Samoa is not a colony of the United States but rather a territory; a status that has been fashioned voluntarily because of economic overtones.”
It is the governor’s first official position since becoming the territory’s chief executive in January this year. His official statement has also been forwarded to the U.S. Department of Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs.
This year’s Decolonization Committee seminar was held May 28-30 in Guayaquil, Ecuador.
In his official position dated June 13, titled “Decolonization Issue Regarding American Samoa”, the governor informed the committee that although “no invitation was extended to American Samoa to participate in this year’s UN forum” he wanted to express his “thoughts on the political status of American Samoa and our position on the issue.”
Lolo also cited provisions of two UN Resolutions, which address the issue of decolonization of territories by controlling powers.
While the UN “is not legally empowered to decolonize any territory or anyone for that matter, I am appreciative of its continued diligence to ensure that the administrating powers revisit existing relationships with their territories or insular possessions to ensure that every opportunity is provided for these territories to opt out if they so desire,” said the governor.
He also says that while American Samoa is a U.S. territory, the prevailing relationship avails more self-determining authority to American Samoa to make its own decisions. For example, he said American Samoa elects its own governor and lieutenant governor and this differentiates American Samoa from the definition of a colony.
In fact, he says, American Samoa is not ruled or governed by the federal government differently from applying the same requirements on all States for the use of federally provided financial resources.
“The prevailing perception that American Samoa is a colony by definition stems from the informal character of the relationship with the United States with the absence of an Organic Act which formally defines the relationship between... American Samoa and the United States of America,” he said.
“In a de facto sense, American Samoa is part of the United States. It is substantially self-governing and not really a colony in any real sense. American Samoa freely, through its Deeds of Cessions, bequeathed its sovereignty to the United State... and American Samoa was not acquired through any military conquest,” the governor explained. “Being part of the United States family is really a matter of self-determination.”
He explained that the two Deeds of Cessions “clearly describe the purpose which compelled our forefathers to bequeath the future hopes and dreams of American Samoa to the United States.”
Lolo said the federal government has lived up to its commitment to the Territory with respect to the provision of funds for American Samoa.
“Of course, there are current issues decided at the Congressional level, which have negatively impacted the ability of the territory to advance its social and economic development prospects,” Gov. Lolo said. “Nevertheless, American Samoa has representation in the Congress to register our objections to measures which adversely affect our ability to improve our people’s quality of lives.”
The governor noted the main recommendation by the Future Political Status Study Commission, released a couple of years ago states that “American Samoa shall continue as an unorganized and unincorporated territory and that a process of negotiation with the U.S. Congress for a permanent political status be initiated”.
Additionally, “the recommendation also listed the points forming the basis for the negotiations with the U.S. Congress. These are: A specially tailored Act of Congress is needed to reaffirm the special protective provisions for lands and titles in the Constitution of American Samoa. Such an Act may be passed without changing the present political status.”
“Clearly, the people of American Samoa recognize that it cannot continue to rely on status quo but to find a political status that would fit indigenous desires reflected in the above statements,” Lolo said.
“It is my personal preference for the Congress of the United States to empower the people of American Samoa to make the final decision on the type of political status that they deem appropriate to govern their future relationship with the United States,” he said.
And while, “the Congress has the ultimate authority to decide the nature of political status the United States would have with American Samoa,” Lolo noted, “it is my wish, for the Congress of the United States, to relinquish this authority to the people of American Samoa, so they can decide for themselves the political status arrangement to be fashioned with the United States.”
In closing, he said, “American Samoa is not a colony of the United States but rather a territory; a status that has been fashioned voluntarily because of economic overtones.”