Le’i recommends Tonga and Samoa land exchanges should be pursued
“My recommendation to Governor Lolo Moliga is to pursue both land matters, in Tonga and Samoa, this will inevitably support the governor’s mission of reaching out to our neighboring islands and share our common interest to expand our economic stabilization,” Le’i Sonny Thompson, Human Resources Director in responding to Samoa News queries on their findings of the lands in Tonga and Samoa.
The HR Director, ASG’s Petroleum Officer, Sione Kava and Department of Commerce Keniseli Lafaele were tasked by Governor Lolo to go on a trip to Tonga to find out about the land given to the American Samoa government in the island kingdom.
The Governor’s Executive Assistant Iulogologo Pereira has told Samoa News that it’s the Governor's intention to invite local businesses, which might be interested, to work with local businesses in Tonga and Samoa, for which this land could be used.
Tonga was given a parcel of ASG land in Tafuna that has been utilized as a market to sell their goods, including Tongan agricultural produce.
Le’i told Samoa News the Memorandum of Understanding and subsequent Deed of Lease land exchange between the Government of Tonga and the ASG dates back to April 21, 1986 and was signed by the late Governor A. P. Lutali and his Majesty King Taufa’ahau Tupou IV, then Minister of Labor, Commerce & Industries Baron Vaea and then Attorney General of American Samoa, Afoa L Su’esu’e Lutu.
He explained the three acre are located in a certain parcel of land situated in Popua, Nuku’alofa, Tonga. The HR director further noted that ASG pays $10 to Tonga each year in April, for the duration of the lease, which will expire in 2036.
“The land has not been developed, its location is adjacent and has easy and direct access to the harbor, right in the down town area. However, this part of town is considered wetlands; it will take some work to clear and fill before it can be utilized for building or residential.
“I felt compelled, and was very careful, considering the diplomatic nature of our mission, to ask the Deputy Prime Minister if the Government of Tonga would consider giving us another parcel of land similar to the one we gave them in Tafuna — “ready to move in”, he smiled and said that they would look into it,” Lei said.
The HR Director also noted that having land in one of our neighboring island nations is a great idea.
“This agreement was symbolic in nature,” Le’i explained, “with the principles of facilitating trade and commerce; seeking opportunities for the processing of raw materials and semi-finished goods and products; establish a viable tourism industry; establishing bilateral concession on trade and tariff restrictions on goods and commodities; establishing a cooperative trade relationship on fisheries and marine resources; cooperative identification and development of joint venture activities; and finally exchange of information and technology in all other areas of mutual interests.”
Le’i further stated that “this exchange of land is merely an extension of our common heritage, culture and tradition,” and added that the government officials and Ministers of the Government of Tonga and the Deputy Prime Minister of Samoa were very excited and happy to “know that Governor Lolo is willing to cross the waters of the Pacific and establish dialogue, which will enhance our economic structure and enforcing our common interest and values.”
In their words “it is long overdue”, he said.
SAMOA PARCEL OF LAND
Similar to the Tonga MOU, during last year’s inter-Samoa talks, Samoa Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi and former Governor Togiola Tulafono agreed to provide for each other one acre of land to be used for setting up appropriate offices to facilitate economic integration. Samoa requested that the land in American Samoa be in Tafuna and the Samoa government set up land for American Samoa in Apia’s suburb of Vailima.
As Samoa News reported earlier, prior to leaving office before 12noon on January 3, 2013, Togiola’s office issued a news release saying that Togiola — in his final act as governor — signed the lease between Samoa and American Samoa, where a one acre property near Apia will be allocated to the Territory to set up an office.
In reciprocating, Togiola said American Samoa will provide land in Tafuna for Samoa to build its consular office, which is currently located in leased office space at the Methodist Church building in Fagatogo (next to the Samoa News building).
Tuilaepa said last year that having an American Samoa office in Apia would make it easy to address issues that arise in the event of an emergency. He said that having the Samoa Consulate Office in Pago Pago would do the same for Samoa's nationals in the territory.