Gov and Speaker attend Samoa Heritage Week
Gov. Togiola Tulafono left last Thursday night to attend the Samoa Heritage Week in Hawai’i, which opened Sunday, Aug. 5, with a combined church service at the Kanana Fou Church on the island of Oahu.
Also attending the event, now in its third year and running through Saturday this week is House Speaker Savali Talavou Ale.
A variety of activities are scheduled throughout the week for the celebration: games such as cricket and volleyball will be held, along with entertainment and workshops, a farm fair, a rugby tournament, and cultural demonstrations focused on food, crafts, and more, according to a brief statement posted last Friday on the ASG website.
The week long events are held at Keehi Lagoon Park with the closing ceremony on Sat. August 11 which includes a Color Presentation by the US Marines, a Traditional Ava Ceremony, a keynote speech by Togiola, and special remarks by Hawai’i Gov. Neil A. Abercrombie.
Except for the press release on the ASG website, no other information has come out of the governor’s office regarding this year’s event.
Prior to his departure, the governor appointed Attorney General Fepuleai A. Ripley as acting governor, until Lt. Gov. Faoa A. Sunia returns this Thursday night from an off-island meeting.
The Samoa Heritage Week has not been a popular celebration with several lawmakers, who have cited lack of funding source and ‘money better used’ for the territory’s needs as reasons for not supporting it.
ASenate Investigative Committee (SIC) staff interim report released last month notes the 2009 Samoan Heritage Week had been funded with over $150,000 from the $20 million retirement loan proceeds charged to the Pacific Arts project. A later update from the SIC staff reported that the $200,000 appropriation bill for the 2009 Samoa Heritage Week was approved by the Fono and signed into law by the governor, who initiated the measure — which used "unallocated moneys" from the loan as an alternate funding source. The first funding source, cited in the bill, is "unbudgeted, unexpended and unobligated revenues for FY 2009."
What is unclear at this point is why the loan proceeds ended up being used, when there were other pending projects yet to be completed — with funds allocated for them. This was the only time a funding bill came before the Fono for the celebration, with Gov. Togiola remarking that because the Fono was against it, the governor’s office was using their own budget for it.
For 2012, Samoa News understands the Hawai’i- Samoa heritage week committee was informed several months ago that this is probably the last celebration funded by the territory, as local support for it is not there. The committee is said to be applying for a non-profit status for the Samoa heritage week.
In the meantime, it is not known how much the local government expended this year for the celebration, as Samoa News was told that Virginia Samuelu, who is the governor’s point person for the Samoa Heritage Week, said that the dollar figure was not available during a meeting she had with the committee several months ago,