Manu’atele, Part 3

“Occupy Manu’atele”- A Safety Net; A Dedication

The spirit of “Occupy Wall Street” — a recent and contagious social movement in the US and the world — is needed to mobilize the people of Manu’atele to organize as a group, to ensure the needs of the people of Manu’atele are clearly articulated and communicated, and effectively received by the leaders and decision makers of ASG (many of whom are traditional leaders of Manu’atele). 

Fundamental to meeting the needs of Manu’atele is resolving the transportation issue permanently. Only then will the people return to occupy Manu’atele as residents, farmers, or business owners.

Occupy Wall Street (OWS), a people-powered movement, is the 21st  century version of the historical “oppressed versus oppressors” confrontation.  In the language of OWS — it’s 99% of the population versus the wealthiest 1%.

Moved by the social and economic inequality, greed, corruption, economic collapse, and recession brought about by the corrosive power of major banks and multinational corporations (the 1%), OWS (for the 99%) was staged in September 2011 in Manhattan New York and spread to over 100 cities in the US and more than 1000 cities globally.

OWS was inspired by the potent “Arab Spring”, a revolutionary wave of protests occurring in the Arab world that began in December 2010 that saw changes in government leadership in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen; to current uprisings in Bahrain and Syria.

I am not certain whether or not the Satapuala Village (land dispute) and Maagiagi Village (water dispute) “uprisings” against Prime Minister Tuilaepa and government of Samoa are OWS or Arab Spring inspired; or if it’s Manu Samoa inspired — the spirit behind the effort that ended the Tongan occupation of Samoa several hundred years ago and the New Zealand occupation fifty years ago. 

However, I am certain the LBJ doctors 12-hour “occupation” of the EOB earlier this year to protest the reduction in work force and hours at the only hospital in the territory was OWS inspired, and proved effective at the end of the day; although Governor Togiola Tulafono might beg to disagree.

It is clear from these recent events and similar events in the history of mankind, there’s a tipping point when the oppressed, with their backs against the wall, will fight back.

That said, the Satapuala and Maagiagi “uprisings” may not be popular movements, as editorialized by the Samoa Observer recently, because the government hospital (US funded) to serve the people of Sataupuala and surrounding villages is being blocked by Satapuala village in this case; and the water that runs through Maagiagi village is the source of life and electricity for many if not most parts of the island of Upolu, is the subject matter of the Maagiagi grievance. Let’s hope both will resolve peacefully.

The Manu’atele, on the other hand, is the unheralded, most grievous portrait of injustice in the history of American Samoa, and a complex one to crack.

Ironically, the traditional leaders of Manu’atele and others of Manu’atele ancestry are key players in the administration of ASG i — in all three branches of government and the congressional seat; yet Manu’atele has been the flag ship of development-in-reverse of all US possessions.

Exasperating this lack of leadership attention to the Manu’atele is the general attitude prevalent among Manu’atele people — deferring to the authority of traditional and political leaders. This explains, loud and clear, the sad state of development in Manu’atele.

It also explains the difficulty in mobilizing a people deeply entrenched in respect for traditional leaders and authority, even if these leaders are part of, or the source of the problem.

Thus, the implication is straight up — dismantle this perverse sense of respect and loyalty — and Manu’atele has a chance to survive the 21st century as a meaningful US territory, occupied and full of life.

It is too risky to rely solely on the good graces of traditional and political leaders of Manu’atele and ASG. We have seen what the political cycle of kicking the can down the road every two and four years has done to American Samoa, let alone Manu’atele.

The people need to rise up to the occasion and help determine their own destiny— run for office, and organize to hold traditional and political leaders accountable not only during election but thereafter.

Mobilizing the people to “occupy” Manu’atele is especially a daunting task, but it has to be done. Faith without work doesn’t exist — it is so written in the Book of Life.

There are two on-going enabling projects in Manu’atele that the leaders and people of Manu’a need to leverage and support as this could very well be the launching pad Manu’atele has been waiting for — the fishing co-op that’s being supported by the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council and ASG’s DMWR, and the farmers co-op that’s being spearheaded by Saunoa Liva to take advantage of the surging interest in cocoa in world markets.

The success of these developmental projects hinges on yes … transportation, transportation, transportation!!! 

ASG is in a precarious financial position — Fono and administration running budget deficits, the Marisco fiasco, the uncertainties involving the tobacco settlement deal, which means Manu’atele leaders and people will need to fight for sufficient funding to address their transportation needs.

On a personal note, I would like to pay tribute to Adele Satele-Galea’i, a very dear cousin and friend. Adele said goodbye to her ASCC family in December 2007, as reported in Samoa News, with the “Gifts of Life”. Among these gifts Adele listed dreams, giving, gratitude, and the ultimate gift — love and service to others.

In that spirit, I dedicate this Ed OP and future editorial efforts for the remainder of this year to the memory of Adele Satele-Galea'i.

Ia manuia lau malaga Adele, Godspeed.


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