HEADS OF GOV’T BRANCHES BID SEASON’S GREETINGS AT HOLIDAY MUSIC FEST
For the first time in recent memory, leaders of all three branches of the American Samoa Government delivered special remarks during Sunday night’s opening of the 36th Annual Holiday Musical Festival, sponsored by the American Samoa Council of Arts, Culture & Humanities, in collaboration with the Department of Youth & Women’s Affairs.
Chief Justice Michael Kruse, who was the last to deliver special remarks and Seasons Greetings, told the audience at the Fagatogo Pavilion along with those watching the program on KVZK-TV that he was a “little uncomfortable” being asked to provide remarks.
He noted that he understands the sentiment to have each branch of government extend Christmas wishes to the community. However, “the judicial branch, as you all know, while we are not a Godless institution, we are a neutral institution in terms of religion,” he stated. “So I’m sort of put on the spot at this point and time.”
Speaking on behalf of the court, Kruse said the protocol has always been that if the governor speaks on the behalf of the government “that is the speech on behalf of the court as well.”
“At this point in time, all I can do, on behalf of my wife, Gail and I, is to extend… a very neutral seasons greetings to all our people,” he said.
Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga was the first to address the gathering, delivering his first Christmas message as chief executive of the government. Lolo first explained the reason for the change in this year’s Christmas Caroling program.
Under the previous ASG sponsored, ‘ASG Territorial Christmas Program’, which began in 1998 during the first term of the late Gov. Tauese P.F. Sunia, ASG departments and office choirs would perform for three days, usually the week the before Christmas week, followed two days later by the annual Arts Council Program.
This year, said Lolo, the administration has opted for a change — with ASG choirs taking a break and if things don’t work out, then it will be changed again he said. He added jokingly that the public is probably tired of listening to the not so good voices of choirs from DPW and other departments.
Governor Lolo also said that the most joyous time of the year, which is also the time when people’s hearts are filled with happiness, is during Christmas time. And this is because it is a time of happiness, giving love, thankfulness and forgiveness in celebrating the birth of Christ, he said adding that the birth of Christ is a gift to mankind from God.
Speaking on behalf of the government, he wished American Samoa a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. He asked residents to remember patients at the hospital, residents of Hope House, and the Elderly, the disabled, inmates at the jail and others during this holiday season.
For sons and daughters of American Samoan serving in all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces around the world, the governor said “you will never be forgotten during this special time of the year”. He also sent special holiday greetings to all Samoans around the world including our neighboring Samoa.
As American Samoa celebrates the birth of Christ, Lolo asked the community to think about doing something good for another person, especially those who are less fortunate, by sharing with them, helping them and loving them as this is the wish of God.
Following the governor’s address were brief remarks from Senate President Gaoteote Tofau Palaie, who thanked the administration for including the Fono in this part of the program and allowing the Fono to personally deliver a Christmas message.
And as a military retiree, he also called on residents to remember “in our prayers” the safety of American Samoans in the military.
Speaking on behalf of House Speaker Savali Talavou Ale, who is currently off island, Vice Speaker Iaulualo Faafetai Tali said that he believed that the remarks by Gaoteote are the official statement from the Legislative branch.
He joined Gaoteote in wishing the people of the territory a Merry Christmas, adding that this is a time of happiness as Christians celebrate the birth of Christ. Iaulualo said this is also a time of thanks offered to God that American Samoa has come to the end of the year without any major crisis.
During Sunday night’s opening, five groups performed, while six groups are scheduled to perform each night through Wednesday night, when the program ends with closing remarks from Lt. Gov. Lemanu Peleti Mauga.