Governor tells cabinet he supports election of senators
Some senators were not pleased with Gov. Togiola Tulafono’s comments during a cabinet meeting this week, that made reference to having senators elected by voters in lieu of the current historical process of selecting senators, by traditional leaders of counties.
During yesterday’s Senate session Sen. Galea’i Tu’ufuli was the first to voice his objections to the governor’s statements on the radio, referring to a report earlier in the day on KHJ citing three directors saying the governor has plans to push for the election of senators in 2016.
The governor also said that he suspects that the veto override referendum in this year’s election, will be approved by voters and doesn't think it’s appropriate to have a decision made by the governor, elected by the people — be overruled by a group that includes non-elected officials or senators.
One cabinet member reached by phone after the Senate session, declined making a comment about the cabinet meeting but concurs with the information reported by the radio station regarding the governor’s statement.
Sen. Velega Savali who addressed his colleagues towards the end of the session, voiced his concerns and objections regarding the governor’s statement of plans to elect senators. Velega said he believes that there is a “uniqueness” in American Samoa’s Senate membership, because it’s the only part of the democratic world whose senators are selected.
Velega said in his closing remarks — for the governor to “serve your time and get out.”
At the beginning of the session Galeai said American Samoa has twice decided in a constitutional convention to keep the current status when it comes to members of the Senate and rejected any notion of having senators elected.
He said he is disappointed and saddened with the governor’s unnecessary comments made at a time when the territory is close to election day and will affect the outcome of voters’ decision, especially when the governor mentioned the same issue of electing senators along with the veto override.
Sen. Lualemaga Faoa agreed with Galeai, saying that he is also very saddened to hear on the radio these types of statements, when the our ancestors and forefathers worked hard from the beginning to ensure the protection of Samoan culture by having senators — who are traditional leaders — selected by their respective county council.
Others who spoke with concern over the governor’s comments were senators Fuata Dr. Tagiilima Iatala and Fonoti T. Aufata.
Senate President Gaoteote Tofau Palaie agreed with his Senate colleagues and pointed out that the Senate is where the Samoan culture and traditions are well protected and preserved for the future.
Electing senators is an issue that has been around for several years and Togiola has previously come out strongly opposing such a move.