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Four Tu’uga Va’a for 2012 Flag Day Week

The new Secretary of Samoan Affairs, Lefiti Pese laid out his office’s program for this year’s Flag Day fautasi race, which will have four regatta of two heats and two finals.

“Nanai (Deputy Secretary) and I have decided to have four races to mark this year’s Flag Day fautasi activities,” the Samoan Affairs secretary told some fautasi captains that attended the meeting on Wednesday afternoon at the Mata’upu o Tau Samoa office in Utulei.  Those in attendance were representatives from Nu’uuli, Fagasa, Aua, and the district of Manu’a.

“Since there will be more fautasi likely to compete in the Flag Day race this year than in past races we therefore feel that we should hold heats to determine which boats will advance to the main Flag Day championship race.  I believe that our people deserve to be entertained as they have supported fautasi races for a very long time.”

Lefiti also announced that the Togiola administration has invited two fautasi from Samoa to compete in this year’s Flag Day race.  They are: Samoa’s number one fautasi from Salelologa Savai’i, the Tolotolo O Tama Uli, and its number two boat. the Segavao from Si’usega.

Secretary Lefiti explained that the proposed two heats would be held on Saturday April 15.  “The top three fautasi from each heat will advance to the Flag Day tu’uga va’a final on Tuesday, April 17.  But those fautasi that will not make the grand final from the Saturday heats will have their race held on Monday, April 16.  This is the day when the government will dedicate the new Fale Samoa at the Malae o Su’iga’ula in Utulei.  This race will be conducted prior to the blessing of the new fale Samoa.”

Deputy Secretary Nanai asked those who attended the meeting whether the two invited fautasi from Samoa should take part in the heats to qualify for the grand final on April 17 or should they automatically go to the final by virtue of their being guests of the American Samoa government.

Nanai said the Salelologa and the Si'usega fautasi should pay the proposed entry fee for this year’s Flag Day race of $500.  “If an American Samoa fautasi is asked to pay that amount of money, it is only fair that the two fautasi from Samoa should also pay their entry fees.”

But a representative from the district of Manu’a, Mapu Paopao did not agree with Nanai.  “Ole fa’aaloalo lava o le fa’aaloalo.  Ole vala’aulia lava ole vala’aulia,” (respect is respect, an invitation is an invitation), the former faipule in the House of Representatives told the gathering.

He said that he did not want the boats from Samoa to pay an entry fee as they were here as “invited guests.”  But Nanai told Paopao that the Segavao from Si’usega paid its entry fee to compete in the fautasi race two years ago.

Soli’ai Tuipine from Nu’uuli spoke on behalf of his village that won the 2011 Flag Day race.  He reminded the Samoan Affairs top officials, captains, and village representatives present at the meeting that Flag Day fautasi races have always been run unfairly.

“What’s the point in signing Memorandum of Understanding documents and then the captains and the committee completely ignore it.  Every year we face these problems and the Flag Day fautasi committee does not follow the rules and regulations that govern the tu’uga va’a.  It’s time that the committee steps up and uses the power it has to disqualify a fautasi that doesn’t abide by the MOU.”

Another issue that Soli’ai, who is the head of the American Samoa Election Office, addressed was the Flag Day prize money for the fautasi that wins the race.

“Every year our village spends a lot of money in preparing our crew for the race.  It is an expensive endeavor but the first prize money awarded to the winning fautasi is way too small compared to the effort put into the organizing of the fautasi campaign.”

Soli’ai advised secretary Lefiti and deputy Nanai to raise the Flag Day race prize money for this year’s Flag Day race.  “Twenty thousand dollars for the first place fautasi is not enough,” he said.

Lefiti concurred with Soli'ai saying that the prizes for this year’s Flag Day fautasi activities should be increased.  He said that he was meeting with Governor Togiola Tulafono soon to discuss the fautasi budget.  “We should know by the end of this week the amount of money that will be spent in the running of the Flag Day race this year”, Lefiti reported.

“I agree with what Soli'ai has stated that the prizes should go up.  We know how tough it is for villages that have fautasi to make preparations for the race but bear with us, we will seriously look into this situation and will report back to you in our next meeting,” Lefiti assured.

Deputy Nanai offered a solution to the problem raised by Soli'ai.  He proposed that the $500 entry fees from all the boats that were going to compete should be given to the winning fautasi.  “That’s in addition to the first prize money that will be set by the fautasi committee,” he explained.

“Say for example that the committee has set the amount of $20,000 for the winning fautasi, I suggest that on top of that, all proceeds from the entry fees should also go to the fautasi that wins the race, that’s a lot of money. All other fautasi will malolo and not get anything,” he said.

Since some villages like Pago Pago, Vailoa, Fagatogo, Faga’alu, and the Samoana High School did not send any representatives to the meeting, some of the issues discussed were tabled until another meeting will be called.

In other related news, two new fautasi are being built here. The villages of Fagasa and Vatia are well on their way with the building of their boats. Fagasa’s new Fealofani lll and Vatia’s Fua’o will be ready in time for the 2012 Flag Day race in April.

Deputy secretary Nanai has confirmed that his village of Vatia is building a new Fua’o but has imposed a news blackout on the progress of the work.

“I have banned the newspaper, TV, and radio from taking pictures writing stories, and visiting the site where our fautasi is being built in Vaita.  And until such a ban has been lifted, the media blackout remains in effect,” Nanai told this correspondent and the government run KVZK TV personnel.  “I will let you know when I want the media to come and take pictures of our new boat,” Nanai added. Maselino Ioane who is a well-known boat builder from Aua is building the Fua’o.

In praising his deputy secretary, Lefiti told the gathering that the new Fua'o was Nanai’s dream to build a fautasi for his village of Vatia.  “He is getting old but he has at long last fulfilled a life time promise to his father who built Vatia’s first fautasi.”

Fagasa has contracted boat builder, Power from New Zealand to build its third generation of fautasi.  The Fealofani lll will replace the Fealofani ll that was destroyed by the Galu Lolo three years ago.  That one which was also built by Power won three consecutive races (2007/08/09) under the captaincy of  Satele Lili’o  in addition to other mua when Senator Dr. Alo Paul Stevens skippered it.  Fagasa will dedicate its new Fealofani lll before April.

Senator Alo said he would not be the captain of the new Fagasa fautasi citing ill health.  “There are young people who are capable of leading our campaign for this year.  The village will decide the most experienced person to be the captain,” the senator told this correspondent.

Lili’o is now an associate judge with the High Court of American Samoa and has been bestowed the family title of Satele from the village of Tula.  He also told this correspondent sometime ago that because of his new position at the High Court and his holding the paramount title Satele, he has ruled himself out of the top job as Fagasa’s kapiteni.

Meanwhile, Aua village will also build a high tech fautasi but it will not be ready for this year’s Flag Day race.  The Paepae O Ulupo’o captain and leader of the aumaga, Leonard Liufau said the unavailability of the boat builder was the main cause for the delay in starting of their project.

“Mr. Power is the one that will build our new fautasi but since he is involved in the Fagasa fautasi project we’ve decided to postpone the building of our new boat until mid year.”

Meanwhile, the village of Faga’alu has expressed interest in acquiring the Manu’a District’s Matasaua 1 fautasi.  One reliable source told this correspondent that Faga’alu will approach the Manu’a District soon with its proposal.

The Manu’a chiefs received the same fautasi from the village of Pago Pago through traditional presentation about five years ago. It may give it away to Faga’alu using the same customary method, according to this source.

The Manu’a Matasaua II is under a new fautasi committee.  Mapu Paopao is the head of the committee that supervises the affairs of the high tech boat.  Their temporary captain is Vaiolo Taliga who replaces longtime skipper, Fu’ega Moliga.

Malemo Lafo Tausaga, an influential to’oto’o of the Manu’a District and the American Samoa Government Budget Director confirmed to this correspondent that Fu’ega was no longer the captain of the Matasaua ll.

“We’ve decided to bring in new faces to take over the running of our fautasi campaign,” Malemo said.

But Paopao told Samoa News Sports that the Manu’a District has not finalized its pick for a new captain.  “Vaiolo has been designated to take the boat out during rowing practices until a final decision is made.”

The Matasaua ll is the first fautasi to hold training exercises in Pago Harbor.  “We’re teaching the new crew members the rowing technique.  We have practice runs on the water every evening from Monday to Friday, but in the morning, we jog and exercise,” Paopao explained.

The 2010 champion, the Pago Pago Aeto and the current fautasi champion, Nu’uuli’s crews are concentrating on their roadwork everyday.  Pago’s trainer, Leaoa Eddie Tua’olo Fruean told this correspondent that the Aeto would be put in the water either at the end of this month or early March.

“We’re doing a lot of uphill running to get our stamina and strengthen the legs,” Leaoa said.

The Togiola Administration and the Office of Samoan Affairs have not yet named a chairman and committee to oversee the 2012 Flag Day activities.