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Big plans in place for DOI Secretary Zinke's visit here next month

Aumua Amata and US Interior Secretary, Ryan Zinke.
School children and ASG employees are asked to line the streets for a big 'wave'

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — US Interior Secretary, Ryan Zinke will visit American Samoa for the first time as head of the federal agency which has oversight of the US territories.

The visit will be a refueling stopover in Pago Pago en route to the US, following meetings in the region.

At yesterday’s cabinet meeting, the Governor’s Chief of Staff, Fiu J. Saelua gave a presentation on the local government’s plans, saying Zinke — and his delegation — will arrive around 7a.m., Sept. 6th and will be on the ground for between five to six hours before they head to Hawai’i.

Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga, who first hinted to Zinke’s visit during a cabinet meeting early this month, told cabinet members yesterday that he cannot remember a time — since his administration took office in 2013 — that any request to the US Interior Department was not carried out.

Lolo believes the government’s request was given the green light by the DOI, because of the very close working relationship between the administration and the DOI, as well as the close collaboration between the administration and DOI’s local field representative, Lydia Faleafine Nomura.

(It was at the start of the Lolo Administration that Faleafine Nomura was invited by the governor to attend all cabinet meetings)

Zinke’s planned visit to American Samoa, said Lolo, is an excellent chance to thank DOI for its unwavering support of the territory. Lolo requested that preparations currently underway include putting Samoa’s unique culture and our friendliness on display.

Other US government senior officials are expected to accompany Zinke on a military aircraft, with the US Secret Service dispatching a team to work on security with local officials prior to Zinke’s visit.

In his presentation, Fiu provided a 15-minute rundown of the current preparations, starting at the moment Zinke walks off the plane — and the local delegation to greet him — up to when he returns to the aircraft before heading to Honolulu. The Tafuna Swing Choir along with a musical band, will be at the airport during Zinke’s arrival and departure.

Based on the current plan, Fiu said Zinke and the federal delegation motorcade, led by a police escort, will begin from the airport through the Tafuna Industrial Park and Lions Park, and on to the main road.

Along this route, students from nearby schools will be on the roadside waving and welcoming the federal group.

As the motorcade heads into town, plans are to have students of SPICC at Fatumafitu, and Matafao Elementary School, do a ‘wave’ as they pass by.

Further, employees from ASG agencies in the Utulei area will be lined up on both sides of the street to wave as the motorcade heads on to StarKist Samoa, where cannery officials have invited Zinke and his delegation to tour the plant. Due to time constraints, there will be no tour; however, Fiu said cannery workers will line both sides of the street in Atu’u to welcome the federal delegation.

The motorcade turns around at StarKist and returns to Su’igaula o le Atuvasa Park in Utulei, where there will be the traditional welcoming Ava Ceremony, prepared by students from the American Samoa Community College, while entertainment and other activities are ongoing during the luncheon, where Zinke is expected to deliver brief remarks.

From Utulei the delegation returns to the airport for their departure flight, said Fiu, adding that KVZK-TV is requested to cover the entire visit from the time the military plane arrives and Zinke deplanes, to when the plane departs the territory.

Lolo has requested that all ASG employees who work in areas the motorcade will pass through come out to take part in the wave and welcome Zinke with banners.

And when Zinke heads back to the airport, Lolo suggests farewell banners on the roadside. The governor has also requested that all cabinet members participate in this special event. He said the video of Zinke’s visit as well as other cultural events captured by KVZK-TV cameras, can be used by the American Samoa Visitors Bureau to promote the territory.

As part of local preparations, the Island-wide Clean Up will be held Sept. 4th followed the next day by “beautification”, which includes decorating the roadside.

Lolo suggests that the Island-wide Cleanup Committee work with leaders of villages including Nu’uuli, where the motorcade will pass through, for decorations; and also very important, he added, the island-wide clean up should extend to all villages.