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Fono looks at reapportionment

[l-r] ASG Office of Political Status, Constitutional Review and Federal Relations executive director, Tapaau Dr. Daniel Aga; Manu’a District Governor Laolagi F.S. Vaeao; and Western District Governor Fuamatu J.V. Fuamatu appeared recently during a Senate Rules Committee hearing on a House Joint Resolution seeking to increase from two to three, the number of Tualauta faipule in the House. [photo: FS]

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA —  Tapaau Dr. Daniel Aga; shared with the Senate Rules Committee a “paper” on three options dealing with reapportionment of the local House of Representatives based on the “One Man One Vote” principle.  (See Samoa News Apr. 4 edition for details.)

The committee was holding a hearing on a House Joint Resolution seeking to increase from two to three, the number of Tualauta faipule in the House.

“This is not a magic solution [and] there’s no magic formula,” Tapaau told the committee, referring to the options, which are also guidelines that could assist the committee and the Fono on the House measure and perhaps future legislation seeking to increase faipule for other House districts.

The guidelines were requested by the Committee during a January hearing during which Sen. Magalei Logovi’i was one of those who sought such information to help senators in making a decision.

Magalei said senators can start reviewing the options provided by Tapaau during the recent hearing, as the committee wanted to see whether the current number of faipule can be increased or reapportioned (remaining the same, but increasing or decreasing per population district).

Magalei, one of the two Tualauta senators, said the “papers” presented show that it can be done and it’s also allowed under provisions of the American Samoa Constitution. He suggested that the committee review the options cited in the papers and not rush into a final decision on the House Joint Resolution which, if approved by the Fono, will still have to go to the voters.

Laolagi, a former senator, informed the committee that any decision on the House measure or reapportionment of House district seats rests with the Senate and the Fono.

As district governors and traditional leaders, Laolagi and Fuamatu requested for the committee to provide their input on the House Joint Resolution, which remains pending in the Senate committee for further review.

Sen. Muagututi’a Tauoa believes Tualauta should be granted the additional seat the House measure is seeking, saying many people reside in that county.  He said this isn’t a difficult issue but it’s made difficult by people’s decisions.

Sen. Alo Fa’auuga argued to maintain the status quo for the House while Sen. Misaalefua J. Hudson noted that many residents in Tualauta are living on privately owned land, something that was acknowledged by Magalei, who pointed out that some senators also reside in Tualauta, but they vote in their respective districts. 

If problems occur in Tualauta, he said, it’s the Tualauta lawmakers who are on the front line looking for answers. He used the continuous problem with roads in the area as an example.

Magalei said he didn’t request the guidelines from Tapaau because he is from Tualauta, but it is to provide some guidance for senators to review and discuss further on an issue that will continue to come up in the future.