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Full 18-member Senate takes oath of office

A military man turned lawmaker, Senator Tilo Vasaga and his wife Christine pose for the Samoa News camera after the brief swearing-in ceremony for all faipule and senators of the 35th Legislature yesterday morning.  [photo: Blue Chen-Fruean]
No disputes and Sen. Gaoteote re-elected as Senate President

No disputes occurred yesterday when the 18-member Senate took the oath of office in the ceremony, which was presided over by Chief Justice Michael Kruse, that started just after 11a.m. Additionally, Sen. Gaoteote Tofau Palaie was re-elected Senate President for the next four years.

As reported by Samoa News yesterday there were claims from Manu’a District #1, that one of the two senatorial seats was being disputed by another traditional leader and this was the seat held in the last four years by Sen. Nuanuaolefeagaiga Saoluaga, who was returned to the Senate following a meeting on Thanksgiving Day by traditional leaders of Manu’a District #1. The other seat has been returned to Sen. Galeai M. Tu’ufuli.

As of last Friday morning the list confirmed with the Office of Samoan Affairs didn’t include Nuanuaolefeagaiga’s name.

However, names of all 18 senators, including Nuanuaolefeagaiga were read from a letter, which included the list of all 18 senators, submitted yesterday morning to the Senate by the Office of Samoan Affairs.

Also present at yesterday’s swearing-in ceremony was Sen. Tuaolo Manaia Fruean, who was appointed last Friday by Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga as Acting Police Commissioner. Samoa News understands that the Pago Pago traditional leaders will be meeting some time this month to discuss the issue of its senator.

After senators were sworn in, the election of the Senate President happened with no one contesting Gaoteote’s bid for another term, which was already known after a meeting last month and another meeting on Monday, to reaffirm the senator to lead the Senate in the next four years.

Sen. Galeai Tu’ufuli submitted Gaoteote’s name as Senate President and no other candidate was suggested. Unlike past practice, in which elections were held by secret ballot, senators yesterday unanimously approved Gaoteote’s name by a show of hands.

Also re-elected yesterday by senators for four-year terms are Leo’o Va’a Ma’o as Secretary of the Senate and Vaifale Akeli Alosia as Senate Sergeant-At-Arms.

After the election, Gaoteote delivered a traditional Samoan speech thanking all senators for their vote of confidence by returning him to the Senate leadership post. He called on them to work together for the betterment of American Samoa.

Gaoteote then announced that the Fono would officially convene for the start of the 35th Legislature on Monday in a joint session, where Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga will deliver his State of the Territory Address.

Samoa News notes that there are two female lawmakers for the new Legislature — Sen. Fonoti Tafa’ifa Aufata and Rep. Vui Florence Saulo — both are from Tualauta County.

Samoa News reporters Ausage Fausia and Fili Sagapolutele contributed to this report.