Gov. Lolo: “Corruption, in itself, is a word of the past”
Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga takes issue with claims that the American Samoa Government is corrupt telling a recent gubernatorial forum hosted by the American Samoa Bar Association — “corruption, in itself, is a word of the past.”
Allegations of corruption in government have been slung around for so many years and resurfaced many times during election years — with this year no exception.
During the gubernatorial forum, the candidates for governor heard, “A lot of our younger generation do not return home after successful education because of their perception of corruption within ASG.” The question was then asked of them: “What will you do to address this and how would you attract our young professionals to return home and serve their country?” The second part of the question asked was, “Since ASG is the largest employer, what will you do about the situation where retired employees are brought back on contract, taking away job opportunities for the younger generation?”
In his response, Lolo said the “question really bothers me because whoever asked the question, needs to qualify such a statement like that, because the implication… gives a down-look to our people.”
He said, “Corruption is a word of the past and our young people, our people know much better today then yesterday. So as far as I’m concern implying corruption to be part of this administration — I don’t think so,” he said — “Corruption, in itself, is a word of the past.”
“And to label our young people, as the reason they don’t want to come home because of the corrupted government, then I say to whoever formed that question, you must think twice as to the impact of that impression on our young people.”
Lolo continued, “I don’t think its fair for our young generation to be labeled in such a way that they don’t come home because of this corruption.”
“Any Samoan kid,” he said, “really Samoan, who goes out, it doesn't matter what happens here, the first thing that gets into his mind, is to return home. Why? Samoa is his identity, he will do anything regardless of what, will come home.”
For his administration, Lolo said, “we try everything to make sure that we do not go back to the history of corruption. I can vouch... that we put every measure — every order that we put out is to make sure that we contain and control corruption. That’s why I can say that corruption is no longer a word that is used in this government.”
“You’ll find bits and pieces of corruption everywhere. It doesn’t matter where you go somebody is there with a corrupted mind. We cannot avoid that and that’s part of what we do. But to label our young people with such a stigma, I don’t think that’s fair for our young people,” he said and noted that the question “is a put down for our own young people.”
Candidate for governor Tuika Tuika said he tells his kids, who all have college degrees, “that the only important gift that God gave you is your knowledge. And whatever you do — get your education.”
“Children are the future of our country and we have to support them and get rid of corruption, so they can come back here to run the government,” said Tuika, who stated many times during the three-hour forum — there is corruption in government.
Candidate for governor Faoa Aitofele Sunia said, “I would encourage this younger generation who do not want to come home, to come home anyway and find out.”
“Don’t take what they hear, it may not be as bad as they thought it is. And I think if they are Samoans and come from here, they have some kind of moral duty to come back and correct what they can,” he said. “But don’t refuse to come home, because they think this is a corrupt place.”
Faoa also said that some of his children, who went off island seeking higher education, don’t want to return home and “I try to entice them, so they can come home.”
On the question on ASG employees who have retired and been hired back on contact, the candidate pointed out that there is a law against age discrimination and a person cannot be hired because that person is old or has retired.
“But I think, it is right to give our younger people a chance, maybe the governor has to choose between the retiree and a college graduate, [and] will probably give the college graduate a chance and let the retiree go retire and have fun,” he said.
However, Faoa again reminded the audience that “age... cannot prohibit you from giving employment [to a person] but I would give the young person the chance first to be employed.”