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Muavaefaatasi unanimously confirmed as new DHSS director

Newly confirmed director of Human and Social Services, Muavaefa’atasi John Edward Suisala.  [photo: FS]

With unanimous votes yesterday in both the Senate and House, the Fono has officially confirmed Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga’s nomination of Muavaefa’atasi John Edward Suisala as director of the Department of Human and Social Services. The Senate vote was 14-0 while the House voted 17-0.

Muavaefa’atasi, who was DHSS deputy director since 2009, will serve out the last remaining three years of the Lolo Administration as DHSS director, following the death of former DHSS head Taeaoafua Dr. Meki Solomona last month.

During the Senate confirmation hearing yesterday morning, Muavaefa’atasi recalled for senators what he told the House earlier in the day, that the director’s job is not an easy one but the person depends on God for guidance and help. He also said a close working relationship with the staff is important to achieve the department’s mission and serve the public.

Some 20+ DHSS staff, family members and friends were in the Senate gallery during the hearing. Muavaefa’atasi informed senators that all DHSS staff, who wanted to be present at the hearing, were required to take leave and they did.

It was noted by several senators who spoke during the hearing that Muavaefa’atasi’s qualifications are unquestionable as he has served in DHSS for many years. The director-nominee was commended for his service to the people during his many years in government. Senators were also thankful to Lolo for nominating Muavaefa’atasi, who said he has accepted and is prepared for the directorship post.

Sen. Fai’ivae Iuli Godinet echoed that Muavaefa’atasi’s qualification is unquestionable, adding that they worked together in past years for the late Congressman Faleomavaega Eni.

Fai’ivae shared with senators that Muavaefa’atasi, during Faleomavaega’s tenure, was instrumental in pushing for the federally funded Nutrition Assistance Program to be set up in American Samoa - now called the American Samoa Nutrition Assistance Program, or ASNAP.

Faleomavaega wanted Muavaefa’atasi to return to American Samoa - and he did - to implement the ASNAP, in order to move it forward.

Muavaefa’atasi was American Samoa’s lead negotiator in 1993 with the US Agriculture Department to extend, establish, and manage the ASNAP in 1994, according to his resume, which also states that he was successful in extending and setting up in the territory, the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program.

The director-nominee was asked about his chiefly title, “Muavaefa’atasi”, and he responded it's a title of the Pulu family of Pago Pago, and it was previously bestowed on Ae Ae Jr, who is currently the Pulu title holder.

The information was confirmed by Pago Pago Sen. Tuaolo Manaia Fruean, who added that Muavaefa’atasi is one of the great chiefs of the village council. Tuaolo requested that Muavaefa’atasi continue the DHSS choir, which was called the ASG choir by Taeaoafua.