No Constitutional Convention this time, says Lolo, legislative process is cheaper
Instead of calling a Constitutional Convention, Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga suggests using the legislative process to propose any amendments to the American Samoa Constitution.
The last Convention was held in 2010, where more than a dozen proposed amendments to the Constitution were approved and presented to voters during election that year. However, voters rejected all the proposed changes, which were put under one question for a vote of “yes” or “no”.
Since the Lolo Administration took office in 2013, many in the community have questioned whether the governor will call a convention. The question resurfaced earlier this year when the administration won its second-term in office as the governor had stated several times publicly the need to review American Samoa’s relationship with the US government, because of federal regulations — such as fishing restrictions — impacting the territory.
Last month, two business owners and one community leader inquired with Samoa News if the governor has made any plans for a convention, saying there are issues they would like to see raised and discussed.
For example, the possible increase in the number of House members for Tualauta and Ituau counties and electing senators instead of their respective county councils selecting them.
When asked during a recent news conference if he plans to call a convention during his second term in office, Lolo said he has recommended to Fono leaders to utilize the legislative process for any proposed changes, as this is the most effective way.
“It’s a much cheaper way and it's a process that will give the public a chance to provide testimonies, during public hearings,” he said, and noted that if a convention is called, convention delegates would probably be more keen on getting their allowances, while only a few people would make the decision. (The constitution allows delegates to receive per diems set by law).
Going through the legislative process, the Fono “should conduct public hearings” to not only get public comments but explain any proposed amendment, Lolo said, adding that he's hopeful proposed amendments will be approved by the Fono next year so they can be presented to voters during the November 2018 general election.
So far the only possible amendment to be presented to voters next year, is a Senate Joint Resolution, now pending in the House, giving the Fono the authority to override the governor's veto instead of the US Secretary of Interior.
During the news conference, Lolo reiterated to reporters his support of this amendment, saying this is a very important issue, which gives the Fono a say on bills rejected by a sitting governor. He explained that the current make-up of the territorial government is “centered” on the sitting governor making final decisions.
During a Senate committee public hearing on the veto-override measure, the only person who showed up to testify was Pulu Ae Ae Jr., who made clear that he was there to testify as a resident of American Samoa. While he wasn’t against the measure, he suggested taking the matter out to the villages because there were no people to testify and he questioned whether American Samoa is prepared for such a change.
Several senators suggested that once the House approves the measure, Fono leaders should appoint a committee of lawmakers tasked with conducting public awareness on KVZK-TV and in the villages on the importance of the veto override.
Meanwhile, the ASG Office of Political Status, Constitutional Review and Federal Relations, headed by executive director Tapaau Dr. Daniel Aga, continues to provide public awareness programs at offices and schools on the territory’s political status and other related issues. Outreach to villages are planned for 2018.
A Facebook page will be up and running soon.