Senators calling for a 'scaled down' Flag Day program after Gita
Pago Pago AMERICAN SAMOA — A recommendation by three senators to scale back this year’s Flag Day, as many families impacted by Tropical Storm Gita are in need of financial assistance, will be delivered by Senate President Gaoteote Tofau Palaie to the Lolo Administration.
The recommendation, or “fautuaga” to Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga, came up at yesterday’s Senate session, during the first day back for lawmakers following a four-week midsession recess.
Sen. Tuiagamoa Tavai who first raised the issue, said in his opinion, next month’s Flag Day celebration should be scaled back, because many residents were impacted by the storm. He said he is concerned with American Samoa requesting federal assistance yet the territory is prepared to spend money on Flag Day.
He asked if the Senate could recommend to the administration to forgo a major Flag Day celebration. Furthermore, he wonders what ASG will give those impacted by the storm, while the government is planning the Flag Day celebration.
He suggested informing Samoa that this year’s event is scaled back. (A village from Samoa is already invited — through the Prime Minister — to participate in the siva and pese.)
Sen. Satele Galu Satele Sr., supported the idea, saying the Senate can make a recommendation to the governor to host a brief Flag Day ceremony, followed by a luncheon, as the territory just went through a storm.
He referred to the fautasi race, which was initially cancelled but is now back on again.
Satele suggested that the money allocated for all Flag Day events be given to residents who need help following Gita, saying it's very important, as there are many residents who don’t have much help, and they can use this money.
Gaoteote reminded senators that the Flag Day budget is approved annually by the Fono and allocated to the Office of Samoan Affairs which oversees the preparations and events-planning.
He said the governor cannot cancel the budget for Flag Day, as it's already set at $200,000 in the FY 2018 budget, which is law.
Gaoteote recalled that US President Donald J. Trump has already declared that a major disaster exists in American Samoa, providing federal financial assistance to the territory through the US Federal Emergency Management Agency and other federal agencies.
He said everyone loves and cares about those who were impacted by the storm, but federal assistance is on the ground to provide that needed help. Additionally, Flag Day is already planned and it's part of the government’s year-round calendar of events.
However, according to the Senate President, he will share this recommendation with the governor.
Sen. Galeai Tu’ufuli noted that money is already allocated and approved for this event under the annual budget process, and Flag Day is now under the Administration’s purview and therefore, let the Administration move forward with it unless there are issues, which require the Senate to get involved.
At this point, he said, let the administration handle its duties.
Tuiagamoa added later during the session that he doesn’t want to cancel Flag Day but instead, scale down the program with perhaps just a flag raising ceremony and prayers.
Sen. Fai’ivae Iuli Godinet echoed the same sentiment but added that he doesn’t believe the funds allocated for Flag Day can be given to people who were impacted by the storm.
As previously reported by Samoa News, it was during a cabinet meeting two Saturdays ago, that the governor overturned the Flag Day Committee’s decision to cancel the fautasi race, saying the race is one of the main reasons why our people look forward to Flag Day.
He said if funding is the main reason why the Committee decided to cancel the race, they should remember there are funds already allocated for Flag Day expenses, the fautasi race included. (See Samoa News Mar. 8th edition for details.)