Tafuna High School hosts forum for Tualauta and Ituau faipule candidates
On Tuesday, Oct. 25, the Tafuna High School Social Studies Department hosted a political forum — Let Our Voices Be Heard —focused on the 2016 House of Representative candidates for the Tualauta District and Ituau District. Held at the school’s gymnasium, the forum drew focus not only to voices of youth, but also to the fact that these two districts make up more than 50% of the territory’s population, with Tualauta being the most populated, according to the 2010 US Census.
Attending the forum was (L-R): standing: incumbent Vaiaitu Mulinu’u Filo T. Maluia (Ituau — the only Ituau candidate to attend), Samuelu Ioka Ale Meleisea, Tapumania Galu Satele Jr., Ryan A. Peau, Leomiti Faitamai Leomiti; sitting: Barley Lucia Su’a, Saipai Cassens and incumbent Vui Florence Saulo.
Kolose Ili, a THS Social Studies teacher (and the head coach of the THS football program) moderated the forum, while THS principal, Beauty Tuiasosopo offered closing remarks. Edney Apulu, the head of the Department of Social Studies advised and helped organize the event. Senior class members of the National Honor Society asked the questions, and the forum was open to the public, with the THS senior class attending.
Questions asked of the candidates during the forum, included topics such as Transportation, Education, Amnesty Program, Health Care and the Territorial Bank of American Samoa.
TRANSPORTATION: Local traffic in the morning due to work and school traffic, and the high cost of Hawaiian Air flights between Pago and Honolulu were queried.
Leomiti mentioned the DOE budget for transportation and suggested paths be developed across communal land between Pavai’ai and Tafuna High so more students could walk to school or ride bikes to and from school. Cassens suggested starting schools at different times in the morning, for example Tafuna High School at 0930 to 10.00, which won a big applause from students. Satele Jr. recommended another school be built in a different location — noted was the difficulty in getting land for government to do so.
EDUCATION: The budget and teachers’ salaries were discussed, with all the candidates stressing teachers are under paid, and increments should be paid when due.
Satele Jr., a former teacher at Leone with a Masters degree suggested DOE be removed from political intervention; and, Leomiti said twice, if elected he would give his $30K non-taxable office allowance to the schools in his district.
AMNESTY PROGRAM: Most agreed the program was necessary and also pointed out with most recent laws passed, it would be harder for over stayers to slip through. Most candidates blamed the Immigration office for the problem, citing the officers being underpaid and getting kickbacks. Asian businesses were mentioned also, with a note that in Tualauta they do not hire local people but "bring in their own" to work in their stores. All candidates agreed that immigration must be tightened up so jobs would be available for people born in American Samoa or at least are here legally.
HEALTH CARE: The common theme throughout the discussion was “you get what you pay for”. They said good health starts at home, it is not up to the government, and the people in territory should learn to eat healthy foods like our ancestors.
TERRITORIAL BANK OF AMERICAN SAMOA: All agreed with the exception of Bartley that having a choice was most important thing. Candidates made clear the Governor only stepped in because the private community bank was moving to slow for development. However, Bartley said point blank that government should not be in banking business.
Absent from the forum’s House candidate lineup were: Ituau County candidates Sataua Dr. Mataese Samuelu and Manumaua Wayne Wilson, and Tualauta County candidate Ufuti Fa'afetai Ieremia.
(A special thank you goes out to Mr. Jim McGuire, Blue Pacific Communications, for providing info as well as photos for Samoa News.)