Third Ma’oputasi County senate seat selected by “draw”

Ma’oputasi County used an unusual way to select its third senator — through a “se’i” or drawing — after traditional leaders of Leloaloa/Atu’u and Aua failed to reach a consensus.

Ma’oputasi County traditional leaders re-affirmed, during a county meeting last week Monday, the return of Sen. Tuaolo M. Fruean (for Pago Pago) and Senator-select Fano Mitch Shimasaki (for Fagatogo, Utulei and Fagaalu).

However, no action was taken for the third senator, representing Aua, Leloaloa/ Atu’u, because traditional leaders of Aua and Leloaloa weren’t able to reach a consensus between Sen. Uti Petelo, who sought to be returned to the Senate with the support of his constituents from Leloaloa, and Tilo Vasaga Tilo, representing Aua, who traditional leaders strongly supported, arguing at the meeting that it was their turn to the senatorial seat.

Paramount Chief Mauga T. Asuega, ranking traditional leader of Maoputasi, informed traditional leaders of Aua and Leloaloa to meet again for a consensus on the next senator, whose name would then be presented at the county’s next meeting. The meeting was held last Wednesday afternoon, where it was revealed that no consensus had been reached and the issue was then presented to county leaders.

A matai from Leloaloa told the gathering there was still no consensus reached with Aua maintaining that it was their turn to the senatorial seat, and Tilo should be seated. However, Uti maintained that he should continue the senatorial post for the next four years.

Leloaloa’s traditional leader Iulogologo Joseph Pereira informed the meeting about Uti’s request to return to the Senate, while Aua maintained their selection of Tilo. Therefore, Iulogologo says there was no consensus reached, and then gave Uti the chance to address the meeting.

Uti said he doesn’t understand why this matter has come before the county as he has already informed Tilo and Aua that he will continue in the Senate because they had not reached a consensus despite several meetings. Uti also reminded traditional leaders of both Aua and Leloaloa that the senate seat is that of the Maoputasi county, which make the final decision.

Tuaolo, a traditional leader of Pago Pago, recalled that this is not the first time that Leloaloa and Aua weren’t able to reach a decision for their senatorial seat and had to be presented to the county council meeting for the final decision.

He pointed out traditional leaders of Leloaloa and Aua shouldn’t have the county decide for them who would take the seat. Tuaolo then referred it to Mauga, to address the county council and his decision on the senatorial seat for Leloaloa and Aua.

Muaga spoke of the recommendation he made a few years back, when Leloaloa and Aua were unable to reach a consensus, resulting in him selecting himself for the senatorial seat, that after his term in the Senate, the senatorial seat for Leloaloa and Aua would be passed along between the two villages starting with Leloaloa and followed by Aua.

Mauga said Leloaloa has had its turn to the senatorial seat and it’s now Aua’s turn. And the person selected for the seat in the Senate represents Maoputasi County and is not a representative for Leloaloa and Aua — whose traditional leaders have given him authority to select their senator.

He questioned who Leloaloa and Aua plan to have make the final decision for them, saying that it wasn’t right for them to have the county make the final decision. He reminded the meeting that he is also the Secretary of Samoan Affairs, the ASG agency charged with overseeing local traditional issues.

Mauga said he has witnessed and observed problems in the county and it’s time to correct them “because if not now when” and if it’s not him correcting the problems, who will do it in the future. He did not cite specific problems in his address.

The Paramount Chief then called on a “taule’ale’a” (untitled man) attending the meeting to bring a bucket for the “se’i” (or draw).

Mauga then wrote “Aua” on one piece of paper and “Leloaloa” on the other. He placed both pieces of paper in the bucket and directed the taulealea to take the bucket to Ma’oputasi county chief (fa’alupega) Mailo to draw from the bucket, and Mailo drew the piece of paper with “Aua” on it.

After the name “Aua” was read out, Tilo stood up from where he was sitting and walked to the side where Uti was siting and shook hands with him and embraced him.

With the result of the draw in hand, Aua, with their choice of Tilo for the senate, became the third senator for Ma’oputasi.

In his brief remarks, Uti expressed appreciation for a chance to serve the county in the Senate for the next four years.

(Original Samoan stories published Lali section for Samoa News today and last week Wednesday.)

REACTION

Samoa News contacted a couple of traditional leaders, who are not from Ma’oputasi County, for their reactions to the “draw” and all of them said the “method was very unusual” —  to select a senator by “se’i” — however none of them would comment further on the “unusual” method — and they also asked not to be quoted by name in the story.

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