Governor’s final Flag Day address — a call to self-determination
In his last Flag Day address as chief executive, Gov. Togiola Tulafono says its time for American Samoa to revisit its political status with the United States and called on residents to seek appropriate changes in order to be truly self-governing, with self-determination.
The governor recalled that 112 years ago in Fagatogo, a couple of a hundred of people gathered atop Sogelau Hill with a make shift flag pole and raised the United States Flag on Tutuila; pointing out that the U.S. flag was first raised on Tutuila in 1872 and then again in 1878.
Raising of the U.S. Flag on Apr. 17, 1900 came after the signing of the agreement of cession (or deed of cession) between the U.S. and chiefs of Tutuila and Aunu’u.
He said the agreement in its first part, recites with no uncertainty, the actions of the three powers of the world at the time — the U.S., Germany and Great Britain — where in 1899 they met in Berlin and executed the Berlin Treaty.
The three powers partitioned the sovereign nation of Samoa, in which all islands east of the Samoan archipelago (Tutuila and Aunu’u) came under the U.S., while islands to the west were controlled by Germany.
“We had no say. We had no agreement to be partitioned. We did not seek to be partitioned. We were a sovereign nation. And the agreement [of cession] does speak to that. It acknowledges that Samoa is a sovereign nation of its own,” said Togiola.
Since that time, chiefs in Tutuila and Aunu’u, and four years later in the Manu’a island group, have ceded the complete authority to legislate and control these islands to the U.S. government, he said.
“So therefore everything that we exercise today, we only exercise the power that is not ours... the power that belongs to someone else,” he said. “Perhaps, that’s why our forefathers sought to keep the agreement in an unorganized and unincorporated fashion. Perhaps, that’s why, later generations of Samoans never sought to change ‘unorganized and unincorporated’”
“For us, we have been too busy to define what those words meant. But we failed our duty as citizens to seek out the message and read between the lines... what it meant,” he said. “I think the time has come that we do our duty and read between the lines.”
“If we have been left unorganized and unincorporated for 112 years, I ask you — are you happy with that? Is that a political status that you would like your children to grow up in?” he asked.
“I say this, life has been good but if we have any pride we must seek to change that political status.”
“All countries — major and minor — have changed their political status, so that they can have true self-governance and self-determination. We cannot do that American Samoa... unless, we do it for ourselves. And I say, the time has come,” he said.
“The time has come to rise up and determine for ourselves what it is that we want to do. But self determination will never come, self governance will not happen, if we do not rise together and work together,” he stated.
Togiola also said Capt. B. F. Tilley (a U.S. Naval governor) promulgated the first initial regulation that still lives today that states: “There shall be no alienation of communal and cultural lands, unless it’s approved by the governor.”
“Why did he seek to do that? Because he read... between the lines the agreement in its most essential essence was that Samoa shall be preserved for Samoans,” he said. “I believe that is the underlying essence of these agreements, but we failed to see it all these years.”
He said the regulation by Tilley has become law enacted by the Fono. “It was an effort to stop the rush to sell communal land to merchants and to people who are offering money,” he said, adding that Tilley’s action has allowed us to keep our land throughout all these years.
“It’s time that we do our duty and rise up and make that determination for ourselves, for no one else will. The time is now and we must act,” he said and called for American Samoa to have a great Flag Day celebration.
Although it was not on the official Flag Day program, Secretary of Samoan Affairs Lefiti A. Pese responded on behalf of the territorial government to the governor’s address. Lefiti thanked Togiola for his many years in office, in which the territory has benefited. He also thanked the governor’s wife, Mary Ann for her support to the governor and many other programs in the territory.
Part of the celebration was taking the Oath of Enlistment for some 30 new military recruits and the commissioning of the local U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 28, a volunteer organization that supports the Coast Guard unit in the territory. (See separate stories printed in today’s edition).
Following these events came the parade, then lunch break. The Marine Corps Pacific Band entertained those at the stadium, during this time, while VIPs and dignitaries lunched at the Tradewinds hotel.
Yesterday afternoon was traditional Samoan siva and pese.
Today’s program kicks off with the 8 a.m. fautasi race in the Bay area and then back at Veterans Memorial Stadium for the final pese and siva and the closing ceremony.
To continue to get the up to the hour updates and photos of the 2012 Flag Day celebration, go to samoanews.com