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AmSam still listed as colony in latest UN annual report

fili@samoanews.com

The United Nations annual report on American Samoa, submitted in March by the Secretariat to the UN Decolonization Committee, covers several issues such as economic and social conditions but cites no new position by the territory’s administering power (the United States).

The 14-page report provides part of last year’s testimony by the territory’s representative Lelei Peau, Commerce Department deputy director, where Peau recalled for the Decolonization Committee that American Samoa in past years has called to be removed from the list of world colonies (or Non-Self Governing Territory) because its “unincorporated and unorganized” status was akin to that of a self-governing Territory.

Peau noted that, while the territory’s position is unchanged, it was time to be more concerned about how American Samoa could progress politically and economically while respecting the concerns of the United States and the United Nations in the process. (See Samoa News story on Jun. 9, 2011 for full details).

Congressman Faleomavaega Eni’s September 2011 letter to the decolonization committee was also recalled in the report, part of which “highlighted the importance of resolving the ambiguities in the two deeds of cession that formed the basis of American Samoa’s relationship with the United States before seeking further negotiations on the Territory’s political status.”

Faleomavaega recommended that the leaders of Tutuila, Aunu'u, Swains Island and Manu’a should officially declare a union as one political entity or governing body and that a territorial convention should be called to discuss the existing political relationship with the United States.

The UN report cites the territory's June-July 2010 Constitutional Convention where several amendments were proposed to the current constitution — including those related to the prohibition of further individualization of communal lands in the territory which were all overwhelmingly defeated in the November 2010 general election by voters.

Also included in the report was the federal government’s official position of the U.S. pertaining to American Samoa.

The Assistant Secretary of State said, in a Nov. 2, 2006 letter to Faleomavaega, the status of the insular areas regarding their political relations with the federal government was an internal United States issue and not one that came under the purview of the Special Committee. Furthermore, the committee has no authority to alter in any way the relationship between the United States and those territories and no mandate to engage the United States in negotiations on their status. This was echoed by Faleomavaega in his September 2011 letter to the committee. (See Sept. 13, 2011 Samoa News story for more details).

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, responding to Samoa News queries on American Samoa pushing to be delisted as a “colony” during her stopover in Pago Pago in November of 2010, said, “…I, of course, reject that characterization… “We think it’s not accurate, [and] does not describe the relationship we have had over all of these years.”

“But, I do think we have to work more closely together to meet the needs of the people of American Samoa and that is my pledge to you that we will do all that we can to ensure that we have a very close respective working relationship, now and far into the future,” said Clinton.

The UN Decolonization Committee confirmed last month that this year's Pacific Regional Seminar will be held in Ecuador’s capital Quito, from 30 May to 1 June, to review progress in the UN decolonization process.

The Governor’s Office has yet to release who will represent American Samoa this year at the annual seminar which rotates every year between the Pacific and Caribbean areas.



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