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PHOTOS: MANU’A — CHANGES IN STORE

joy@samoanews.com
The flags of Manu’a, American Samoa and the United States of America were raised on the Malaetele in Ta’u to commemorate the 109th year since the Deed of Cession was signed between Manu'a and the United States of America. [photo: JL]

TA’U VILLAGE, Manu’a Islands — Highlights of the Manu’a 109th Flag Day included the dedication of its first gas station, the opening of new government offices, air transportation restored, along with the promise of funding now available for renovations for the wharf in Ta’u and Ofu and money for purchase of a new vessel. Governor Lolo Matalasi Moliga said for many years Manu’a has been left behind and that’s not going to happen anymore.
 
“There a lot of new establishments that Manu’a will see in the near future.”
 
The governor pointed out there have been two meetings held between leaders, and the issue of economic stability for the Manu’a Islands is at the center of these meetings.
 
Among the crowd was Chief Justice Michael Kruse, Congressman Faleomavaega Eni Hunkin, Speaker of the House Savali Talavou Ale, Senators, Representatives, cabinet members and Manu’a residents.
 
An ava ceremony was conducted prior to the raising of the Manu’a flag, with joyful Siva and Pese to celebrate the day.
 
Lolo stated during his special remarks at the Flag Day event that nothing will come in place with only the government and its leaders, but great and better things will happen when the Manu’a village council comes together as one and works for the betterment of Manu’a.
 
“Government leaders are not here to lead, rather to assist with the projects that Manu’a has for the betterment of services for the Manu’a people.”
 
The governor thanked American Samoa, and also acknowledged the Legislative branch for creating a law so that the Manu’a people would celebrate and commemorate this day, acknowledging that Manu’a was the only country who had a King in the Pacific.
 
He pointed out that for Fiscal Year 2014 the Capital Improvement Projects (CIP) funding has $5.1million available for a new vessel and this would have not been possible without the assistance of the Department of Interior and Congressman Faleomavaega.
 
He added there will also be funding available for the renovation of the wharfs in Ta’u and Ofu. The governor then proudly announced that American Samoa is the only government that will be receiving this financial assistance from the DOI, unlike other Pacific Islands.
 
SELLING PRICE OF GOODS IN MANU’A NEEDS TO BE REDUCED
 
The governor briefly spoke on the issue of expensive goods being sold in the grocery stores. He stated that it’s been three months since the government waived the fees for carrying cargo from Tutuila Island so the items sold should be less than the usual prices, given that in the past cargo to Manu’a had been paid cargo.
 
He urged the business owners in Manu’a to reconsider their prices. Also announced during the event was the Memorandum of Understanding which was signed between Inter Island Vacations and the government.
 
ASG MOU WITH INTER ISLAND AIRWAYS
 
Governor Lolo signed an MOU with Inter Island Airways  President, Barney Sene  where the Sega’ula (government owned plane) will be handed over to Inter Island with the goal to restore air transportation between Tutuila Islands and Manu’a Islands… and also between Ofu and Ta’u.
 
“The prices of the roundtrip fares between Tutuila Island and Manu’a Islands will be $140; between Ofu and Ta’u the fare is $20,” said Lolo.
 
He noted that one critical way of serving the people of Manu’a was to restore air transportation between Manua and Tutuila. The governor said residents of Ofu use the small alias for transportation between Ta’u and Ofu, and not only was this life threatening, but it was a concern the government took very seriously.
 
“Today, we have come to an agreement and this is a win-win situation for the Manu’a residents,” he said.
 
Sene in his address prior to signing the MOU stated, “Ten years ago Inter Islands started to fly in Manu’a, because there was an airline who serviced Manu’a who did not fly to Manu’a anymore and Inter Island decided to provide air services for Manu’a.” He said the airplane’s new name is the “Islands of Manu’a”.
 
“This MOU is in place… we believe we are now going to move to the next stage of what we need to do for Manu’a, and that is to provide sustaining transportation from Tutuila to Ofu and Olosega as well as between Ta’u and  Ofu.” The Inter Island President said that whenever the Congressman spoke to him about the airlines, Faleomavaega always mentioned Manu’a, saying — “don’t forget Manua.”
 
Governor Lolo said that Inter Island will fly between Ofu and Ta’u once a day, as well as between Tutuila and Manu’a.
 
GOVERNMENT OFFICES IN MANU’A & FIRST GAS STATION
 
Earlier yesterday, Governor Lolo, cabinet members and guests dedicated the government’s  office building, in Ta’u. This office holds eight offices, including the governor’s office, DYWA, TAOA, DHR, DHS, DOC, ASEPA and DPW.
 
Governor Lolo assigned Reverend Ali’ioaiga Filioali’i to be in charge of the offices in Ta’u. For the government offices in Ofu that were dedicated on Monday (see Tuesday’s edition for full story), the governor assigned Seufalemua Puletasi to oversee these offices.
 
He noted that the duty of Seufalemua and Rev. Filioali’i is to assure that government employees in Manu’a are delivering the services they provide within ASG. The governor tasked Human Resources Director, Le’i Sonny Thompson and his department to send out HR representatives to Manu’a to hand out applications for positions within the government because there are more than 50 vacancies available for the people of Manu’a. He urged Manu’a residents to fill out an application to work for ASG.
 
According to the program for the dedication of Ta’u offices, Lolo said “American Samoans living on Manu’a are entitled to receive the same level of government services available to American Samoans living in Tutuila and Aunu’u.”
 
Another milestone in Manu’a was the dedication of its first gas station, which will serve the people of Ta’u, Faleasao and Fitiuta. The gas station is located at the wharf in Ta’u. Governor Lolo stated that American Samoans living on Manu’a deserve to receive fuel for their vehicles in a safe and convenient manner. The Ta’u gas station will service both government and private vehicles. The government is currently building a gas station at the Ofu wharf.
 
FALEOMAVAEGA’S REMARKS
 
Congressman Faleomavaega gave special remarks at the event and said this day marks 109 years since Tui Manu’a Elisara handed over his government of Manu’a to the United States. The question, he said is — “Is Manu’a receiving fair treatment?”
 
He said from the beginning since Manu’a, Aunu’u and Swains Island went under American Samoa, it’s been unclear how much money is set aside for Manu’a… ”and even if Manu’a gets funding — it’s very minimal.”
 
 “The question is, how much funding is set aside for Manu’a?” The Congressman said that it breaks his heart to hear Manu’a people saying… “It’s ok”.
 
‘It’s not ok,” Eni stated. The Congressman noted that if it’s possible for the late Prime Minister Tofilau Eti Alesana through his leadership and skills to make Savai’i able to receive the same benefits as their brothers and sisters in Upolu… so can Manu’a.
 
He pointed out that he was standing on sacred ground on Malaetele where Samoan’s cultural history began with the very first ava ceremony and many of the ancestral sites and historical places are also in Manu’a.
 
The Congressman said he was honored to be selected to speak at Manua’s Flag Day because since he took office in Washington, DC — over 25 years ago — he has not once spoken at their Flag Day. He jokingly said maybe Governor Lolo felt sorry for him because he has not once won election votes in Manu’a, to which the Malaetele filled with laughter from guests and Manu’a residents.
 
“Regardless of the elections I still love you Manu’a — we all have a little bit of Manu’a in us,” he said.  He also noted that many have left Manu’a, yet this should not stop those remaining there to keep on striving to seek the best for their islands.
 
“In my opinion it’s not the question of money, it is a question of establishing the priorities on how these funds are spent, and I submit that it’s been too long for Manu’a — who always seems to come out short. Not only is Manu’a sitting at the back of the bus, they cannot even find their seat at the back,” he commented.
 
The congressman appealed to Governor Lolo that as he prepares to bring in more critical changes, and makes priorities in his administration, to please assure that Manu’a will never again be neglected.

Governor Lolo Matalasi Moliga during the Ava Ceremony which was held prior to the Manu'a Flag Day events. [photo: JL]


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