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Planning for 2019 Polynesian Leaders Group Summit in American Samoa underway
AG sites independence of 2018 host of the 8th Polynesian Leaders Group — Tuvalu — as a model to be considered

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — With American Samoa's political status an important issue of discussion, Attorney General, Talauega Eleasalo Ale suggests that perhaps such a discussion should also include a look at “independence”  — citing Tuvalu, a very small country in the world but an independent nation.

Talauega made the comment at last Thursday’s cabinet meeting, after Lt. Gov. Lemanu Peleti Mauga gave a briefing on the 8th Polynesian Leaders Group (PLG) Summit, hosted last month by Tuvalu, which — according to the country’s website — achieved independence in 1978 from England; has a 2005 population estimate of 11,636 who reside on nine atolls; and it’s the fourth smallest country in the in term of land area of 10 square miles.

Lemanu, Talauega and Secretary of Samoa Affairs represented American Samoa at the 8th Summit, with the 9th meeting set next year to be hosted by American Samoa. Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga has already established a task force to start planning the hosting of Polynesian leaders.

At the cabinet meeting, Lemanu gave a briefing of the summit, saying that a majority of discussions centered on climate change and global warming. Also at the meeting, the PLG leaders reconfirmed American Samoa’s hosting the 9th Summit next year.

When given the chance to comment about the summit, Talauega says he didn’t have any additional information on the meeting but gave his observation of Tuvalu, which he says is a very small independent world country.

He said that at a time when American Samoa has an ongoing discuss of its “political status”, perhaps it is also time to look at “independence” — “tutoatasi”. He said that perhaps American Samoa can achieve the same as Tuvalu has, which has no mountains, and its residents are happy and strong when it comes to being an independent nation.

Lolo acknowledged the independence issue raised by Talauega, and suggested a thorough review of such a matter. He said it’s also important that the public has a full understanding of political status issues for American Samoa going forward.

(ASG Office of Political Status, Constitutional Review and Federal Relations, which is part of the Governor’s Office, is tasked with an outreach program on political status and the constitution.)

The governor also said that it was during the PLG meeting last year in Samoa that he proposed American Samoa host the 9th summit “for a lot of reasons.”

Firstly, he believes that it’s important that Polynesian leaders and countries have full understanding that although American Samoa is part of the U.S family “we are also people of Polynesia.”

The governor noted that he has already appointed a task force to carry out the government’s planning for the 2019 PLG summit and urged all members to meet soon to start that planning stage. He also said a letter has been sent to all cabinet members regarding the PLG task force and other issues.

In a July 7 letter, Lolo first noted that the PLG is “united to promote and protect Polynesian cultures, traditions, languages, and to achieve sustainable development and prosperity through working together in the spirit of mutual cooperation” in all areas.

He then appointed the local 16-member 9th PLG Task Force, chaired by Lemanu to plan next year’s summit. He also established the PLG Working Group, which will perform the secretariat functions to support the task force, whose membership is made up of cabinet members of 16 ASG entities.

“To prevent any confusion, conflicts, misinformation, misunderstanding, or lack of clarity on our plans,” as host country, Lolo made clear that all contacts with representatives of PLG Member Countries pertaining to all PLG matters will be channeled and handled by the Governor’s Office under the purview of his executive assistant, Iulogologo Joseph Pereira.

“As our national image and pride is at stake and given the fact that we are the only United States entity in the Polynesian Leaders Group, our actions and activities will be meticulously scrutinized,” Lolo wrote to his cabinet.

He also said that the “underpinning reason which prompted this initiative is to engender and create support for our cannery; given the rising prices of fish attributed to decisions by Island Nations to reduce the number of fishing days while hiking the cost of fishing permits to fish within their respective Exclusive Economic Zones for fishing vessels supporting our cannery.”

Samoa News understands that some local businesses have plans to pledge their support for ASG in hosting next year’s PLG Summit, as soon as there is solid information from the local task force.