Slideshows: American Samoa Flag Day highlights
The one-day 2014 Flag Day celebration officially closed Thursday when the flags were lowered by the police honor guard just after 6:30p.m. following a full day of colorful festivities and speeches that went on despite sporadic rain in the Tualauta area, although other parts of Tutuila faced a heavy down pour in the afternoon.
Earlier in the day, during the opening ceremony, the governor’s chief of staff Fiu Johnny Saelua read Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga’s message of best wishes to the people of America Samoa for Flag Day. Lolo was watching the ceremony from Honolulu via KVZK-TV’s live stream feed online.
“I want to take this opportunity to wish all the people of American Samoa an enjoyable and happy Flag Day,” his message said. “Although I will not be there physically, I am confident by the fact, [with] the extension of my spirit, we are connected by our cultural and religious ties.”
Lolo thanked Samoa Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi for his continued presence at this annual celebration and welcomed head of the Tokelau government, Kuresa Nasau. He also welcomed representatives of the federal government and other overseas dignitaries.
To the people of American Samoa, the governor said, “Thank you very much for your prayers and well wishes for my speedy recovery and through your prayers, God has blessed me with renewed strength and toughness of spirit to continue to do His work… as a humble servant.
“Flag Day is your day. And is it dedicated to all of you, the people and residents of American Samoa,” he concluded.
Senate President Gaoteote Tofau Palaie delivered the Flag Day address, saying that Flag Day is to remember and respect the deeds of cession that were “signed by our forefathers” and the United States.
“This day holds special meaning and significance because it honors the wisdom of our forefathers when they entrusted, the hopes and dreams of our people to the greatest country in the world, the United States of America,” he said.
Gaoteote thanked the Lolo Administration for extending this invitation to the Legislature to deliver the annual Flag Day address — for the first time.
He then spoke about the sons of daughters of American Samoa serving in the U.S. Armed Forces and asked residents to remember them in their prayers. He noted American Samoa’s freedom was achieved due the military service of its sons and daughters.
To all Toa o Samoa serving around the world, Gaoteote said, “We salute you today, and every day for the difficult task you face in not only the protection of the United States and others around the world but especially our beloved American Samoa.” This prompted applause from the crowd.
He also extended special thanks to U.S. President Barack Obama as well as U.S. leaders for the continued great relationship with American Samoa that has lasted 114 years.
To Samoa, Gaoteote thanked the prime minister for his attendance, adding that despite the two Samoa’s different political governments, “We are one body, one blood, one language,” and with one motto to serve God and His people.
In the business sector, he says, the territory’s largest private employer is StarKist Samoa, whose workforce is 80% from Samoa. “Thank you for your hard work, this is your service to the government of American Samoa,” Gaoteote said, and noted that entertainment for the day is provided by two companies “that have made a huge impact on our economy” and have strong ties to Samoa.
For example, he said, “StarKist Samoa employs over 2,000 people with the majority of the employees from our sister island of Samoa. Bluesky [Communications] with roots that extend across the ocean to our sister country of Samoa, providing jobs and opportunities for over 200 people.
“To every business enterprise in the territory, whether you employ two or 100 employees, we thank you for promoting our economy,” Gaoteote declared. “We are here to celebrate the inalienable rights that we enjoy today, freedom, justice, and liberty. We owe it to our ancestors, to safeguard and expand this right for the next generation.”
In closing he thanked all government departments and their specific and important roles for the territory.
Lt. Gov. Lemanu Peleti Mauga, who is also the acting governor, gave brief special remarks, while StarKist Inc., president and chief executive officer Sam Lee spoke on behalf of the business community (see separate story).
The closing ceremony included traditional ‘sua’ or gift presentations to VIPs and special guests as well as the awarding of prizes in three main categories: fautasi race; pese and siva; and the men’s and women’s cricket tournament.
Based on information announced at the time, total cash prizes presented for the three events stand at $202,000: for the fautasi race — $74,000; for pese & siva — $100,000; and $28,000 for the cricket tournament.
The siva and pese prizes comprised $20,000 for each of the five participating groups.
It’s unclear how much the government allocated for the 2014 Flag Day celebration, but the committee sought and received donations from businesses and others.
Details on cash prizes in story below.