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Gubernatorial candidates answer question about territory’s relationship with the feds

At a recent gubernatorial forum hosted by the American Samoa Bar Association, candidates for governor in the 2016 general elections had different points of view when it came to American Samoa’s relationship with the federal government.

During the forum the candidates were informed, “There’s always been a give and take with the federal government and local authority.” The candidates were then asked, “Do you feel the federal government truly understands the issues we face and how do you plan on working with the federal government?”

Candidate for governor, Faoa Aitofele Sunia was first to respond, pointing out the US Interior Department “is our gateway to the federal government” and  “we can engage” Congresswoman Aumua Amata to work with the territory.

“I feel that if we need to be engaged, to find out situations or have problems with the federal government, go to DOI,” he said. “We [also] ask the Congresswoman to come along and go with us and then we go see that federal agency... to sit down and negotiate what the problem is about.”

For his response, Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga, seeking re-election, told the audience “there is no doubt in my mind the federal government does understand our issues in American Samoa.”

The governor claims the problem American Samoa has was that the federal government “lost trust and faith in our government” and that “has been the biggest challenge of this administration.”

When his administration took office in January 2013, Lolo said the “federal government didn’t want to touch us with a ten-foot pole. But we worked hard, and we developed a relationship with the federal government.”

“Now they’re [the federal government] beginning to realize that we have the heart for our people. And that’s why, today, we’re beginning to develop a relationship [with the federal government], that really benefits the people of American Samoa,” he explained.

“And this is why this election is very crucial and important to the future of our country,” Lolo said, adding that if voters elect “somebody the federal government cannot trust, I can assure you things will be held back as in the last four or five years.”

“We have developed our relationship to the point, where the federal government trusts us, that we have the heart for our people,” Lolo said. “We need leaders who can be trusted by the federal government. We need leaders that when they speak, they’re respected. This is why the future of our territory depends on how well we connect with the federal government.”

“To maintain and to continue that trust [by the federal government], we need to make sure we put the right people” in office, the incumbent said and noted the right people are the Lolo and Lemanu team. And Lolo reiterated that this election is “very crucial” to the future of American Samoa by putting the right people in office.

Responding to the question, candidate for governor Tuika Tuika pointed out, “if I’ve been arrested” by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), “or [agents] of the federal government, I cannot work with the federal government.”

“We need a leader who is not corrupt. We need a person like Tuika, who can talk directly [to the federal government],” Tuika said. “Only a person like Tuika can talk directly to the federal government with a clean record, because I have close communication with the FBI and the inspector general.”

There were 13 questions during the forum for candidates for governor and three questions for candidates for lieutenant governor. Samoa News has covered each specific question in the last two weeks. And this is the final question reported on by Samoa News