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Senate names members to the Constitution Review Committee

Sen. President Tuaolo Manaia Fruean
No date set yet for the Con-Con

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Sen. President Tuaolo Manaia Fruean has appointed senators representing four districts — Western, Eastern, Central — including Ituau county — and Manu’a for the government’s Constitution Review Committee that is expected to convene soon.

Tuaolo made the announcement at yesterday’s Senate session, saying that Fono leaders met last Friday with Gov. Lemanu Peleti Palepoi Sialega Mauga, and those in attendance included Lt. Gov. Talauega Eleasalo Ale, the Attorney General and some members of the Constitution Review Committee.

The Administration’s plan was to name two members of each chamber to be represented on the review committee, but Tuaolo said that was not acceptable and was not going to happen.

Therefore the final decision was that each chamber would have four members. And there is also a chairperson or ta’ita’i fono for each chamber — and that will be the Senate President and House Speaker.

Tuaolo announced that Sen. Malaepule Saite Moliga represents Manu’a; Sen. Satele Ali’itai for Eastern; Sen. Tuiagamoa Tavai for Western and Central’s representative is Sen. Soliai Tuipine Fuimaono. 

The Senate President expects the review committee to start meeting next week.

In his State of the Territory Address last week Monday, the governor announced that the Constitutional Convention will be held this year but didn’t give a time frame for when it would occur, but some ASG officials said they expected  it to be sometime during the summer months and more information should be coming out soon about the review committee.

The Governor’s State of the Territory Comprehensive Report — distributed to lawmakers — also mentioned the convention but no dates were given on when it would be held. The report does state that: “We have a unique form of American democratic government that integrates and protects our Fa’a-Samoa.”

“The influx of western influence has made it necessary to adapt our Fa’a-Samoa to ensure its survival and the preservation of its core values and beliefs,” it says noting that American Samoa is at “a critical moment in our history where relationships with the Federal government are being re-defined and re-examined.”

It points out that US territories such as Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia are demanding changes according to the will of the people and blazing the trail for other territories “such as ours.”

“Similarly, the upcoming Constitutional Convention will provide an avenue to bring these discussions to the forefront and communicate the will of our leaders and community,” it said and points out that in collaboration with the local Department of Education, plans are in place to incorporate civics lesson plans into secondary and community college curriculums.

After 121 years as a US Territory, the report said the protection of Samoan lands, culture, and natural resources remains one of the most critical challenges to the Samoan way of life — how to preserve and protect the Samoan way of life while staying within the legal boundaries of the U.S Constitution.

“Empowering our people to take control of our destiny amid pressures from the federal government and court rulings will secure our inalienable rights as citizens of American Samoa,” the report says.

And as the Administration and Fono engage in plans for a Constitutional Convention, “we must remember to learn from our past, to examine the present, and keep our eyes on the future as our people seek to engage in a constitutional review process that is authentic, participatory and transparent,” the governor’s report said.