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"FLAG DAY 2018"

Dear Editor;

I’m writing in response to yesterday’s article regarding Flag Day 2018, more specifically the Fautasi race that was cancelled and now is back on, according to your article, by the governor. I am saddened that at first he told Mauga to cancel it and then turns around and changes his decision. Although there may be funding for Flag Day celebrations the fact and reality is we are recovering from a hurricane disaster. To say that our people are looking forward to this year’s Flag Day is like saying we didn’t just go through a hurricane. Now regardless if it boils down to the money the reality is American Samoa is recovering from the aftermath of a natural disaster and that is a fact.

One media report that stated that last week’s decision to cancel was based on whether Pres. Trump denies our request is ridiculous. And now that he has “a renewed feeling” compels them to change and go ahead with the race. Now everybody knows that each Flag Day celebration costs an arm and a leg. Thousands, tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands. The government admitted in your article on March 5, “We all understand our government’s financial situation right now, our economy is not in a good position and we also have a lot of responsibility that need to be fulfilled. Our government’s first priority is to reach out to our people and help them rebuild their homes and families. Our government really needs money to assist our people, and the only way we can save our money is to minimize our spending”, and this is from Secretary Mauga, a cabinet official and Co-chair of the Flag Day Committee. He goes on to state that the government’s, “first priority is to help to rebuild our country, our government, and lend a hand to all families who were affected by the cyclone. If the federal government is reaching out to us to help with money and supplies, why don’t we do the same, by reaching out to our own people and helping them by providing all the help they need”. At first I was reassured that the L&L team I voted twice for was on point, but now I am disappointed with their blunt change regarding this matter. The government knows very well we are recovering from TC Gita’s aftermath. Livelihoods of so many residents devastated and they want to go ahead with SPENDING money on a Flag Day celebration, what happened?

In 2005, six months after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans they decided to celebrate their most common annual festival, Mardi Gras. The celebration that year was as lively as ever, but smaller. Our government wants to us to have a Flag Day approximately 2 months after the ordeal our island territory went through. New Orleans had 6 months to recover from its wounds. Even now New Orleans is still recovering in addition to the most recent hurricane they had to go through and our government wants us while we’re on literal life support to have a Flag Day?

We would be lucky if we can stand on our two feet alone in two or three months. We would still need our FEMA and ARC doctors. We can’t just go from one extreme to another, and believe me Flag Day alone is an extreme in itself. I implore the Honorable Governor to reconsider this year’s Flag Day celebrations. If we must then let us have it where there are no monetary awards or gifts involved. Let’s have our people’s overwhelming pride and resilience be celebrated in a church or prayer service. I agree with our village chief HC Soliai that the only important event for Flag Day is a short prayer to thank God for his guidance upon American Samoa, the raising of the flags and special remarks from the governor. Or just cancel it all together.

I wish the governor and his administration, that I voted for twice, would reconsider what our village considered, "we believe our people are suffering and we need to save money to help them. Let us show the federal government that we care more for our people than spending money on social activities,” as stated by HC Soliai.

I am humbled that our village leaders have seen fit to prioritize our village’s recovery. I am equally humbled that villages like Leone and Fagasa have also followed suit. HC Soliai is right when he said, “we are leaders and we need to set good examples for our people to follow.” It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this out.

Now all government entities must participate in the Flag Day celebrations. These government entities are staffed by people that have suffered and are recovering from TC Gita. I implore Honorable Governor Lolo, the same man of the people I voted for, to reconsider. Ia toe liliu le tofa. Alofa i le atunu’u. Fa’amuamua tagata!


Richard Masunu