“THE FONO NEEDS SERIOUS REFORM”
Do you know what will do more for Manu'a than having the entire ASG Cabinet go out there, do site visits and hold meetings? Five senators. Do you know what would do more for Tuala-uta than having their two representatives beg for sit-downs with the governor to discuss their issues? Eight representatives. The last number there is based on back-of-the-envelope math using 2010 population figures.
But the needed increase in the number of Senators for the Manu'a District means nothing if it's not equal to its sister districts. In other words, increasing from 3 to 5 senators for Manu'a still does not put it on par with the Western (6 senators) and Eastern (9 senators) districts in a body originally meant to give all districts an equal voice. And the last time I checked, there were 5 counties in each.
Unfortunately for Manu’a, Reynolds v. Sims (1964) served as the impetus for the 1966 A.S. Constitutional Convention to reapportion senate seats based on population numbers right along with the House of Representatives. It’s worth reiterating that because since then, efforts to alter the makeup of the Senate, have not been based on numbers or any other objective, fair standard. Rather they’ve been based on the perceived political weight of the political players of the day as was the case during the 2010 A.S. Constitutional Convention and the failed legislative effort in the Fono to add seats for Manu’a back in 2016.
I understand village and district pride and trying to bolster our respective standings, but not at another’s expense. As we saw in 2010 and 2016, both efforts to right the ship for Manu’a got defeated because other constituencies tried to add seats for themselves as well. The bottom line is that the people are not going to approve arbitrary across-board increases in Fono membership. We can’t afford all their pay and allowances anyway.
But if we were following Reynolds v. Sims to the letter today, Tuala-uta would have the most senators and representatives. Eight each based on my back-of-the-envelope math. Manu’a would be left with one of each, if that. How’s that fair? That’s why a senate built on equal representation for each district regardless of population is important to ensure sparsely populated constituencies, like Manu’a, have the same stake in local governance as those who outnumber them by the thousands.
The House, on the other hand, is meant to directly reflect the make-up of the territory's population, where counties with more people are supposed to have more representation than counties with less. And it just amazes me that in a territory that's historically aligned with the Democrat Party that this injustice of misrepresentation in the Fono has gone on for so long, not to mention without attracting any national, mainstream media attention.
Obviously we haven’t been following Reynolds v. Sims since 1967, and we can afford to not, because of our current political status/ relationship with the United Status. Because if we were incorporated in any meaningful way, lawsuits would be forthcoming on this issue alone.
Restoring balance in the Fono in a way that’s equitable, objective and fair, would require some constituencies to lose the political advantages they’ve enjoyed for the last six decades due to our past/ current inability or unwillingness to revisit this issue every 5 years as required by our constitution, with or without a constitutional convention.
The ability to govern above parochial interests and do what is right for the good of all of our people as a whole is the standard by which the world judges the ability of a people to govern themselves.
I pray we're able to demonstrate that come next year's constitutional convention.