AMERICAN SAMOA GOVERNMENT
September 20, 2016
GOVERNOR LOLO AND LT. GOVERNOR LEAMANU HOLD CABINET MEETING
Governor Lolo Matalasi Moliga and Lieutenant Governor Lemanu Peleti Mauga held a cabinet meeting at the Department of Agriculture Conference Room on September 20 which was attended by Directors and Agency heads, traditional leaders, agency support staff and members of the local media. The meeting began with welcoming remarks by Chief of Staff Fiu Saelua, followed by a prayer by Deacon Malaki Timu to bless the assembly.
Next to speak was Lieutenant Governor Lemanu, who on behalf of the Governor thanked the cabinet and traditional leaders for their continued support and dedication to working towards the betterment of American Samoa. The Lt. Governor noted that the past four years have gone by quickly, but due to the commitment exhibited by the respective leaders there have been many positive developments for the people of American Samoa.
Lt. Governor Lemanu next spoke about his recent trip to represent American Samoa at the Pacific Island Forum of Leaders held in Pohnpei. Some of the topics covered were fishing rights, climate change, communicable disease prevention and human rights issues, especially in Papua, New Guinea. He explained that at the Pacific Forum, American Samoa along with Guam and Saipan hold an “observer” status being territories of the United States. Lieutenant Governor Lemanu also reported that French Polynesian and New Caledonia have been admitted as full members of the Pacific Island Forum and given the issues addressed by this body impacting our territory, it would seem logical and beneficial for American Samoa seek full membership in the Pacific Island Forum.
Governor Lolo Moliga spoke next adding that there is a desire to gain membership status in the Pacific Forum in order to fully participate in discussions regarding the future of the Pacific region. He expressed that it is important to safeguard our relationship with the United States, but also important to clarify our position regarding the need to have a voice in regional issues.
The Governor expressed his appreciation to the Cabinet members and community leaders for their dedication to the well-being of the people of American Samoa. He stated that the most important thing is to continue to serve the people’s welfare as this is “what we were chosen to do”. Governor Moliga then addressed the upcoming election and the need to ensure the integrity of the voting process. The Governor also affirmed the government’s responsibility to ensure that individual rights are protected. These rights include the right to vote for any leader of their choice without coercion, the right to speak freely without repercussions, and the right to expect protection. These are fundamental and inalienable rights guaranteed by the Bill of Rights and our Constitution.
In that regard, next to speak were Chief Election Officer, Uiagalelei Dr. Lealofi Uiagalelei and Attorney General Talauega Eleasalo Ale. The Chief Election Officer explained that preparations for the election are proceeding on schedule and asked for continued support from relevant agencies to facilitate the voting process. The Attorney General spoke next about new laws regarding activities around voting stations, including prohibiting the offerings of food which has been common in past elections. As a directive from Governor Moliga, all of these measures are being implemented to ensure a safe, secure environment for the voters of American Samoa.
On behalf of the Port Authority, Deputy Director Chris King next detailed some of the major projects underway at the Pago Pago International Airport. A new release of grant funds from the FAA and local matching funds avails over 24 million dollars for Airport Improvement projects. Deputy Director King also talked about the dredging of Faleasao Harbor, and the forthcoming delivery of the “Manuatele” to serve the needs of our residents in the Manu’a Islands. Following the presentation, Governor Moliga conveyed that the FAA funds were released based on recent affirmative relationships established with Department of Transportation Secretary Foxx and our own Directors and staff. He expressed his appreciation for these efforts as well as the support from the Fono in ensuring that matching funds were available.
A briefing from Public Works Director Faleosina Voigt followed describing some of the infrastructure projects of the department. These included Manu’a projects such as the Dial-A-Ride program recently implemented in Ta’u. The completion of the Executive Office Building in Ta’u as well an EOB in Ofu which is now underway. Gas pumps are now functional in Ta’u and Ofu, providing Manu’a residents with much needed access to fuel for their vehicles. Regarding school development projects, Taputapu Elementary is being relocated to a brand new safe site. At Pago Pago Elementary, a new school building is being constructed for additional space and flooding concerns. New school buildings are being constructed at Samoana High School and proposed for Aua Elementary along with a new covered gymnasium. In accordance with a directive from Governor Moliga, improvements for sports fields and gymnasiums are planned for Leone, Tafuna and Fagaitua High Schools. Director Voigt voiced her appreciation for initiatives such as the ABC Initiative and Adopt A School Initiative which have greatly aided the preparation of campuses for the new school year.
Following the Public Works briefing, Governor Moliga lauded the improvements in Manu’a, humorously recollecting his own upbringing there when these services didn’t exist. The Governor also stated that a major challenge was the need to continue to improve and enhance our Educational system to meet the growing need of our students. To this end, he plans to appoint a Task Force for recommendations to improve service to the people of American Samoa. Referring to our roads, Governor Moliga communicated that it is important to continue to work together to fund and improve road conditions island-wide to serve our community.
After these briefings there was opportunity for agency leaders to address the gathering. The prevailing sentiment expressed by all of those who spoke was the appreciation for the collaborative and cooperative spirit exhibited by respective agencies under the leadership of the Administration. One of the last people to speak was long-time Department of the Interior Representative Lydia Faleafine-Nomura who said that she is approaching 25 years of service with DOI. In saying this she proclaimed that the present administration has had one of the best relationships with the Federal Government which has resulted in more funding than has been previously realized.
The cabinet meeting concluded with a prayer after final remarks from Governor Moliga reaffirming the importance of relying on our Samoan cultural values of respect and cooperation and to pass these values on to our children, and also to continue to serve the needs of the people of American Samoa.