Congressman Faleomavaega announced today his intention to clarify the debate over H.R. 4182, a bill he proposed last month to repeal the requirement that any amendment to American Samoa’s constitution must be approved by the U.S. Congress.
“I welcome the dialogue that has resulted from the introduction of this bill,” Faleomavaega said. “I truly believe that we will arrive at the best solution for our political future as our local political leaders and people begin to openly debate this issue.”
“I also note with interest the Governor’s recent comments published by Samoa News on December 13, 2005 which suggest that I did not inform him of my bill. The Governor states that he read about it in the newspaper.”
“I am surprised by the Governor’s comments especially since it is a matter of public record that out of courtesy I inform him of every bill I have ever introduced including this one in a letter dated November 7, 2005 which I copied to every member of the Fono.”
“As is my practice, I also provided the Governor and the Fono with a copy of my bill which I included with my letter. Therefore, it is somewhat perplexing to me that the Governor states that he was off-island and unable to respond to Samoa News until December 13, 2005 although he made his opposition to my bill known in his weekly radio show on or about December 7, 2005.”
“While it is the Governor’s prerogative to comment in a time of his political choosing and to introduce his own legislation without copying my office or the Fono, I will continue to inform the Governor of my work not because I have to ask his permission but because as a matter of policy and courtesy I believe any work we do on behalf of our people should be done in a collaborative manner especially among those who hold elective offices.”
“As Samoa News reported, Mr. Tautai Aviata, Chairman of the Republican Party in American Samoa, supports H.R. 4182. Senate President Lolo Moliga also stated that there is a consensus among residents of the territory that ‘we should be the one to decide any changes to the constitution’ and that he believes H.R. 4182 is a start in the ‘right direction in a democratic society.’”
“I agree and I believe that the Governor has misunderstood the intent of this legislation. The Governor says that H.R. 4182 would take us backwards. History shows otherwise.”
“In 1929, after finally and officially ratifying the 1900 Tutuila Instrument of Cession and the 1904 Manu’a Instrument of Cession, Congress clearly mandated that:
Until Congress shall provide for the government of such islands
[Tutuila, Aunu’u, Manu’a, Swains], all civil, judicial, and military powers shall be vested in such person or persons and shall be exercised in such manner as the President of the United States shall direct; and the President shall have the power to remove said officers and fill the vacancies so occasioned.”
“By authority of the Congressional Ratification Act of 1929, the President transferred administration to the Secretary of the Navy and, in 1950, President Truman transferred the administration of American Samoa to the Secretary of the Interior. It should be noted that also, as a result of the Congressional Ratification Act of 1929, we held constitutional conventions, developed a constitution, and reaped the benefit of a federal policy that allowed us to develop more autonomy and more control over our political, economic, and cultural destiny. The flexibility inherent in this streamlined process offered by the Congressional Ratification Act of 1929 allowed our people to develop a territorial constitution that worked for us which included a provision for the election of our Governor and Lieutenant Governor in 1977.”
“As I recall, in 1976, the U.S. House of Representative by a vote of 377 to 1 approved a bill introduced by the late Congressman Phil Burton to provide for an elected Governor and Lieutenant Governor of American Samoa. However, relying upon the statutory requirements of the Congressional Ratification Act of 1929, Congressman Burton held close consultations with Secretary of the Interior Rogers Morton and, as a result, it was agreed that implementation of the changes to our local constitution which provided for the election of our Governor and Lieutenant Governor would be done by Executive Authority of the Secretary of the Interior and not by an Act of Congress.
“Notwithstanding these historical achievements and despite the fact that to the best of my knowledge there have been no changes to our constitution since the 1984 law was passed, Governor Togiola would have us believe that the 1984 law was progress and a step forward. However, I believe the 1984 law did not move us forward. I believe it moved us sideways and created a situation where we now have two federal laws that stand in direct conflict with each other.”
“On the one hand, we have the 1929 Ratification Act delegating Congressional authority to the President and, on the other hand, we have the 1984 law that now requires Congressional approval of any amendments to our territorial constitution that incidentally was approved by the Secretary of the Interior. Clearly the 1984 process which requires us to seek Congressional approval before making any changes to our local constitution is not working and, regrettably, the 1984 law was never fully considered or debated in Congress but was instead included in the 1983 Omnibus Act.”
“To rid ourselves of an unnecessary procedure which now requires us to go to Congress before we can make a change to our local constitution, I believe it is in our best interest to rescind or repeal the 1984 law as H.R. 4182 provides. Once we have the opportunity to determine our long-term political relationship with the United States Government, then we may decide to bring our decisions to Congress for consideration. For now, however, I believe we will make more progress towards addressing the substance and challenges that are contained in the provisions of the Congressional Ratification Act of 1929.”
“For example, the newly established American Samoa Political Status Commission may want to thoroughly review some specific questions that have resulted from the ratification law that was passed by Congress in 1929 including but not limited to the following:
1. What exactly was the substance of the 1900 and 1904 Treaties of Cession that gave rise to a proposed political relationship between Tutuila and Manu’a Islands and the United States?
2. Why did it take the U.S. Congress some 29 years to finally “ratify” the two treaties of cession which the traditional leaders of Tutuila and Manu’a submitted respectively in 1900 and 1904?
3. Given that only certain traditional leaders ceded Tutuila and Manu’a to the U.S., what are the implications that not all of the traditional leaders signed their names to these two treaties of cession?
4. What does it mean that Congress delegated all “civil, judicial and military powers” and authority to the President or his assignee for purposes of administering the islands of Tutuila, Aunu’u, Swains and Manu’a?
5. Upon review of the specific provisions of the 1900 Treaty of Cession, what are the implications for Tutuila and Aunu’u of the provision which conveys “all sovereign rights thereunto belonging and possessed by us, to hold the said ceded territory unto the Government of the United States of America”?
6. Upon review of the specific provisions of the 1904 Manu’a Instrument of Cession whereby “Tuimanu’a and his chiefs…are desirous of placing the islands of Manu’a hereinafter described under the full and complete sovereignty of the United States of America,” what are the implications of this provision regarding the question of U.S. sovereignty over the islands of Manu’a?
7. Upon acceptance of the 1900 and 1904 treaties of cession, what was the intent of the Congressional Act of 1929 and what is meant by “until Congress shall provide for the government of such islands”? Does this mean Congress has yet to provide for a government of such islands? If so, what kind of government?
8. After review of the two treaties and the Congressional Ratification Act of 1929, is there any official indication of a “political union” between Tutuila, Aunu’u and Manu’a given the fact that Manu’a was always an independent and sovereign nation under the rulership of His Majesty King Tuimanu’a and that U.S. interests centered primarily upon the U.S. Navy’s desire to use and take control of the harbor of Pago Pago and not necessarily the entire islands of Tutuila, Aunu’u and Manu’a?
9. Will American Samoa’s Political Status Commission assess the fact that there is no political union existing among the island groups of Tutuila, Aunu’u, Swains, and Manu’a?
10. Given that the U.S. Congress officially adopted and incorporated the Swains Islands (Olohenga) and made it part of American Samoa, shouldn’t the relatives and descendants of Swains be given equal treatment and representation in whatsoever “government” the U.S. Congress may want to establish sometime in the future?
“These are some of the questions I am hopeful that the American Samoa Political Status Commission will begin to address if we are serious about defining our future relationship with the U.S. Passage of H.R. 4182 will support and complement this process,” Faleomavaega concluded.