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PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (August 28, 1997 PACNEWS)---A member of the American Samoa House of Representatives is drafting legislation that may result in the U.S. South Pacific territory not recognizing its neighbor's name change.

On July 2, Western Samoa officially dropped the Western from its name and became the Independent State of Samoa.

Representative Seti Lopa says he does not want American Samoa to honor the new name, and has proposed legislation that will stop American Samoa from recognizing it. If his bill is passed, he said, passports bearing the "Independent State of Samoa" seal will not be accepted in the territory.

"Neither will citizens of Western Samoa be referred to as Samoans," he said.

Lopa said the recent South Pacific Mini Games in Pago Pago brought home the adverse effects of Western Samoa's name change. He said describing Western Samoans as Samoans and local residents as American Samoans, made it seem that locals were less Samoan than their counterparts from the western group of Samoan islands.

We're just as 100 percent Samoan as they are. We're not palangis (whites)," Lopa said.

He stressed that even if all other countries of the world recognize Western Samoa's new name, his legislation will allow American Samoa to continue to refer to its neighbor as Western Samoa and its citizens as Western Samoans.

House Speaker Mailo Sao Nua said he will support Lopa's bill. He wished the government of Western Samoa had appointed a study commission, he said, to gather the opinions of the leaders of American Samoa before changing Western Samoa's identity. Mailo said the matter was sensitive and, if not handled properly, could cause disputes between the two Samoas in the future.


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