AMERICAN SAMOA’S FALEMOEVAENGA AGAINST SAMOA NAME CHANGE BILL

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AMERICAN SAMOA’S FALEOMAVAEGA AGAINST SAMOA NAME CHANGE BILL

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (January 26, 1998 - Samoa News/Tohi)---In a 12-page prepared statement, American Samoa's Congressman in Washington, Eni F. H. Faleomavaega, has informed the American Samoa House of Representatives of his view on House Bill 25-75.

The proposed legislation declares that American Samoa will not recognize use of the name "Samoa" to refer to the country that previously was known as Western Samoa.

If passed into law, the proposed bill will prohibit the entry into American Samoa of any citizen of Samoa whose passport does not identify the traveler as being from "Western Samoa," as opposed to "Samoa."

Faleomavaega has developed extensive arguments regarding the political, cultural and economic ramifications of the bill.

"In considering this legislation I believe that it is important for the Members of the House Government Operations Committee to separate the fa'a Samoa from the foreign relations of the United States," he said.

"Our fa'a Samoa --our traditional Samoan way, which is built upon our matai (chief) system, our salutations and traditional protocols, that is the mutual respect accorded between our matai in American Samoa and the Independence State of Samoa--- has not been affected, and it should not in any way be affected by this matter now under consideration by the committee, "Faleomavaega stressed.

He added that the name by which the Independent State of Samoa chooses to call itself is a political matter.

"In my honest opinion, this bill will do more harm than good to our government-to-government relationship with the Independent and Sovereign State of Samoa, "added the Congressman.

Falemavaega said that the bill does nothing to promote a better political, social and economic relationship with the State of Samoa.

"We should bear in mind that our own economic well-being is very much dependent on our treatment of citizens from the State of Samoa. To treat these people as second class citizens will only result in more economic hardship to all Samoans," he said. "I believe we are treading on dangerous ground."

The Congressman suggests that if the House feels that a political stance is necessary, it should be in the form of a resolution which express the sense of the Legislature that the change in name was inappropriate. "That resolution could then be conveyed to the Parliament in Samoa for their consideration. Such an action brings the issue to their attention, but does so in such a manner that the chances of the dispute spiraling out of control are minimized."

The statement will be put into the record this week, but Eni will not be able to appear personally.

The Congressman believes the bill, if enacted, would have far reaching and negative implications, which he describes.

But he also notes that there "is very little chance that this bill will ever become law." He notes that Governor Tauese Sunia intends to veto the bill should it pass the House and Senate and come to him for approval.

Should lawmakers muster the two-thirds majority to override the veto, the bill would then be sent to the U.S. Secretary of the Interior for a final decision.

Faleomavaega does not believe the U.S. government will look kindly upon this proposed law, and were it ever to be enacted, he fears the worst, on several levels.

On the federal level, he writes, ". . . because of this perceived abuse of local immigration law, the federal government could initiate action to remove or reduce the authority of American Samoa to control its borders.

"To put it more plainly, if this disagreement were to get out of hand, American Samoa could lose all control over its borders and become subject to the federal Immigration and Nationality Service (sic)," he continued.

Faleomavaega stressed that given the minimal chance of the bill becoming law, this may not be the best time to start a "fire in our own house" over which American Samoa may lose control.

The Congressman also paints dire consequences for American Samoans and the American Samoa economy should the bill become law.

For example, Samoa could prohibit American Samoa nationals from entering Samoa (but it could not easily prohibit U.S. citizens).

Samoa could make trouble for us with the United States President, he added, thus triggering some of the consequences mentioned above.

He notes that many local residents carry Samoan passports, and wonders if they are going to be prohibited from returning to American Samoa after a visit to Samoa.

According to Faleomavaega, the House bill authored by Representative Suemalo Seti Lopa and cosponsored by a majority of House members, was introduced as a "retaliatory measure" against the Samoa government for changing its name to Samoa in accordance with its "duly constitutionals rights and privileges as a sovereign nation."

Speaking from a historical perspective, Eni said that the State of Samoa has "the right as an independent sovereign nation to call itself by whatever name it desires.

"We voluntarily chose to call ourselves American Samoa when we joined the U.S. family.…As to our brethren, the State of Samoa was involuntarily stuck with the designation of 'Western Samoa' as part of a colonial legacy spawned by the division of Samoa by colonial powers in the last Century.

"Today, the State of Samoa has the right, and some would say the duty, to remove the stigma of colonial domination by dropping the arbitrary and involuntary 'Western' designation.

"As fellow Samoans, we should support, not chastise, our brothers and sisters as they seek to shed these remnants of colonialism."

He then suggested that if the House is concerned with name changes, and if the concern "centers on the premise that we here in American Samoa have become less Samoan than our cousins living in the State of Samoa, then we should address that concern in a productive, proactive way.

"My point here is that there is nothing under the sun --not even expression of concern from the leaders of the State of Samoa-- to prohibit us from changing our name," stated the Congressman. "If we no longer prefer the same American Samoa, we could consider the name "Territory of Samoa" or Samoa USA (which is similar to Guam USA) or U.S. Samoa (similar to the U.S. Virgin Islands)."

Stories from the SAMOA NEWS, American Samoa's daily newspaper, may not be republished without permission. To contact the publisher, send e-mail to samoanews@samoatelco.com .

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