U.S. COURT RULING WORRIES AMERICAN SAMOA CONGRESSMAN

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PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (April 30, 1999 – PACNEWS)---American Samoan Congressman Faleomavaega Eni Hunkin is worried that a U.S. Supreme Court ruling involving special voting rights for Hawaiians may have implications for the Samoan land tenure and chief system.

A U.S. Court of Appeal upheld a Hawaiian court decision that only Hawaiians can vote in a special election for trustees of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, an agency that governs the use of public lands held in trust for native Hawaiians.

The case was brought to the federal court by a citizen challenging the legality of the State of Hawai‘i to hold elections in which only Hawaiians can vote.

The congressman said if the Supreme Court overturns the lower court's decision and rules in favor of the plaintiff, "the decision would have far reaching implications for American Samoa's future -- as this would allow any U.S. citizen living in American Samoa to challenge American Samoa's laws."

In a letter to American Samoan Gov. Tauese Sunia, Faleomavaega said, legal scholars in the U.S. do not consider American Samoa's "treaties" with the U.S. to be "treaties" in the technical sense, but "deeds of cession", which are considered of lesser authority than the U.S. Constitution.

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