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By Fili Sagapolutele Special to the Pacific Islands Report

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (April 6, 2000)---An American Samoa Senator is calling on the U.S. government to establish the sovereign U.S. Territory of Manu‘a and separate it from American Samoa.

The outspoken but culturally conservative Senator Faiivae A. Galeai made the public proposal to the U.S. government-created American Samoa Economic Advisory Commission.

The commission’s members were on island last week to gather input on the future economic development of the territory.

Senator Faiivae, 69, told the commission that he is proposing the separation from American Samoa of the Manu‘a Islands of Ofu, Olosega and Tau, to create a new U.S. territory that also would include Rose Atoll.

He cited, as a precedent, the Mariana Islands. The people are of the same ethnicity, he said, but Guam is one territory and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands is a separate U.S. insular area.

Sen. Faiivae said Manu‘a lags behind in economic development because of Tutuila and Aunuu. He said the decline in basic needs in Manu‘a is due to "decades of government neglect, the continuing economical morass that is the American Samoa Government, and the territory's burgeoning population with its concomitant problems, such as an overtaxed infrastructure and environmental abuses to name a few."

The Manu‘a Islands group -- with a population of more than 3,000 and located 90 miles south of the Territory's main island of Tutuila -- is made up of the islands of Ta‘u, Ofu and Olosega. Rose Atoll is uninhabited and located about 95 miles from Tutuila.

Many Manuans reside on Tutuila due to the lack of economic development in their homeland, he said.

Manu‘a was once well recognized as an influential kingdom in the region, for centuries. "If (King) Tuimanua were alive today he would most certainly be crestfallen over the precipitous decline of his precious Manu‘a," Sen. Faiivae told the commission.

Historically, Manu‘a had no political links to Tutuila and Aunuu, which were part of the Samoan Islands government before 1900 that included the islands of Upolu, Savaii, Apolima and Manono in now Independent Samoa. These islands were split up in 1890s among Britain, Germany and the U.S. in an agreement where Tutuila and Aunuu became part of the U.S., creating American Samoa on April 17th, 1900.

The Manu‘a islands did not join American Samoa until July 16,1904, in a different deed of cession, terminating the Kingdom of Tuimanua.

Most Manu‘a residents believed that their forefathers were forced by the American Navy to join American Samoa. But history shows that King Tuimanua allowed the U.S. Navy to raise the American flag on the island of Tau on June 25, 1900.

"Manu‘a will continue to lag far behind Tutuila and Aunuu, particularly in terms of economic development, until Manu‘a is politically separated from Tutuila and Aunuu," said Sen. Faiivae. "More precisely, Manu‘a must have her own government and budget. Manu‘a’s needs do not necessarily coincide with those of Tutuila and Aunuu.

"On the contrary, in many instances the needs of Manu‘a conflict and/or compete with the needs of mainstream American Samoa. Consequently, the needs of Manu‘a are too often ignored or compromised to accommodate the 'more important and pressing' needs of mainstream American Samoa," said Faiivae.

He called the joining of Manu‘a as part of American Samoa a "mistake" and said it was "forced" upon the people.

"I pray that you do not take my proposal lightly," the Senator told the commission.

Congressman Eni Faleomavaega, a member of the commission, did not made direct comment on the proposal but reminded commission members of their requirement to seek local opinion on U.S. control of the islands over the past 100 years.

Congressman Faleomavaega also noted for the record that the deed of cession that involves Manu‘a is different than the deed of session that first created the U.S. Territory of American Samoa, the islands of Tutuila and Aunuu alone.

The seventh island of American Samoa is Swains Island, located 85 miles from Tutuila. The privately owned island has a population of 30.

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