By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (January 5, 2000 - PIDP/CPIS)--Governor Tauese Sunia and his wife, Fagaoali’i, hosted a birthday tribute Thursday evening for Samoa’s Head of State, His Highness Malietoa Tanumafili II.

Accompanied by Samoa’s Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, Malietoa and his entourage arrived from Apia, Samoa late Tuesday afternoon.

Malietoa and Tuilaepa were guests of honor during the swearing in ceremony of Governor Tauese Sunia and Lt. Governor Togiola Tulafono for their second term in office.

Samoa celebrated Malietoa’s 88th birthday on Tuesday and the festivities were broadcast live on Radio 2AP. His actual birthday is January 4th. According to Radio 2AP personalities, Samoa celebrated Malietoa’s birthday early as he was to be in the territory for the inauguration on the 4th.

Held at the Maota o Tooa in downtown Apia, Samoa the one-hour celebration program started with the Samoa national anthem, followed by prayers and hymns, and continuing with Tuilaepa’s public address on behalf of the people and government of Samoa.

Tuilaepa recalled for the guests and the people of Samoa a brief history of Malietoa as Head of State, beginning with his acceptance 61 years ago of the distinguished and legendary title that he has worn proudly.

Malietoa originally shared the Head of State title with Tupua Tamasese Meaole, who passed away a few years after Samoa (then Western Samoa) gained independence in 1962.

Tuilaepa further recalled numerous tasks undertaken by Malietoa and places to which His Highness traveled worldwide as Head of State, including the funeral service for Japan’s Emperor Hirohito in 1989 and subsequently the crowning of Emperor Akihito in the early 1990s.

Malietoa is revered as the ‘Father’ of the two Samoas and has continued to help territorial residents celebrate their annual Flag Day commemoration.

Tuilaepa said Malietoa is possibly the longest serving leader currently holding public office in the world today. He said that this is a glorious day for Samoa and it is time to reflect on the past, take stock of today and look forward to the future for Samoa.

Before those who attended the ceremony offered blessings to His Highness, Tuilaepa presented Malietoa with the "Grand Order of Samoa" medal to recognize his service to Samoa.

Presented to Malietoa was a monetary gift of SAT$ 10,000 (US$ 2,975) from the people and government of Samoa.

American Samoa also presented a monetary gift but the amount remains unknown.

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