FORMER AMERICAN SAMOA GOVERNOR A.P. LUTALI LAID TO REST

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By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (August 17, 2002 - Samoa News)---Former Governor, Senator and Delegate to Congress A.P. Lutali was laid to rest Saturday morning at his home in Iliili following an overnight vigil that brought close to 5,000 mourners for prayers and cultural ceremonies.

Lutali was a ranking chiefly titleholder, which was the reason top chiefs of the territory were in attendance.

Police stood guard throughout the night, surrounding the two-acres of land where his home was located.

Although he has passed on, his memory and the life of a man considered one of the most "honorable statesmen in modern Samoa" will remain forever alive because of his dedication and service to the people and government of American Samoa.

His service encompassed all three branches of government and resulted in changes and enhancements currently enjoyed by the citizens of the Territory.

Lutali’s memorial service began Friday morning at the Samoana Gymnasium. It was the first State Funeral of a governor ever held in the Territory.

A delegation from Samoa, lead by Minister of Health Safausa Mulitalo, represented the people and government of the neighboring state.

The funeral service, carried live on state-run television and three private radio stations, brought hundreds of mourners from every walk of life to pay their final tribute to a man described by his former chief of staff, Aleni Ripine, as the "Champion of People" and a man who "belonged to a rare breed of men."

"Lutali put aside his own desires and wishes to do what the people wanted. He was a doer; he was also a leader, living by the motto, ‘nothing is impossible,’" Ripine told the media. "He is a rare leader."

In his tribute to his former political partner, Governor Tauese Sunia said American Samoa gathers to pay tribute to Lutali who has left us and taken with him the honor the people accorded him as governor.

Tauese was lieutenant governor during Lutali’s second term in office (1992-1996).

Lutali spent his life serving the public, not only in the political arena but also in the community. He spent many years in the education system as a teacher, vice principal and principal and founder of higher education institutions, and served on education policy boards.

His political career included serving in the House and Senate, where he served as House Speaker and Senate President. His last term in the Senate was 1997-2000, after loosing to Tauese in the 1996 gubernatorial race.

Governor Tauese said Lutali was the 50th governor of the territory and the first governor who had won other political offices when elected to be the chief executive officer of American Samoa in 1984, which was Lutali's first term in office.

Lutali also served in the judicial system starting in 1947 as the first legal practitioner (non-lawyer) admitted to practice before the High Court of American Samoa. He was an Associate Judge in 1971; First Samoan Chief Judge of the Lands and Title Court in 1972; Co-author, Samoan Chieftain System and the Law; and Founder of the American Samoa Bar Association in 1972.

Lutali was in the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II and was also appointed by President Lyndon Johnson to a Civil Defense post and then served as postmaster.

Tauese said the last differences of opinion between himself and Lutali were in 1995. While Lutali wanted the U.S. government welfare program extended to American Samoa, Tauese said he disagree "because it will impact the culture and people will depend on welfare, instead of working."

"But Lutali told me, ‘Have you tried serving culture to your kids.’ You can’t eat the culture," Tauese recalled.

"Today we sadly bid farewell to a beloved leader who we will remember fondly in our hearts. A man of strength, a man of character, a man of compassion, Governor Lutali’s distinguished career spanned all three branches of government," said Tauese.

"His dedication and talents at a pivotal time in our political history make him one of the greatest Samoan statesmen of our time and blazed the path we now travel towards self-governance," he added.

In memory of the territory's two late former governors, Governor Tauese renamed one government school as A.P. Lutali Elementary School in Aunuu village and the other school Peter Coleman Elementary School in Pago Pago.

Most Reverend J.Q. Weitzel, Bishop of the Diocese of Samoa-Pago Pago, delivered the sermon during the state funeral saying tears shed "are tears of joy, because for Lutali his journey is over. He has reached the goal that all of us strive for."

In a statement read during the service from the U.S. Department of the Interior, signed by the director of the Office of Insular Affairs, Nikolao Pula, Lutali was described as "a true statesmen and genuine warrior for the people of American Samoa."

"The people of America Samoa have lost one of their finest leaders, a great man who touched the lives of so many, a pioneer who cleared the path for generations to follow and a hero who has championed so many causes. Lutali etched a mark in history and leaves a legacy that will remain for us forever," Pula said.

After the state funeral service, the overnight vigil started at 2 p.m. Friday and lasted until the final mass at St. Paul's Catholic Church at 9 a.m. on Saturday before burial.

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