SWAINS ISLAND WILL RESIST TOKELAU TAKEOVER, DELEGATE SAYS

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By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa, (Samoa News, March 27) - Swains Island Delegate Alexander Eli Jennings says he will resist any efforts by Tokelau to take over Swains Island while Congressman Faleomavaega reminds that the island is privately owned - although it's part of American Samoa.

Both were responding to Samoa News questions of their views following a statement earlier this month by Tokelau Faipule, Kolouei O'Brien about his desire for Tokelau to administer Swains Island.

Jennings said this is the not the first time this has come up and he has referred the latest comments to the U.S. State Department.

"It's the State Department's position that Swains is a U.S. possession," said Jennings on Sunday before departing for Swains with Governor Togiola. "All Swains Islanders and of course the federal government will be carefully watching this very sensitive issue in the future."

He also said that O'Brien's statement is just one person expressing an opinion and no one has received an official Tokelau government position on this matter.

"Swains Islanders are proud people who owed and continue to owe alliance to the United States and we have served proudly in the U.S. Armed Forces," said Jennings.

Faleomavaega said he is not clear what O'Brien's intentions are "or how he plans to take Swains Island back, but what is clear is that Swains is a privately owned island claimed by the descendants" of American sea captain Eli Jennings.

According to the congressman, Eli Jennings had close ties with certain U.S. senators, and a U.S. senate bill was passed in 1925, declaring Swains officially a part of American Samoa, under full protection and sovereignty of the US.

Tokelau is currently under the administrative authority of New Zealand and Faleomavaega said if there are to be discussions and deliberations on the future status of Swains Island (or Olohenga or Olosega), it will definitely involve the governments of New Zealand and the United States - as well as the claims of the Jennings Family that the island is privately owned by Captain Jennings and his heirs.

The Congressman suspects that O'Brien and his supporters will also have their say in the process and the matter may even end up in court, and the question there is, which court of law? New Zealand or American, he said.

It's Faleomavaega's understanding that during the pre-European period, many of these islands - including Olohenga and other atolls with lagoons - would be settled and occupied by Polynesians for 6-month periods where they would harvest copra and live off the land, and afterwards leave to allow the islands to re-generate the food items.

In the process, certain portions of the islands would be marked and identified as property of certain families until their return during the next harvest season.

"When Captain Jennings landed on Swains/Olohenga, the island was uninhabited and as such then made the claim and filed the necessary papers I believe in Western Samoa and also with the U.S. Naval administration in Tutuila to register the island as his own, for him and for his heirs - it is for this reason that Swains/Olohenga is still under the ownership of the descendants and heirs of the Jennings Family - and with the protection of the U.S. government according to the law passed in Congress in 1925," he added.

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