AM. SAMOA SENATE WANTS LOCAL INPUT ON FEDERAL ACTIONS

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By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa, (Samoa News, March 28) - Senate President Lolo M. Moliga told Senators Monday that Congress will seek local input before taking any action on federal legislation that impacts American Samoa.

Lolo was responding to comments made by Senators Alo Dr. Paul Stevenson and Pulefaasisina Tuiasosopo on statements coming out of Washington regarding U.S. citizenship for persons born in America Samoa.

Early this month, Todd Howland, director of the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights, suggested that the democrat-controlled US Congress should move on granting individuals born in American Samoa, American citizenship.

Alo said the Senate should seriously look at this issue being raised from Washington, while Pulefaasisina says granting U.S. citizenship for persons born in American Samoan is a local matter for discussion, not something to be determined through federal legislation as suggested by Congressman Faleomavaega Eni.

Faleomavaega told Samoa News last week that he had suggested to past local leaders that this question should be put on the ballot during a general election.

Since it appears territorial leaders do not want to deliberate or put this question before our people, Faleomavaega said he was "thinking of introducing legislation to direct the Secretary of the Interior to put this question to our people" during next year's general election.

Pulefa'asisina told senators on Monday that the local government not Washington should initiate such matters and this also includes any changes to the local constitution dealing with the selection of Senators.

He said statements previously made that Senators should be elected could have serious consequences for American Samoa and he is very saddened by such suggestions.

Senator Faiivae A. Galeai says these are sensitive issues and he does not believe this is the appropriate time to discuss them. He recommended that these type of sensitive matters be put in the form of a resolution or bill in order for the Senate to fully debate them.

Senate President Lolo called on the membership not to debate the matter at this time. He said these are very important concerns, adding that if such issues surface in Congress, local leadership will be contacted for their input prior to any official actions.

For example, he said, several years ago there was a move to change American Samoa's form of government under the Organic Act, and after Congress asked territorial leaders for their opinion and learned there was no local support for the move, they opposed it.

Governor Togiola said last Friday that the citizenship issue needs to be considered as part of American Samoa's future political status with the U.S.

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