FORMER HOUSE MEMBER TO BE AMERICAN SAMOA SENATOR

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Following death of Senator, appointment made

By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, America Samoa (Samoa News, June 2, 2009)—Former House member, Avegalio P. Aigamaua will be returning to the Fono soon, but this time as a Senator, representing Fofo county to fill the seat left vacant due to the passing of the late senator Tuitele F.T. Tuitele. Local law states when vacancies occur in the Senate, the Governor, or the person exercising the functions of Governor, shall issue writs of special election to fill such vacancies, except that if any such vacancy occurs within 3 months of the next regular election, no special election may be held, and the Governor shall appoint a qualified person to fill such vacancy.

Tuitele passed away when it was only two and half months into his four-year term and therefore a writ was required. (Samoa News was unable to confirm yesterday as to when the writ was issued but a Fofo county traditional leader said it was issued just recently).

Local law further states that a person elected to fill a vacancy or appointed by the Governor to fill a vacancy shall hold office during the remainder of the term of his predecessor.

Fofo county held a traditional meeting last Saturday and agreed on Avegalio, who is the current Fofo county chief, or Fa’alupega.

Yesterday morning, an official notification outlining the county’s decision was transmitted to Tufele Li’amatua, the Secretary of Samoa Affairs, who, under the law, is to certify and submit the communication to the Office of the Senate President.

Samoa News was unable to confirm at press time if Tufele has done either actions — certification or submission.

The official notification, which is in Samoan, states that the county has agreed to Avegalio to be their senator, in accordance with local law, replacing Tuitele for the current term. The notification was signed by more than 20 traditional leaders of Fofo county and Avegalio also signed on the notification as required by law because he is still the Fa’alupega.

Avegalio first entered the House in 1987, as an elected Fono member, for his first two year term, during the 20th Legislature, and remained in the House representing Fofo county until he retired from public office in December 2000.

During his last two years in the House (1999-2000), where he was considered by his colleagues as the father figure, or "tama matua", Avegalio served as chairman of the House of Samoan Affairs Committee and was vice chair of the House Economic Development Committee.

One of the last pieces of legislation he support in 2000 was a House bill to abolish the death penalty in the territory and eliminate the possibility of parole for those serving life sentences in prison for first degree murder.

During his House tenure, Avegalio was a staunch supporter of the Samoan culture and when there were heated debate on the floor, Avegalio was the first to seek out peace and harmony calling on his colleagues to remember the Samoan traditions, which can be used to resolve any disagreement or disputes.

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