AMERICAN SAMOA GOVERNOR SUPPORTS SAMOA ‘SWITCH’

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Residents urged to honor neighboring Samoa’s new drive pattern

By Fili Sagapolutele PAGO PAGO, American Samoa, (Samoa News, September 1, 2009) – American Samoa Governor Togiola Tulafono has called on local residents traveling to Apia to fully abide with Samoa’s new right side driving, which goes into effect on September 7, with the Samoa Supreme Court rejecting a motion to stop the switch.

Next week Monday, September 7, is Labor Day holiday in the territory and many local residents are heading to Samoa for the long weekend.

Speaking publicly for the first time about the new change in Samoa, the Governor said on his radio program that his statement is not a criticism of the Samoa government’s policy, but he wants to caution territorial residents heading to Samoa about the new road regulation.

He said American Samoa residents should provide their support of the Samoa government’s policies in order to make the transition smooth. Togiola also suggested persons not familiar with driving on the right side of the road, should refrain from driving while in Samoa, and those walking should also be aware of the new regulations.

He said Samoa is working on their own improvement for the future and local residents should respect Samoa’s decision.

Togiola said local residents were unhappy at first with the round-about at the intersection going into Petesa, but people are now used to it and appear happy at this point. He said round-abouts are popular in Samoa and people will adjust accordingly.

The Samoa government had announced previously that September 7 and 8 have been declared a holiday, to allow people to get used to driving on the right side. Around 6 a.m. on Sept. 7, traffic is supposed to come to a stop, and the switch officially begins.

Last Friday in Apia, Samoa Supreme Court Justice Clarence Nelson Vui ruled in favor of the government and rejected a suit by a lobby group called People Against Switching Sides (PASS) to stop the road-drive switch, giving the green light for the policy to be fully implemented, an Apia-based reporter told Samoa News late Friday afternoon via telephone.

PASS claimed the change was unconstitutional and challenged the safety of the plan, according to previous media reports from Apia.

Some outlying villages in Samoa, including the township of Salelologa on Savai΄i Island opposed the move, with plans to block their roads. Road signs informing motorists about the switch were vandalized in some villages on Upolu.

Over the weekend, Radio New Zealand International reported the Salelologa village council had not given its support of the change following a meeting late last week.

Prime Minster Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi has called on PASS and other opponents of the change to work together with the government to achieve a safe change in driving.

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"Samoa’s new right side driving" It changed to driving on the left hand side.

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