AMERICAN SAMOA CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION ENDS

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Goal to protect rights of citizens

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa, (Samoa News, July 6, 2010) - The closing ceremony of the Constitutional Convention, held Saturday morning, at the Gov. Rex H. Lee Auditorium, was filled with all the pomp and circumstance of the fa’aSamoa, and continued the underlying theme of the convention -- to protect the rights of American Samoans and their future generation.

While a motion submitted to support the initial findings of the Constitutional Review Commission, regarding no changes to the American Samoa government was passed last week -- prior to the closing of the Constitution Convention -- it did not stop Gov. Togiola Tulafono from counseling government and community leaders to be strong and continue to fight for the betterment of American Samoa and its future generations.

During his speech Togiola spoke about how the people have expressed the kind of government they want and how they don’t want anything to change.

He said that there was no mistake in the laying of the American Samoa foundation by the founding fathers, as he read the last paragraph of the Revised Constitution’s Preamble.

The Governor said that the Constitution Convention was held so that the rights of the people of American Samoa can be protected. He said that although questions have been raised about the purpose of the Con Con -- in the end -- it has been clarified that it is to protect the rights of American Samoa’s future generation.

The Governor spoke of the possible problems that will happen because of amendments that are contrary to facts established in previous reviews.

For example, at the beginning of the Con Con, there was a suggestion about having only one chamber of the Legislature -- but changes in Article II -- Legislature now have more representatives and senators. Yet, he said it has been reviewed with the Fono leaders in prior years that there is limited space inside the Fono chambers and the need for renovations.

He then spoke of the various opinions being expressed in public, including that the government should be led by a "palagi" as there is no one qualified to lead the government, and that these revisions made to the Constitution by today’s Con Con will never be passed by Congress.

Togiola’s reply was to counsel for strong leadership that will protect the rights of future generations of American Samoans.

One of the delegates Samoa News spoke to about the Con Con -- from Ituau county -- agreed with Togiola. The delegate said the changes, may not be passed by the US Congress or the Secretary of Interior, "but how will we know, if we are afraid to put our ‘stamp’ on what we want, what we need, as the people of American Samoa?

"If the majority of people chose not to pass the changes, it will still be good," the delegate said. "We will have started to talk among ourselves and with them (the US) and next time it will be easier, because we will know each other better."

Opening and closing prayers were offered by Rev. Elder Siaosi Saifoloi of the CCCAS of the village of Sailele -- the Governor’s village. In addition, Saifoloi offered a sermon with words of wisdom to the convention. The choir was also from the CCCAS Sailele.

Entertainment was provided by the Malaeloa youth, the only performers that were picked for the event.

The closing ceremony was attended by delegates to the Constitution Convention, as they promised on Friday, when their per diem checks were released. Their final job was to sign their work. The final documents were then formally presented to the Governor for his final review before being forwarded to be voted upon by the public in this year’s November General Election.

The Governor then presented the Chairman of the Constitutional Convention, Mauga Tasi Asuega, with a placard, carved from wood from the Governor’s residence, Mauga o Ali’i -- in honor of this great event and his role.

Traditional Samoan fine mats and sua (ceremonial gifts) were given to the different counties from Paramount Chief Mauga Tasi Asuega and his county of Maoputasi as a sign of respect and thank you for his role as Chairman of the Con Con.

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