AMERICAN SAMOANS PREVAIL IN HAWAII CELEBRATION

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But some in Pago not happy with use of tax dollars

By Fili Sagapolutele PAGO PAGO, American Samoa, (Samoa News, August 8, 2010) - The Samoan Heritage Week in Hawai’i is set to open Monday at Ke’ehi Lagoon Park on Oahu, with the organizing committee putting the final touches on the week-long event, that will showcase Samoan culture, people and activities.

The committee, chaired by Afimutasi Gus Hannemann, is keen on attracting not only Samoans but non-Samoans residing Hawai’i to be part of the second annual event, which was first launched last year.

"Everything is all set and we are all looking forward to the start of the heritage week, which showcase our Samoan people," said Afimutasi in a telephone interview from Honolulu yesterday morning, while the final program was in the print shop.

"It will be a great celebration for all Samoans," said Afimutasi.

As of yesterday morning the program has games - cricket, volleyball and rugby - for Monday and Tuesday during the daytime hours. Then on Wednesday is the official church service at 6p.m.

From Thursday to Friday, games continue during the daytime while at night time is set aside for various entertainment.

During the day-time throughout the week, there will be a number of booths including, crafts and food vendors as well as representatives from city and state agencies such as fire and police -- where Samoans are employed, and they will be staffing these booths.

"Having our Samoans staff the booths gives our youngsters the opportunity to talk to these individuals and help them prepare for a possible future career in these professional fields," Afimutasi said last week.

[PIR editor’s note: American Samoa governor Togiola Tulafono agreed not to spend unbudgeted money on Samoan Heritage Week in Hawaii after a court ruled in favor of Senator Velega Savali Jr., who sued to stop plans to spend $50,000 on the annual event. Savali, who said the funds would be better spent on the welfare of citizens in American Samoa, agreed to allow the use of contingency funds.]

Booths will also be open during the final day, on Aug. 14th - Saturday - in which the program starts with a parade and various organizations have already registered to take part.

Governor Togiola Tulafono along with former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann are the key speakers of the day as the pair was instrumental in putting together the first event.

"We are encouraging our Samoan people to invite their non-Samoan friends to attend the week-long festival or even the final day," Afimutasi had said.

The committee will invite Hawai’i lawmakers who represent districts with Samoan populations.

"I believe that lawmakers should have a complete understanding of who we are as Samoans and we share with them our uniqueness as a people," he said.

Afimutasi said the committee is getting a lot of support from Samoan groups and organizations in Hawai’i as well as "very good feed back from non-Samoan communities" as they are "looking forward to sharing and showcasing our Samoa heritage."

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