Am. Samoa Lacks Facilities For Political Functions

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Governor supports use of parks, other areas for campaigning

By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, Sept. 10, 2012) – With the lack of large facilities to hold political functions in the territory, Gov. Togiola Tulafono says he supports the use of government owned parks and other public facilities for political functions, allowing a larger number of residents to hear from candidates for public office.

At the same time, the governor — who is barred by law from seeking a third consecutive four-year term in office — urged candidates in this year’s general election to remember the importance of keeping peace within the territory and this message should be emphasized to their campaign committees and supporters.

The governor’s comments were made on his weekend radio program after a male caller pointed out that he has seen campaign signs on land on the ocean side of the main highway and claimed such land is government property. The caller said that there might be laws barring campaign signs on government land and if that is the case, then the law should be enforced.

In his response, Togiola first pointed out that there are not that many available facilities to accommodate a large number of people to hear from the candidates on issues, and voters need to be well informed.

He said the use of government facilities has been criticized in past gubernatorial races, and he didn’t say much because he was a candidate, but he's not a candidate this time around and it's time to provide his view on this issue.

He said it's his personal belief that any assets such as land, parks and facilities — including buildings — should be utilized for campaign purposes. He says if a candidate needs to use these assets, then the government should open up that facility for use but make sure that scheduling is done properly so that one candidate’s campaign function does not take up the time slot or date of another candidate.

He said the territory has limited facilities to hold large campaign functions, and the government has the facilities and land available for use, in order for candidates to deliver their message.

He said it's important that a large audience of people get to hear directly from candidates, in order for the public to have a full understanding of the candidate's message, which is important to the future of America Samoa.

He said government land, such as parks and gyms, can accommodate a large number of residents and these facilities are available for use.

He pointed out that there is that 'American thinking' — not to use government property for campaign purposes — but he does not believe in that thinking. He said he believes that a malae, or field, buildings and other facilities should be used, adding that he doesn't want to collect any fee for their use.

He reiterated that his main goal is to ensure that there are available facilities and venues for use by candidates, to tell the community their background, their platforms and their future plans if elected to office.

Regarding signs placed on land on the ocean-side of the main road cited by the caller, Togiola explained that the current law states that the government owns land on the sami side of the main road from the section (or tolotolo) of Fagaalu to Lauli’i.

However, the governor says the government is still fighting with others who are questioning the ownership of these lands, and as he will soon leave the governor’s post, there are still disputes over this same issue.

The governor did point out that political campaign ads on "submerged lands" would require government approval and he has no problem with putting up such signs, but asked that campaign committees be respective of each other and not cause trouble with the placement of their signs.

As the current sitting governor, Togiola says, his most important request to candidates in this campaign season is to keep the peace and harmony. He said he is depending on the candidates to direct their committees to maintain peace and refrain from fights, as voters head to the polls in the Nov. 6 general election.

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