American Samoa Governor Supports Elected Senators

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Togiola changes position on Chief appointed Senate

By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, Sept. 16, 2012) – Gov. Togiola Tulafono has confirmed that he is sending early this week to the Fono for approval, a proposal that would put to voters in the November general election, the question of whether or not to elect members of the territorial Senate.

Togiola first revealed his plans during a cabinet meeting late last week and confirmed it on his weekend radio program, followed later in the day with a response to media questions for confirmation.

For many years, the governor has strongly opposed having members of the senate elected, instead in the past he has advocated keeping the current law of having them selected by traditional chiefs of their respective counties.

Togiola said over the weekend that he has modified his stand on this issue because a lot has happened over the years. The governor believes that if American Samoa is to "continue the momentum towards self governance, evidenced by the desire of the Fono to become the ultimate determinants of public policies by giving them the right to overturn the veto of the Governor on these public policies, we need to democratize all the functions of democracy, and not just parts of it."

He said he supports the position of the Fono to possess override authority. He said it’s a good thing for western democracy, but local residents, especially the cultural leaders, must also step up to the plate and accept the responsibilities that come with democratization.

To qualify as senator, the governor is proposing that the person holds a certain chiefly title and that only those US Nationals who were born in American Samoa, of American Samoan ancestry, will be qualified to hold this position.

He is also proposing in this constitutional amendment that the terms of Senators be six years, not the current four years.

More details in tomorrow’s edition including the governor’s reaction to a senator’s comments directed to the governor during the Senate session last Friday after senators learned that the governor wanted senators elected.

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