College Holds Candidate Forum For Am. Samoa Congressional Post

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Incumbent Faleoamavaega misses event despite being on island

By Joyetter Feagaimaalii-Luamanu

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, Oct. 27, 2014) – "Once we give the authority to the Fono they are going to run all over us," was the response from Congressional Candidate Tuika Tuika during the forum hosted by the American Samoa Community College’s Student Government Association (SGA) on the question posed to the candidates regarding their position on the veto override, a hot issue in the territory.

The forum was held at the ASCC gymnasium last Thursday.

The candidates who attended were Aumua Amata, Mapu J. Jamias, Mark Ude, Meleagi Suitonu-Chapman, Rosie Fualaau Tago Lancaster, Togiola Tulafono, Tua’au Kereti Matautia Jr., and Tuika Tuika. Incumbent Faleoamavaega Eni Hunkin was absent, and it’s unclear why he did not attend, however the same day of the forum, members of the public saw the congressman at the hospital’s dialysis unit.

The candidates addressed questions chosen by the ASCC SGA during the question-and-answer portion of the forum, and were given a minute to respond to each of the nine questions, as they were posed. According to SGA, questions had been submitted by college students to SGA by Wednesday and SGA then selected the final nine.

Samoa News will be publishing each question and the candidates’ points of view before Election Day, which is the first Tuesday of November, in this case Nov. 4th — 7 days from today, Monday.

VETO OVERRIDE REFERENDUM — YES OR NO?

The candidates were asked for their position on the hot topic — veto override — if they support it, why or why not.

Amata said she did not believe that it would be appropriate for her as a congressional candidate to take sides on the veto override. However, she said the issue should be done in the context of a comprehensive overview, as opposed to doing it piecemeal; and, if it turns out the people do vote in favor of the referendum, there is still another step, beyond the Department of Interior that it will need to go, before it can be changed — it will need to go to the Congress for final approval.

Ude said he believes in a strong Legislature, which should have the authority to overrule a veto — if it’s in the best interests of the territory. He said if it’s an issue of self determination and is in the best interest of the public, it would behoove those individuals who are elected and selected in the Fono to act as a curb against the Executive Branch.

Former Governor Togiola seemed to say "no" to the override veto referendum, saying the right to override legislation is a package — it’s part of the check and balance system, and if the override is given to the Legislature it means they will have the right to govern.

"Now without the counter balance… it’s the right of the people to remove people that do not exercise the override, just like we do with the governor and elected officials. However, if you do not possess the right of accountability, the exercise of the override is not a check, then we… have issues." He said that’s why the upcoming election is very important.

Tuika bluntly stated he does not support the veto override, and as a former representative, he said, the public does not trust the Fono as there are no checks and balances. "Once we give the authority to the Fono, they are going to run all over us, the check and balance system[ is good], however it’s not working between the three branches and that’s why I do not support it."

"Is the veto override appropriate?" was the question posed by Mapu, who said " if it’s not broken, then why fix it?"

"We do not want to open another Pandora’s box plus, the current House of Representatives is elected every two years. What happens if we proceed with opening this can of worms and two years from now they want to look at it again … the DOI may add more restrictions and right now we have the best of both worlds, we got everything we need."

Tua’au said there are always two sides to an issue, and American Samoa had its fair share of struggles when its government was first established. He said the veto override is not an issue of technicality to the constitution, but it’s the right of everyone.

It’s a sensitive issue and as an individual it’s part of growth said Meleagi, who put it to the public that it’s time for them to confront their lawmakers and ask them how they feel about this issue. "Because they are the Legislature, while its a sensitive matter it’s one of the things in life where you as an individual will have to go through with your vote."

Lancaster answered that the public still needs to be educated on this matter, so to educate why the override was out there in the first place, noting we cannot keep comparing American Samoa to the 50 states, as they elect both their houses, while American Samoa’s senators are selected by the village council.

She said the override was placed there for a reason, it’s a measure to keep the Executive Branch in check and accountable to the people, as it’s the government of the people, for the people and by the people.

She agreed that American Samoans should make their own decisions, saying, "I’m in favor of having our own people make our own decisions, however it’s another step in the right direction on self government, but at the same time, as Jesus said, for everyone— to whom much is given from Him, much will be required."

Look for more coverage of congressional Q & A each day until next week Tuesday, Election Day for the territory.

Tomorrow, Samoa News will publish the candidate’s answers to the question of whether or not senators should be elected.

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