Fringe Mississippi Senate Candidate Calls For Statehood For Territories

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Reform Party hopeful seeks full representation for all

By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, Oct. 29, 2014) – A Mississippi politician running for a congressional seat wants American Samoa and other territories to gain statehood in order to have, among other things, "full representation" in the U.S. Congress, but Sen. Galeai Tu’ufuli disagrees, saying that American Samoa first needs to focus on important issues such as major economic development.

The Associated Press reported yesterday that Shawn O’Hara is running a low-budget campaign as a Reform Party candidate for one of Mississippi's seats in the U.S. Senate, and O'Hara proposes granting statehood to Washington, D.C., and the territories of American Samoa, Guam, the Virgin Islands, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and Puerto Rico.

Reached by phone yesterday afternoon, O’Hara confirmed that this is one of the issues he wants to tackle if elected to the U.S. Senate. Asked why he wants to make such a proposal, O’Hara said, that there are five million Americans living in the territories and Washington D.C. whose rights as Americans are not "fully represented" in both the U.S. House and Senate in terms of having a full voice in congressional decision making.

"You’re a territory and we need to make sure that you have full representation in Congress," he said from his home in Hattiesburg, adding that Washington D.C. and the territories have many people who are U.S. citizens.

And as a state, he said American Samoa can benefit from other federal programs that he wants to address such as harvesting drilling for oil and harvesting gas. "This will provide employment for American Samoa," he said.

Samoa News shared with O’Hara that people born in American Samoa are considered U.S. nationals and not U.S. citizens and the U.S. citizenship issue is being hotly debated at this time, including the fact that there is a case pending in the federal appeal’s court.

"You should be [US] citizens. We love you," he said, and reiterated that Americans — including U.S. nationals are deserving of full congressional representation and that as a state, "you can vote" for the President of the U.S.

Washington D.C. and the five territories all have non-voting delegates in the U.S. House of Representatives — meaning the delegates can vote in committee and introduce legislation but cannot vote on the House floor. Neither D.C. nor the territories have representatives in the U.S. Senate.

Asked for reaction to O’Hara’s proposal of statehood, the outspoken Galeai replied, "We can’t even handle our territorial status" — meaning American Samoa’s current political status with the United States.

"It’s a good thought for the future. But we don’t have the economic base to support statehood. We are trying to find ways to support the territory in terms of revenue," he said yesterday. "And being a state means, ‘there goes our faa-Samoa’ — meaning that every citizen in the country will have equal rights to what we have... such as land."

"We’re not economically feasible and politically astute enough to even bother to talk about statehood. We need to talk about how to improve the territory," he stated.

And if American Samoa becomes a state, one of the issues which would first need to be addressed would be to re-write the territory’s constitution, to ensure, among other things, that "we follow the US constitution to the ‘letter’," just like any other state, where people from other states can come here as a state and buy properties or vice versa, "and this is one area that will affect our culture."

Galeai pointed out that the statehood issue "is going to come around in the future as young people in others states — when they look at the territories — will ask ‘why are these people [in the territories] not equal to other states especially when they’re fighting for our country’, as well as being equal in other benefits’."

"Statehood is something in the future that we should think about, but my beef is that we should concentrate on first improving the territory on several fronts, such as the economy," he said.

The Future Political Status Study Commission report released in 2007 noted that local and off island American Samoans were against the territory attaining statehood at that time.

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