American Samoa Celebrates Manu‘a Cession Day

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111 years since King Tuimanu’a Elisara ceded islands to US

By B. Chen-Fruean

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, July 15, 2015) – Tomorrow [Thursday, July 16], the American Samoa Government will celebrate Manu'a Cession Day with a special ceremony that marks the 111th anniversary of the signing of the Deed of Cession — a treaty between King Tuimanu’a Elisara and the United States — which ceded the Manu’a Islands to the United States as part of American Samoa.

Since last Friday, Bluesky Communications and Samoa News have been featuring descendants of Manu’a who have voiced their dreams and vision for the Manu’a Islands: what they would like to see as far as progress in the next 20 years and the changes, if any, they have witnessed over the past decade.

Yesterday morning, former High Court Associate Judge Lefiti Aitulagi Pese told Samoa News that the top three things on his wish list for the Manu’a Islands are (in order): better surface transportation, reliable air service, and a fully functioning hospital facility.

It should be mentioned that Lefiti actually lives in Ta’u, Manu’a. He relocated there last year and according to the Governor’s Executive Assistant Iulogologo Joseph Pereira in an initial interview, Lefiti was hired as the Manu'a Administrator "to provide oversight of all the government activities in the Manu'a Islands, to ensure that projects are completed and government services sustained and improved."

He added, "the overall objective is to create employment opportunities for Manu’a people to work in Manu’a; not having them come to Tutuila to find work."

Since Governor Lolo Matalasi Moliga and Lt. Governor Lemanu Peleti Mauga took over the helm of ASG two years ago, priority has been placed on the development of the Manu’a Islands, with the construction of new government buildings, among other things.

Over a telephone interview with Samoa News yesterday from Manu’a, Lefiti said that his wish is for the Manu’a Islands to acquire a boat that is reliable and able to travel back and forth between Tutuila and Manu’a on a regular basis.

"The surface transportation for the people here needs to be better, and we start by getting better boats," he said.

Currently, sea transportation between Tutuila and Manu’a is provided by the MV Sili and at times, one of the Samoa owned vessels.

"I just wish we had better ocean transportation," Lefiti said.

He referred to the air transportation service and said the same thing. "We have such a beautiful airport but it’s no use if there is no airline providing flights."

He continued, "With better and more consistent air transportation, Tutuila and Manu’a would literally be only separated by a 25-minute distance."

Lefiti thanked the Samoa owned Polynesian Airlines for providing air service for the Manu’a residents and said, "Oute alofa tele ia Manu’a ma ona tagata nu’u (I really love Manu’a and its people) and my only hope is that air service in the future will be better."

He said, "I don’t understand why the Samoa government can own and operate an airline and we can’t. It is something that we can use to help not only Manu’a residents but also to collect revenue!"

Rounding up his Top Three wishes, Lefiti referred to the lack of a fully functioning hospital facility. Currently, the Department of Health operates two clinics — in Ta’u and Ofu — but Lefiti said there is a need for a hospital, to provide medical assistance for minor injuries and non-life threatening emergency cases like the flu, on a 24-hour basis.

"We need someplace where we can seek medical assistance at any time of the day or night, during emergencies," he said.

With critical cases though, it all ties back to reliable air and surface transportation, as medevacs are necessary at times — but they are wholly dependent on the availability of flights and/or boat trips.

Lefiti was born and raised in the Manu’a islands. He attended school there from elementary all the way to high school.

"My ultimate hope is that one day, all the Manu’a people will return home to enjoy the island that our ancestors fought for, especially the Tuimanu’a and our forefathers. They made very big sacrifices for us and we need to appreciate it by making use of what they left us."

Lefiti continued, "There is more land here than a person will ever need and the view is breathtaking, absolutely beautiful. The one thing is, we need to maintain the island and keep it as natural as we possibly can."

When asked if he believed tourism was a key to Manu’a’s success — and if an overabundance of tourists would affect the beauty of the island and put the people at risk of losing their culture and traditions — Lefiti responded, "I think it could go both ways."

He explained that tourism is good, economically, but added that tourists are ‘transit people’ who come and go. "They don’t stay for long but they will be here long enough to enjoy the island before returning home to tell about it."

Lefiti said he does not know how much culture will be affected by a booming tourism industry but he believes tourism will play a vital part in sharing the fa’aSamoa culture with the world.

He said Manu’a should change and adapt, as far as keeping up with technology by staying updated through the world wide web.

(Currently, the fiber optic cable lines have been laid in the Manu’a Islands and it is hopeful that it will go online before the end of the year).

Lefiti is a former Director for the Department of Agriculture and has a decorated 17-year career service in the US Navy under his belt.

Currently, in his capacity as Manu’a Administrator, Lefiti provides oversight for Ta'u, Ofu, and Olosega. He reports directly to the Governor and the Lieutenant Governor.

Iulogologo said last year, "The efficiency and effectiveness of government operations and services on Manu'a are very important and this mindset must be developed and advanced, and with the presence of Lefiti on Manu’a, it is hoped that this attitude is promoted and nurtured."

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