Am. Samoa Cancels Traditional Flag Day Canoe Race

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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Fautusi final is most highly anticipated sports event each year

By Joyetter Feagaimaalii-Luamanu

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, April 18, 2016) – There will be no Flag Day Championship Fautasi Race this year, and it’s been cancelled indefinitely says, Lt Governor Lemanu Peleti Mauga Co-Chair of the Flag Day Planning Committee. This was the decision that came out of the meeting between the Captains and Governor Lolo Matalasi Moliga during the lunch hour of yesterday’s Flag Day festivities at the Veterans Memorial Stadium.

Lemanu, who was accompanied by Secretary of Samoan Affairs, Mauga Tasi Asuega did not specify as to why they have opted to cancel the race this year.

The fautasi championship race each year is the most anticipated sport in the territory, where the villages pride themselves by getting involved and being a part of the fautasi crew. It takes months of preparations and the territory is literally alight with ‘fautasi fiva’.

This year there were 13 fautasi that signed up to participate: (1) Fuao - Vatia; (2) Paepaeulupoo II - Aua; (3) Matasaua - Manu’atele; (4) Manulele Tausala II; (5) Manulele Tausala I; (6) Fealofani Samoa II; (7) Tama o le Muaau - Faleniu; (8) Aeto - Pago Pago (9) Iseulaolemoana III; (10) Fetu o le Afiafi – Fagaalu; (11) Taema II – Leone; Sinapioa – Executive Branch and the Iseulaolemoana II – Legislative Branch.

The fautasi belonging to the branches of government were not competitors but raced to allow villages that normally do not race a chance to enjoy participating.

The 14th fautasi was an invitation boat from the village of Manono, however their boat did not make it, and Samoa News understands they were given the green light to use the Iseulaolemoana II by Fagatogo in the final race.

Due to the number of fautasi racing in this year’s Flag Day championship race, the Flag Day Committee decided for safety’s sake to have only a final race with seven fautasi. They divided the fautasi into two groups and had them race in heats, bringing the top winners, based on time and following the rules to the final. Manono was an invite, so was given a bye on the heats.

On Saturday, after three heats were run (one was a re-race), the committee disqualified five fautasi, Paepaeulupoo III – Aua; Matasaua - Manu’atele; Manulele Tausala II – Nuuuli; Iseula le Moana - Fagatogo and Fetu ole Afiafi - Faga’alu for not following the rules, which included being in front of the starting line when the committee signaled the start of the race, and un-sportsman-like behavior.

They also chose the six local fautasi that were to run in the 2016 Flag Day Championship Race, which were Manulele Tausala I - Nuuuli, Fuao - Vatia, Fealofani Samoa II f- Fagasa, Taema II – Leone, Tama o le Muaau - Faleniu and the Aeto - Pago Pago.

However, on Saturday during the meeting which decided the six finalists, a representative from Aua’s fautasi Paepaeulupoo II suggested to the committee that in fairness, the Group B heat, which they were disqualified from, should be re-raced, as was done with the Group A heat. Co-chair Mauga intervened and with a raised voice told Aua to leave the things where they are, the decision had been made and it was final.

He slapped the table and said in Samoan, "Aua kou ke kofokofoa mai iga a’u" (don't you dare challenge me)." Mauga further stated that the decision is final and if they change it for Aua, what about the other villages and their fautasi crew. He said the fautasi committee will enforce their rules now, because if not now, when?

Mauga was referring to the history of the Flag Day Fautasi Championship Race which has filled complaints against past fautasi committees for not enforcing race rules by disqualifying those who don’t follow the rules.

Unfortunately this year, yet another scar is added to its history — the championship race has been cancelled, there is NO CHAMPION IN THIS YEAR’S FAGAIMEA I LE TAI.

FLAG DAY FESTIVITIES AT THE STADIUM

The 2016 Flag Day festivities at the Veterans Memorial Stadium were held yesterday. Attending were Samoa’s Head of State, His Highness Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi, accompanied by Masiofo Filifilia, Assistant Secretary for Insular Affairs of the Department of Interior Lupesinaosamoa Esther Kia’aina, Governor of the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas, Ralph Deleon Guerrero Torres and Ulu o Tokelau Aliki Faipule Afega Gaualofa.

American Samoa’s Congresswoman, Aumua Amata was also present.

President of the Seventh Day Adventist church, Pastor, Uili Solofa offered the invocation.

Sitia Mase, Manino Alalefaleula, Uputaua Falealii and Kirikiti Aulaumea Jr. raised the American and the American Samoa flags officially starting the festivities at the stadium.

The parade that followed consisted of 50+ groups of schools, rugby teams, sports federations, government department and agencies, and members of the private sector.

Colorful floats were also part of the parade. Of note there were the floats from the Nu’uuli Vocational Technical School — dressed up in accordance with this year’s Flag Day motto, "Our People, Our Culture, Our Future", and the Governor’s Office float, which featured Miss America Samoa, Suluga Taliau on board, and guided by the fa’aluma in full traditional dress and tatatau.

Then there were the decorations by the Department Human Social Services of the second stadium stand (facing the one with the governor and VIP guests) with its huge "Samoan Tuiga", which caught the attention of the public, who complimented DHSS for a job well done.

Governor Lolo delivered Special Remarks and Assistant Secretary for Insular Affairs of the DOI Lupesinaosamoa gave the Keynote Address.

In his special remarks, Lolo thanked the people of American Samoa and especially the dignitaries who attended, for making the day more special. He said the people of Tutuila and Manu’a have come together to celebrate the wisdom of our forefathers and to acknowledge with profound gratitude the continued benevolence of the United States of America.

He said the Flag Day celebration is unique because it’s the result of the commemoration by our forefathers to freely join the great family of the United States.

"This has served us well for 116 years however, a changing of dynamics for an economic force around the world compels us to revisit the effectiveness of the established traditional pathways in meeting the needs of our people, and this will be our focus in the coming years. The assessment process is already underway with great support and assistance from our good friend Assistant Secretary for Insular Affairs of the Department of Interior… as demonstrated by the recently completed self determination forum for all of the US territories held in DC last month."

Lolo said for this assessment process, Lupesinaosamoa has kindly granted technical assistance to fund an office, with its primary function to identify issues connected with our political status and our constitution, federal rules and regulations with the development of our territory."

He said, "the Flag Day celebrations along with the theme, Our people, our Culture and our Future, is the underscore in this 116 years of celebration. Because if we look to the past to determine the fundamentals of the driving forces responsible for the purpose American Samoa has in this 116th year, I can assure you it’s the resiliency of our people and the reciprocity of our culture that has facilitated the achievement."

Lupesinaosamoa’s keynote address is in separate story in today’s issue.

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