Former American Samoa Lt. Governor Launches Bid For Governor

Sunia claims some government offices are telling people who to support

By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, June 20, 2016) – Candidate for governor Faoa Aitofele Sunia says some government offices are telling employes which campaign they should be supporting, while the government had no confidence in decisions made by Lt. Gov. Lemanu Peleti Mauga when Gov. Lolo Matalasi was taken ill off island in early 2014.

The former lieutenant governor’s claims were made public last Saturday before a crowd of supporters, family members and invitees, at the Tradewinds Hotel, where he and his running mate, candidate for lieutenant governor Rep. Larry Sanitoa officially announced the Faoa and Sanitoa gubernatorial team for the Nov. 8 general election.

In his Samoan salutation remarks, Faoa welcomed those in attendance from traditional leaders to business people. He also offered a special welcome to ASG employees who were able to attend the campaign event, saying that he and Sanitoa had been informed that some government offices have directed employees regarding the side which they should support.

According to Faoa, some ASG employes offered apologies that they were unable to attend the campaign event, and he asked them to maintain peace and harmony at all times. Faoa, an attorney by profession, said government employees should know and understand that their rights are protected under the law when it comes to voting for the candidate of their choice at election time.

Samoa News should point out that during his cabinet meeting last Friday, Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga reminded his cabinet directors of the rights of employees, under the law, to choose who they want to vote for. (See tomorrow’s edition for details, including the Attorney General’s remarks to directors.)

Several issues of concern in government were raised by Sanitoa, who addressed the crowd first.

FAOA

Faoa delivered his remarks in both English and Samoan. He spoke of Sanitoa’s family roots, as well as his education and work background, which includes his current position as Tualauta faipule. He also cited Sanitoa’s community and civic work.

He said Sanitoa is the “most fitting and suitable candidate for the Office of Lieutenant Governor.” Additionally, Sanitoa’s “years of work experience in the private sector, coupled with his legislative experience and his accolades of civic and community work speak volumes through the leadership and experience he brings to our team.”

“Larry and I are a unified team. He has my full trust and confidence. I absolutely believe in his ability to fulfill the duties and responsibilities of the lieutenant governor as well as of the governor,” Faoa said. “I will rely on Larry for his advice, counsel, and share decision making, should we be blessed with the opportunity to serve our people.”

Faoa then addressed the crowd in Samoan, explaining the reasons he is once again seeking the top leadership position of the government. He said he has never interfered with the work of the current administration; however, some issues have surfaced.

For example, Faoa said, that just over a year after the Lolo administration was in office, the governor was taken ill off island and was away for eight months. And it surfaced during the governor’s absence that the government didn’t have confidence (“e le fa’atuatuaina”) in the decisions made by the lieutenant governor, who was acting governor, according to Faoa’s claims. He did not identify the Lt. by name.

And this, he said, began to concern some traditional elders and leaders (tama o le atunu’u), and resulted in some in the community sharing their thoughts, that Lolo and Lemanu were not thinking about seeking another four-year term in office.

According to Faoa, there was a lot of push for his campaign to kick-start, with many people saying that it was late for his campaign to get off the ground. However, he says he held off while continued prayers were offered for the current administration.

Faoa says it has taken a long time to reach the decision to be in the gubernatorial race and it wasn’t an easy decision. It came after discussions with family members, traditional leaders and others, he noted.

He went on to say that issues of importance to the government will be shared by the Faoa and Sanitoa team in the coming days via radio and newspaper.

SANITOA

Several issues of concern in government were raised by Sanitoa during his speech. He said that as a lawmaker in the past eight years, he has “gained a deep understanding and appreciation of the many problems facing our government and people” and he believes these serious challenges “require us to look at new ideas and real solutions to solve them.”

In the area of government finances, he says he and Faoa are “adamant” about the need for fiscal responsibility of government finances at all levels, including local and federal resources. Sanitoa says “our foremost priority” is to take stock of the current financial situation and to implement a comprehensive plan to control and prioritize spending on critical needs.

Also important, he says, is to provide “honest and realistic” revenue projections based on actual experience. “Why? Because we are confident that if we can get our financial situation under control, we can begin the process of restoring public trust in the American Samoa Government,” he said.

For the economy, Sanitoa said “American Samoa’s economic landscape, the private sector and our ability to generate new money to reinvest in our economy is of great concern.”

He said, “The uncertainty of what our future holds, with over $149 million in debt from the American Samoa Economic Development Authority (ASEDA) bonds, is worrisome for all of us who are parents with children who will be obligated to pay off this debt over the next 20 years.

“We hope and pray that we do not find ourselves in the same situation as Puerto Rico... who is struggling to pay back their own bonds and now desperately seeking a bailout from the federal government,” he said.

According to the candidate, there are several opportunities American Samoa can use to generate new revenue, stimulate economic activity and infuse cash into the local economy. For example, creating public and private partnerships between the government, private sector and nonprofit community as well as the effective use of federal grant resources.

In health, Santioa says LBJ hospital and its recurring problems with finance and compliance issues underscores the need for healthcare to be a major priority, which includes aggressively “securing sustainable funding to ensure the hospital has the medical and pharmaceutical supplies needed for quality patient care,” as well as recruiting and continuing to support highly qualified medical professionals.

On education, where over 80% of graduating high school seniors enrolling at ASCC require remedial English and Math, Sanitoa says, “We believe that any attempt to turn the tide with student achievement must begin in the developmental years of early childhood from ages 3 to 5,” adding “we will focus on ensuring that all children enter first grade ready to read and write in English and Samoan.”

Additionally, he said recruit qualified teachers,  who demonstrate skill and competence in their content area, teachers who go above and beyond in the classroom and who will be rewarded based on their performance and yes, teachers who will earn and receive their annual performance increments based on merit.

Sanitoa also took time to thank members of his family, as well as friends and others for their continued support. He gave special thanks to the voters of Tualauta for  their unwavering support over the last eight years.

“Tualauta will always hold a very special place in my heart,” he said, and then addressed the issue of his health. “I can tell that politics are in full swing as rumors are rampant about my health.”

Sanitoa assured family members, friends and supporters that he is in good health, saying that God has continued to bless him with “the strength and the stamina to take on this new challenge and I would not even dream of asking you for your support if I did not have the strength, the fortitude and the will to go through this.”

He expressed sincere appreciation to Faoa, whose commitment to public service spans over 40 years, for selecting him as his running mate, saying that Faoa has the  love, experience and knowledge to serve as governor.

Sanitoa described Faoa as a great leader, one that is engaging, collaborative and approachable. Additionally, he said, Faoa has the ability to “work effectively” with the private sector.

The Samoa News
Copyright © 2016. The Samoa News. All Rights Reserved

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