American Samoa Governor Tells Cabinet: Let People Vote For Who They Wish

Lolo stresses need to respect public employees right to choose

By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, June 21, 2016) – Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga has emphasized to his cabinet directors the need to protect ASG employees’ right to vote for the candidate of their choosing in this election, and reminded directors not to use their government vehicles when attending campaign events— for either his team or any other team.  He told them to take the bus, take another car, or walk.

The governor’s statement was made at last Friday’s cabinet meeting, which included deputy directors, leaders of semi autonomous agencies and other senior ASG officials. The upcoming election was one of the main issues on the agenda.

With this an election year, Lolo spoke about “our people’s rights” and said,  “I want to make sure that you, directors, take the lead in making sure that we will not deprive our people of their right to vote.”

Lolo said it doesn't matter who the employee supports and who the employee votes for— “whether they vote for me or for somebody else, or whatever candidate they choose, we make sure we support their choice… [and] that their jobs will not be effected by any means.”

“It’s your job to make sure their right of choice is protected.”

And with campaigning in full swing, he said, “I want to make sure that we guarantee those rights to our employees. Let them choose what they want to do and we need to protect their [choice] of candidate,” Lolo said. “Don’t let their job or our job influence their choice. You need to respect the rights of employees.”

Despite the governor’s verbal directive to his cabinet members, two political observers told Samoa News over the weekend that there will always be unconfirmed reports or rumors coming from employees saying that they have been directed by senior officials or directors to vote for a certain gubernatorial team.

And it has already started, the observers said, citing, for example, what candidate Faoa Aitofele Sunia said last Saturday during a campaign event to officially announce the gubernatorial team of Faoa and Sanitoa.

Faoa told the crowd that he and Sanitoa had been informed that some government offices have directed employees regarding the side which they should support. Faoa, an attorney by profession, said ASG employees should understand and know their rights are protected under the law. (See yesterday’s front page story for details.)

The observers, who have spoken with Samoa News over past election years, suggested that the governor put his verbal directive in writing so that directors have it on file, and it can also be distributed to all ASG employees— especially senior officials.

 “Having a written directive may not solve the problem, but at least it’s in writing,” said one of the political observers, who suggested that ASG employees who are “directed or forced” by senior officials to vote for the incumbent team, should have an avenue to file a complaint directly to the governor, who can then look into such allegations.

ATTORNEY GENERAL

During the cabinet meeting, Attorney General Talauega Eleasalo Ale gave a run down on campaign rules and responding to a director’s question about participating in campaign rallies, Talauega said, “so long as you’re doing it outside of the office, after work hours, those are acceptable. If you take leave and you’re on leave, and you’re out there at 8a.m. participating in campaign rallies, that is acceptable.”

“When you’re working for the government on work hours, my recommendation is, let’s try to do the government work and after work do the campaign work - away from the office,” he said.

The Samoa News
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