LATE AMERICAN SAMOA SENATOR APE POUTOA HONORED

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PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (January 21, 1999 - PACNEWS)---Flags are at half-mast in American Samoa following the death of the Senator who was at the center of debate on the controversial Samoa name bill.

Senator Ape Poutoa died over the weekend after a period of illness which prevented him from taking up his Senate seat at the start of the current session of the legislature last week. The late Senator was entering the third year of his first four-year term in the Senate.

Senator Ape chaired the Senate hearings and deliberations on the controversial bill that proposed that American Samoa continue calling independent Samoa, Western Samoa.

A traditionalist at heart, Senator Ape never came out publicly with his opinion on the bill, but said that respect and love should be the basis of any decision on the measure. The Senate killed the Samoa name bill, but it was later resurrected and referred back to Senator Ape's Committee for more review.

It's almost certain that the bill will not come up again, but its essence is very much alive in the Legislature and elsewhere in the territory. From the Governor, Tauese Sunia, to members of the Fono (legislature), to business people and individuals, Western Samoa is still how independent Samoa is referred to in the Territory.

Before his selection to the Senate, Ape was a justice of the High Court for 16 years, retiring in 1986. He will be given a state funeral on January 31.

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