Newly elected Governor Lolo Matalasi Moliga and Lt. Gov. Peleti Sialega Mauga were sworn into office last Friday in what many people in the territory consider a historic event on several fronts.
It is the first “new” administration since the Tauese and Togiola era that began in 1997; the newly elected governor of American Samoa is the first Manu’a born governor to take the office; and the return of the inaugural ceremony to the Malae o Letalu in Fagatogo, which saw its last one held there in 1997 — for the late Gov. Tauese P. Sunia and then Lt. Gov. Togiola Tulafono.
Chief Justice Lealaialoa Michael Kruse presided over the swearing-in ceremony.
The Fagatogomalae was packed with supporters and members of the public who attended the event, which was touted as “The People’s Inauguration” by members of the organizing committee.
Among the invited guests was the Head of State, his highness Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi and Masiofo Filifilia, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi and out-going Governor Togiola and Mary Ann Tulafono.
Master of Ceremony was Chief of Staff Fiu Johnny Saelua, while Tuiagamoa Tavai conducted the traditional welcoming remarks.
Invocation was led by Reverend Elder Fa’ata’ape Lavata’i and Reverend Elder Siaosi Mageo.
The Certificate of Office was presented by a senior staffer with the Election Office, as the former Chief Election Officer Solia’i Tuipine has resigned to take his seat in the Senate.
The inaugural blessing was conducted by Bishop Quinn Weitzel M.M with assistance of church leaders from different denominations.
The ava ceremony was conducted by Alataua and Fofo Counties.
GOVERNOR LOLO MATALASI MOLIGA
In his first official speech as Governor, Lolo said it was a day for rejoicing. In his Samoan speech, he thanked the Head of State, the father of both Samoas, noting his presence made it a memorable and important occasion.
On behalf of the people of American Samoa, Lolo thanked outgoing Gov. Togiola and Lt. Gov, Faoa Aitofele and their spouses for their service to the people and the government, and wished them the best in their future endeavors.
To the people, the governor said any new change always has its difficulties, because not everyone welcomes change — but change comes for the betterment of the people.
Lolo thanked the people of American Samoa for electing them into office.
“Let us stand together, let us make the change together, the change starts from you, in your family, in your village, in your church, your business, in the government and in our island” said Lolo.
In his inaugural message that was printed in the official inauguration program, Lolo pays tribute to the pioneering leaders of the past whose wisdom and contributions brought us to where we are today.
"We unite with gratitude as we laud the foresight of our forefathers that made us Americans and the democratic process that every generation of American Samoa has enjoyed through opportunities to continually improve the quality of life.
“We are united in our purpose, for the wisdom of the past providing a clear pathway to our future” he said. “Let us pay tribute to the pioneering leaders, Uifaatali Peter Coleman of Pago Pago, A.P Lutali of Aunuu and Sili, Tauese Pita Sunia of Ta’u and Leone and former Lt. Governors Tufele Li'amatua, Galea'i Peni Poumele, Mrs. Gaioi Tufele Galeai and Faleomavaega Eni Hunkin.”
Lolo noted that “we look to the future filled with hope as we firmly believe that our people willingly want to contribute to the well being of the American Samoa Government.
“We embrace our new roles, as your Governor and Lt Governor with a sense of confidence knowing that anything is possible for the territory of American Samoa when we are united in spirit and under God.”
“Le Atua e fa’afetai” he said.
At the end of his speech, the governor announced the new Secretary of Samoan Affairs as Satele Galu Satele and the new Commissioner of Public Safety as William Haleck.
Chief of Staff Fiu Johnny Saelua. also announced that acting directors of all agencies and departments of the government will hold their first meeting today at 9 a.m. at the Governor’s office.
In a brief speech, Lt. Governor Lemanu thanked the people of American Samoa for their trust and said they will do their best as government leaders.
PRIME MINISTER TUILAEPA SAILELE MALIELEGAOI
On behalf of his highness, the Head of State, Masiofo and the government of Samoa, the Prime Minister thanked Governor Lolo for extending an invitation to the leaders of Samoa to attend the ceremony.
He said the inauguration notes the importance of this milestone in American Samoa’s history as they salute and acknowledge the resilience, the wisdom and courage of your former leaders.
“Yet at the same time and perhaps more significantly, we celebrate the induction of the new governor and Lt. governor who will now take charge of steering American Samoa’s ship henceforward through the years ahead,” he said, adding, “Congratulations and well done.”
The Prime Minister also expressed sincere thanks to out-going Governor Togiola and his administration, saying during their tenure they had walked together, sharing ideals and upholding principles and values that are common to our Samoan people as well as investigating measures and processes beneficial to the two Samoas.
“You lend a shoulder for Samoa to lean on when we need it, in times of hardship, when Samoa was adversely affected by natural disaster such as the recent cyclone Evan.
The government and the people of American Samoa were quick to respond and out of the goodness of your heart, you gave abundantly both in kind and financially, which assisted our rehabilitation efforts and has consequently served to restore the homes to a number of people who were affected and displaced”.
Tuilaepa said the two Samoas have also rejoiced together in the triumphs of their sons and daughters in various sports, especially the Manu Samoa who have made both nations proud.
Lolo, who is also the President of the Red Cross of American Samoa, presented a check of $15,000 to Samoa’s Prime Minister Tuilaepa to assist the people of Samoa affected by Cyclone Evan, during the ceremony.
The former governor and his wife left the ceremony after a shared emotional moment with the crowd that sang a fond farewell of “Ua Tasi Lave Oe”.
Togiola, who had arrived at the inauguration in a black SUV with license plate “GOVERNOR”, then left in a black SUV with license plate “AGR 1” — marking the end of his administration.
Never mind computers. Back when Samoa regained independence, 52 years ago, the internet was barely imagined, faxes were still two decades away, and telex was high tech.
Maybe Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi is feeling nervous after all. His frank admission last week that his future as the Prime Minister is not entirely his call was yet another indication that maybe he’s feeling a bit vulnerable, after everything that’s been happening within his party.
The temperature was boiling, at about 3 o’clock in the afternoon, with the humidity reaching a ridiculous level, as it happens on these shores.
Come to think of it, the former Minister of Finance, Faumuina Tiatia Liuga, should not have cried like a baby back there on 16 April 2014, when he resigned.