American territory elects new Senate President

Veteran American Samoa politician and legislator Senator Tuaolo Manaia Eti Tuiletufuga Fruean has been elected the new Senate President.

Tuaolo told Samoa News in an interview on Sunday after his election that he has a lot of work to do to serve the Legislature, the territory’s government and the people of American Samoa.

Thanking his colleague senators for their confidence in him to lead the Senate for the next four years, he also expressed his appreciation to the members of the 36th Legislature and former Senate President, Gaoteote Palaie Tofau for their hard work in the Fono.

“It’s an honor to be the Senate President for the next four years. I’m overwhelmed when all senators put their trust in me to be their leader,” he said, reports Samoa News. 

“Who am I, Lord. I’m just a humble servant who knows nothing, but it’s my daily prayer that through the power of God, nothing is impossible and I can do all things through Jesus Christ who strengthens me.”

Asked about the challenges he now faces as the Senate leader, Tuaolo said the completion of the new Fono building will be a priority, as he had seen the location of the new building project and thought about how senators and representatives of the 37th Legislature will be able to do their work without an office.

He told Samoa News that he thought the new Fono building was going to be dedicated before the close of the 36th Legislature but that did not happen.

“This does not look good for honorable senators and representatives of the Legislature to walk around to find ways to do their work because there are no offices in place,” Tuaolo added. “I’m now the President of the Senate and I will do my best to finish the project and dedicate this new Fono building before the 37th Legislature is over.”

In relation to the territory’s economy, its people and the territory’s political status, the new Senate President told Samoa News that there’s a lot on his mind that needs to be done for American Samoa and he now has the opportunity to serve the territory and its people.

On the territory’s constitution, Tuaolo said that there are laws on the books that the Fono either needs to revisit or take off the books. 

He said the territory continues to progress and there are old laws in the statute that are no longer applicable to the current generation, though he did not specify which laws he was referring to.

As to calls for another Constitutional Convention to determine the future of American Samoa, Tuaolo said this is one issue that many people have asked him to look at. 

The Senate President added that there are decisions by the American Federal Government that affected the lives of people in American Samoa, and the Constitution needs to be revisited to determine what political status is right for the people.

“I believe that it’s time for us to have a serious discussion about our political future because if we don’t do it, somebody else is going to do it for us and we’re not going to like that,” Tuaolo said, reports Samoa News. “I disagree that the relationship with the United States is all good. 

“It’s great but there are issues that impact our ability to function as free people such as the mandatory minimum wage law passed by U.S. Congress with absolutely no say by our people, and also the issue of citizenship.

“I believe that our people must choose what our status should be. We have to know what we want. We need to strengthen the legality and stability of our relationship with the United States.”

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