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Frmr. Guam Congressman and (ret.) USMC Gen. Ben Blaz, Interior Deputy Assistant Secretary Papaliitele David Cohen chat with Aumua Amata
Amata Aumua and Ireland's Prime Minister Bertie Ahern. At the White House Shamrock Ceremony, Ahern presented the Irish shamrock to President Bush to symbolize in a very special way the bonds between the Irish and American people. Following the ceremony the White House held a reception with an elaborate spread of food and drink to celebrate Saint Patrick's Day 2007. Said Amata, "Speaking as a proud Samoan with a wee bit of Irish heritage, it was truly an honor and I thank the President for including me."
Amata's Pacific Notebook: HAPPY B.O.R. DAY!
Reprinted from The Samoa News
December 14, 2007
by Amata Aumua
On December 6, President Bush issued a proclamation for Human Rights Day, Bill of Rights Day and Human Rights Week 2007. Saying "Americans value deeply our ability to speak, assemble, and worship freely," he called on us to "celebrate the freedoms guaranteed to all Americans and protected in our Constitution's Bill of Rights."
With all due respect to Samoa News and our other media outlets in American Samoa, I doubt news of this presidential action got any attention when the proclamation was announced. Don't feel bad because it didn't get much play stateside either � it never does. And that's too bad.
Presidents have been proclaiming Bill of Rights (B.O.R) Day since Franklin Roosevelt started the tradition in1941 to remind us of our precious freedoms just eight days after Pearl Harbor. December 15 was chosen because it was the anniversary of the date 150 years earlier in 1791, when the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution went into effect after they had been ratified by three fourths of the state legislatures. While the Constitution itself largely deals with the structure and obligations of the federal government, the Bill of Rights enshrines the rights of the people.
When our Samoan forefathers negotiated to become a part of the United States, they did so with the understanding that the U.S. would protect certain aspects of our culture that might be in conflict with the Constitution. Where the foundation of the U.S. Constitution, and especially the Bill of Rights, is individual freedom, the underpinning of our society is community responsibility. We are an unorganized, unincorporated territory, as defined by the Supreme Court, precisely so that the entirety of the U.S. Constitution does not need to be applied to us. Fundamentally, that distinction enables us to maintain our communal land system, which is essential to the survival of our culture.
Nonetheless, the fundamental protections the U.S. Constitution guarantees to all Americans apply to us. That includes most of the Bill of Rights, especially the First Amendment, which guarantees freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly and our right to petition our grievances to the government.
Over the years some provisions of the Bill of Rights that we did not initially apply, such as the Seventh Amendment right to trial by jury, were tested in court and applied. Others, like the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms, have not been tested--although there is a case pending before the U.S. Supreme Court that challenges similar restrictions on private guns in the District of Columbia. That case might impact our gun control laws, depending on the decision rendered and how it is written.
Two other amendments that I think are worth noting here are the Fifth Amendment, which prohibits private property to be taken for public use without just compensation and the 10th Amendment, which states that "the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people (emphasis added)."
One might argue that the Article IV, Section 3, clause 2 provision that gives Congress "the power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the territory or other Property of the United States (which was written before the Bill of Rights) trumps the 10th Amendment, but that ignores the explicit obligations of the United States under the Treaties of Cession and the historic deference the Congress has accorded local self-government. In the final analysis, however, it is the job of the Supreme Court to sort out conflicts in the Constitution and interpret the Founding Father's intentions and the actions of Congress. This is not an inconsequential question because it goes to the basis of our self-government and what that means.
With the blessing of Congress, for example, can the Secretary of the Interior at the stroke of a pen convert these islands into a national park and re-designate the governor as park superintendent? I remember my father as governor about 25 years ago led a group of local leaders to Washington to have ratified some amendments we made to our American Samoa Constitution by a constitutional convention. In informal meetings with U.S. officials, which I sat in on, the group learned that if an Act of Congress were needed-as was required by law-then Congress might be forced to address aspects of our constitution that might be in conflict with the U.S. Constitution and be required to make modifications that might not be to our liking.
Even if not addressed by Congress, there would always be the danger that, as Jake King did with jury trials, someone could file suit to overturn an Act of Congress ratifying our constitution as being unconstitutional. At that point, my father, a Georgetown University trained lawyer, saw the wisdom of withdrawing the document and returning home without further pursuing our amendments.
So, let us celebrate Bill of Rights Day for the individual freedoms we are guaranteed under ours and the federal Constitutions and for our freedom to practice our traditional culture as guaranteed by our constitution and the respect and deference provided to the Treaties of Cession. I for one choose to believe the 10th Amendment in particular gives us the basis for self-government, which we must be vigilant to see that "we, the people" preserve and strengthen. That is why we must resist any attempts by Washington to "re- federalize" our territory incrementally, thereby eroding the self-government we have fought so long and hard to achieve.
We can ensure that we remain in control by exercising yet another fundamental right we are guaranteed as Americans: the right to vote. If we are dissatisfied with our system, let us not dismantle it without thought when through the ballot box we have the power to require our leaders change course or, if necessary, change our leaders. Fix the leaders and we fix the system.
Happy 216th B.O.R. Day. Read them, study them, embrace them and exercise them. They belong to all of us.
As always, I welcome your thoughts and comments. Write firstname.lastname@example.org or call 699-9609.
Reprinted from Samoa News
Amata to announce whether she's running for the congressional seat after the Holidays
by Fili Sagapolutele
With less than 12 months before the November 2008 general election, there are already speculations about possible candidates for the Congressional race, now that incumbent Faleomavaega Eni has confirmed he is seeking re-election.
One candidate, who has been in the congressional run in past elections is Aumua Amata Coleman. Samoa News asked Amata as to her plans for next year's election; if she is running and what would the focus of her campaign platform be.
"I think for candidates to announce plans so early in such a small community as ours would be a disservice to the voters, who I think would at least like to get through our joyous Holiday Season and celebrate the birth of Our Lord in peace before having to think about politics," she said yesterday. "In short, it is customary to wait for an election year to state one's intentions, and I will honor that custom."
"Having said that, I must tell you that a lot of people have asked me to consider offering my candidacy for Congress in 2008 and I have promised to listen carefully to their arguments and take soundings of my own," she said. "I have been listening to my supporters from 2006 and this weekend will consult with my village elders in Pago Pago and Nuuuli. Then over the Holidays I will talk with my family."
Amata said she is very concerned with our future and senses the deep frustration of people who have spoken to her about the uncertainty of our economic future tied to the tuna industry. She said voters have also expressed concern "at what appears to be a weakening of our self government and have spoken of their despair over the lack of teamwork among our leaders."
She said a fautasi crew that paddles in opposite directions stands still in the water.
"In the end, it is all about making a difference," said Amata. "If I believe I can make a difference in the lives of our people and the people want me to offer a different vision for the future, I would be willing to try if I have the blessing of my family, the support of my village and the commitment of my previous supporters."
During the past two elections, Amata has taken strong lead in several polling stations, including those in Manu'a and outlying villages, against the incumbent.
Amata's Pacific Notebook: RUNNING WITH THE 'BIG KAHUNAS'
Reprinted from Samoa News
Although some reformers have expressed dismay at the outcome of this month's midterm elections in the Northern Mariana Islands there was at least one seed of change planted in the results.
First, I would be remiss if I did not congratulate the CNMI Republican Party for regaining its customary majority in the House, which it lost four years ago to the upstart Covenant Party. In January, Republicans will control at least 12 and possibly as many as 15 of the chamber's 20 seats, depending on the outcome of one recount and the expectation that two former Republicans who ran as independents for tactical reasons will caucus with the majority.
The wave of change expected by some pundits in the wake of the commonwealth's well known economic troubles did not materialize. The next legislature will be dominated by re-elected incumbents and seasoned former legislators-including two former Republican speakers returning to public life, not a sea of new faces.
However, it is one of the newcomers, Tina Sablan, who has drawn much of the media attention for her unlikely victory against all the odds. The Northern Marianas shares some similarities with American Samoa: the populations are roughly the same size and so is the proportion of local born people to immigrant populations. Moreover, the politics of both territories still is very much family based and the political climates have not been hospitable to women candidates for office in either place.
In order to win, Tina had to overcome not only her gender but the lack of two maternal family lines, because her mother is neither Chamorro nor Carolinian, the two native ethnic population groups. Moreover, Tina is only 26 years old, so her political experience is quite limited. Making the odds of her success even longer, she chose to forego the traditional trappings of campaigning, such as village meetings, billboards and newspaper advertising, in favor of weekly citizens forums' and skillful use of the internet. Further, she held no rallies or fund-raisers and eschewed party affiliation.
While she ran a decidedly low budget affair, she did not lack for free media, what with her passionate, two-year long crusade on a number of issues, which won the attention of both the press and the politicians. Although she fell short on the number of signatures needed to put an Open Government Act on the referendum ballot, she did force legislators to adopt some milder reforms on their own. And her petition effort to reduce the legislature to part-time status also fell short due to lack of time to gather enough signatures.
At the same time, however, her active support for gubernatorial runoffs helped propel that measure to passage and a lawsuit she co-filed with a senator prompted the CNMI Supreme Court to reapportion the House districts just before the election to better reflect population shifts since the last census. Two new house seats were added in the process.
In the face of all obstacles but aided by her tireless activism, Tina, on a platform of government openness and reform, managed to win a seat in the lower house, edging out an incumbent and a former incumbent, among others, in a multi-seat electoral district. She has been described as tireless and well prepared on the issues.
Now comes the hard part. There is a whale of a difference between campaigning and governing. If she continues to play the role of a gadfly outsider inside the House, she runs the risk of being marginalized. She will need to decide if she wants to be the focal point for the disaffected among the citizenry or build a record of legislative achievement on their behalf. It would be difficult to juggle both roles, even for a veteran politician.
She is one of only three independents coming into a House that is steeped in the tradition of the party system, where parties prevail. Like the U.S. Congress, it is a system in which the parties will pass out committee assignments, determine member budgets and allocate staff resources. With the membership being overwhelmingly affiliated with one of the three parties, the three independents will have little leverage to force attention on their proposals.
So, Tina has some important decisions to make. She can either remain a true independent or caucus with one of the parties. Of course, if I were advising her, I would urge her to caucus with the Republicans, because the voters apparently perceived them as the agents of change. Whichever party she chooses, however, if she works hard to learn the system, burrows in and focuses on some issues where she really can make a difference, she likely will have a far greater impact than by being an agent provocateur who might find her political career over in two short years. There is no reason she could not do that while remaining consistent with her principles.
History has not been kind to women legislators seeking re-election in CNMI, even those who were affiliated with a party, were part of the majority and worked within the system. And Tina will be mindful that her narrow, sixth-place finish in a six- seat district was not exactly a mandate, given the overall tenor of the election. History also teaches us that in a democracy, change usually comes from within.
Tina also has another constituency to think about: the other young women in the commonwealth who might be inspired to follow her into politics. Those young women will be watching to see if she now can run with the Big Kahunas who will dominate the legislature as the commonwealth moves into the gubernatorial phase of the election cycle.
And we'll be watching in American Samoa, too.
As always, I welcome your comments at - email@example.com
Tusitusiga a Amata e uiga i le Pasefika: Fa'ailoa atu ma fegalegalea'iga
October 26, 2007
Ina ua fa'aalia i se matai po'o se tama matua mai atunuu i fafo ia se fa'afanua ma faasino iai le vaega o iai atunuu o Samoa, ina ua mae'a ona tau autilo lenei tama i tama'i motu o Samoa, sa ia fesili loa, 'o ai na tusia lenei fa'afanua?"
E ui i le le fiafia o lenei tama i le laititi o motu o Samoa i luga o fa'afanua, ae peitai ua mafai ona faamaonia mai, le na'o le .3% o tagata i totonu o Amerika, o tagata o le Pasefika (e aofia ai ma tagatanu'u moni o Hawaii). Ia manino, e le o le tolu pasene ae tolu vae sefulu o le pasene e tasi. Ma i lena fuainumera, e to'alaiti lava, o tagata SAmoa.
O lea, e le fa'ate'ia ai le loto, ina ua saunoa se tasi o taitai faalemalo, e latou te le'i silafia, o iai se atunuu ma ni tagata ua ta'ua o Samoa. O lona uiga, e tatau ona o tatou taumafai atili. Ma o le mafua'aga lea e fesoasoani ai le molimauina o se tala i luma o ni nusipepa tetele, e pei o le Chicago Tribune po o le Washington Post, e uiga i alo o Samoa o lo'o tautua i totonu o le militeri, po o ni alo o Samoa ua ta'uta'ua i totonu o le fa'agatama lea o le 'football'.
E moni ua tele ni tagata ta'uta'ua o Samoa i totonu o fa'agatama, e pei o 'football', lakapi, o le sumo ia ma le alii ta'uta'ua lenei o le 'Rock', ae a tu'u ma i tulaga faalemalo po o tulaga faapolokiki, o lo'o tele pea se galuega ua ta'atia mo i tatou. E moni o lo'o iai le susuga Senatoa Daniel Akaka mai Hawaii, se tasi o tagata Polenisia ta'uta'ua i totonu o Uosinitone, faapea ma le susuga Mufi Hannemann, le pulenu'u Samoa i Honolulu, ae ui i lea, e manaomia pea ona tatou galulue malosi e pu'eina avanoa ua mafai ona tu'uina, e mafai ai ona iloa i tatou i totonu o le lalolagi faapolokiki.
O lona uiga, a faasea vaega faasalalau i faigamalaga a tatou taitai lotoifale, i atunuu i fafo, ou te le lagolago pe afai e aoga lea lava faigamalaga mo Amerika Samoa, e pei o le faigamalaga lata mai a le afioga i le Kovana Sili, Togiola Tulafono ma nisi o taitai o Samoa, i Guam mo se fonotaga a le Initeria. Sa mafai foi ona ou auai atu i nisi o fonotaga i atunuu mamao mo aso e sefulu.
Sa mafai ona ou auai atu i se fonotaga a le 'Western Republic Leadership Conference (WRLC)' i San Diego po o se fonotaga mo taitai a taitai o atunuu i le itu i Sasa'e, na mafai ona auai ai le tele o taitai o setete ma teritori i le itu i sisifo. Na tele ni mea taua sa mafai ona maua mai i lenei fonotaga, ma sa avea ma avanoa lelei ou te toe faamanatu atu ai i le kovana o Kalefonia, o Arnold Schwarzenegger, le siisii o le fuainumera o tagata Samoa i totonu o le setete o Kalefonia, aemaise lava le nofoaga totonu na faataunuu ai le fonotaga.
O le vaiaso lava lea e tasi sa faia ai ma Fa'aaliga o Tu ma Aganuu o le Pasefika lona 13 i le nofoaga lava e tasi sa faia ai le fono a le WRLC, ma sa mafai ona ou auai atu ai foi, e toe faafouina masaniga faapea ma le faavaeina o masaniga fou ia ma le auina atu o ni tala i aiga ua leva tu'ua si o tatou atunuu. Na toatele ni fanau talavou Samoa sa fananau i Kalefonia sa mafai ona o matou feiloa'i, ma o le toatele o i latou e le'i o'o mai lava i Samoa, ae peitai, o le lotonu'u ua loloto ia i latou, o se tulaga sa maua ai le agaga mafanafana.
Ou te iloa, ou te tau le aoaoina le komiti a le PIFA sa tu'ufaatasia lenei fuafuaga, i auala e mafai ona faalauiloa atu ai o tatou tagata. Ua iai nei so latou nofoaga autu i le Ski Beach, ma sa sologa lelei polokalama uma na fuafuaina mo le to'a 150,000 na mafai ona malaga atu e maimoa i faafiafiaga ma galuega taulima faapea ma le taumafa i gaosiosiga faa Samoa faapea ma isi atunuu o le Pasefika. Sa mafai foi ona auai le pulenu'u a a San Diego i le tatalaga aloaia o lenei polokalama, ma sa ia tauaaoina atu ai i le PIFA se fa'ailoga e aloaia ai le Aso Pasefika.
Talu ai le taua tele o San Diego ia Amerika Samoa, ona o le nofoaga autu o kamupani gaosi tuna a Amerika, sa ou taumafai ai e asiasi atu i taitai o lenei pisinisi aua se malamalamaaga atili i faafitaui o lo'o feagai ma i latou i le taimi nei, talu ai siitaga o totogi amata faapea ma isi siitaga o lo'o loma. O le a mafai ona maua se auiliiliga o nei fonotaga i se taimi mulimuli mai, ae sa ou fiafia lava e maua lenei avanoa ma ua iai se fuafuaga e toe asia San Diego i se vaitaimi lata mai.
Na iai se faamoemoega e fa'aauauina lau faigamalaga aga'i i Oceanside, Carson ma Torrance e asia nisi o aiga ma uo, ae ou te le'i auai atu i seisi fonotaga i Palm Springs, peitai sa mauaina se valaaulia mai i le tamaitai kovana ia Lingle mo se fonotaga mo taitai tamaitai (4th annual international women's leadership conference), o lea na ou toe fo'i mai ai i Honolulu mo se aso e tasi e auai i lenei fonotaga, ina ia mafai ona iai so tatou sui i lenei polokalama taua.
I lea lava fonotaga sa mafai ona valaaulia ai e le kovana nisi o taitai tamaitai mai Hawaii, mai i atunuu eseese ma sa tofu lava nei taitai ma se mataupu taua sa mafai ona o latou faasoa mai e tusa ai ma a latou galuega, ua mafai ona suia ai le lalolagi mo le lelei. O se fonotaga faagaeetia loto, ma sa tele ni aoaoga taua na mafai ona ou maua mai ai.
O se tasi o mataupu taua sa mafai ona ou maua mai i lenei fonotaga, o auala e mafai ona fesoasoani ai le toatele o tamaitai/tina i isi tina i totonu o a latou galuega. Ua ia i tatou le tiutetauave e fesoasoani ai i fanau tuputupu a'e, ina ia mafai ona tula'i mai i latou ma avea ma taitai o le lumanai.
As always, I would be glad to have your comments. E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Osini Faleatasi Inc. dba Samoa News reserves all rights.
Republican National Committeewoman
P.O. Box 1178
Pago Pago, AS 96799
October 24, 2007
Amata says Territories may gain importance in GOP voting
Washington, DC. A recent decision by the Republican National Committee may increase the influence of the five U.S. territories in the selection of the Republican nominee for president next year, according to Aumua Amata, Republican National Committeewoman for American Samoa and a member of the party�s Committee on Arrangements for next year�s national convention in Minneapolis.
"I participated in a conference call this week," said Amata, "in which [RNC Chairman] Mike Duncan advised us that the five states that have decided to hold their delegate selection processes ahead of the earliest date permitted under the party rules (February 5, 2008), will forfeit half of their votes at the convention."
If that decision, which must be approved by the full RNC, holds, that means the votes of the territories will become relatively more important. Said Amata, "The five territories combined (American Samoa, Guam, Northern Marianas, Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands) will send 59 delegates to the convention. If we were a single delegation, it would have been the 12th largest. Two states larger than us, Michigan and Florida, are among those losing delegates and because of that the five territories now would have the 10th largest delegation."
Just how important the territorial delegates become will depend upon events still to unfold. Guam is scheduled to hold its convention February 16, while the other four jurisdictions will have a "Super selection weekend" on February 23-25. "It had to be done that way to factor in the international dateline," said Amata.
"It is quite possible that one or another of the candidates will have wrapped up the nomination by February 5, at which time about half the delegates will have been chosen nationally," Amata explained. "However, if no one has a majority, the delegate hunters are going to be looking around to see who is left and all of a sudden they will discover the territories."
In 2000, four of the territories (CNMI was not yet affiliated nationally) coordinated their election dates and, after splitting New Hampshire and South Carolina, both the Bush and McCain campaigns made spirited efforts to win territorial delegates. In the end, President Bush carried all 26 votes to put him ahead of Senator McCain for good. In this highly fragmented field this year with resources limited and so much at stake on February 5, no presidential campaign has mounted a similar coordinated effort so far.
"We have had exploratory calls from campaign delegate head hunters," said Amata. "So, that all could change. Thanks to subsequent rules changes and the addition of the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas, those 26 delegates in 2000 have grown to 59 next year."
Amata on Breast Cancer and Women's Health
October 23, 2007
October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Although many strides have been made towards defeating this dreadful disease, there is much more to be done and I am afraid we will be observing breast cancer awareness month for many years to come. While awareness of breast cancer is high nationally, a new survey released recently by the National Breast Cancer Coalition (NBCC) reveals potentially critical knowledge gaps among American women and a sense of urgency about the nature of progress required in the research and treatment of breast cancer, which is expected to claim the lives of some 40,000 women in the U.S. this year.
In addition to releasing the survey, NBCC has launched the Breast Cancer Caucus, calling on the Presidential candidates of both parties to detail their specific approaches to breast cancer research, prevention and care as well as outline their plans for universal health care. The results of the survey give additional impetus to NBCC's efforts to draw attention to this disease in the political campaign. For my part, as a delegate to the Republican National Convention next year, I will be asking these same questions of the candidates and members of their campaigns who will be seeking support from American Samoa. I urge the local women Democrats to do the same.
Closer to home, it was very distressing to learn last week that, in the absence of trained technicians, LBJ has suspended indefinitely its mammography program. It is particularly disheartening that this announcement would come during National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
As I mark 15 years in my own survival from breast cancer, I think back to 1992, when we had no mammogram machine here at all and am proud to have sparked an effort to obtain one by forming the Samoan Women's Health Initiative, which I affiliated with NBCC. Now, it seems we have gone back to square one. No matter how great our equipment might be, we must have the trained personnel to operate it and I urge LBJ to do all that it can to remedy this situation as early as it can.
Meanwhile, on a more positive note, in Washington last week there was a Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Health and Well-Being Summit. While not focused on women's health issues only, it was a welcome event that included small group visitations with Members of Congress on Capitol Hill. Not being in Washington at the time, I was not able to participate in the summit, where I would have raised the problem of training and keeping qualified medical personnel, but I am certain that topic was addressed.
As many people know, my passion for bringing our island health care system to stateside parity stems from my own brush with breast cancer 15 years ago. Had I not had access to mammography in the states, I probably would not be here today. It was only at this point that I became aware that we had no mammography on island and organized a grassroots effort among our women eventually led to the purchase of a machine.
When President Bush took office, he appointed me to his Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. The Commission took on as its major project a study of health concerns in the AAPI communities in the states and territories. We held a number of field hearings around the country, including one in Hawaii. In the spirit of OMB Directive 15, I successfully fought for a separate chapter devoted just to Pacific Islanders.
I remain passionately devoted to the cause of raising the quality of Pacific Islander health care. Although my term on the President's Commission expired in 2004, I have continued to communicate with my contacts in the White House, in the executive branch agencies and on Capitol Hill. I also continue to be the American Samoa lead contact for the NBCC, an organization that deserves a lot of credit for working wonders to increase the flow of federal dollars into breast cancer research.
Much more can be done. Much more must be done.