2 Jul 2010

American Samoa governor advocates local powers

1:23 pm on 2 July 2010

Controversy surrounds a decision by the American Samoa Constitutional Convention to try and put the terrritory's economy and welfare above federal law.

The amendment was proposed by the Governor, Togiola Tulafono, who pointed to the minimum wage imposed by Washington against the wishes of the territory's leaders.

Some members of the public feel the presence of the Governor during voting swayed the result, suggesting a secret ballot may have produced a different outcome.

But Togiola says the amendment is consistent with the Deed of Cession in fostering what is best for American Samoa.

"If our legislature and our government is able to say 'I'm sorry but this law is hurting the people of American Samoa' and with all due respect but you know it will not be enforced, then that should be the case, no more no less."

The Governor says he understands Congress is unlikely to accept the provision but he says it would provide an opening for negotiations with Congress on the problems caused by the federal laws.

The territory's member of the US Congress, Faleomavaega Eni Hunkin, opposed the proposal, pointing to the funds the US has poured into American Samoa in the last ten years.