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Samoa: One Nation, Two Failed States
Wednesday, 09 July 2008 02:48
by Andre Vitchek

To fly from Samoa (formerly Western Samoa) to American Samoa — two utterly remote split-nation island territories in the South Pacific — used to be extremely easy and cheap. One only had to drive 5 kilometers from the capital – Apia – to the small village of Fagalii, to buy the ticket, chat for a while with fellow travelers sitting on plastic bags and outdated suitcases, go through some sort of improvised security and passport control, then board a little propeller-driven aircraft to Pago Pago, capital of American Samoa, a 20 minute hop, favorable winds provided.

Nowadays, the tiny Twin Otter of Polynesian Airlines takes off from the international airport of Faleolo, opposite Upolu, a 40 minute drive from Apia. It is considered a regular international flight and to board it, one has to face the habitually obnoxious and incompetent staff of Polynesian Airlines, pay a departure tax, present a boarding pass to the guard, pass through passport control and then through an onerous security check (by contrast, in American Samoa, passengers to Samoa do not even have to pass a metal detector). Prices for this short hop have skyrocketed to US$140 round trip, a fortune for would-be local “commuters”.

The Twin Otter is all that is left of the Polynesian Airlines fleet that once flew Boeing 737-800s to Hawaii, Sydney, Auckland and elsewhere. They went bust leaving a single Dash-8 turboprop, connecting Apia with Tonga and servicing the tiniest country on earth (in terms of the population) – Niue. Mismanagement did not stop there and the Dash-8 was repossessed. Service to Tonga and Niue was suspended and now Polynesian Airlines have only one remaining destination – Pago Pago. The 737 had been repainted in new colors – Polynesian Blue – and transformed into a budget airline that often charges more than what it costs for a first class ticket for a similar distance in the US and elsewhere. The airline is partially owned by Australian budget carrier Virgin Blue; other shareholders are the Samoan government and the Aggie Gray hotel chain.

Known and very popular cialis coupon which gives all the chance to receive a discount for a preparation which has to be available and exactly cialis coupons has been found in the distant room of this big house about which wood-grouses in the houses tell.

Immigration procedures are now so complicated because of the diplomatic saga that began in 2005, when Attorney General of American Samoa, Sialaga Malaetasi Togafau, proclaimed that he had tightened immigration rules because the 14-day permit allowing citizens of Samoa to enter U.S. territory of American Samoa had been abused. “Issuance of such permit,” he said, “would only be granted to those who qualify: business people and persons who need to travel urgently for medical reasons or to attend funeral.” The Attorney General also asked Samoan authorities to begin pre-scanning permit applicants.

What was not pronounced but widely understood to be a cause of Mr. Togafau’s decision, was that at the time when the ruling was made, approximately 600 Samoan illegal workers (out of about 1,000) were overstaying in American Samoa. Many of them were laboring in two large tuna canneries on the outskirts of Pago Pago.

Injured pride (Samoa is well know across the Pacific for its extreme nationalism and glorification of its culture) led to retaliation. Samoa declared that all visiting American Samoans would need to obtain travel permits and pay the entry fee, which fluctuates between US$10 and US$30, depending on the mood of government officials.

Western Samoa, shipwrecked nation

Regulations keep changing and are often ambiguous. The U.S. Department of State defines entry requirements of American Samoans to Samoa as follows: “U.S. nationals who are not U.S. citizens, and who are resident in American Samoa, must obtain a visitor permit prior to all travel to Samoa.” U.S. nationals have not been permitted to travel to Samoa on certificates of identity since May 2005 except on a case-by-case basis. U.S. law distinguishes between individuals who are citizens and those who are nationals. The U.S. passport bio-page indicates whether one is a citizen or a non-citizen national. From March 22, 2006, visitor permits to travel to Samoa can be applied for at the new Samoa Consulate General office in Pago Pago, American Samoa.

American Samoa’s Governor Togiola Tulafona has called Samoa’s entry permit a “revenue generating permit.” He notes that many Samoan citizens come to American Samoa to earn a living, while very few American Samoans go to Samoa with the intention of staying. The war of words and diplomatic gestures has been going on ever since.

Probably the most embarrassing chapter of the conflict was the case of MV Lady Naomi that arrived in Pago Pago, capital of American Samoa in October 2006, carrying the National University of Samoa rugby team. None of the players had the necessary entry permit. Attorney General Togafau of American Samoa fined the operator of the vessel, Samoan Shipping Corporation, US$20,000, and prevented the young people from disembarking.

The issue of the fine was subsequently settled, mainly on a technicality, since none of the rugby players actually stepped on American Samoa’s soil. But the incident indicates just how poisoned the atmosphere between two Samoas has become. Separated from each other across the ocean by just a few dozen kilometers, inhabitants of the two countries feel that their ties are increasingly severed. Fragmentation of the Pacific cannot serve the interests of its impoverished inhabitants.

Samoa, the region’s first independent country, having gained independence from New Zealand in 1962, has over 180,000 inhabitants. With US$ 2,593 GDP per capita it is still very poor, considering that it has some of the highest prices in the world. Among numerous paradoxes is the fact that it provides international organizations with inflated statistics while fighting a decision by the World Bank that it is ready to “graduate” from Least Developed Country status (LDC).

Protest in front of Samoan parliament

Most of the long-term economic growth comes from remittances. Although slightly declining in 2007, remittances still represent approximately a quarter of the country’s GDP. According to Island Business magazine (Cherelle Jackson article, 2007), “Remittance receipts account for a growing percentage of the country’s GDP, according to the World Bank… 41.9 percent of Tonga; 26 percent of Samoa’s and 6.7 percent of Fiji’s GDP. ‘The cash that immigrants send home is a vital source of income for the daily survival of Pacific Islands households,’ said Dr Manjula Luthria, a senior economist with the World Bank’s Pacific office.”

Needless to say, American Samoa (a so-called “unincorporated” U.S. territory with 66,000 inhabitants) is one of the main magnets for economic migrants from Samoa, given the location of two of the world’s largest tuna processing factories that provide relatively higher wages in US dollars. Its GDP per capita is 9,041 (2005), approximately 3.5 times higher than in Samoa, although well below the U.S. poverty rate.

Immigration from Samoa is massive: according to New Zealand government statistics, in 2006, “131,103 people of Samoan ethnicity lived in New Zealand, about half of all those with Pacific ethnicity.” Further tens of thousands live in the United States, Australia and elsewhere. Samoa has what is called a ‘Samoa Quota Scheme’ with the Government of New Zealand where up to 1,100 people can legally migrate annually. Besides, Samoa is one of four countries benefiting from a recently launched seasonal workers scheme. Overall, there are more Samoans living abroad than in their own country.

There are many reasons, beside economic causes. Samoa is an extremely oppressive society, combining imported democratic principles and tribal rule of so-called “matais” (chiefs). Ordinary citizens are tightly controlled by the chiefs, the churches, including Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses, which are building enormous temples after extorting cash from the population, and the family.

Samoan government officials

Suicide rates are very high in both Samoas. Sexual abuse and rape of children are among the highest in the world. So is domestic violence and violent crime in general. While the local press reports grizzly cases of murder, it generally avoids publishing statistics.

A cover story from the Samoa Observer on May 8, 2008 is typical: “A father of nine is in police custody for allegedly kicking his wife’s face, killing her, last Friday morning, at Faleu Manono… He was trying to wake up his wife, Elisapeta Lei’atawa, 49, to fetch the milk for their grandchildren. But she said something to him so he kicked her on the jaw, . . .”

Earlier this year, Supreme Justice Patu Tiava’asu’e Falefatu Sapolu allowed a 19 year old “babysitter” to go free after he confessed that he was playing with the genitals of 3 years old girls. The judge ruled that the girl was not a virgin, anymore, as shown by expert witnesses, at the time when she was abused by the babysitter. There was no investigation as to who took the virginity of the child or when this occurred.

As Radio New Zealand International reported on November 01, 2007: “… The head of American Samoa’s criminal investigation bureau says up to 90 percent of child sex abuse cases in the territory go unreported.” RNZI quoted Commander Va’aomala Sunia as saying sexual abuse of minors is increasing every year, the vast majority of it happens within families.

American Samoa child abuse prevention poster

In Samoa the situation is much more serious, as there are no outside watchdogs that are allowed to bark. The rules of the game are these: “if you don’t like our way, then get out!” The international community in Apia is fully complacent, busy playing politically correct games of giving legitimacy to the feudal system. In a tremendously complex area populated by Pacific island nations, foreign donors and development agencies are desperately trying to create at least one star performer. Samoa had been designated as that star and, by avoiding scrutiny, the country gets away with almost everything. Any criticism invariably encounters a standard reply: “It is our culture and the Samoan Way”.

Boredom is another reason why many opt for emigration. There is not a single bookstore in the entire country of Samoa unless one counts a “bible shop” which calls itself “bookstore”, and there is but one cinema. Apart from religion and sports, locals have few other avenues for recreation. As a result, alcoholism and teenage pregnancies are serious problems. Samoa may be a paradise for a few mainly retired foreigners who call it home, but it is hardly a paradise for the great majority of Samoa’s people, despite the fact that they are constantly bombarded by nationalist and often xenophobic slogans. Fa’a Samoa – the Samoan Way – apparently justifies everything.

Going abroad is often the only escape for enterprising locals, but it often comes with an extremely high price tag. Families whose brightest sons and daughters go to foreign lands expect to be supported and showered with cash and gifts. It is a well known fact that those who refuse to send large sums of money first receive “warnings” from family and if they continue to ignore them, then next comes the curse designed to destroy health and life of the rebellious ones. Samoa is a very superstitious society and curses are taken seriously.

Naturally, there is a severe brain drain. Almost anybody who is confident and educated - leaves. A country whose main economic activities are remittances and foreign aid is simply unable to hold young and enterprising people. While tourism is becoming an important source of income (Samoa with its stunning natural beauty is now the third largest magnet for international tourism in the region, after Fiji and French Polynesia), its growth is not swift as the country is still known for its hostility towards foreign investors, as well as for the lack of transparency and complicated customary laws.

When the Twin Otter takes off from Faleolo International Airport in Samoa, the traveler is treated to one of the most beautiful views in the world: transparent turquoise water of the ocean, corals and the enormous island of Savaii with its volcanoes. Then, as the plane slowly turns, rusty tin roofs appear under the wing, together with the garbage and unmistakable signs of poverty and decay. Driving along the main roads, one sees neatly trimmed grass and bushes, as well as flowers. But from low altitude, it is possible to detect the reality of the back alleys.

Spectacular Samoan natural beauty

If there are no clouds, then it is possible to spot enormous gorges and waterfalls plunging from great heights to the lush greenery of the jungle – something one expects to see in Venezuela or Guyana, but not on the relatively small island of Upolu, in the middle of Pacific. There are no roads to some of the most beautiful areas of this stunningly beautiful country.

American Samoa is a 30 minute flight by slow propeller plane from West Samoa. The largest island where the plane lands – Tutuila – often described as a green dragon rising from the sea. As with Upolu in Samoa, it is one of the most beautiful places in the Pacific. But it has its own basketful of problems.

The first thing one spots after leaving the airport are enormous signs advertising 24 /7 McDonald’s, fully equipped with a brand new McCafe. Pizza Hut is across the street. That itself would not be strange by Pacific Island standards: McDonald’s is also one of the main ‘attractions’ in Apia, Samoa, owned by the Minister of Tourism. The clerk at the car rental agency helpfully confides that Pizza Hut and McCafe are the best places to eat in the country. True, the food in both Samoas is awful, but Big M as a gourmet’s choice?

Unlike Samoa, American Samoa sees hardly any tourists; a strange phenomena considering its amazing natural beauty. The only decent hotel, Clarion Tradewinds, is usually occupied by US military, advisers and local honeymoon couples. To make sure that nobody misses the point that this is - to some extent - the U.S., a huge stretch limousine is parked in front of the hotel entrance. In the several days that it took to compile this report, the limousine stood idle, blocking one of two available lanes in front of the hotel, as if to send some powerful message.

Food is hardly edible even in the restaurant adjacent to the hotel. Local eateries around the airport (that’s the location of choice, as Pago Pago is turning into a tiny “inner city” in the U.S. urban tradition) offer huge greasy cheeseburgers and mountains of fries. The only relatively healthy dish, a chef salad, is hidden somewhere at the back of the menu and costs much more than bacons and corn beef (favorites in both Samoas), as well as burgers and anything else that is loaded with cholesterol and calories. Cokes are served, Texas style, in something resembling sizeable fuel canisters.

If food is expensive in American Samoa, in Samoa it is simply outrageously overpriced. American Samoa is fully dependent on American imports, Samoa on frozen low quality food from New Zealand (mutton flaps and chicken feet being among the favorites). Spam (some with “halal” marks, rejected by one of the Arab countries and produced just about everywhere, including Brazil) is considered a delicacy in Apia.

In both Samoas, obesity is common and people, even by U.S. standards, are reaching tremendous proportions. In Apia, I was told that many men die when they are in their 40s. If they make it to 50, that’s a sign that they will reach old age. FAO experts, with whom I discussed the situation, were deeply concerned about the lack of education and awareness among Samoan population, regarding the food they are consuming. The most serious problem is diabetes, which has made inroads at alarming levels, although check-ups are random and hardly any reliable statistics exist. There are even amputees.

American Samoa. Will the children be better off?

Both Samoa and American Samoa hardly bother to grow anything or to fish. Instead, they are dependent on remittances and aid, although being a territory of the U.S. - American Samoa is technically not receiving “foreign aid”. A generally lacklustre agricultural sector leads to a situation in which people in Apia and Pago Pago have access to an extremely limited selection of local fruits and vegetables necessary for a healthy diet.

Five years ago I had the good fortune to be driven around American Samoa by Tofoitaufa Sandra King Young, who described herself as “the only politician in American Samoa who seriously believes that the territory should be aiming at independence”. Mrs. King was Deputy Director for the Department of Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs during the Clinton Administration and she was a staff member of the Gore/Lieberman campaign in 2000.

She explained the very negative impact of the culture of dependency on American Samoa, but noted the difficulty of finding solutions to the problems. Apparently, the Kennedy Administration had been shamed by the U.S. press for “abandoning the territory”, for investing very little in its social system and infrastructure. A huge influx of funds apparently followed, but years later, the target of criticism had shifted to the excessive influence that accompanied funds from the mainland.

In the 21st century, American Samoa is a very sad place. With few employment opportunities, there are hundreds of illegal workers. Local youth aimlessly hang around the capital city, which increasingly resembles U.S. ghettos: abandoned and burned down buildings, general disrepair, population outflow to the suburbs, lack of services, and graffiti ‘decorating’ the walls of the houses. The only hotel in town had to close one of its wings because of a lack of guests.

Burnt out building in downtown Pago Pago

Behind barbed wire, the “United States Reserve Te’o Soldiers Support Center” offers a suicide hotline number posted near the entrance, together with other emergency telephone numbers. American Samoans are dying in disproportionate numbers, in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is difficult to compile exact figures but, by the time this report was written, at least 15 American Samoans had died in Iraq. The death toll is tremendous, considering the population of the territory (only 66.000 people). And tens of American Samoan soldiers come back mutilated, while the devastating combat experience forever marks hundreds.

On March 5th, 2006, when the death toll was still much lower, NBC News acknowledged that American Samoa is a recruiter’s dream. They come around, explaining benefits for the young people to sign on, including such attractive perks as100 percent paid college tuitions. But the NBC reporter summarized:

“Hidden by the staggering beauty of this island is a per capita income that is below the U.S. poverty level. Most wages are low, and there are relatively few employment options for young people. The only big employers are tuna canneries and the government. For many residents, the military is the best — and perhaps, the only — way out…
But American Samoa has paid a heavy price… It has the highest per capita death rate of any U.S. state or territory.

Among the victims was 22-year-old Tina Time, who was killed in a desert convoy accident. In the Samoan tradition, her crypt lies in front of the parents’ house, bedecked with flowers.

Inside the house, her mother, Mary Time, has erected a memorial shrine, featuring many of Tina's glamour photographs, medals, sympathy cards, and condolence letters from President George W. Bush and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

With three other children in the U.S. military, Mary Time still supports American involvement in Iraq — despite her daughter's death.

"She didn't die in vain. We need to complete what we started, and I'm with the president that this war is for a good cause," Time says. Looking at her daughter's photographs, and wiping her eyes, she adds, "I miss her, she was a good girl."

In fact the death of Tina Time became a symbol of senseless loss of the lives of so many young Pacific Islanders. One of her obits circulating on U.S blogs talks about her being a bright student and a member of the choir. But it also feels obliged to explain to American readers what American Samoa is and where it is located.

In American Samoa, yellow ribbons are everywhere, as well as stickers on car bumpers saying “Support Our Troops in Iraq”. On one of the most picturesque parts of the island, an enormous banner reads: “May Peace Be With Our Samoan Soldiers in Iraq. God Bless You All.” U.S. flags are everywhere. Surprisingly, they are also attached to cars in independent Samoa, which, in accordance with the New World Order Gospel, is staunchly pro-U.S., anti-Communist, anti-Chinese and stalwartly religious. On the streets of Pago Pago, even at the beach, children are playing with plastic toy machine guns.

One of the most shocking images of American Samoa I encountered was that of a man wearing a T-shirt saying “NAVY – Celebrate Life”, sitting at the back of the boat plying between Aunu’u Island and Tutuila and turning a toy gun in his hands. Profound depression and confusion engraved his face.

As an old lady on remote Aunu’u Island explained: “Many people want to serve in the US Navy or army. They want to make money but they also want to join the army to escape boredom – to experience adventure that they are being promised. Many people here are very poor, working for 3 dollars an hour. We have over 400 inhabitants on the island, but every week someone leaves for the U.S. To some it doesn’t matter what they are going to do on the mainland: whether they wash dishes or go to the military barracks.”

American Samoa: Celebrating the American way

Leaving American Samoa, there is, surprisingly, no security check (a security machine is used only for flights to Hawaii, not to Samoa). The airport building is old and shabby. This is the same airport where a Hawaiian Airlines Boeing 767 broke its wheel when landing on a runway full of debris a few years ago.

Despite everything, much beauty remains
Another magnificent flight provided tremendous vistas. But at both ends of the horizon were two countries dividing one nation, one people. One country ruled by an ancient and oppressive feudal culture, another a “protectorate” of empire, but still shockingly poor. By comparison, French colonies in the region are wealthy relative to American Samoa. And the gap between the two Samoas is growing. Alas, there is no movement on either side that would promote unification. In a few years, the two Samoas (and their peoples) may become too different to call themselves a single nation.

Andre Vltchek is a novelist, journalist, filmmaker, playwright, editorial director of Asiana Press Agency, cofounder of Mainstay Press, and a senior Fellow at The Oakland Institute. He is presently living and working in Asia and South Pacific. He wrote this article inApia and Pago-Pago. Hecan be reached at: andre-wcn@usa.net.
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Comments (51)add comment

maria said:

very interesting
very good read and its so true. am a samoan living overseas myself and find this very interesting.
July 09, 2008
Votes: +0

Gary S said:

Please look in the mirror
Nor American Samoa nor Samoa asked for 2 separate Samoa's.

This was decided in far away Berlin between the "superpowers" in the late 1900's without Samoans present. Before "they" divided us up, we were happy people living off the land and sea and florished so much so we were called the Navigator Islands because of our travels.

The white man came with his "ways" and told us we are here to help you. Help us what? Who brought the turkey tails, lambflaps and other fatting foods?? The whiteman sends these to poor countries to make money(these are not sold in their domestic market). Who brought pornography to the Samoan people to teach us child sex? (You do not see Samoans in these XXX movies). Who brought cigarettes, alcohol and drugs to the islands? These are not local island grown or manufactured. The only thing the whiteman was interested is our commerce. The quick exposure to western ways without educating our people to the evils have ruined our way of life.

History proves my point:
In Samoa, the New Zealand government murdered our people during the influenza outbreak from the "ship of death" (which they let into Samoa) killed 1/3 the Samoan population (only NZ citizens were innauculated), they shot our unarmed Samoan leaders for peacefully standing up for their rights(cold blooded murder), those not shot were exiled to the Micronesian ISland, many Samoans born during the NZ rule are denied NZ citizenship because of race and the list goes on.....

The United States of America (with all its talk of Democracy) played war games arund Manu's when the Tuimanu'a refused to acknowledge the Berlin Agreement to force his hand 4 years later. The US did not allow the American Samoans a legislative voice for 40 years. The US sent us disfunctional US Navy captains to rule us and this list goes on....

If we seem disfunctional, depressed or lapsing we did not get here by ourselves, but WE GOT LOTS OF HELP from the smart, powerful "powers that be" all over the world. This has been the same all over the Pacific. The whiteman comes in with promise of "help" screws it up and then blames the locals for the troubles. The only ones being "helped" are the countries these evils come from, which consequently are the same ones who promised to "help us".

SAMOA IS UNIFIED, just not in your sense of the word nor according to your logic. Our families travel back and forth no matter what our governmental leaders do. The great majority of our Samoan people still maintain our strong ties. We are ONE PEOPLE with two governments (imposed by the whiteman). Our Fa'aSamoa still rules and the whiteman can learn from us. We are a peaceful and loving people.

Your article is very shallow and not well documented. You need to look deeper when speaking about our people and speak about what the whiteman has to done to the entire Pacific. We can all learn alot from HISTORY.

Oh by the way, the average Samoan male life expectancy is 71 year

July 09, 2008
Votes: +0

Helen Tagaloa said:

Ou te mimita o au o le Samoa (proud to be Samoan)
I am a Samoan and am very sad and upset to read your article and opinion on the two Samoa’s. I agree with a lot of what you say about our islands but disagree with other comments as well, I am very proud of the Samoan people and culture where family and God are the most important things in life. Despite the influence of the European people and size of the islands at least the culture and language still exists today, you only need to listen to our people talking our native language while going about their day to day business to realize this language has survived through many years of outside influences where many other languages have not. I believe the Samoan people are one of the most loving, generous and humble people you will find where ever you go in your travels, and despite your negative opinion of our islands, if you have no food, water or shelter, I guarantee a Samoan family will step up and help you out.
July 09, 2008
Votes: +2

John Hazelman said:

Voice of Samoa from the Philippines
Talofa lava. Faafetai tele atu lava (thank you very much) Andre Vltchek for your stimulating article. We Samoans are proud of our countries and our faa Samoa (way of life). Andre, you have raised some interesting points (mostly factual) regarding our two countries, however, it is obvious that your judgements are largely influenced by your Asian American or whatever perspective. Perhaps your article would have carried more weight if you had attempted to try and remove your 'stranger' glasses and learn to see things from the Samoan people point of view. Your article has raised significant issues regarding the two countries ... issues that needs to be addressed... like fair wages, child abuse, the burden of the faa Samoa when abused, young Samoans living in droves etc,. On the other hand, your perspective is heavily influenced by your capitalistic and individualistic mentality that seems to neglect other significant communial values. The article is unbalance ... with a stronger negative tendency and fails to highlight the positives that are happenings.

Overall, thank you for raising significant issues.
July 09, 2008
Votes: +1

Larry Fuss said:

American Samoa
Good article, but it overlooks many of the problems in American Samoa. Especially the corrupt government. As the recipient of millions of dollars in U.S. funds every year, the local government spends much of that money friviously.

One correction - you say "the only hotel in town had to close one of its wings because of a lack of guests." Not true. It had to close because it literally fell in. The Rainmaker Hotel was run by the local government. And like everything else run by the local government, it was mismanaged. The person running the hotel had no hotel management experience, but she WAS related to a high-ranking government official.

July 09, 2008
Votes: +1

Jack said:

Wait a minute!
Nice article very balance in positive and negative about the islands and the way of lives there. But one thing though, you are not Samoan and have no idea how we love our islands and our people. We came thru hard times and still going strong even with more hard times ahead. Even though we have our FaaSamoa (Matai) System that most of the outsiders considered old fashion and very controlling of the lives of the people, the truth still stands that Samoa (both) islands are the most peaceful in the world and still have their freedom of the FaaSamoa.
July 09, 2008
Votes: +0

Lady T said:

Temporary resident
I was truly pleased to read this article. I have been living for the pass year here in American Samoa with my teenage son, and have been thoroughly disgusted by the treatment he has received from the local teenagers here. The children here are a reflection of what Samoans are about, which tells the real story. They are deceitful, sneaky, and will steal anything nailed down! Samoans are very skilled at portraying to be a friendly people, but are really lazy, spiteful, and very conniving. They will back-stab their own, if a dollar is involved. The nepotism, corruption, and work ethic here is profound. I believe your article was kind. I can truly understand why their existence is like it is today.
July 09, 2008
Votes: +0

Tourist said:

I visited a friend in American Samoa for about 3 weeks, and was floored by the awesome beauty of the island. As a tourist, I didn't find the people to be very friendly, and was disapointed with the living conditions. A teacher I met while there (on contract) who taught high school, informed me, that the freshman's read at a "3-grade" level, and the quality of education was below poor. It was a pleasant visit, but it's definitely not a place I will return to for vacation.
July 09, 2008
Votes: +1

Blue True Samoan said:

This has made interesting reading, but once again, Samoa has been portrayed through the eyes of a non-Samoan. Samoa and American Samoa are like many other nations, with sometimes corrupt and selfish politicians. But a true blooded Samoan survives on their faith in God and the belief in their culture. We have too many so-called writers getting rich on patronising our nation. Yes, Samoans are no angels, but where in this greedy world will you find a perfect group of people? I'm looking foward to reading more articles from you about other (bigger) nations.
July 09, 2008
Votes: +0

SlickNick (previous resident) said:

There's so much more...
Very interesting reading your article. Yet there is so much more you've left out. It's true, American Samoa seems like a third world country almost. The bad roads, stray dogs, floods, etc. Where is the funds to clean it up? In the pockets and bank accounts of your high and mighty politicians. So I agree with a previous poster, you missed all the corruption that takes from the Samoan people. It is a shame that American Samoa is connected to the United States and still lives at a poverty level. Kids are still feeling the realm of corpral punishment, which was band around 10 years ago. Many of the people close their eyes to the things such as abuse, crimes, etc. That is why the Island itself is deteriating. people don't care. You also forgot to mention the perks one gets when you carry the right name, or know the right person. The Samoan people accept being treated like lower class citizens, and that's a shame. Yet as one person wrote, this upcoming generation is what Samoan's are all about. I've seen first hand the racist actions, opinions and views that the Samoan people carry to heart. Mr. Vltchek, you did hit so much on the nose with some of the stuff you wrote, but other stuff you should speak on experience. Live amongst the Samoan people learn first hand, like I did. Oh, and by the way..Your shipwreaked photo is not in Western Samoa. It's in American Samoa going towards the village of Amauli.
July 09, 2008
Votes: +0

Reticulo said:

The causes
All the problems described in this article certainly exist here in Samoa. Things are undoubtedly worse in American Samoa. American Samoa receives a billion dollars from the US Government every four years. Can you imagine a 65,000 person down, even in the poorest region of the US getting that level of financial support yet still having such severe problems? Why is this? While it is obviously more complicated than the following description, the main problems are:

- The local polititians get elected by promising prominent family and village members jobs (as well as cash payments)
- The polititians follow through (in order to be re-elected) by ludicrously overstaffing government offices in order to give the promised people jobs. About 1/3 of the workforce is government employed. Can you think of many 65,000 person towns where 1/3 of the workers are employed by the city?
- Despite (or maybe because of) the overstaffing, nothing gets done. I work in a government agency. Today, about half of the employees showed up and by noon some of those had gone home. The departmental boss came into work at 2:30pm yesterday, and is not likely to appear today. Of the remaining workers, only 3 out of about 10 that remain would even pretend to do a job if one was assigned to them. There is no accountability. Once you get the government job, it is like having a no-work job arranged by the mob, and nobody is going to take it away from you. Even if a director wanted his or her staff to work and fired the non-working employees, that director would be removed by the governor, due to political pressure and the jobs would be returned (with back pay).
- Just plain stealing from the government by the directors and employees is rampant.
- People steal because they feel like they have to. The churches in Samoa are like organized crime. Every family is pressured to give a large portion of what little money they have to the church. If a fa'alavelave (any event requiring a large cash donation such as a wedding or funeral) comes, the pressure to steal in order to pay the ridiculous sums of money is huge. Many, many people live in squalor and subsist on potato chips and taro, while donating large sums of money to a church with a multi-million dollar building and a pastor making $60,000 per year with frequent trips off-island to "conferences".
- The education system (and everything else) is underfunded due to the corruption that wastes the massive pile of cash that American Samoa has to work with. As a result, if you have graduated high school in American Samoa (something that many US 6th graders could easily handle) you are qualified to teach public school children. When students are being taught by 18 year olds who have been taught by teachers that are not competent or knowledgable, let alone certified to teach, what do you expect. Why don't they hire qualified teachers? It is hard to get a teacher holding a masters in education to teach in American Samoa for $14,000 per year.
- The US government provides very little oversight of the grants that are issued to the American Samoa Government.
- The court system here completely caters to those in power. If you commit a crime as an immigrant or poor American Samoan, your punishment could be 15 years. The same offense committed by a matai (chief), will earn probation.

Unitl the U.S. Government establishes tight controls about how the grant money will be used and sends US Government employees to oversee this issue, it will never get better.
July 09, 2008
Votes: +1

Jack Reardon said:

What B*(&*^*()(
This is Bullshit
I am a US citizen from California, and have been living hear for about 12 years and do agree with alot of what you had to say; however SUCK A DICK.....
July 09, 2008
Votes: +0

Fred Castro said:

A Limited Perspective
Excellent criticism of two countries. Since you are so apt to criticize please follow-up your article with proposed solutions.

My comments will only reflect my knowledge of American Samoa. I am simply a tourist in the Independent State of Samoa.

I have first hand knowledge of every criminal case prosecuted in American Samoa from July 2006 to September 2007. Seeing as how 99% of all cases are handled by the Public Defender in American Samoa (my former job) I can tell you that your statistics about the crime rates in American Samoa are dead wrong. During that time there were two murder cases prosecuted. Please feel free to compare that to US statistics of a town with a similar population.

There were approximately 150 felonies charged during that timeframe. Many crimes in American Samoa that are considered felonies are misdemeanors in other areas, or not crimes at all. (e.g. stealing more than US$100 of goods or money, throwing a rock at someone and missing (Assault 2), and the infamous public peace disturbance)

For example I had a trial where one person was convicted for public peace disturbance for calling another person a coconut head. A white person might think that is no problem at all. A Samoan might consider that a grievous insult.

I say your comments are typical because they reflect an early stage of development of an outsider's view. When palagi's (white folk) come to American Samoa usually they attribute the failures, poverty, and general mismanagement to the culture.

That disappears once you get to immerse yourself in a culture that is dedicated to the importance of God and family. The broad generalizations that you make about the culture appear to be stories told to you by one or several people.

Unfortunately as you may have found out there is little statistical data about the islands here that can be trusted. Why?

Who cares about these little islands in the middle of nowhere?

The answer to that is the people who live here.

I have thought long and hard about the problems here. My question was always is it worse here than first world countries? Is there more corruption?

The answer I have come up with is a definitive "no". This is a personal observation and not based on anything statistical or scientific but I feel that since this is such a small place that quite frankly anything makes the news. Even this article. Because of that if anyone gets caught with their hands in the cookie jar so to speak, everyone else on island gets to know about it. Is the Lt. Governor of American Samoa federally indicted because of his culture? Was a policeman charged with stealing a television from a crime scene because his matai told him to?

I would encourage Mr. Vltchek to come back to either of these states and spend some actual time living here. Go gather some coconuts or help prepare the umu for tuna'i. Go to church and see if there is extortion, but most of all be prepared not to judge. Just live and learn.

Then you might think differently about a culture that you (and I) know nothing about.

Fa'afetai tele lava,

Frederick J. Castro, Esq.
July 10, 2008
Votes: +0

mozart said:

Jusst great Mrs VitchKE, people are always right in their own perspective I suppose but one thing Ive learnt from being a journalist for sure is that ...the more I look around the world these days the uglier it gets, even the people. Its true but I just never liked the idea of telling everyone about it. But I guess, its just how you like to perceive the developing island nations. The past has been very tough but they are still in there so thank you Mrs VitcKE!!!!
July 10, 2008
Votes: +0

terry_tavita said:

very limited perspective
read in the NZ Herald last Friday about an 80-year old was attacked her home in Auckland by some youths. They took off with $28.90 cents and some cheap jewelry. Does that make New Zealand society a bunch of granma bashers? Don't think so.
Don't really like these fly-by-night travel writers and most probably, many Samoans have passed thru this article and couldn't be bothered to comment. It was also printed a fortnight ago in the local daily and I've yet to read any correspondence about it.
Like everywhere else in this world, we too have our share of problems. But the important thing is that we're trying to address them, best we can.
In this world where nobody cares about anybody, there's also a lot of good about Samoa, Samoan and faasamoa.
Respect for elders for one as you will notice in something as informal as riding in a bus.
In regards to Church,tithing has little to do with any form, of extortion. We're a giving people of strong Christian faith. If an old woman gives her last penny to the Church because it makes her life more fulfilling, then who the hell are you to judge and criticize?
We all went to Uni Mr Writer, we all have degrees, we all think we're smarter, wealthier than the next person down the road or across the ocean. The world is very simple, the more knowledge you think you have, the less you actually know.
And wealth is not all measured in material possession.

You have a pleasant day.
July 10, 2008
Votes: +0

Alfredo said:

The two Samoas
In Mrs. Vitchek's article, The Photo with the old wrecked Vessel refers to Western Samoa. This vessel is in fact in American Samoa witjh the Island of Anu'u in the back ground.
The author should have spent more time in American Samoa before she jumped to some conclusions. For one, the Rainmaker Hotel was literally managed in to the ground by A lady that by rights should have been charged for destruction of property. They walked away from the hotel while some diehard guest ramained in some of the rooms. The old Hotel has been vandalized to the point that it will take untold millions to bring it back to life.
The person responsible for most of the discontent between the two Samoas is where he rightfully belongs. Deceased. The damage has been done with very little effort by the local government to mend the fences between the two Island Coumtries.
What the Churches do not control in American Samoa is not worth mentioning.
The poor people are raped of their meager earnings, as well as their identies. They are forced to give until it hurts, and there is not a dammed thing that they can do about it. Thus the high suicide rate mentioned by the writer. No one bothered to mention the rampant drug problem which prevails, and is controlled by people in high places. This extends to the police department as well as in other areas of government.
Human trafficing abounds, and this is encouraged by some government officials who get rich by sponsoring slavery. Nothing is being done to prevent the rampant abuse in amny and all areas.
July 10, 2008
Votes: +0

Andre V said:

1: I'm a dude
so stop calling me Mrs.
2: So I misspelled the governor's name and may have let a few "inaccuracies" into this peice...
3. Does the name Vltchek sound asian to you?
4. Check out my profile, you can see that I'm a dude and white.
5. Can I get some money from the governor?
July 10, 2008
Votes: +0

UKboy said:

Andre Vltchek is a twat
Reading your article and some of the comments above I cant believe that some people acctually find what you wrote very good. This has to be the most under reasearched piece of work I have ever read. In fact I am very insulted by some of your harsh comments. Hatred seeps through your negative views and this is what makes what you said so unsubstantial and just a load of rubbish.

It seems that you came to Samoa with your Euro-Amero-Centric views and analysied our country with your ignorant western colonial eyes. It is said before you can truly understand another context that you must be willing to submerge yourself in the culture that you are observing. Not just come over and point out all the problems with your stupid unreflected views. You think we dont know what are problems are without you telling us??

Wow, you are great at pointing the problem at all the issues but what about solutions. Yes you are right in some respects to the issues facing both Samoas, but your analysis and reflection on this is all totally fucked up.
Now that you have run back to the western country, back to your comfort zones of post modern world and you leave us with this over genralised, filled with assumptions, under reflected piece of rubbish article only good for wiping my ass with it and flushing it down the toilet....So where are your solutions... Why do you share with us your neo-colonial solutions or ideas, to help us poor natives make our country better....

Andre Vltchek your article is totally Fucked up! and I am surprised that anyone in this world would want you to work for them.....

Go Fuck yourself!

With love a Samoan in the UK who was so bored that he had to leave his country for some excitment in his life....And who is so over supersticious that he fears his family curse for not remitting money! (over genralised rubbish!)

July 10, 2008
Votes: +0

Koko Samoa said:

Nothing New Under the Sun!
All the problems listed by this writer are, in some shape or form, rampant every where and in every nation under the sun. And it's worse in the author's own backyard - the bad old US of A.

One glance at the local newspaper or look at the evening news, and it's enough to depress you. If you look at the high crime rate - corporate corruption, bribery, murders, rapes, incest, divorce rate, teen-pregnancy, abortion, drugs, and not to mention the failed school system with high school graduates who can't spell, do math, science, etc., etc. Moreover, they're importing doctors, engineers, scientists, technicians, etc., etc., because thousands of American college students graduate and can't compete in the job market with better educated foreigners! Wow, don't you have your own problems to solve Mr. Vltchek?

Now if you were smart, spend your life and resources helping some poorly educated kids in your inner-cities (there are thousands of them in the US), or volunteer at a homeless shelter (there are hundreds of them in the US), or be a part of a career counseling center for young single mothers who didn't quite make it through high school (there are thousands of them in the U.S), or volunteer to rehabilitate those criminals filling prisons, (there are millions of them in the U.S).

When you've done that and have gained some wisdom, report back to us with some time-tested and well-though-out solutions for the Pacific islands. Until then, you probably carry a chip on your shoulder from a run-in with some Polynesians in the bay area. Or may be you're just a "hating and racist, whites-only" person who's out to prove a point that Samoans should vacate those beautiful islands they don't deserve to inhabit (in your article you talk about the beauty of Samoa but destroy any hope for its people), so American resorts, hotels, and casinos can be build for your enjoyment - Boy what a shame that they have turned, just to mention a few places, the Carribean, the Bahamas, and Hawaii into a play ground for the rich and famous and keep the poor locals tucked away in the hills from the tourists!

To quote the war cry of our ancestors before they won our independence from the white colonists, "Samoa mo Samoa!" Thanks for pointing out the depravity of the human condition - now that's universal and this Samoan is one of the millions on planet earth who are trying real hard to find better solutions for some of these problems!

July 10, 2008
Votes: +0

Mark Hales said:

As a former Assistant Attorney General of American Samoa
There is so much beauty in the land and culture, but so many problems with the corruption. There is no easy solution, but changes need to occur.
July 10, 2008
Votes: +0

Benny Tasi Lua said:

Palagi Chief of Lions Park
Hey Andre, do you really WRITE for a living?

I'm not going to attack the content of your article, but after accessing your writing style I wonder: Did you graduate from Tafuna or Samoana High School?
July 10, 2008
Votes: +0

Louie the Fish! said:

Chief Tae Povi
Andre you poor misguided fool! Sure all those problems do exist in both Samoas, but not to the level they exist in the USA, so you mainly missed the boat. Most folks there are having way too much fun to notice. No Uncle Sam hanging over your head, beauracrasy that can be overcome with a smile and a shared brewsky, and lots of clear warm sea to dunk yourself in any time the politics gets too much.
My wife is Samoan and we grow lots of food, right in Pago village! I fish a lot, so we eat better there than I do in this confounded super expensive hellhole of Honolulu (they drive better in Pago also). We dont do McDonalds. No need when there is Sadies, Tisa'a Barefoot Bar, and some fabulous small guest hotels with first class quisine, not to mention all the great Chinese and japanese restaurants in Pago, plus the open market, plus all the folks selling fruit and fish along the roads. You obviously did very limited and slanted research, hung out with disgruntled hoy paloy who fed you a lot of bullshit! Next time get down with the people when you visit a place!
Are young people bored? About as much as they are anywhere...comes with that age. I am 64 and never bored where there is water and fish. I hike up the streams of both Samoas in pursuit of native jungle perch on the dry fly, and any day doing that is pure magic. I spear fish all over the reefs, even right in Pago harbour, where I,ve poked Dogtooth tuna up to 60 pounds right in front of the hotel..... hard to beat that as a dive destination.
I can hang out at the infamous Pago Pago Yacht Club, play blues, talk story, and marvel over the view of Rainmaker Mountain and the bay.
Is there corruption? I am sure there is, because Samoans are quick learners and the USA has been throwing money at them for decades, and, by example, showing them how to steal, mismanage, extort and mis-use Federal funds for years. No wonder they got good at it!! In actual fact the money going to American Samoa is only a fraction of that stolen on Guam.
You talk about the churches. I agree that some are not to my liking, but in your limited, slanted bugs eye tour of American Samoa, did to stop in at the Catholic Cathedral at Fatu Ainga? Well if not, you missed seeing some great art, including Duffy Sheridans massive super realistic oil painting. He does portraits for the Queen of England!
And you probably never took the time to fly out to the Manu'a group. Ofu/Olosega are island jewels, with super alive reefs teeming with fish, seldom visited by idiot, near sighted, biggoted tourists like you, but many in-the-know Europeans bee-line it there, to stay at Marge's Vaota lodge, one of the last best most pristine places in the whole South Pacific.
I lived there 20 years, but had to move to Honolulu to get burglarized for the first time. There are areas here you dont want to walk around in, but I can walk thru Pago village at 3 in the morning without any fear. We have homeless all over Honolulu, but Samoans would never allow someone to sleep on the street...... they would invite him in!! You should go back to American Samoa this month to see them host the South Pacific festival of the Arts, probably on a shoestring, but i bet they do a good job. I have twice had the privilege of being a delegate from AS to two Arts festivals, and travelling with that fun group was a hoot!
Andre, you are just a dumb Palagi, who wrote a dumb article based on a short trip, hanging out with the wrong crowd. And you are not even a good writer....insult to injury! Get a life!
Louie the Fish! (www.louiethefish.com)
July 10, 2008
Votes: +0

Frank Afa'ava said:

This is not the most well written/researched piece ever. But come on, just saying that the author doesn't understand Samoan culture (fair enough) doesn't take away the problems raised in the article that are absolutely factual.

Does it matter that he got one picture of a depressed looking guy with a Navy shirt on? Of course not.

Is it true that the financial situation in American Samoa is a disaster? Of course it is true.

Comments to the effect that everything is just fine here and the author just doesn't get it are simply false. (unless you're in the oligarchy where the money ends its uphill flow)

Change is definitely needed. If the Territory re-elects a federal criminal (who stole from the Territory's education department), the outlook looks very bleak.
July 10, 2008
Votes: +0

D. Halleck said:

Poly does suck, that is true.

Fly SPEX! We're only 90% incompetent!
July 10, 2008
Votes: +0

puh-lease said:

The problems here do NOT go on to the same extent on the mainland. That just isn't even close to being true.
Last week, there was a news story about how AS imports 90% of its food and needs to grow more.
First class cuisine? Now we've gone totally over the deep end! And the driving? Unless AS has also switched sides of the road to drive on, there's no reason anyone should regularly swerve into the wrong lane repeatedly while going seven miles per hour.

Get real! Samoa is a paradise in some ways, and this article was not focused on any of that. But, it has REAL problems that don't exist even in inner city ghettos in the US- which could be solved, but pretending they don't exist will absolutely not help.
July 10, 2008
Votes: +0

afeleki said:

I agree with Jack Reardon, your negative article is boredom embodied.
July 10, 2008
Votes: +0

Willy Reardon said:

Louie. You mentioned Ofu. Shhhhhhhh. Let the lames think this is all bad.
July 10, 2008
Votes: +0

Faipopo said:

more on impartial
Your right, unification is not on the agenda for the two Samoas. I even feel weird calling them the two Samoas. While ur article is highly opinionated and negative, it splits skin leaving the entrails exposed. Ms. King is a visionary with what she mentioned in your article. I generally agree over the travel issue you pointed out. American Samoa's government is to be blamed for this debacle. They have no diplomatic skills, and don't see the ramification of their actions.

Samoa's retaliation was justified. I lay full blame on American policies in place and MR. Vltchek your article does not point this out. Yes, you are a liberal, showing your opposition to the war in Iraq (by the way thank you for your insight on American Samoa Soldiers), but you don't root out which aspects of American failed policies makes it difficult for the territories. I like that you pointed out JFK, but thats in the late 60s. It is 2008 Mr. Vltchek, time to reassess your viewpoint to recognize the forces at play here.
South Pacific is a big place, separated by miles on ocean. Your view usually becomes invalid after you arrive at the comforts of your home, way over there somewhere, who cares. But your attention towards Samoa about a birds eyeview, generalized and impartial in a palagi sense.

Samoa still remain separated from Am. Samoa. One Samoa is necessitated by the distance American Samoa is located from the U.S., which is about 5000 miles. Common sense to you, yes, but pure politics for me. One Samoa is enough, American Samoa are you listening. Look to Africa and their border problems, look to America with their border problems, all around the world they separate from each, but they forget that they are no different from any other country. One love from the faipopo.

July 10, 2008
Votes: +0

Robert Stuart said:

Im actually late for an appointment with my patient trying to write this piece...this article is really bothering me now!."DUDE" you owe the people another article...one that will convince me not to curse you to your bones and stop you from blindness. Curse exists in both islands and the people posess the power to control it...its what I do for a living. Kago i ou seevae ma aumai lau ako ka o i le aoga si ou akalii fo'i.
July 10, 2008
Votes: +0

Tavita said:

Problems do not equal failed states.
Ok, here is my take on the article; there are problems in American Samoa like obesity, over dependence on the U.S. and imports, but at the same time the author has exaggerated many of the problems and just because there are problems, albeit serious ones, it doesn't follow that we have "failed states" on our hands. Below are some quick comments.

1. While a large percentage of the population did greet McDonalds almost like the second coming there are good restaurants in the Territory, Sadie's restaurant being one of the best. Louie the fish (above) has it right. Perhaps given Mr. Vitchek apparently short stay he missed them.

2. He complains about the price of a ticket between the two Samoa's, join the club, but it is directly related to the skyrocketing price of oil which was $148 a barrel the last time I check. This is a world wide problem that can hardly be placed at the feet of Polynesian Airlines. In addition, he fails to mention that American Samoa has two local airlines that serve the Samoan Islands, InterIsland and South Pacific Express.

3. As far as the security check to Samoa, an issue he brought up twice, my experience is that, while a metal detector is not used, hand carried bags are checked and that the local Port Administration is developing a comprehensive security plan which will include U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) personnel conducting security checks with metal detectors and x-ray machines for all flights out of the airport.

4. He says both Samoa's hardly bother to grow anything or to fish. It is certainly not true in Samoa which has a thriving produce market and fish market, and while there is definitely room for improvement in American Samoa there is still a fair amount of agriculture going on. In addition, one can find locally caught reef fish and tuna in the many small stores (my wife is partial to alogo) and locally caught fish is served in the restaurants. For instance, one can get a big plate of the freshest sashimi (raw yellow fin tuna) in the world here for about US $12.00, and even local dishes like faiai fe'e (octopus in coconut cream) are sometimes served. Too bad for Mr. Vitchek that he missed this.

There are also traditional fishing practices still going on like the catches of atule (big eye scad) at Fagasa and other villages that brings in thousands of fish per run. (And there are other popular ocean resources that are harvested like the palolo (which surface once a year in October/Nov) as well numerous shellfish year round. Actually, if there is any kind of a problem with regard to fishing it is that there is too much pressure on the fishery, but I doubt Mr, Vitchek spoke with the Department of Wildlife Resources to find out.

5. The remark about the only hotel in town is incorrect. The Rainmaker hotel went out of business not because of lack of guests, but because it was run in the ground by the government. (A problem, fair enough, but not what he discussed.) However, a private company has revived one of the wings (now called Sadie's by the Sea) and there are two other hotel's in the harbor area the Sadie Thompson Inn and the Motu-O-Fiafiaga.

6. The whole "failed state" thing is off the mark. It is never defined and the last time I checked there is no civil war going on and no one is being bothered by death squads.

7. And having lived here for 16 years I can tell you that the tension between the two Samoas is grossly exaggerated. Virtually everyone has relatives on the other side and there is an annual meeting between the two governments where department heads from both sides get together to discuss ways to cooperate with regard to common goals.

8. The issue of poverty while an issue has to be put in context. Samoans, unlike Hawaiians, still own all of their land (except for Government land and a small amount of free-hold that dates back to 19th century claims from before Tutuila ma Manu'a became U.S. Territory.) So most American Samoans have land and many people still live in family housing, kind of a compound of houses owned by an extended family. There is no homeless problem to speak of in AS. In addition, there are no property taxes in American Samoa.

9. The issue of a feudal system is just ignorance. Mr. Vitchek could not possibly have a clue about how the Fa'amatai system works given his short stay. And the extended family system that is part and parcel of the Fa'amatai system ensures that no one starves and it's intergenerational nature ensures that there is care for children and the elderly. It is true that the demands of modern life and jobs are straining that system so now there are day care centers in American Samoa, but this a recent problem of trying to accommodate two cultural systems, not a problem with the fa'aSamoa per se.

10. The other thing that Mr. Vitchek does not consider is that when he bemoans the fact that a billion dollars is spent every four years on 66,000 people is that American Samoa is not your average U.S. small town population of 66,000. First, we are pretty much in the middle of no-where, so to the extent that one wants any type of modern product it has to be imported over an a rather large ocean. Secondly, how many small towns in the U.S. have an International Airport and International Port to run? How many small towns in the U.S. have to administer a immigration policy? How many small towns in the U.S. spend a million dollars a mile on shoreline protection due to rising sea levels? How many small towns have to import diesel fuel to run diesel generators to provide power for their population? (Most small towns in the U.S. are on a large grid powered by coal or nuclear power plants and have power rates between 8 to 10 cents a kilowatt hour, our rates are about 40 cents a kilowatt hour.) How many small towns have to ensure that there is an infrastructure in place to support two of the largest tuna canneries in the world? The canneries, just for instance, put a huge strain on our water resources that have to be pumped and piped to the canneries from wells about 20 miles way. And since there are no property taxes due to the complex nature of the land tenure system there is no revenue for schools so the U.S. provides much more funding for schools than in the U.S.. This is not to say that a lot of the money couldn't be spent in wiser or more efficient ways, but to simply compare American Samoa and it's population to the average U.S. town with a similar population is a false comparison.

11. Yes, jobs are a problem, the two major employers are the canneries and the local government. Yes, many young people join the military because of limited job opportunities. But what is the solution? We are an island in the middle of the South Pacific with few natural resources. What is the simple solution that this "failed state" of a Territory has failed to implement? Incidentally, the AS government in cooperation with private companies is going to hook American Samoa and Samoa to an undersea fiber optic cable (how this could happen in such a "poisoned atmosphere" is anyone's guess). This will provide much more reliable and much faster communication and internet connections. Once installed, (current plans have an installation date of March 2009,) it will be possible to establish "call centers" and hopefully other communication centered jobs. It will also allow increased access of video applications for on-line education, Tele Medicine, and various entertainment options. There is a good potential for a significant increase in jobs as a result of this initiative.

12. As far as the unification issue, that is unlikely to happen, not because the islands are "fragmented," or that there is a "poisoned atmosphere, or that there is a "growing gap," but because most American Samoans have done the math and have found that maintaining the current relationship with the U.S. is a better deal than becoming a minor part of Samoa (there was actually a Commission to Study the Political Status of American Samoa relative to the U.S. and the recommendation was to maintain the status quo); not to mention the fact that Manu'a was never a part of Samoa to begin with so the idea of "unification" for the people of Manu'a is a non starter. (There has actually been much more talk of Manu'a becoming a U.S. Territory independent from Tutuila than any talk of it becoming a part of Samoa.)

July 10, 2008
Votes: +0

Fotu said:

Shit stirring palagi ignorance
This piece is full of gross generalisations and misunderstood statistics made from a keyhole observation of a presumptuous outsider who fancies himself qualified to present the "hard truth" for the enlightenment of the world.

As a Samoan, I am quite livid, but then that's just my ancient, oppressive feudal culture.
July 11, 2008
Votes: +0

Tuimanu'a said:

Manu'a was never part of Samoa?
I agree with everything you say Davy, just the Manu'a part. Manu'a has always been a part of Samoa. At times the center of Samoa. The last time I was there, the Manua'ns spoke intelligible Samoan.
The problem is the Manu'ans ar4e a stuck-up bunch with a low opinion of Tutuila (some say was a penal colony for Upolu chiefs).
The only equals Manu'ans see are the royal families of (western) Samoa- Malietoa, Tuiatua, etc..
July 11, 2008
Votes: +0

Hawaii Boy said:

Sad but true
Very imformative article and very true. As a person of Samoan ancestory, I am proud of my culture. I have had the unique oportunity too have grown up living in both Samoas/Hawaii and the US mainland.
The problems that the two Samoa's face are real and exposed in the article.
Combine that with the failure of both Governments (blinded by pride) to address the problems will only make it worse.
There seems to be a lack of leadership and an abundance of corruption with the two entities.
The current Govornor of American Samoa has multiple members of his govt. (including the Lt Gov.) being investigated or charged by the FBI with felonies. He also failed to stop the Immigration problem that ensued with Samoa by coming to a compromise that would not hurt the travelling public.
He also tried unsuccessfully to force out the only airline (Hawaiian Air) that had consistantly served the islands from Hawaii for years. (probably to benefit himself) and not the travelling public. The list goes on and on ...........

In Samoa, the Prime Minister and other officals in Parliment decided after overwhelming opposition to switch thier automobiles/roads from LH drive to RH drive.
Not only was it a safety issue, but also a huge financial toll to many poor Samoan families, who struggle financially.
Another problem the author describes in the article is the poor state of Polynesian Airlines. Long a financial liability to government of Samoa, it should be privatised and rid of by the government.

July 11, 2008
Votes: +0

Sasauli Satele said:

"Dude you're a king of Dunces"
Well Dude...I'm glad you've clarified that issue yourself. I couldn't agree more with you on that, you must be a Dude because no women I know are this ignorant...So Hooray to Dude, the king of Dunces!

DUDE...All the issues and problems that you've mentioned in your articles are common struggles in every part of the world. And Samoa is no exception to that,...Surprise! We Samoans, both overseas and in Samoa are quite aware of the issues confronting our people. So PLEASE GIVE US A BREAK! Have you ever considered the fact that most of those issues confronting the Samoan people today are mostly caused by newly transported ideas, values, and forces from outside of Samoa. I guess not...too much for a Dunce like you to comprehend that.

It is mind boggling for me, trying to understand how you could write such a kakamimi article about my people and my culture using statistics that do not standup when you put them under any kind of scrutiny. The bottom line is that "You've "Fucked Up", Dude! You are just a dumb DUDE lost in his own Crappy world.
So my advice to you, DUDE,...take a crap before you take up another writing task, because holding all that bullshit inside you obviously has given you crappy ideas. This article about Samoa may be your crappiest work.

Muamua oute fa'atulou atu i o'u uso ma tuagage o Samoa. Ia malo lava le onosai. Aua le avea upu faifai olenei tagata ma se mea e fa'aleaga ai le va tatou Samoa. Also I like to acknowledge all of the Samoans and Palagis who have responded to this pathetic article, who live and call Samoa home,..."Thank you"
July 11, 2008
Votes: +0

Tavita said:

Samoan yet semi-autonomous
Yes, I got carried away. Manu'a is a part of Samoa and was once said to have dominated the western islands. Over time their influence diminished, but my understanding is that they maintained themselves as a relatively powerful semi-autonomous part of the group. As one historian put it "the inhabitants [of Manu'a] although not personally isolated [hence the sharing of language and culture], remained politically aloof from the main current of events in the rest of Samoa." Manu'a has a deed of cession that is separate from the one signed by the chiefs of Tutuila in April of 1900. Manu'a did not sign a deed of cession with the United States until July of 1904. American Samoa's Flag day has celebrations in April of each year, but the Territory also recognizes a Manu'a cession day in July. My point was that the people of Manu'a do see themselves as relatively independent and, though I could be wrong, there does not seem to be any great desire to become part of the modern nation state of Independent Samoa. If anything, because of their separate deed of cession, there has been discussions of trying to negotiate a separate relationship with the United States independent of Tutuila.
Nothing has come of it, but there it is.
July 11, 2008
Votes: +0

True Samoa said:

Dude are you really a writter??????? If you are then take your article and put it up your ass...Yes there are problems in both Samoas, but isn't it everywhere in this world..How could you come in my PARADISE and write negative comments about it...Dude get another job you kio...
Tulou ile mamalu, I just don't like the writter at all...
July 11, 2008
Votes: +0

Miyh said:

Vitchke spend time with the Samoa people then you will find out,they are true to there faasamoa and very proud of it..You owe the people a well researched article..
July 11, 2008
Votes: +0

Australian-Samoan said:

I know they you claim to be a 'dude' but you write like a bitch!(female dog not a women!) Just want to invite you to a holiday with me to Samoa soon if your intrested. The you can take off your western vision and we can emerse ourselves in Samoan culture. Then you can see what the real problems are and this time suggest ideas for change....

Well I am waiting for your response.... I have looked at other articles you have written but this has to be by far the worst piece of bullshit you ever wrote!

see you later mate!
July 11, 2008
Votes: +0

alohasholom said:

QMED any rating
It's easy to trash anybody else's culture from the outside but remember, your own culture may not look that attractive to those outside it and it may not be comprehended any better than you comprehend the culture you're not a part of. Nothing wrong with having an opinion, or even publishing it, but it pays to remember how easy it is to be wrong and how easy it is to offend.

I've had the good fortune to visit Samoa once. Was it perfect? Of course not. Samoans are people and people are never perfect. Are Samoans any worse than any other people? Probably not.

I live in a metropolis of millions. It's easy to do mean things and get away with it. In Samoa your neighbor knows your face, your name, maybe even your foot print. It's an intimate place. It's much harder to get away with misbehavior. I only wish people where I live would behave as well as people in Samoa. Of course people will misbehave anywhere but compare the stats in Samoa to those where I live. Our murder rate is terrifying.

Samoa is small and Samoan families are often large. Many Samoans have to leave Samoa to make a living. But they try like crazy to come back!

Maybe a writer should think about that before criticizing. If so much is wrong with Samoa why do Samoans love it so?

Maybe our world outside isn't so perfect either.
July 11, 2008
Votes: +0

Koko Samoa said:

Enough of this: Let's dig up some stats on the U.S and see if it's any better!
I'd rather live in China than a nation with an extremely liberal president; if he gets elected in November!
July 11, 2008
Votes: +0

You need to say sorry! said:

Please appoligise!
Dear Andre,

I think you really need to applogise to the people who are deeply offended by your gross over genralisation and assumptions... It is really a hope that you would acknoledge that in fact you have made many wrong judgements in your article. I hope that you can find it in yourself to say sorry for the mistakes in your article...

But im sure your ignorance will cloud your better judgments....
July 13, 2008
Votes: +0

Not happy! said:

Another white person telling us our faults!
Why are u so ignorant? This article is so under researched.... Its a shame Atlantic Free Press think you are a worthy journalist to submitt articles on the website. This article by far has to be the most grossly over genralised article I have ever read..... You have not put in enough reflection and thought into this one...You have really missed the true issues that are there....

Please get a brain!
July 14, 2008
Votes: +0

Tavita said:

Telecommunications Industry in Samoa is booming
Yes, Samoa has economic problem, but there are bright spots in the economy that you were blind to because of your bias; for example, an article in the Samoa News today had the headline of the subject above and it tells us that "telephone subscribers have jumped from 12,5000 in 2002 to 101,400 at the end of 2007." And that, "About 95% of the country is now accessible by phone compared to only 30% five years ago." In addition, "Internet subscribers have more than doubled from 3000 in 2002 to 7000 at the end of 2007." This is expected to continue to increase with the installation of the fiber optic cable I mentioned before. Also noted is that the number of radio stations has grown from one to eight. Perhaps if you had done some research you would have noticed these facts.
July 14, 2008
Votes: +0

Kome said:

Samoa has huge economic potential. We don't need you Mr V to tell us how beautiful our islands are. In fact a Hawaii-based hotel group is about to start a half-billion dollar five-star resort in Savaii
July 15, 2008
Votes: +0

matai said:

malu le vai i lau faasausauga samoa
we samoa never was two state until colonial european cut us in two parts and run.
now 21st century their great great grand children like andre vltchek bark like a
dog with no leash.2 to 3 police station in the entire samoa goverment.
matai system is the main respectful force in the island,keep peace,law and order
culture and tradition keep us in harmony with the new era.i don't blame you any
way,you just a tool of the most powerful weapon of today(media).we all human with
too much knowledge to waste.both american samoa and samoa are one in their
culture,tradition and language,is important to keep those force forever,for many
souls to pass by these world and appreciate its diversity.
July 18, 2008
Votes: +0

Angry said:

What a load of shit....
July 20, 2008
Votes: +0

Samoaumu said:

GOOD POINT, we should all just leave. . .
I hear the rage in the Samoan responses posted here. The solution is simple. Samoa is for Samoan People - period. The Palagis, Koreans, Chinese, Tongans, and anyone else not born on Samoan soil should just LEAVE and go back where they belong. But do ME a favor, stay the hell out of Washington, Utah, Oregon, California and anywhere else in MY homeland. If you show-up, I'll make sure to great you with the same attitude of superiority you've shown to me.

I'm not Samoan. I am clearly made to feel that I do not belong here. Moreover, I'm made to feel UNWELCOME here. How wonderful that the superior Samoans do not need help from outsiders like me. I'm leaving very soon. I'd love to see Hawaiian Air booked full of non-Samoans fleeing this rock. You should be careful what you wish for.
July 22, 2008
Votes: +0

A palagi friend of Samoa said:

Samoa is a mirror
I find that what foreigners see in Samoa often reflects their own internal state. Some visitors find an archipelago of incredible beauty, a loving and peaceful people whose culture based on hospitality, and an intact and magnificent culture that has continued more thatn 2,000 years.

Mr. Vitchek focuses on negative issues. Yes, there are some teen suicides, there cases of child abuse, yes there are obese people, yes there are young people who are caught between cultures. These problems are real and need solutions. But what Mr. Vitchek fails to point out is that all of these problems also are abundant where he lives in Amsterdam. In Amsterdam pornography and its degradation of women is broadcast 24/7 on the public television, there are major rings promoting child pornography, drugs of all kinds are sold on the street, poor women from eastern block countries are displayed in street front windows for prostitution more as less as sex slaves, women who write about moslim issues are targeted for death and are murdered, Molluccan immigrants are impoverished and treated as second class citizens, to gain citizenship, you have to pass an exam which proves that you are properly Dutch in your social attitudes including acceptance of public nudity, violent bicycle gangs beat up rivals -- well you get the picture. Does Mr. Vitchek really want to argue that his home in Amsterdam is superior to Samoa?

And yet Amsterdam, like Samoa, is actually a very lovely place if you approach it in the right way. Right there, past the McDonalds and the cathedral which was built with funds "extracted" from the locals is beautiful canal, where you can ride a boat for a small fee. The window boxes in the apartments are filled with flowers, and you can pedal your bike down to the museum to see some of the world's most beautiful paintings. The town is filled with gardens, and the people are very friendly and always willing to help a visitor. It is a terrific place to visit, if you got with the right attitude.

I have travelled the entire world, and have never found a people as loving and kind as the Samoans. They will feed you, house you, and give you the
shirt off their back with no expectation of return. The villages are peaceful, with violence rarely occurring. The Samoa culture is beautiful, and the chiefs- who are chosen by their families -- are usually very wise in their leadership. And the Samoans are a genuinely religious people who trust in God, rather than an army, to guard their freedom.

If you look for ugliness, you can find it almost anywhere in the world, but if you look for beauty, you can find that almost anywhere as well. And in Samoa, the most beautiful thing of all, is the Samoan people. Please, Samoan readers, know how grateful we palagis who visit you are for the kindness, love, and hospitality you show us.
July 27, 2008
Votes: +0

John Wasko said:

american Samoa
One of the things about Polynesia in general is how it has been defined in western terms since the arrival of the missionaries.

Very few western reporters ever consider the fact that all Polynesians originated from Southeast Asia.

By this time even the Polynesians have begun framing their own reference in western terms (as you point out in a sort of backward way)

When I scripted a one hour "CD audio tour" of Tutuila, the response from local young people was enormous.

And predictably when the forum section of the Western Samoa tourism authority website began posting responses from kids wanting to know more about their pre-Christian origins, the post was shut down for "maintenance " reasons.

But in this media environment official mindkeepers will not alter the force of user generated news.

I think there were bright spots for you to find in Western and American Samoa, but understandably your western approach makes it difficult to tease out 4000 years of pre-Christian history, arts and culture of Polynesia..

a print text of the cd can be found in the blog section at


From Pago Pago,

John Wasko
December 27, 2008 | url
Votes: +0

NiuZila said:

Andre Vltchek - failed writer
I'd have to agree with most of the sentiments in here. A poorly researched, biased piece. Perhaps your next article should be about the falling standards of American journalism?
February 05, 2009
Votes: +0

Ioane mai le maumaga said:

(Western) Samoa is actually showing great promise by liberalising the economy and cutting the inefficient public sector in half over the past decade. It has privatised some state-owned enterprises, whilst making all remaining govt agencies and ministries conform to corporate efficiency standards.

The main problem is the lack of markets for our exports. However, the government is really working its arse off to try and open up the fiercely anal NZ and Australian markets for our agricultural sector. The tourism sector (and the poly-blue airline) is a remarkable success story earning much-needed foreign currency for the economy. Unfortunately our economy is susceptible to natural disasters (cyclones, tsunamis). Check back in ten years time, I am confident that the economy will be much more improved.

By the way, our chiefs are elected by our families to lead (they can rapidly become unelected if they muck around too much). They are merely trustees of family and village land. The nature of Samoan cultural leadership is quite democratic. Look up what the samoan saying: "O le ala i le pule o le tautua" means.

Mr Dude e ese le poto ma le faafiapoto. Aua e te osovale pe a e le o iloa se paupau.

September 20, 2010
Votes: +0

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