Gov. Togiola Tulafono says he had expected criticism on his proposal to the Fono to fund US$200,000 for the Samoan Heritage Week set for Aug. 2 to 7 in Hawai΄i but that would not stop the government from moving forward with this important event.
Togiola said he has explained publicly the importance of this event but he has been informed that there is still a lot of misunderstanding in the community and this has resulted in much criticism.
This event, in the planning stages, was started because of the many negative news reports regarding criminal behavior of Samoans in Hawai΄i but as it progressed further, it has become even more important to focus on the positive aspects of Samoans in Hawaii as well as the Samoan culture, he explained.
Togiola told Samoa News recently that he wanted this special event to showcase the good of the Samoan culture and its people instead of people thinking that Samoans are violent individuals who make negative headlines in Hawai΄i.
“I am very enthusiastic about this project because, while it was developed from a social need to challenge our own youth living away from home that being Samoan is not about crime and drugs, it has also developed into a nice promotion of our culture and islands that will become an annual tourism promotion as well,” Togiola told Samoa News via e-mail. “So it is something that is well worth the effort and the cost in money and time.”
As to the criticism over the US$200,000 proposal, Togiola said on the radio program that he knew this was going to happen, but he cannot stop criticism, adding that anytime the administration moves with efforts to improve an area “it will be criticized,” especially when it involves money.
Togiola didn’t directly address the opposition which some faipule raised during last Friday’s House Budget and Appropriations Committee review of the measure. The measure has since been tabled until lawmakers reconvene on Aug. 10.
Despite the criticism, Togiola said the government is moving forward with the event. He however, didn’t say how the government will get the US$200,000 since the Fono is in a mid session recess and the bill is on hold in both the House and Senate.
According to the governor, any effort to explain issues will also result in some people ignoring the explanation because these people just want to focus on criticism.
He said the government is not using the money to build someone’s new house, but it is going to good use for the betterment of all Samoans.
Togiola said a majority of the money will go towards compensating those working on this event such as sons and daughters of Samoans, who are well known in areas such as sports and entertainment.
For example, he said one individual involved is Matt Catingub, who is a person that many don’t know is Samoan. Catingub is a conductor with the Honolulu Symphony and the son of the late well known jazz singer, Mavis Rivers, who is also Samoan.
Togiola said there are many other individuals of Samoan ancestry who will be show-cased during the week long event.
The governor reiterated the importance of the Samoan culture being fully show-cased at the event for the benefit of many young Samoans, who were born in Hawai΄i but have never had the full chance to experience our culture.
He said many of this young generation of Samoans have only seen Samoan culture displayed through dance at floor shows in Hawai΄i , adding that this is not really experiencing our culture, which continues to thrive compared to other island cultures.
Togiola said the Samoan culture “is a living culture, not a stage culture” performed on stage in places like the Polynesian Culture Center and other tourist locations. He said there is a lot more involved in the Samoan culture, not just what people see during a floor show.