|Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that for purposes
of public clarification he is releasing his most recent correspondence
to Governor Tauese regarding their differing recollections about their
meeting with Ambassador Le Van Bang.
“I am disappointed that private correspondence exchanged between
the Governor and I has been leaked to the press,” Congressman Faleomavaega
said. “As a matter of ethics, my office has a firm policy in place
to ensure the confidentiality of personal correspondence. I am confident
that the Governor’s office has a similar policy in place. Therefore,
I am disappointed that Samoa News would attempt to make a controversy where
one does not exist.”
“For the record, elected officials may share a difference of opinion
from time to time. But a difference of opinion regarding our recollections
about our meeting with the Ambassador of Vietnam is certainly not worthy
of front-page news,” Congressman Faleomavaega said.
Congressman Faleomavaega also noted that he has followed Samoa News
coverage of Daewoosa since 1999. “I have rarely commented on the
inaccuracies of Samoa News reporting even when the errors have been blatant,”
the Congressman said. “One of the most blatant examples in recent
memory is when Samoa News reported on March 13, 2001 that ‘the governor
said it was his belief the meeting with the Ambassador was going to be
between himself and the Ambassador, but the Congressman wanted to be included.’”
“I am confident that the Governor never said such a thing to the
Samoa News,” Congressman Faleomavaega said. “The Governor is fully
aware that the Ambassador contacted my office and requested to meet with
me. It just so happened that the Governor was going to be in town
for the National Governor’s Association conference during the time of our
meeting so I invited the Governor to participate in our discussions.
If the Samoa News can’t get a simple fact like that straight, then what
am I to say about its continued desire to stir up controversy where none
exists,” Congressman Faleomavaega said.
“For purposes of public clarification, I am attaching my most recent
correspondence to the Governor regarding our differing recollections.
I am hopeful that in the interest of fair and accurate reporting, Samoa
News will print the entire text of this letter so that we can clear up
this matter and focus on the serious issues now facing our Territory.”
May 22, 2001
The Honorable Tauese P.F. Sunia
Governor of American Samoa
Pago Pago, American Samoa 96799
Dear Governor Tauese:
I am in receipt of your letter dated May 18, 2001
regarding your recollections of our meeting with the Honorable Le Van Bang,
Ambassador of Vietnam. I am pleased that you were able to accept
my invitation to meet with Ambassador Le Van Bang at my Washington office
during your visit to the city in February for the National Governors’ Association
I also want to thank you for sharing your thoughts
on the Daewoosa matter with me. Although our recollections differ,
I believe we can agree that we should work together to resolve the serious
issues now facing our Territory as a result of Daewoosa’s repeated violation
of federal law while conducting business in American Samoa. I also
believe it would be well for us to revisit each point you raised in your
letter so that a better understanding about this most unfortunate situation
may exist between us.
For your review, I am attaching a copy of your March
23, 2001 correspondence to Ambassador Le Van Bang in which you requested
my assistance by way of copy. Your specific request of me was noted
on the second page, next to the last paragraph, in which you wrote the
following to the Ambassador:
“I can only suggest at this time that you contact
the appropriate federal agencies involved in this matter to seek clarification
on the issue of ‘parole’ offered to the Vietnamese workers by the United
States government. By copy of this letter, I am requesting Congressman
Faleomavaega’s assistance in seeking clarification from the appropriate
federal agencies involved.”
I believe this brings us to our first issue.
From the contents of your letter, it was my understanding that you were
requesting clarification on the issue of parole offered to the Vietnamese
workers by the U.S. government. In fact, in much of your letter you
expressed your concerns over “the status of the Vietnamese workers in American
Samoa who have been spirited to the United States by a federal team of
Department of Justice, Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents.” You also raised the
issue of T-Visas, discussed the conduct of federal agencies in their dealings
with local authorities, and suggested that the federal government’s motive
in this case may not be to settle a labor dispute.
You would be correct in your assessment that this
situation has gone well beyond a labor dispute. The Department of
Justice, INS and FBI agents do not, as a matter of practice, deal with
labor disputes. The fact that these agencies are conducting a federal
investigation in our Territory quite clearly suggests that this matter
is serious and far-reaching.
You and I can both agree that businesses in our Territory
should not be allowed to violate the fundamental civil rights of individuals.
Neither should businesses go unchecked. Neither should businesses
be allowed to bring more than 250 foreign workers into our Territory without
posting a bond for their return should the company go bankrupt. Neither
should businesses be allowed to continue their operations when they perpetually
fail to pay their workers and their leases. Neither should our government
or our people be short-changed by companies like Daewoosa and Tour Company
12 who shared over a million dollars by charging each worker $4,000 for
the privilege of working in American Samoa while claiming to have no money
to post a substantive bond, pay leases, pay workers (including our own
Samoan workers), or return their people home.
Although we agree on these fundamental issues, our
recollections about our meeting with Ambassador Le Van Bang and your subsequent
request of me do differ. It was my understanding that you initially
asked me to comment on the status of the Vietnamese workers. I responded
in a letter (attached) dated 18 April 2001 that “federal agencies cannot
release the details of on-going federal investigations.” I also stated
that this is a matter of policy that applies to all U.S. states and territories.
I am now in receipt of your May 18, 2001 letter which
suggests that you initially requested a status of my investigation into
how the OSHA draft report was leaked to the media. For purposes of
my own recollection, I have re-read your initial request and I cannot find
mention of the OSHA draft report. However, I am more than pleased
to inform you that I wrote Elaine Chao, U.S. Secretary of Labor, and requested
an investigation into the media leaks surrounding the Daewoosa investigation.
I can assure you that Secretary Chao shares our concerns regarding the
internal leaks and media coverage of this unfortunate circumstance.
She is continuing her investigation and will provide a written response
at the conclusion of that investigation. When this information becomes
available to me, I will forward a courtesy copy to you. I am hopeful
that we are now clear on this issue.
Your next recollection about our discussion with the
Ambassador involves the matter of T-Visas. You state that “while
it was understood that federal agencies were investigating matters at Daewoosa,
it is clearly not my recollection that approximately 80 Vietnamese citizens
were applying for T-Visas at the time of our meeting with the Ambassador."
You also state: “I speculate the Ambassador would have appreciated that
While I am sure that the Ambassador of Vietnam would
be appreciative of your thoughtful consideration, I can assure you that
Ambassador Le Van Bang clearly understood prior to and during the course
of our discussions that nearly 80 Vietnamese citizens working in our Territory
had expressed interest in applying for T-Visas. In fact, prior to
our February meeting, the Ambassador’s staff contacted my office to discuss
the T-Visa issue. The Ambassador’s office had learned through its
own sources and prior to our meeting that approximately 60 to 80 Vietnamese
citizens intended to apply for T-Visas. Quite frankly, I believe
this is why the Ambassador requested a meeting. He was well aware
that if the Daewoosa situation was not immediately resolved, Vietnam could
be negatively portrayed in the media.
For your review, I am also attaching my correspondence
to your office dated February 1, 2001 in which I clearly stated that it
was my understanding that a number of Vietnamese workers were suggesting
that they did not want to return to Vietnam. In that letter, I attached
a copy of a letter I sent to the Immigration Board of American Samoa dated
July 19, 2000. In each letter, I clearly cited ASG’s unpleasant experience
with the nine Sri Lankan citizens who claimed political asylum upon entering
the Territory. I also informed our local leadership that continued
failure to address the issue of Daewoosa’s repeated failure to comply with
federal law may bring results ASG is not prepared to face.
I am also attaching a copy of my February 19, 2001
press release which was printed prior to our meeting with the Ambassador.
In this release I said, “In preparation for our discussion, I have made
plain to the Ambassador that we…must address the concerns of those voicing
their objections to returning to their homeland.”
During our discussions, I also recall you mentioning
the name of Joseph Reese to the Ambassador. As I recall our conversations,
you noted that Joseph Reese was the person who instigated the T-Visa issue.
Although our recollections on this matter may not be the same, I am hopeful
that the attached letters and releases will be helpful in bringing about
a better understanding of events surrounding the issue of those objecting
to returning to their homeland.
Because our recollections also differ regarding the
issue of repatriation of the Vietnamese workers, I would also like to share
my thoughts on this matter. You state that you remember taking a
position opposed to mine regarding the culpability of Tour Company 12.
However, I remember taking a similar position. I have always maintained
that Tour Company 12, under the auspices of the Vietnam Government, is
culpable. In fact, I noted the following in my February 19, 2001
“Ultimately, I believe we are faced with this crisis
because Company 12, under the auspices of the Government of Vietnam, failed
to establish a firm understanding with Daewoosa about which party would
assume responsibility for the workers’ wages, food, lodging, and airfare
to and from Vietnam.”
In my March 2, 2001 news release (attached)
I also noted that “there was a consensus or understanding that Company
12 will continue to do all that it can to expedite the safe return of its
I also want to thank you for raising the issue of
military transport. You made your first public comments about this
issue in the Samoa News on Tuesday March 13, 2001 (article attached).
I made no public comment at the time and do not intend to make any now
on the matter. However, I appreciate this opportunity to share my
thoughts about this issue in our private correspondence.
The fact of the matter is the U.S. Department of Justice
contacted my office just days before our discussions with the Ambassador
and informed my staff that there might be provisions to provide for the
return of the Vietnamese citizens to their homeland. It was suggested
that this could be done by military or commercial transport. When
I suggested this as an option during the course of our discussions with
the Ambassador, I recall that you immediately said that you were not interested
and the matter was closed.
Because you represent our people at the local level,
I felt that it was your call to decide whether or not to use military transport
and I supported you in your decision to decline the option.
I do not know whether or not your court-appointed
receiver ever talked to the U.S. Department of Justice. I only know
that my suggestion was based on the conversations my staff had with the
Department of Justice. I hope this clarifies any confusion that might
exist about military transport.
Finally, I want to thank you for sharing your thoughts
about Daewoosa with me. I realize that there has been a great deal
of misinformation circulating in the press yet I believe we are united
in our efforts to work together for the good of our Territory. I
am hopeful that the harm and embarrassment that has come to our Territory
as a result of this crisis will soon be behind us so that we can return
our focus to the important economic and environmental issues at hand.
Please do not hesitate to contact me if I can be of further assistance.
I am always available to work with you.
ENI F. H. FALEOMAVAEGA
Member of Congress
cc: Lt. Governor
President of the Senate and Senators
Speaker of the House and Representatives