Faleomavaega announced today that in his official capacity as Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs’ Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, and the Global Environment which includes overseeing U.S. foreign policy affecting the South Pacific Island nations, he will be hosting the Pacific Islands Conference of Leaders (PICL). Faleomavaega will host the delegation for a Congressional reception on Monday May 7 in Room 345 of the Cannon Caucus Room. Honorary hosts of the by-invitation-only reception include Senator Daniel Inouye, Senator Daniel Akaka, Congressman Neil Abercrombie, Congresswoman Mazie Hirono, and Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo.
Faleomavaega will also host the Pacific Islands Leaders on Tuesday May 8 for a high-level roundtable discussion followed by a catered luncheon and a Capitol tour. The culmination of these events will conclude with the presentation of House Resolution 355, recognizing and welcoming the leaders of the Pacific Islands to Washington, DC and commending the East-West Center for hosting the Pacific Islands Conference of Leaders.
24 members of Congress joined with Faleomavaega in cosponsoring legislation he introduced to commemorate this historic occasion.
Efforts are also underway to include the Pacific Island leaders on the President’s agenda. In a letter dated April 27, 2007, East-West President Charles E. Morrison explained to Governor Togiola that the East-West Center as well as U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Faleomavaega believe President Bush should meet with the Pacific Islands leaders and are working to achieve this goal.
President Morrison states:
“The efforts to include the Pacific Islands leaders on the President’s agenda is a broad-based and non-partisan one, including Secretary of State Rice and Governor Linda Lingle of Hawaii as well as Congressman Faleomavaega… If it happens, President Bush will be the first president in history to have met Pacific Islands leaders on two occasions during his tenure.”
“If it doesn’t happen, it will be a missed opportunity for President Bush,” Faleomavaega said. “For this reason, I appreciate that Secretary of State Rice is also pushing to make sure our Pacific Islands leaders have an audience with the President. I also thank the East-West Center for standing with us even though on April 20, 2007 Governor Togiola wrote to Dr. Sitiveni Halapua, Pacific Islands Development Program Director of the East-West Center, objecting to my involvement in these efforts.”
In his letter to Dr. Halapua, Governor Togolia stated:
“I will be careful in providing the presence of my administration to any venues hosted by Delegate Faleomavaega.”
In response to Governor Togiola’s letter, Dr. Charles Morrison, President of the East-West Center stated:
“As your recent letter to Dr. Sitiveni Halapua with regard to the forthcoming first meeting of the Pacific Island Conference of Leaders in Washington raises issues of broad significance to the East-West Center, I am responding on behalf of our institution…
We highly value the bipartisan effort to welcome the Pacific Island leaders to Capitol Hill, which is being led by Congressman Faleomavaega.”
President Morrison went on to inform the Governor how the East-West Center operates. President Morrison states:
“The East-West Center works with the leadership in Congress irrespective of party to ensure positive and productive interaction between our guests and the Congress. As Chair of the Asia, Pacific, and the Global Environment Subcommittee, which has broad jurisdiction for U.S. foreign policy affecting Pacific Island governments, Congressman Faleomavaega is our key contact in the House for the Pacific Islands Conference of Leaders. He has been working closely with us in developing an agenda for a roundtable Pacific policy discussion at Capitol Hill.
I hope your delegation will fully participate in the program as I think this will be a truly historic and productive meeting of the Pacific Islands Conference of Leaders in Washington.”
“I agree with President Morrison that this will be a truly historic meeting of our Pacific Island leaders. However, if American Samoa’s Governor decides not to attend any of these meetings because of my presence and involvement, I will respect his decision not to do so. But as far as I am aware, unlike Governor Togiola, none of the Heads of State, Prime Ministers and other delegation leaders coming to Washington DC to represent their governments have given any indication that they disagree with the position I have taken regarding U.S. foreign policy towards Pacific Island nations.”
“As I recently stated, our U.S. foreign policy towards our Pacific Island nations has been one of benign neglect, and the only two countries that have really received attention is Australia and New Zealand. It is time we change this policy and it is time for the U.S. to extend to our Pacific Islands leaders the same courtesies we would extend to the leaders of other countries.”
“While it is certainly Governor Togiola’s prerogative to disagree with me, I will continue to stand by my position that our Pacific Islands leaders deserve to be treated with the same dignity and respect that has been afforded the Prime Ministers of Australia and New Zealand. They deserve an audience with the President of the United States.”
“They also deserve to be hosted by Congress. As Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs’ Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, and the Global Environment, I look forward to welcoming our Pacific Islands leaders and hosting them in our Nation’s Capital. The invitation for American Samoa’s delegation to participate in any and all of the events which I will be hosting with the East-West Center and our Hawaii Congressional delegation is always open,” Faleomavaega concluded.