Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that he is responding to an article published on the front page of the Samoa News on Tuesday June 8, 2004 entitled “Rep Wants Faleomavaega to Speak Out Against Local Corruption.” In the article, Maoputasi Representative Ae Ae accuses Faleomavaega of not speaking out “about the corruption that currently plagues the Territory.”
“In his statement to the Samoa News, Representative Ae Ae urged me to speak out about local corruption and accused me of doing nothing about it,” Congressman Faleomavaega said. “As a matter of record, I would like to point out that I have been very involved in speaking out and bringing serious matters to the attention of federal authorities long before Representative Ae Ae ever began making statements to the press.”
“My statements, including ones from 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, and 2004, have been published in Samoa News and are posted on my website and I would encourage Representative Ae Ae to carefully review his facts and data before making misleading statements to the media,” the Congressman continued. “Representative Ae Ae is also welcome to review the files in my office and the number of letters I have written to our local leaders and federal agencies about the serious issues I have worked to resolve. These files include my letters to the FBI, the General Accounting Office (GAO), the U.S. Department of Justice, and the Environmental Protection Agency regarding Daewoosa, underground fuel tank violations, the use or misuse of federal funds in this Territory, Wyatt Bowles, and the gasoline shortage in American Samoa, to name a few.”
“Regarding Daewoosa, I issued press releases on Feb 15, 2001, Feb 19, 2001, March 2, 2001, and May 30, 2001. I also wrote numerous letters to our local government officials, including the late Governor Tauese Sunia. My letter to Governor Sunia dated May 22, 2001 is an historical accounting of my involvement in urging our local leaders to resolve this situation. I have provided Samoa News with a copy of this letter and I urge Representative Ae Ae to read it before purposely misleading our people.”
“The fact is I worked with the U.S. Department of Labor, the U.S. Department of Justice, the Ambassador of Vietnam, and national and international media to bring an end to the Daewoosa fiasco. I also worked to get more than $25,000 in overseas donations to feed the Vietnamese people who were held against their will in American Samoa.”
“My record on Daewoosa is clear. More importantly, Daewoosa was a local issue and never, ever should have become a federal problem. It was local leaders who entered into a contract with a Vietnamese company and it was local leaders who were responsible for checking out businesses allowed to operate in our Territory. Given that I was elected to represent the people of American Samoa on federal matters, Representative Ae Ae may wish to question local leaders on local matters,” Faleomavaega said.
“In the meantime, I would like to ask where Representative Ae Ae was when the whole mess with Daewoosa took place? And where is he now? Has Representative Ae Ae introduced any bills in the Fono to strengthen our local laws and to prevent anymore Daewoosas from occurring again? To my knowledge, Representative Ae Ae has not introduced such a bill and, even if he did, I am not aware that such a bill ever passed.”
Underground Fuel Tank Storage Violations
I would also like to remind Representative Ae Ae that in 2001 when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) decided to shut down every gas station in American Samoa for their failure to comply with underground fuel tank storage laws, I was the first to intervene and request a federal investigation,” Congressman Faleomavaega said. “Federal investigators and the USEPA informed me that since 1998 our local government agencies and gas station owners had known they were not in compliance with federal EPA regulations.”
“Gas station owners could have faced penalties as high as $11,000 per day, per tank, per violation. Fuel distributors, including British Petroleum and Mobil, could have been prohibited from dispensing fuel to non-complying facilities. However, I worked directly with the federal EPA and our local gas station owners and thankfully these actions were not taken and our local facilities were given until May 25, 2001 to come into federal compliance.”
“I also issued a press release on May 23, 2001 regarding this situation and I would urge Representative Ae Ae to read it. Upon his reading, I am sure he will again see that this matter, too, should have been resolved by our local leaders in 1998. When the matter went unresolved, I was the first to intervene on a federal level to make sure our people and our Territory did not suffer as a result of these known violations.”
“Representative Ae Ae should also know that in 2002 and, as a result of my own initiative, I made a promise to the people of this territory that I would call upon the General Accounting Office (GAO) to study foreign investments and review how federal dollars are being used in this Territory. On May 14, 2003, Chairman Richard Pombo and Ranking Member Nick Rahall of the House Committee on Resources joined with me in requesting this study and, again, I have submitted a copy of this letter to the Samoa News for Representative Ae Ae and the public to review,” Congressman Faleomavaega said.
“I also issued press releases regarding this matter on May 21, 2003 and October 23, 2003. Only two weeks ago, I met with the GAO officials upon their return from American Samoa and at an appropriate time I will also release their findings.”
“Additionally, as I stated in a press release dated May 31, 2003, American Samoa has received over $1 billion dollars from 1995-2001 and 75% of these funds have gone directly to ASG. On May 31, 2003, I gave every member of the Fono, including Representative Ae Ae, a detailed chart that specifically shows a breakdown of federal funding to American Samoa. I also gave this chart to Samoa News and posted it on my website so that the people of American Samoa may also know how much money is being sent from Congress to ASG to improve education, healthcare, roads, infrastructure, etc.”
“This chart was not prepared in a day. It took months to collect the necessary data and, as a result of this chart and the action I took to bring this to the people’s attention, the public is now aware of how many federal dollars come into our Territory. To my knowledge, Representative Ae Ae did not provide the public with this information. He didn’t even request this information. However, some Fono members did request this information and this is why I gave every member of our Fono a copy of my work.”
“As far as I know, I am the only elected government official who gathered this information and brought it before the people. Therefore, if Representative Ae Ae is sincere about speaking out about corruption, he should be working with me rather than against me,” Faleomavaega said.
“As for the Wyatt Bowles case, I contacted the FBI on March 6, 2003 and the U.S. Department of Justice on November 4, 2003 and requested federal intervention in this matter. I also met with the FBI and the FBI informed me that it is working in cooperation with our local government officials. On May 1, 2003, I issued a press release on this subject and I also exchanged correspondence with the Bowles family. I also wrote to Governor Togiola and, out of respect for the Bowles’ family and their right to privacy, I have not released any of these letters to the public. However, I remain committed to pursuing this matter if the local government fails to prosecute and pursue this case to the fullest extent of the law.”
“In 2002, I was also the first to call for a federal investigation into American Samoa’s fuel shortage. As the people will recall, a Mobil tanker carrying about 400 tons of fuel attempted to offload its product in American Samoa in September of 2002. The tanker was turned away and this led to a fuel crisis in the Territory the likes of which our people had never known.”
“As federal authorities began to investigate the matter, it was determined that the tanker was turned away because it was carrying gasoline that did not meet federal EPA standards. More surprisingly, federal investigators determined that BP and Mobil had been selling non-compliant gasoline in American Samoa for years,” Congressman Faleomavaega said.
“I issued press releases on October 11, 2002, October 17, 2002, December 4, 2002, and October 24, 2003 regarding my efforts to determine why BP and Mobil had been allowed to offload fuel in our Territory that did not meet federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards. On November 18, 2003, I issued my final release on this subject informing the people of American Samoa that as a result of my efforts federal authorities were recommending that BP and Mobil pay more than $548,000 in fines for selling non-compliant gasoline in American Samoa.”
“Contrary to Representative Ae Ae’s accusations, I have personally met with leaders and members of Common Cause, other local leaders, and FBI officials concerning some of the allegations of corrupt activities in the Territory. The list of my work to involve federal agencies at appropriate times is a matter of public record.”
“Also, I believe it is the responsibility of our local leaders to try and resolve things first before drawing federal attention to local matters. Furthermore, every person in this Territory is innocent until proven guilty and we have an obligation to let the judicial process take its course.”
“I might also remind Representative Ae Ae that our Territory has a local constitution with laws passed by ASG to prevent corruption and fraud in our government. If these laws are not properly enforced then Representative Ae Ae and his colleagues in the Fono have a responsibility to conduct oversight hearings and introduce bills either to amend or pass new laws that will serve the best interests of our people,” the Congressman said.
“In Congress, we conduct hearings all the time because as a co-equal branch of government this is the process we utilize in order to find out what the administration is doing. I commend President Lutu and the Senate for conducting oversight hearings on administration activities because on a local level the Fono also has this responsibility. While the process now underway may not be as quick as some people would have it, people are being prosecuted in this Territory.”
“I do worry, however, when our people are currently being transferred to the Honolulu federal district court for indictment and prosecution. I have already suggested that I believe our Fono should pass a concurrent resolution to provide a special ballot
in this year’s general election to let the voters decide whether or not American Samoa should have a federal district court of its own with a U.S. attorney to enforce and prosecute any resident of the Territory who may have violated a federal law that applies to American Samoa. I am hopeful that our local leaders will seriously consider placing this issue on this year’s ballot.”
“Finally, I wish to say that there is no place for corruption and illegal activities in American Samoa and, if Representative Ae Ae is serious about these matters, he should take the time to get his facts straight before making misleading statements and thereby misinforming our people. For Representative Ae Ae to suggest that I am not speaking out and not taking action causes me to wonder if his reasons for attacking me are purely partisan and politically motivated. After all, he is one of my opponent’s strongest supporters.”
“Given that the recent statements Representative Ae Ae made to the press on June 8, 2004 are completely inaccurate and misleading, I can only surmise that his recent comments to Samoa News are politically motivated and I am deeply disappointed that Samoa News has joined with Representative Ae Ae to print such statements without even affording me the courtesy to respond, as any responsible newspaper would do,” the Congressman concluded.