Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that he is responding to a letter to the editor written by Ms. Virginia Sudbury and published in the Samoa News on December 17, 2007 regarding his involvement with Daewoosa. A complete text of Faleomavaega’s response is included below.
I am writing in response to “An Open Letter to Faleomavaega” written by Ms. Virginia Sudbury and published by Samoa News on December 17, 2007 concerning my involvement with Daewoosa.
Ms. Sudbury states, ‘I have attempted to contact you in the past regarding this issue, and I was moved to write to you in this public manner as I fear a direct letter might again go unnoticed.’
While Ms. Sudbury is welcome to write me publicly or privately in any manner she feels is best, she is not welcome to make false claims that her letters go unnoticed. For years, I supported Ms. Sudbury’s work at U’una’i Legal Services which was funded in part by the federal government and I also issued press releases as early as August 2000 commending her and Mr. Scott McPhee for their efforts in representing victims of domestic violence.
It does not matter to me that Ms. Sudbury now chooses to forget the support and notice she has received from my office. However, Ms. Sudbury, who purports to be a competent and respected attorney, ought to know or tell the truth about Daewoosa.
First, Ms. Sudbury falsely implies that no resolution has been brought to the Daewoosa case but, despite her allegations, the people of American Samoa know that Daewoosa has been shut down, Mr. Kil-Soo Lee has been put in jail, and the workers have returned safely to Vietnam or the U.S.
Second, Ms. Sudbury’s allegation that the Vietnamese people did not receive ‘the slightest encouragement of support from me’ is simply not true. Ms. Sudbury needs to be reminded that on repeated occasions I met with the workers at Daewoosa and learned first-hand of their concerns and conditions. She also needs to know that as a result of those meetings and due to ASG’s failure to take reasonable action to assist the victims, I called for a federal investigation of Kil-Soo Lee’s activities in the Territory which led to his eventual prosecution by the U.S. federal government.
Third, Ms. Sudbury also needs to be reminded that a $25,000 donation to feed the Vietnamese workers was also made at my request although I will not reveal what organization made the donation. When a Vietnamese worker lost her eye as a result of a fight that broke out at Daewoosa, a local church congregation and my office worked together with an ophthalmologist in Hawaii who agreed to provide her with an artificial eye, and operate, at a minimal cost. As a consequence of our collective efforts, the victim was flown to Hawaii where she underwent a successful operation.
Fourth, and more importantly, many good people and religious organizations in American Samoa came together to bring an end to the Daewoosa crisis. Our Samoan people gave of their time and money to feed the victims, and we all prayed and worked in their behalf. For Ms. Sudbury to imply that our people did nothing while she did everything is shameful.
Fifth, despite Ms. Sudbury’s vindictive remarks about Vice Foreign Minister Mr. Le Van Bang of Vietnam who was serving as Ambassador to the U.S. at the time of the Daewoosa scandal, he, too, was very helpful in bringing an end to the suffering brought about by Daewoosa. In her attempt to discredit the Vice Foreign Minister, Ms. Sudbury neglects to inform our people that Vietnam has more than one million people working abroad and had never encountered a situation like the one that occurred in American Samoa. In the wake of Daewoosa, the government of Vietnam has also since implemented precautionary measures to prevent another situation like this from ever happening again. I am hopeful that ASG has also done the same to make sure American Samoa never experiences another Daewoosa.
Unfortunately, during the time of Daewoosa, ASG failed to apply its own immigration laws that require the posting of bonds which could have prevented the workers from being left stranded in the Territory. So while there is plenty of blame to go around, both governments, meaning ASG and the government of Vietnam, as well as Kil-Soo Lee were at fault. The people of American Samoa understand this, and so should Ms. Sudbury, as her clients are entitled to be represented by one who is aware of the facts surrounding their case. Her clients are also entitled to receive just compensation for their suffering and, while it is Ms. Sudbury’s prerogative to seek reasonable compensation for her work if she chooses, it is not right for her to distort the facts in order to win at any cost.
Sixth, Ms. Sudbury is also wrong to suggest that it is my job to see that her clients collect the $3.5 million they have been awarded by the High Court of American Samoa. Actually, as their attorney, it is Ms. Sudbury’s job to make sure her clients collect their award, and she knows this. To be clear, making sure that Kil-Soo Lee was investigated for violation of federal law was a federal matter which is why my Congressional office was heavily involved up until the point that Kil-Soo Lee was brought to trial. But compensation awarded by the High Court of American Samoa is not a federal matter. It is a civil matter to be worked out by the courts, not Congress. Other Congressional offices, anti-human trafficking and slavery lobbyists also understand this and this is why they have been unable to assist Ms. Sudbury in her collection efforts as she so stated in her letter to the editor.
Finally, while I wish Ms. Sudbury well in her efforts to collect an equitable judgment for the plaintiffs as well as for herself, if she so chooses, I know of no Samoan who is trying to profit financially, or otherwise, from the misfortune of these victims. To my knowledge, no Samoan has laid claim to a portion of the $3.5 million the High Court of American Samoa has awarded the victims and, so far as I am aware, no Samoan has asked to be reimbursed or is seeking public recognition for the help they provided. This is because the people of American Samoa do the right thing for the right reasons, and I would encourage Ms. Sudbury to do the same.