Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that a Congressional Delegation (CODEL) led by the Honorable Henry J. Hyde (R-IL), Chairman of the House International Relations Committee, will make a stopover in American Samoa on August 16, 2006. Congressman Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Melvin Watt (D-NC), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), and Faleomavaega are accompanying the Chairman.
Governor Togiola will meet the delegation at the airport after which the CODEL will travel to the Pago Pago village for an ava ceremony. The CODEL will also tour the island prior to their departure later that evening.
American Samoa is one of the last stopovers for the CODEL which has also visited South Korea, the Philippines, Singapore, and Fiji. The CODEL will make a final stop in Hawaii before returning to Washington, DC.
The CODEL departed Washington on August 7, 2006 for high level meetings throughout Asia. In South Korea, the delegation met with President Roh Moo Hyun and discussions centered on the North Korea nuclear crisis and South Korea’s entry into the visa waiver program. During this stopover, the delegation also met with General Burwell Bell, Commander of U.S. Forces in Korea, and Faleomavaega met with Samoan soldiers serving under General Bell’s command.
Faleomavaega thanked the soldiers and their families for their sacrifices. The soldiers and their families also expressed their concerns about current elections laws in American Samoa which make it difficult for soldiers serving abroad to meet the requirement to register in person in order to vote for the governor and lieutenant governor as well as local Fono representatives.
“This is just not right,” Faleomavaega said. “As I have stated before, I cannot seem to understand how we can continue to have a policy that requires our military men and women who are serving in the frontlines and fighting wars to leave their jobs and return to American Samoa to register in person in order to exercise their constitutional right to vote. We are putting too many unnecessary demands on our men and women who have already made too many sacrifices and who are putting their lives in harm’s way while we sit back in American Samoa enjoying the benefits of their service. Besides, many of these service men and women from American Samoa are also taxpayers whose taxes are sent back home for use by our local government. I continue to hope this matter will be corrected very soon.”
During his meeting Samoan soldiers serving in Korea, Faleomavaega also had an opportunity to brief them about the VA medical clinic that will open in American Samoa in the near future. “This is a project that has been in the making for the last six years and I am so pleased that we will finally see its completion soon. This will definitely provide much needed health and medical assistance to our veterans and active members and their families,” Faleomavaega said.
Upon departing South Korea, the CODEL traveled to the Philippines which was of special significance given that Chairman Henry Hyde is a WWII veteran who served in combat in the Philippines. While in the Philippines, the delegation met with President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo at which time it was noted that of prime importance to the Philippines is establishing a free trade agreement with the United States. “As always, any free trade agreement put forward raises the issue of canned tuna and American Samoa’s economy,” Faleomavaega said, “and I continue to be watchful even in the preliminary stages of discussions.”
In Singapore, the CODEL met with the Prime Minister who is the head of government. During this meeting, the delegation focused its attention on efforts to prevent terrorism regionally and globally.
In Fiji, the delegation is scheduled to meet with the Foreign Minister after which time the delegation will depart for American Samoa. Given Chairman Hyde’s service as a Naval officer during WWII, American Samoa will be a unique stopover where the delegation will have an opportunity to see firsthand the significant role American Samoa played in our nation’s defense during WWII when it was used as a support base for U.S. soldiers.
“To this day, American Samoa has a per capita enlistment rate in the U.S. military which is as high as any State or U.S. Territory. Our sons and daughters have served in record numbers in every U.S. military engagement from WWII to present operations in Iraq, and I am pleased that the Chairman of the powerful House Committee on International Relations is making an official visit to American Samoa in recognition of our sacrifice and service,” Faleomavaega said.
“Chairman Hyde has served as a Member of Congress since 1975 and is highly regarded by members from both sides of the aisle for his leadership and integrity,” the Congressman continued. “As Chairman of the House International Relations Committee, he has played one of the most important roles in our nation’s war on terrorism and under his direction the Committee has been very involved in making sure our government does all it can to protect the public.”
“Chairman Hyde is a true statesman, a dear friend, and a cherished colleague. He has served our nation with distinction and honor, and I consider it a privilege to welcome him to American Samoa.”
The Congressman concluded by stating that the delegation will fly from American Samoa to Hawaii to meet with military officials. The CODEL will return to Washington DC on August 19th and Faleomavaega will return to American Samoa on Sunday August 20, 2006.