Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that he is responding to the Governor’s comments published by Samoa News on April 17, 2006 regarding the McDonald’s controversy.
Togiola responded directly to Faleomavaega’s public support of the National Park’s position on the Utulei Beach Park lease saying, the congressman “is not the federal judge for American Samoa yet, so he should wait until he knows all the facts.”
“He has not even asked us about this matter. He is basing his opinion on one side only. He should really learn to ask people who live here first before he goes off and releases these kinds of statements,” said Togiola.
“I am saddened by the Governor’s comments,” Faleomavaega said. “As part of a free and democratic society, each of us is entitled to a difference of opinion but it is beneath the office of an elected official to make false claims and stoop to name-calling.”
“I am not nor do I ever desire to be a federal judge and my position regarding McDonald’s has been clear from the beginning. I stand with the people of American Samoa in opposition to this deal.”
“Unlike the Governor, I have heard what our people have to say and my office has been inundated with calls opposing the construction of a McDonald’s at the only public beach in American Samoa. Furthermore, the Governor has known of my opposition since May 25, 2005 almost a year ago at which time I copied him on my letter to Mr. Charles Tautolo of McDonald’s in American Samoa. I also copied our Fono as well as the CEO of the McDonald’s Corporation headquartered in Illinois.”
“Nearly a year ago, on June 28, 2005, I also met with the Director of Federal Government Relations for the McDonald’s Corporation and expressed my grave concerns about McDonald’s failure to conduct a feasibility study,” Faleomavaega said. “Based on a press release I issued, our local media published the details of this meeting in which I informed the Director that the people of American Samoa would support the construction of a McDonald’s anywhere else in American Samoa but not at Utulei Beach Park.”
“Utulei Beach is our only public beach and preserving it now and for future generations is what is best for American Samoa. This is why our people want a public hearing. So let the hearing begin. And when it begins, let us question its purpose since the Governor has already signed the lease and made his decision before listening to the people.”
“As we carefully consider this matter, let us also be very clear about ASG’s involvement with the National Park Service (NPS). According to the NPS, ASG entered into a contractual agreement with NPS in 1995 placing Utulei Beach Park within the Land and Water Conservation Fund Program (LWCF) as park land dedicated to public outdoor recreational use in perpetuity which means forever. ASG has also accepted over $4 million since signing the agreement.”
“As I stated previously, if our local government makes a promise to the federal government and accepts grant money and then decides the terms of the agreement are inconvenient and no longer apply, it sends the message that American Samoa does not respect the federal grant process and therefore should not be trusted with any federal money. This is the wrong message to send to Congress and the wrong message to send to the US Department of the Interior.”
“For this reason, I am trying to prevent a confrontation or a legal battle between the US Department of the Interior and ASG. While the Governor has suggested that I do not have the facts, the truth is I have copies of every letter exchanged between the NPS and Governor Togiola which began on May 16, 2005 and continue to March 28, 2006. I also have copies of survey maps and the Governor has also been provided with these maps on more than one occasion.”
“In other words, the Governor knows that the lease that was signed places the proposed McDonald’s within a protected park area and violates ASG’s agreement with the NPS. This said, I remain hopeful that we can find a favorable solution to a local issue that should have never escalated to a federal problem,” Faleomavaega concluded.