Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that it was not his intention to respond to Gus Hannemann’s allegations which appeared in the January 29, 2004 and February 4, 2004 issues of the Samoa News. However, for the sake of the voters who elected him during the past eight Congressional elections, he believes it is necessary for the public to be informed and to know what his response is to Hannemann’s allegations.
“As a matter of record, I believe it is important for the voters to know where I stand and this is why I am listing Gus’ allegations and my response to his charges,” Congressman Faleomavaega said. “The allegations and responses are numbered 1 through 10 and are outlined below.”
1. GUS: We need to change our representative to Congress and I think our people are tired of the current representation.
ENI: Gus Hannemann is entitled to his opinion but at no time have I ever been told by the people and voters of American Samoa that they are tired of having me represent them in Congress. Having been elected eight times seems to tell me that the people want me to continue serving them as their Congressman.
2. GUS: It hurts me that while other US territories are getting a lot more federal assistance, American Samoa remains the same.
ENI: This is the problem with someone who left American Samoa some sixty years ago and has never returned to live in Samoa with his family. It is no wonder that Hannemann does not know the amount of federal funding that comes to American Samoa. The truth is, on a per capita basis, American Samoa receives more federal funding than any other state or Territory.
3. GUS: Faleomavaega has done nothing for American Samoa all these years.
ENI: In 1981, I returned with my family to live in Samoa and I believe our people know of my service to the Territory. Again, how can Hannemann know what I have done for our people when he lives in Hawaii and comes to Samoa only when it is convenient for him? He came to Samoa to run for the Fono and served one two-year term. When he was defeated in his reelection, he returned to Hawaii. Then he ran twice for Congress and was twice rejected by the voters of American Samoa. Again, he immediately went back to Hawaii where he lives to this day.
4. GUS: Faleomavaega should retire giving others a chance at the congressional seat.
ENI: Nowhere do I find in our constitution or our election laws that this office is to be passed around like a piece of property. Democracy isn’t about taking turns. It’s about choice, not change. I have expressed my desire to continue serving the people of American Samoa in this capacity and I will continue to do so unless the people of American Samoa say otherwise.
5. GUS: I have nothing that I can point to that Faleomavaega personally did for American Samoa.
ENI: The people and voters of American Samoa know what I have done since holding public office for the past 23 years, and it is obvious that Hannemann does not know of my service because he does not live in the Territory and has not lived in American Samoa since leaving some 60 years ago.
6. GUS: It’s time for a change in Congress…It’s time for some fresh ideas in Congress for American Samoa.
ENI: These are the same issues Hannemann raised during his campaigns when he ran for office in 1996 and 2000. Twice the voters rejected him. Need I say more?
7. GUS: What is needed the most is for everyone to come together, those of us who have run for office before or want to run for office in the future and pick one person who we think can replace Faleomavaega during the general election.
ENI: Apparently Hannemann does not understand the basic principles of how a democracy operates. This office was established with the approval of both our traditional leaders and the voters of our territory. As a free people, every qualified person is given the privilege of running for public office and it is up to the voters of American Samoa to decide who should represent their interests in Congress. It is insulting to the voters of our territory for someone like Hannemann to propose that other candidates should gang up against the incumbent that the voters freely elected. Does Hannemann also want to gang up against the people who elected the incumbent?
8. GUS: If Faleomavaega has enough class, he should say it’s time for someone else to take over this post, the post of an elected person whose duty is ‘tautua’ or the servant to our people, but not someone out there trying to be a leader.
ENI: I say if Hannemann has any class, if he wants to run for public office, he should return home to live – home – meaning American Samoa, not Hawaii. Upon completion of my college studies, upon completion of my military service in Vietnam, and after six-years of service as staff counsel on one of the Congressional committees in Washington, I returned to Samoa to live. After seven years of living in Samoa, I was advised and encouraged by my family, relatives and traditional leaders to seek this office through the election process. I believe the will of the voters and the people of American Samoa has been duly expressed through the past eight Congressional elections and I am grateful for the opportunity to serve our people in this capacity. Again, Hannemann expresses his lack of understanding about the nature of elected office – elections are about choice, not about taking turns. Additionally, a Congressman serves his constituents but he also must demonstrate leadership qualities in order to be an effective advocate of his people before Congress and the various federal agencies.
9. GUS: This is the way our Samoan culture works, you give the next person a chance…if you really wanted to change our Delegate to Congress, whoever you are, we must get together and change the system because it’s broken and it’s time for real changes in Washington, DC.
ENI: Hannemann claims he understands our Samoan culture when in fact he has no idea of what he is talking about. Furthermore, he claims the system is broken because the people of American Samoa voted to send me to represent their interests in Washington. It is unfortunate that Hannemann does not understand the basic rudiments of a democratic form of government as is taught in government classes throughout high schools in American Samoa. The matter of electing a Delegate to Congress is not about taking turns. It’s about making a choice. And it’s up to the voters of American Samoa to choose the best possible person to hold this high office. Obviously, Hannemann claims the system is broken because the people did not elect him. Again, Hannemann’s remarks are an insult to the intelligence of every voter in American Samoa.
10. GUS: Among the lack of improved transportation is a boat for Manu’a for ocean transportation between Tutuila and the island group.
ENI: As I mentioned earlier, this is another classic example of how someone who has lived outside of American Samoa for the past sixty years doesn’t know what’s going on in our Territory. For the past several months, Governor Togiola and I have made it known to the people that we are currently negotiating with a reputable shipbuilding company to provide for a vessel capable of carrying both passengers and cargo between Manu’a and Tutuila. If all goes well, this vessel will be ready for service sometime this summer.
“In summary, I will let the people, not outsiders and opponents, decide whether or not my service as Lieutenant Governor and now as Representative to the United States Congress has been helpful to the Territory,” Congressman Faleomavaega said. “My service is a matter of public record and Hannemann’s home of residency is also a matter of public record.”
“Hannemann left American Samoa some sixty years ago and has never returned to live and serve among our people. Nevertheless, our Fono has been good to him, providing him with an income to care for his family in Hawaii. And every election year when Hannemann decides to run for political office, our people have been tolerant to allow him to join the debates and participate in the election process. Twice the voters of American Samoa listened to what Hannemann stood for, and twice the voters rejected him for his ideas.”
“I have known Mr. Hannemann for years and even though we have had some strong disagreements on issues and policies, I still consider him a friend and a relative of mine. But I also want to share with him a bit of advice I learned from our people when I first returned to live in American Samoa – E le valelea fo’i lenei fanau – meaning ‘These children are not stupid either.’”
“This is why I believe Hannemann should come and live in American Samoa. As my father’s relative and the late President of the Senate and Paramount Chief Letuli Toloa once said to me, Fo’i mai i Samoa. Sau se’i e ’ai le pefu ma savali i le ma’ama’a, ona e lagona lea o tulaga fa’afitauli o lo’o fa’afeagai ma lou atunu’u – meaning ‘Come back to Samoa and eat the dust (pefu) and walk on the rocks (ma’ama’a) and then you will know of our struggles and what it means to be a Samoan,’” the Congressman concluded.