Thursday, July 26, 2007

Marshalls controversy

Some people found it unusual that Foreign Affairs full committee chairman Tom Lantos, rather that subcommittee chairman Eni, would extend an invitation to Marshall Island leaders to testify at a subcommittee hearing just five days before it was scheduled, especially considering th cost of air travel when not purchasing tickets at least seven days in advance. Rude, to say the least. But scratching beneath the surface, we find that it was Lantos's intervention that resulted in short notice. The capital was abuzz this week that Eni had rigged the hearing on nuclear issues to favor the opposition and didn't invite the government at a time when RMI is preparing for national elections just three months from now. Among other things, Lantos overrode Eni, downgraded the hearing to a "briefing" and insisted that his hearing be limited to testimony from Bush administration witnesses. So concerned at what appeared to be Congressional interference in internal RMI politics was Foreign Minister Gerald Zackios that he softly and diplomatically cautioned the subcommittee against pressing delicate issues during the campaign season. Nonetheless, Faleomavaega announced from the chair at the hearing's conclusion that he wanted to hold "field hearings" in RMI "in the coming months." We doubt Lantos will allow that to happen.

This is the third major controversy for the outspoken delegate since he took on the chairmanship in January. First it was the Comfort Women resolution, which is still unresolved, and then his controversial trip to Indonesia. We'll expand on these issues as we go. The sad thing is that at a time when American Samoa has so many problems, its congressman continues to be preoccupied with his myriad foreign adventures. The cowboy is in the saddle. Hang on. Looks like we are in for quite a ride.

As usual, the mainstream media is focusing on Faleomavaega's outbursts of outrage at how the U.S. has treated the Marshallese people but have not dug deeper for the real story. When at the end of his current term he again will have been shown to have a scant legislative record, people will wonder why. This is why.

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