Sunday, February 17, 2008

Faleomavaega Slow to Call for Probe

A two-week only Samoan baby boy died at the Honolulu airport on February 8 because of some bureaucratic paperwork snafu that delayed his exit from customs and immigration for a quick trip to a hospital that was awaiting his arrival for heart surgery. Even though customs and immigration is a federal matter, it took until February 13 for Faleomavaega to formally request the Secretary of Homeland Security, who oversees these responsibilities, to conduct an investigation of the circumstances leading to the baby's death.

Since he is said to have in Washington last week, not traveling, there is some speculation that Faleomavaega dragged his feet so as not to upset Hawaii's congressional delegation, especially Senator Dan Inouye, on whom he relies heavily to dig him out of messes he frequently creates for himself in Congress (largely out of the eye of the Samoan public).

If so, this would not be the first time he has put Hawaii, where he grew up, ahead of local interests. When Governor Togiola was battling Hawaiian Airlines a couple of years ago over treatment of Samoan passengers and lack of service to the territory, Faleomavaega was nowhere to be found. Again he was thought to be appeasing Hawaii's powerful members of Congress, who were likely not pleased to see the state's flag carrier attacked.

Baby Futi was to be buried in Hawaii this weekend. Unless it interferes with yet another fabulous foreign junket (Congress is in recess--not that it matters), it can be expected that Faleomavaega will be in Hawaii for the funeral with his arms wrapped around the casket and tears flowing onto the coffin. He has learned how to do that with some considerable skill from accompanying to American Samoa the bodies of every Samoan soldier killed in Iraq. His local staff knows where to place the chalk marks for the media cameras.

Someone may ask why we can't say something nice about the fact that Faleomavaega did call for the investigation, even if it took five days. Well, okay then. At least that is better than the governor's office, which has had no public comment at all yet, and the attorney general, who said he sees no grounds for an investigation by his office.

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