Monday, October 20, 2008

American Samoa and the Indonesia Connection

The story in the Oct. 20 Samoa News about the Indonesian ambassador’s visit to American Samoa raises lots of questions that beg for answers. Let’s just take them in the order they come to mind from a reading of the article:

The paper says the article is “based on a press release” but does not identify who issued the release. Since there is nothing posted in the press release section of Faleomavaega’s website, we assume the governor issued the release.

On October 8, in the only other media coverage of this story, Samoa News reprinted a letter Faleomavaega wrote the U.S. attorney general requesting the FBI "immediately" investigate this matter but there has been no coverage of any response to the letter by Justice nor any evidence Samoa News asked the local FBI office if it were looking into the issue. The letter to Justice also revealed that the ambassador would personally visit American Samoa to pursue the matter but there was no press coverage of his arrival or his visit.

According to the October 20 story, the ambassador arrived Thursday night and paid a courtesy call on the governor on Friday to “express his sincere gratitude for facilitating the smooth departure of the 42 Indonesian fishermen who were stranded” in the territory. It sounds like the matter already had been resolved before his arrival. If so, why did he bother to travel all the way from Washington, just to personally thank the governor?

The paper also said that when it published the October 8 story it "was unable to obtain any other specific information on the case and was told by government officials that no such ‘case’ existed.” That apparently is still the case but how do you “hide” 42 fishermen from public view on a small island like Tutuila where the coconut wireless works overtime. Apparently it isn’t connected to the media.

The paper goes on to report that Togiola hosted a private dinner for the ambassador on Saturday evening. How private was it? Who was in attendance? Was Faleomavaega there? If this were a private dinner, does that mean the governor did not pay for it out of his protocol funds and that it was not held at Government House? If any government funds or facilities were used, then shouldn’t the governor release the names of the people who attended the dinner?

With so much having been alleged in the blogosphere about Faleomavaega’s July, 2007 visit to Jakarta having included a secret mission for Barack Obama to seal the records of Obama’s childhood time in the country in exchange for muting criticism of Jakarta’s treatment of West Papua, is this seemingly unnecessary visit of the ambassador to American Samoa coincidental? Some have privately suggested that perhaps the ambassador might be bringing cash to help Faleomavaega’s re-election campaign in exchange for continued quiet about West Papua. Might he also have brought some cash to aid Togiola’s election as well? Are diplomats given the “courtesy of the port” or is their luggage examined? Was the ambassador’s luggage searched for large amounts of cash?

Did anyone see these 42 fishermen go out on a plane? It seems to us there are a lot of questions that the local media should be asking. Our betting is that the story dies with today’s release unless the blogs pick up on it and press the issue. Did you notice the release was only issued and published after the ambassador was safely out of American Samoa air space? Curious, very curious.

No comments: