Monday, February 22, 2010

Faleomavaega in Travel Frenzy; Voters Unaware

Once again, we have to use the internet and other methods to find out what is or is not going on in Washington or other parts of the world as it involves American Samoa or our leaders because Samoa News, the primary source of information on this island, DOES NOT INFORM ITS READERS.

Oh yes, we are getting a blow-by-blow report on the trial and now jury deliberations of our lt. governor and one of our senators, but the Governor is in Washington for a whole bunch of important meetings, including the National Governors’ Conference, the Pacific Basin Development Council, the Coral Reef Task Force, congressional hearings and who knows what else. This week all the territorial governors are in DC because of the NGA meeting, which includes a meeting with the President and a dinner at the White House. So a lot of other organizations hold their meetings (and congressional hearings) to take advantage of everyone being there.

Therefore, this week over the years has become one of the busiest and most important for island officials. Has Samoa News ever told us that? No. Will they tell us what is going on this week? Doubtful. Most likely they will wait for the governor’s return and the issuance of a press release. Or, if the governor doesn’t hand one out, they will wait for his radio report to the people, take notes from that and write a story about the radio program. Seriously.

And with this week being as important as it is, all the island delegates in Congress can be expected to be in place, right? Most will be. How about American Samoa? After all, Faleomavaega has his “crucial” ASPIRE bill in the works. You would think he would want to take this opportunity to brief the governor and enlist his support to get the bill moving. You would think he also would want to accompany the governor to the PBDC and Coral Reef meetings so he can follow up with initiatives in Congress. You would think he would want to partipate in an oversight hearing by a subcommittee which he is the senior member of.

Then there is the matter of Faleomavaega’s quite public invitation to President Obama to visit American Samoa on his way back from Australia, which he will visit after Guam and Indonesia next month. Surely he will want to coordinate efforts with his governor, since the governor will be seeing the President twice, once at a White House dinner and again the next day at a White House meeting with governors only. Needless to say, this is the best opportunity to press the case for a stop, which is optional at best since Air Force 1 does not need to refuel between Australia and the U.S. Mainland.

Now, we don’t have any more access to information than anyone else, so we can only speculate. But we can do some fundamental calculations based on time, distance, airplane speeds and access to information on the internet, the same information everyone else has, including Samoa News. In a February 19 CSCE press release, Faleomavaega was quoted making a statement at an interparliamentary meeting in Vienna, Austria that day. The National Governors’ meeting starts Feb. 20 and ends Feb. 22.

Other meetings follow all this week, including two hearings conducted by the House insular subcommittee. One of those hearings, at which the governor surely will testify, is on Feb. 24. It is the Oversight Hearing on the President's Fiscal Year 2011 budget requests for the Office of Insular Affairs. That is the office that funds our ASG operating budget and that is also the subcommittee that has jurisdiction over Faleomavaega’s ASPIRE bill that has gone nowhere since the hearing on it last fall. This is also the chance to brief Congress on the tsunami last September and the urgent need for additional federal assistance. Under the circumstances, no hearing could be more crucial to us.

Yet, I have a PINA news story that says Faleomavaega has accepted an invitation to be the keynote speaker at a Tuna Policy Summit in Palau on February 25. Given the distance to Palau from Washington and adding the international dateline as a factor, it is difficult to see how Faleomavaega can attend two House hearings on the 24th and give a speech in Koror on the 25th. We will be watching the hearings on the internet to see if he is there. It is also hard to imagine he got back to Washington from Vienna in time to have any serious meetings with the governor before the governor went off to be with the president on February 21 and 22.

If there is a verdict in the lt. governor’s trial, you can bet that the Samoa News special correspondent covering the trial will have that result flashed back to Samoa News immediately but while he is waiting, do not expect him to cover any of what I have recounted above. Even if he did file a story, you could bet that Faleomavaega’s sister-in-law, who is one of the editors, would be certain that its readers remained ignorant of their delegate’s outright dereliction of duty. All they know is that he has invited Obama to American Samoa. Never mind whether Obama actually shows up. The fact that Faleomaveaga invited him proves to them how influential he is. It’s not results that count and it’s not even effort that counts. It’s perception of effort is all that matters. Give us a break.

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