Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Succession Plan Quietly Underway for Faleomavaega Seat?

Another day passes and no mention of Faleomavaega in American Samoa's mainstream media. At least there also were no new phoney stories based on news handouts from his office. It will be two months this Saturday since Delegate Faleomavaega was stricken down with some mysterious malady, rushed to the hospital, spirited off to Honolulu and recently, we have come to understand, has been moved to Utah, where remains convalescing from whatever it is that ails him.

Meanwhile, there are some points on the timeline between October 21 and today that need to be addressed. They are like dots on a puzzle. It is for readers to decide if and how the dots should be connected.
  •  A month ago on November 16, Samoa News published the very last official statement released on Faleomavaega's condition, saying he was well enough to be moved from Honolulu the ensuing week either to Utah or Washington, D.C.;
  • Two days later, on November 18, this blog was the first to raise questions about the lack of information on the delegate's condition or whereabouts; 
  • Later that week, on November 21, Samoa News wrote that the local Democratic Party chairman had written the legislature to urge introduction and passage of a bill to hold primary elections in the territory; 
  • Four days later, on November 25, Radio New Zealand International (RNZI) also carried an item about the call for primaries; 
  • Four more days later on November 29, carried a story about the local Democratic party backing Faleomavaega's position on U.S. citizenship for American Samoans; 
  • Then a mere three days after that on December 2, Samoa News ran a story about the first candidate to announce he would run for Congress next year. 
Those are the dots on the timelime. Now here are the dots on the people involved with these stories.
  • First of all, Faleomavaega is a member of the American Samoa Democratic Party (ASDP), an affiliate of the U.S. Democratic Party; 
  • The ASDP chairman is Ali'imau J.R. Scanlan, once Faleomavaega's press secretary; 
  • As party chairman, Scanlan has a seat on the Democratic National Committee (DNC);
  • American Samoa is also represented on the DNC by Fagafaga Daniel Langkilde, a former ASDP chairman and currently the director of the government's Office of Public Information (OPI), which oversees the territory's only television station, KVZK, and its news department; 
  • The OPI position is appointed by the governor and the director is a member of the cabinet;
  • The ASDP national committeewoman is Teri Hunkin, sister-in-law of Faleomavaega, and copy editor and staff writer at Samoa News;
  • Tuā’au Kereti Māta’utia, Jr., the first candidate to announce for Faleomavaega's seat, is assistant senior policy adviser to the Governor and as such reports to the senior policy adviser, Oreta Togafau, who also is past ASDP chairman; 
  • Although born in the Tutuila village of Vatia, Mata'utia was raised and completed high school in the Manu'a Island group, which is home to Governor Lolo Moliga; 
  • Samoa News correspondent Fili Sagapolutele is also described as the American Samoa correspondent for the (U.S.) Associated Press
  • Radio KHJ news director Monica Miller also is described as the regular correspondent for both Radio New Zealand, International and Radio Australia's Pacific Beat. 
To keep all the intertwining relationships straight, readers may want to clip out the bullet points above and keep them handy for reference as this story develops.

Now, although the local Democrats made their surprise call for establishment of a primary system just about the time Faleomavaega was in transit from Hawaii to who-knows-where, the change is only meant to cover gubernatorial elections. However, if the measure is considered by the legislature, there is nothing to preclude them from applying primaries to congressional runs as well. Indeed, legislation moved through Congress by Faleomavaega some years ago to help him avoid runoffs also spoke to voting contingencies should the territory adopt a primary system.

When asked by Samoa News if he had informed the governor he was running for Congress, Mata'utia said he had not but we would forgive anyone who found that statement not credible and, as far as we know, Mata'utia has not stepped down from his government position, as may be required by law. It also is not known if Mata'utia intends to seek the Democratic Party's nomination if primaries were to be adopted or seek formal endorsement if they were not. Samoa News apparently did not seek (or was unable to obtain) comment from either Togafau or Governor Lolo on Mata'utia's candidacy on the only story published on this subject, but more astonishingly, the article said not one word about Faleomavaega. Certainly nothing about his secret illness--which is par for the course--but not even a mention of his name as the current occupant of the seat.

With all the fuss made the past few days by a handful of people about Faleomavaega not being shown the proper respect in the wake of these stories about his disappearance from public view, one has to wonder where the protests were when Mata'utia made his announcement that he wanted to replace the ailing congressman. Was the timing of his announcement respectful? Can all these dots be connected in such a way to suggest an effort is underway to position a close associate of the governor as the successor to Faleomavaega and what does the hyperactivity of the usually somnolent ASDP mean?

Are the local media just too slaphappy to be able to synthesize all of these facts, dates and relationships into some sort of cogent analysis of their own or are they part of an effort to orchestrate the next election? We don't know. You decide. Meanwhile, this being a blog dedicated to seeing Faleomavaega replaced in Congress, we welcome the challenger and reopen our biennial poll of readers to tell us who you think ought to be the next delegate. For now we will leave it at Mata'utia and ex-Governor Togiola, who long has been rumored to have his eye on the seat.

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