Thursday, January 9, 2014
Congratulations, Samoa News
At long last, the territory’s most powerful news organization, Samoa News, has met its responsibility and begun to question the long absence of Faleomavaega rather than simply making inquires of his office and awaiting official announcements (that are not forthcoming) while not informing readers that they are even making much of an effort let along telling us how they are being stiff-armed.
Yesterday we called on the media to take seriously the tuna content issue being fought out in the Farm Bill in Congress and Samoa News led with a page one story today, as they should have. While we would have put it in the second paragraph of the story rather than bury it at the end of the story, Samoa News did make mention of the fact that “absent from The Hill [newspaper’s] report [on the tuna story] is any mention of a face-to-face meeting with the congressman or any evidence that he’s back at work after being medivaced from American Samoa to Honolulu this past October and then transferred to the U.S. for what was termed by his office as ‘rehab.’”
This is the sort of qualifier that should have accompanied every story they have published since October 21, 2013 that carried comments or quotes by Faleomavaega and should have qualified every press release they have used from his office since that time. Anything short of that has had the appearance of a cover up, intentional or not. Yes, the media has no power to force disclosure of his medical records but that is not the issue here. It does have the power to cut off his access to the public through the press or radio especially when deception is involved.
The tuna content is just one of several at this very moment that requires the hands on involvement of the territory’s delegate to Congress. Ironically, were he well enough to do so, Faleomavaega very well might be traveling overseas at this time, as he has done frequently over the years at the beginning of congressional sessions. We have criticized and criticized his traveling but it has fallen on deaf ears both with the media and the public. Indeed, he has worn his extensive travel as a badge of honor in his campaigns—although he has not extensively reported to the local media on much of his foreign travels as they have occurred over the years.
If anyone wants to see the list of trips he has taken over, say, the past 10 years so they can compare them with the local news stories they have generated, we will be happy to supply the information.
In its story on the “tuna war,” Samoa News said it “continues to make requests for an update on the congressman’s health with the latest request made today. More on this story with comments from local sources in upcoming issues.” We hope this will be just the opening salvo in a concerted effort to determine how American Samoa is going to be represented in the weeks, months and year ahead until there is a clarifying election.
The editor of Samoa News through editorials in the past year has boldly taken on the local government and the Fono on some serious issues, particularly on questionable spending, but has been noticeably silent on Faleomavaega, which also has fueled speculation about why he appears to receive deferential special treatment. We have pointed out that the delegate’s sister-in-law is on the paper’s editorial staff and serves as the territory’s female representative on the Democratic National Committee. Not so unusual for a small island where everyone wears multiple hats, but it would raise serious ethical questions at most stateside newspapers.
Now is the time for another editorial, this time on the Faleomavaega situation. Who will be speaking up for us on the tuna question in the Farm Bill, efforts by congressional Democrats to raise the minimum wage, his intervention on the lawsuit on U.S. citizenship and the P3 alliance approval request before the FMC, the cutback in food stamps, the disposition of the Omnibus Territories Bill, the impact of federal sequestration on our next budget and a range of questions to be addressed at the annual summit of governors and delegates with the White House and other senior federal officials at the end of February in the Interagency Group on Insular Affairs (IGIA) in Washington?
There also needs to be closer scrutiny on just exactly who is calling the shots for him in his absence. Is he directing his staff from bedside? Is staff bringing matters to his attention for decision? Is his staff freelancing on the basis of prearranged instructions? Who is signing correspondence for him and on what basis? On the P3 intervention, for example, his signature appears on both a joint letter with colleagues to FMC on December 4 and a singular letter from him to FMC on December 19. Yet, looking at the signatures, it is clear that they do not match. Which is his or are either of them his? If they are forgeries or signed by direction while omitting the usual initials of the actual signer below the signature, how might this affect FMC’s actions on the issue?
Moreover, he has been out of his office for nearly three months now, so has he asked for a formal leave of absence from the House? His colleague, Rep. C.L. “Dutch” Ruppersberger (D-MD) asked for (and was granted) one month’s leave just for knee surgery. Even though he presumably will be in a position to direct his staff while his knee recuperates, he took this step. Has Eni? If not, why not?
Samoa News, perhaps in a separate editorial, should address the delicate question of succession. We have asserted and Samoa News has published our assertion that Faleomavaega has suffered a debilitating stroke and have suggested he may never be well enough to return to office. His office never has refuted those assertions so it seems to us the time has come to take this issue out of the shadows, as Radio KHJ-FM did yesterday.
For starters, Samoa News should not have let stand Ali’imau’s Letter-to-the-Editor accusation that people are maneuvering to be appointed to the vacancy by the Governor, an error also repeated in a letter by Leroy Ledoux. The delegate’s office is established by federal statute and the governor does not have the power to fill a vacancy by appointment. That should be stated once and for all.
The statute does give the “American Samoa Government” the power to fill a vacancy by special election, by methods to be determined by the government (which means executive and legislative branches). Samoa News needs to ask questions as to what procedures are in place. Is there a local law that established procedures for a special election for delegate? If not, should not the Fono be taking this issue up in this current legislative session? How many days/weeks/months for the filing period? How are absentee ballots handled? Would early voting be allowed? Would there be primaries, as urged by Ali’imau? Since the political party system operates in the U.S. House and our delegate must join one of the caucuses to be able to receive committee assignments, should the primary be held by parties?
We need fresh air here, lots of it. Thank you 93KHJ-FM and Samoa News for beginning to open the window just a bit. This has nothing to do with disrespect for Eni. Let’s not hide behind that old shield of our culture. If anything you are doing Eni a great service. If he is as ill as we believe he is, then let’s find out so he can really get the proper respect he deserves through massive prayer by the people for his recovery.