Thursday, June 12, 2014

Governor Puts Faleomavaega in His Place; Delegate Backs Down

Over the years, Faleomavaega seems to have reveled in his independence from the governor of the day and enjoyed sparring with them publicly on issues on which they disagree. But time and illness must be taking their toll on the elderly delegate, because the current governor, Lolo Moliga, slapped him down recently without a peep from Eni in response.

Last year Congress passed a bill requiring the Pentagon to study the feasibility of establishing a National Guard unit in American Samoa. In an April 4 press release, Faleomavaega made public a letter he sent to the Secretary of Defense the previous day recommending that American Samoa's guard unit be attached to the Hawaii National Guard and that retired CSM Iuniasolua T. Savusa be included as a member of the study team. The subject likely was discussed with Savusa when he paid a visit on Faleomavaega in March, one of the first official visitors the delegate received since he suffered a sudden illness—thought to be a stroke—last October in American Samoa.

The only problem is that Faleomavaega did not discuss these recommendations in advance with the Governor, who was not happy with either recommendation. In a sharp and equally public reaction, Moliga put Faleomavaega is his place, writing to the delegate to inform him he wanted American Samoa's guard unit to stand alone and reminding him that Savusa had a full-time job as a member of Moliga's cabinet and would not have time to serve on a Guard study team.

We were among those waiting for a quick Faleomavaega retort in his usual overkill with dates, times and places of consultation and were surprised by the silence. In the old days before illness slowed him physically and possibly mentally, the delegate would be johnny on the spot. Instead the response came only this week in a press release about his meeting with Brigadier General Timothy Wojtecki, Vice-Director of Force Structure, Resources and Assessment for the National Guard Bureau (NGB) to discuss the feasibility study, which is now underway.

Buried in the release, Faleomavaega completely reversed his position, saying “One issue that BG Wojtecki and I agreed on, which Governor Lolo also supports, is that due to legal issues American Samoa may not be able to have a guard unit function under the Hawaii National Guard because, unlike the Reserve, different rules govern the National Guard.”  Interesting he mentioned Lolo supporting Faleomavaega's position without admitting it actually was Lolo's position that the delegate was now adopting. He also went on to say “BG Wojtecki and I firmly believe the NGB and DOD must receive input from Command Sergeant Major Iuniasolua Savusa, who was once a candidate for CSM of the Army,” as if it ever were an issue. More likely, the general gave him a face-saving way of backing out of his “nomination” of Savusa to sit on the study team. Rather, the delegate acknowledged, “the study requires [Savusa's] input since he is the Director of Homeland Security in American Samoa.”

Making his capitulation to the governor total, Faleomavaega further went on to say “To alleviate any concern about his time commitment, I was assured in today’s meeting that the time commitment on CSM Savusa’s part would be minimal, making it possible for him to devote all of his time and attention to his job as Director of Homeland Security while also contributing his unparalleled expertise to this historic study.”

Although it proves he is alive and breathing, if anyone still had doubts, Faleomavaega does himself no favors by releasing photos like the one that accompanied the press release. Standing between the two Guard officers, Faleomavaega shows the devastating ravages of time and illness that have take a heavy toll on his appearance. He has not returned to the island since last October, has not told the public the nature of his illness and has made no mention of his future political plans. If and when he does return, people will be shocked by his appearance if he looks anything like this photo.

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