FALEOMAVAEGA COMING HOME NEXT WEEK?
From ABCDEFG Blog August 22, 2014
Although there has been nothing here in the media, Radio KHJ-FM News Director Monica Miller in an August 12 interview with Radio Australia said that she had been told by Congressional Delegate Eni Faleomavaega’s (D-AS) office that he will be coming home at the end of this month (August) and will stay until after the election. She also confirmed that she would have asked the Congressional Delegation (CODEL) where Eni was had the media not been barred when they stopped here August 10 on a Pacific tour that also took them to New Zealand, Australia, the Northern Marianas and Hawaii (see previous post).
In her first editorial since the delegation’s visit, Samoa News Editor Rhonda Annesley in an August 22 editorial ignored the question of the delegation’s importance, the missed opportunity, the media ban and the delegate’s absence but did write “My thoughts on transparency and accountability in government [are] just that: transparency and accountability. It is not a moral issue — decency and privacy are not part of its boundaries, because the money you are paid with is taxpayers’ money, and the tasks and services you are being asked to perform for that money are public duties.”
“This is why the public is still waiting for an explanation from Congressman Faleomavaega Eni Hunkin and Governor Lolo Matalasi Moliga about their health issues. It’s not personal… it’s not lapisi — it’s public information. GONGGGG And, if you have a problem with this — don’t run for office, don’t work in government. Instead, work in the private sector, where transparency and accountability do have boundaries, because your fiduciary and work responsibilities are for the owner(s) or shareholders of the company or corporation, not for the public.”
If Miller is correct, she and Annesley soon may have ample opportunity to seek answers from Faleomavaega, although neither of them has communicated publicly whether they have asked the Governor about his extended absence now that he has returned.
While he will have missed the entire congressional August recess back here, traditionally a time for campaigning in an election year, perhaps Faleomavaega needed this time for additional rehabilitation before facing the public. It would explain his absence from the CODEL led by a committee on which he sits as the second most senior minority member.
What may be driving the timing is an important international meeting convening just across the sea in Apia. Although it also could be said of the “Our Ocean” conference Secretary of State John Kerry convened in June in Washington, just a short drive from congressional buildings where Faleomavaega has his offices, perhaps he was not well enough to attend that gathering at that time, even though he did attend a social function at the New Zealand embassy at the end of the meeting.
Now comes the United Nations third decennial conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS) that will run from September 1-4 in Samoa. Heads of state and government and ministers from around the world will be there and climate change is expected to be at the top of the agenda. It is the last major UN-sponsored meeting before the Secretary General’s September Climate Summit and the opening of the General Assembly in New York.
Samoa is expecting 3,000 delegates from 193 member states as well as NGOs, IGOs, the private sector, academia, the media and others. It is just the sort of meeting Faleomavaega would never miss under ordinary circumstances, particularly as he for four years had been chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia, Pacific and the Global Environment (APGE)when his party controlled the House. Although Republicans took away that panel’s jurisdiction over global environment that likely would not stop Faleomavaega from attending this meeting.
One cautionary note, however. Faleomavaega will not be a "big shot" at this meeting. As American Samoa is not a member of the United Nations, he likely would be there as a member of the U.S. delegation and, as such, would not have the independence to speak. When then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice held a multi-lateral meeting of foreign ministers also in Apria several years ago, Faleomavaega, who was in nearby American Samoa at the time and was chairman of the House APGE subcommittee, asked to be able to speak at that gathering, but was turned down. In turn, he declined the invitation to attend.
Moreover, the American Samoa 2014 election filing deadline is September 2, so he could take the short plane ride over to Tutuila to make the dramatic, though unnecessary, gesture of personally appearing at the election office to file his candidacy for the November 4 election. No doubt the media will be in waiting.
There is one thing curious about Monica Miller’s statement to Radio Australia, however. There usually is no more important month in Congress than a September before a November election. This year is no exception. After having heard from constituents at home in August, Congress tends to unfinished business in September on a priority basis, so it can adjourn in October to campaign for the November election, hoping not to have to return in December to tie up loose ends in a lame duck session.
Even though he needs the time to reconnect with voters after nearly a year’s absence, it is difficult to see how Faleomavaega can stay away from Washington when there is so much unfinished business for American Samoa still pending, including the Omnibus Territories Bill, the FY2015 Interior Department budget and an array of other measures of which American Samoa is, should or should not be a part. Then there also is the matter of President Obama's proposed expansion of a Pacific conservation zone.
Soon we will know.