Senator claims Gov made scene over security check
Sen. Lualemaga Faoa has accused Gov. Togiola Tulafono of not upholding local laws over an incident that occurred last month, when the governor walked off the cruise ship Regatta, in port for its maiden voyage, after waiting in line for some time during security screening.
Togiola fired back on his weekend radio program, accusing Lualemaga of making false statements and not seeking out the truth and the facts.
Asked for information on Lualemaga’s allegations, American Samoa Visitor’s Bureau executive director David Vaeafe explained that it has been past protocol that when a vessel is making a maiden call into the Port of Pago Pago, the governor and the first lady would do a gift presentation to the vessel’s captain.
“What we always do, through the ship’s local agent, is e-mail all photos IDs of the governor and his party, which are then passed on to the ship’s captain in advance of the vessel’s arrival for security purposes,” Vaeafe told Samoa News over the weekend. “And this was the same process done for the governor’s party of seven for the Regatta.”
For the day in question, the governor and first lady arrived on board the Regatta in time to make the presentation, “but what we didn’t know is that there was an additional security check conducted by the vessel’s security team,” said Vaeafe, who noted that there was no one from the vessel to meet the governor’s party on the ship which is something that has been done by previous vessels.
Based on the information relayed to him, Vaeafe — who was not present when the governor’s party arrived on the ship — said the governor’s party “waited for sometime” in line for the second security check and the governor and the first lady finally left after returning their visitor’s badges.
“Had I known that there was going to be an additional security check, we would have done things differently. The local agent for the vessel didn’t know about the additional security check, either,” said Vaeafe, adding that even the port security staff tried to speed up the second security process but the ship’s security had other things in mind.
Vaeafe emphasized that the governor is the leader of the territory and “diplomatically, should not be waiting in line for a long time”.
At last Friday’s Senate session, Lualemaga told senators that he had heard reports about an incident involving the governor, who was sworn into office to protect laws of this territory and all federal laws applicable to American Samoa.
Lualemaga claims that the governor — after standing in line for a while to enter the cruise ship — threw down his pass-badge and walked off the cruise ship. Lualemaga accused the governor of disturbing the peace, which the senator said is a crime, adding that, as a leader of the territory, the governor shouldn’t have acted this way.
Lualemaga said this action by the governor is being reported around the world and he wants to protect the integrity of the governor’s office. He said he is very saddened and disappointed with the governor’s action, which was witnessed by others.
When asked, Vaeafe said that since he was not present at the time the governor entered the cruise ship, he does not know about the ID badge being thrown down by the governor.
On his radio program, the governor rejected Lualemaga’s claims about throwing down the pass-badge, adding that whoever provided this information was completely wrong. According to the governor, ship personnel wanted to keep his and the first lady’s passport in exchange for the ID badges for them to enter the ship.
Togiola said he told the personnel that this is not in accordance with local security procedures, and that he would not go elsewhere while his passport was been kept by the ship’s security. He said this is the only passport he has and this is also the same for the first lady.
He said he asked the personnel to return his and the first lady’s passports while the ID badges were given back to the ship’s security personnel. He said he did not want anything to happen to the passports while on another part of the ship.
“This was the only reason why I, and the first lady, returned back to the dock,” the governor said, adding that whoever reported the inaccurate information — “God bless you... for the lies”.
He said Lualemaga’s statement was based on hearsay and wrong information, and was only made to criticize the governor, to make the governor look bad in a negative way, instead of seeking out the truth and factual information.