Several years ago, we engaged in a crusade to get signatures to stop the minimum wage increase. The idea was initiated in the Governor's conference room by several individuals with the Governor present.

14,000+ signatures were collected. Approximately 8,000+ signatures came from Afoa Lutu's group, cannery workers and fishing industry workers. The rest of the signatures came from Samoan Affairs folks, Chamber of Commerce and others. The management of Starkist did not participate in this crusade as they claim that the minimum wage increase at that time would not be a factor for them to leave American Samoa — of course, they were after ASPIRE funding — which never happened.

The governor considered these signatures so valuable that these were taken all the way to Washington DC with a group of leaders from American Samoa. 

According to the media (as I don't understand Samoan), Governor Togiola's Saturday address included a claim that only 4 -6 people are against the proposal to build a cold storage on the main dock. My question is, what about the 600+ signatures that were sent to Starkist with copies to Governor, the Fono and the media?These individuals don't count?

So, my question now is — why were the signatures before important, and now they are not? We have another 1000 signatures, but since they don't count to the Fono, to the Governor or anyone else supposedly, we are finding a way to take them to Washington. If they heard us on the minimum wage issue, maybe they will hear us on this issue. Apparently over there, signatures count.

As I stated above, I don't speak Samoan, so I give Governor the benefit of the doubt, as it is hard for me to believe that only 4 - 6 people complained about having a cold storage on the main dock.

I think that what he means is that the American Samoa Tourism Bureau and industry, the Fono, the post office, the police station, the fire station, the Lumana'i Building, the businesses and the building owners of the Fagatogo area and the road all the way from the port to the Starkist plant, which includes Pago Pago are not VOICING their concerns. I agree with him if this is so. But, I disagree that the people’s signatures don’t count.

WE all know that fish smells, and 4000 tons of fish in one place will smell. I work in the shipyard, and everyday when I go home, my kids tell me, “papa, you smell like a fish.” Is that what all those people that work in that area want? This is what you will have.

As an advisor to the Governor on fishery issues, I have asked him many times not to approve this proposal. I also know that he tried to convince Starkist to have this cold storage behind the shipyard, so much that he (Governor) went through the exercise of looking for options to assist Starkist by committing to build the foundation behind the shipyard for the Starkist cold storage. The Governor was very happy when he found this second option — I know this and I can prove this.

But, Mr. Butler, manager of Starkist, did not want to free the Governor from the commitment that he made to Starkist’s owner Mr. JC Kim under the circumstances that he didn’t have any options. However, when the Governor did find options for Starkist, he was happy to let them know of the options. I have that correspondence that Mr. Butler refused to accept that option.

Is that the love that Dongwon chairman says that he has for American Samoa? These are facts!

This deal is not sealed yet. The people stopped McDonalds from getting built on Utulei Beach, and we can still stop a cold storage facility from being built on the main dock — IF the people don't want the town area to be transformed to a fish smelling place.

The lease was signed last Friday between Starkist and the American Samoa Government, and everyday that we let pass without acting will make it harder, and the Korean owners of Dongwon know this.

Several of us are trying to consult with businesses and those residing in Fagatogo for 1-day, to close down every business to show protest. The people involved in this tragedy will be remembered forever for being the persons that brought the fish smell to the Fagatogo area.

I don't think that is a good legacy to have — however, if they want to be remembered that way, it is their wish because they know better. The ones that didn't oppose this because they are afraid to lose their canned wahoo share at funerals and parties — shame on them.


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