ASDHS director says his office has proof of illegal drug activities in AS
Local Department of Homeland Security (ASDHS) director Samana Semo Veavea didn’t mince words when he told a House committee hearing on Tuesday about the wide spread problem of illegal drugs in American Samoa that has been uncovered since the special division of ASDHS began its investigation.
He alleges that one of the reasons why the territory is facing a serious illegal drug problem is because the people involved in importing and selling drugs are those employed in government offices and private businesses.
Samana, a military retiree, told the House Homeland Security Committee that there are so many ways that illegal drugs have made their way into the territory, not only through the airlines, and cargo/passenger vessels, but also 'alia fishing boats.
He said that the many avenues through which drugs are being brought into the territory, is the reason there is a wide spread of illegal drugs in the community, affecting school children.
For example, he alleges, at Fagaitua High School, the students aren't the only ones involved in the sale of drugs, there are also some teachers.
Samana further alleges that in the villages, pulenu’u — or village mayors — are also involved, based on ASDHS’s ongoing investigation, which has also revealed that villages and schools are fully aware of teacher and pulenu’u involvement in selling drugs.
The problem is that people are afraid and scared to talk to ASDHS, he said, adding that if nothing is done to tackle the problem, it will continue to get worse.
Samana told lawmakers that any location in the territory that is suspected of being a site for drug dealings, they are certain to find illegal firearms and weapons there, used for the protection of the drug operation. He said he is concerned with the safety of ASDHS investigators, who are not armed and are therefore unable to protect themselves during the course of their investigations.
Since ASDHS started investigating illegal drug activities in the territory, some government employees have questioned their authority and right to conduct such work.
For example, Samana said when his investigators would inquire about things to Customs Division personnel, they would in turn question ASDHS investigators.
He said there are some Customs Division employees suspected of bringing in illegal drugs and ASDHS staff know who they are.
Samana said the governor has made clear his wish and goal of ridding the territory of drugs and ASDHS is doing its job.
Responding to a committee question, Samana said that based on their investigations, identified methods of illegal drugs importation include airlines from Samoa and Hawaiian Airlines, even 'alia fishing boats.
House Vice Speaker, Fetu Fetui Jr, who is a former police officer, asked if there is any evidence or proof to his statements made to the committee, and Samana said his office has proof, which could not be provided to the committee, to protect his staff, who are out in the field conducting the investigations.
Rep. Vui Florence Saulo asked if the containers that are brought into the territory have to go through the scanner equipment at Port. Samana responded that there are cases in which illegal drugs have been found in containers, since the scanners have been used.
However, he said that his staff has also observed that not all containers entering American Samoa are being scanned by Customs. He alleges that containers with drugs are not being put through the scanner machine.
To help combat the importation on illegal drugs, Samana said ASDHS has submitted a funding request to its federal grantor for the purchase of a patrol boat, to assist in their work at sea.
(Original Samoan story published in the Lali section of yesterday's Samoa News)
Since late last year, Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga has called on all ASG entities involved in law enforcement, including ASDHS and the Dept. of Public Safety, to work together to combat the drug problem in the territory.
The governor reiterated the call during the 25th Police Academy graduation in May, where Samana also spoke about the wide-spread drug problem in the territory.
At that time, Samana revealed that his younger brother had died as a result of illegal drugs. According to the ASDHS director, the people to be targeted in fighting the drug problem are the manufacturers and sellers. (See Samoa News June 12 edition for details).