Community Briefs

compiled by Samoa News staff

CHAMBER VOTES IN NEW EXECUTIVE BOARD

In it’s general membership meeting Wednesday night, the Chamber of Commerce voted in its new seven-member executive board. Outgoing chair, Francine Gaisoa didn’t seek to return to the board during the voting process.

The new board comprises Taotasi Soliai of StarKist Samoa; Tom Drabble of Dateline Inc.; Filifotu Vaai Tinitali of Bluesky Group; Paul Young of American Samoa Power Authority; local businessman John Wasko; Nicholas Strange of McConnell Dowel; and Joanne Rasmussen with ANZ Amerika Samoa Bank.

As in past years, the new board will meet at a later time to select its officers.

Gaisoa provided for the Chamber some of the highlights of the organization’s activities last year, such as sponsoring various meetings including one with the US Labor Department regarding federal regulations; a presentation by the US Department of Agriculture on loans/grants available for rural development; and last October the gubernatorial forum.

The Chamber also participated in several events, including the two Samoa Talks held in Apia, and Flag Day Trade Fair. Gaisoa was one of the speakers at last year’s Flag Day ceremony.

“The goal of our Chamber is, always has been and will continue to be supporting our private sector, encouraging economic development, and working together with all businesses and departments to move American Samoa forwards as best as we can,” she said.

FEB. 1 CRUISE SHIP HAS BEEN CANCELED.

American Samoa Visitors Bureau executive director David Vaeafe said over the weekend, the Visitors Bureau has been informed by Harbor Maritime, the local shipping agent for Princess Cruises, that the cruise ship Pacific Princess scheduled to visit on February 1 has been canceled due to heavy tropical storms in the Pacific.

Vaeafe said the cruise ship is having to miss a couple of scheduled stops to avoid the storm and keep to its planned sailing schedule on its 94-night cruise.

The ASVB executive director said the other three ships for February remain unchanged — the Insignia calls in the Port of Pago Pago on Feb. 10; Seven Seas Navigator arrives Feb. 11; and the Sirena — on its maiden voyage to Pago Pago — arrives Feb. 21.

POLYNESIAN AIRLINES SEEK 12-MONTH WAIVER FOR MANU’A FLIGHTS

In a new seven-page application filed last Thursday with the US Department of Transportation (DOT), the Samoa government owned Polynesian Airlines is seeking a 12 month cabotage waiver to operate American Samoa’s domestic flights.

Without a US carrier operating Manu’a flights, USDOT has granted 30-day cabotage waivers since late 2014 to Polynesian Airlines. Since then, the airline has transported approximately 200 to 300 passengers monthly between Tutuila and the Manu’a islands, demonstrating the need for its service, according to the airline’s new application.

Polynesian Airlines is seeking a 12-month period waiver, beginning Feb. 18, to avoid the need to file duplicative applications with USDOT, according to the application, which also says that the airline understands that any waiver is subject to further review and such waivers are only for 30-days.

Additionally, the American Samoa Government has requested that Polynesian continue to provide emergency service between Pago Pago and the Manu’a Islands to prevent American Samoan residents from being left without air service; and Polynesian has agreed.

According to the application, Polynesian will continue to operate up to twice-daily flights between Pago Pago and the Manu’a Islands depending on the needs of residents and shippers and aircraft availability as well as medical evacuation and other emergency flights as needed.

Currently federal law approves only a 30-day waiver while federal legislation is pending in the US House to increase the waiver period to 180-days.

FEDS ORDER TO RETURN FUGITIVE’S CASH AND CREDIT CARDS

A Honolulu federal judge has signed an order for the federal government to return property sized by federal agents from Dean Jay Fletcher, who is wanted in Tonga for the alleged murder of his wife.

When Fletcher was turned over by American Samoa authorities to US Marshals Service agents last November, his property was also surrendered to the federal agents. However, prosecutors kept the cash — in US, Tonga, Australia, New Zealand and Canadian currencies — as well as two credit cards.

Fletcher’s attorney filed a motion at the Honolulu federal court for the return of the property, which the defense argued was illegally seized by the federal court.  US Magistrate Judge Kenneth J. Mansfield signed a stipulation order for the return of Fletcher’s property on Jan. 20.

The order details the specific currency and the two credit cards that the US Marshals Service is to return to Fletcher, through an attorney with an address in Washington State. Court records don’t give an explanation why the property is to be surrendered to the attorney.

Meanwhile, Mansfield has yet to rule on the US Justice Department’s reqyest to grant a motion to extradite Fletcher back to Tonga that would require final approval of the US Secretary of State.

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