AS-DHS director denies 'heated confrontation' with Immigration staff
Attorney General, Talauega Eleasalo Ale has requested Department of Homeland Security (DHLS) director Samana Semo Vea'vea, to conduct a complete survey of the interior of the Immigration Office — including the room used to take ID card photos — for the purpose of installing security cameras for both the inside and the outside waiting area at the Immigration Office.
Samana has heeded the request, and showed up at the Immigration Office last week with three of his employees, where he instructed the Assistant Chief Immigration Officer to remove her staff from the ID photo room and ordered them not to use the room anymore until security cameras are installed.
Samoa News understands that the move by Samana resulted in a heated confrontation between Samana and some Immigration staff members inside the Immigration Office. Sources say it almost ended in a fist fight.
Chief Immigration Officer, Peseta Dennis Fuimaono was not at the office when the confrontation took place.
An Immigration Office employee told Samoa News that Samana and his employees were at fault, because they entered the Immigration Office and instructed the deputy chief immigration officer what to do, without advising them in a polite manner on the reason why they were there.
The employee added that all Immigration staff members understand the problem regarding the fake ID cards, which has sparked many changes in Immigration Office operations over the past two weeks, and they want to work together with the AG's Office to make sure everything is conducted according to the law.
“Everyone inside the Immigration Office that day was offended by Samana’s actions," said the employee. "The way he instructed the deputy chief Immigration officer — his tone and the way he acted was very unprofessional — and that’s why the confrontation took place. Luckily, nothing serious happened that day.”
While there are a lot of accusations towards the Immigration staff about them not doing their work honestly, the employee told Samoa News that over 10 Immigration staff members have been terminated or forced to retire by the Chief Immigration Officer last month, because they failed to do their job according to the procedures and guidelines of the office.
When Samoa News asked the employee if any of the terminated employees had anything to do with issuing fake ID cards to Asian nationals, the source said no, it was all about them not doing their job honestly.
Samoa News was able to interview Samana for his side of the story.
And, while he admitted that he was at fault, he denied that there was a heated confrontation between him and Immigration staff.
Samana told Samoa News that he should have gone first to the AG to inform him that he was there to conduct the survey, as was requested; but instead, he went first to the Immigration Office, which caused a disagreement between him and some staff members, but it wasn't as big as they make it out to be.
“I understand their concern and I know for a fact that I was at fault that day," Samana said. "It was not my intention to go to the Immigration Office and embarrass anybody, no, I was there because the Attorney General requested myself and my department to install security cameras at the Immigration Office, specifically inside the room where ID photos are taken, and also outside in the waiting area where people sit, in front of the Immigration Office."
He continued, “I thought that if I talked to the Immigration Chief or his assistant, then everything would be settled and my staff could start the work. But that was not the case. I was told by the Assistant Chief Immigration Officer that I had to contact the Attorney General first for permission, before we can do any assessments in the office.”
Samana said it was after the disagreement with the Immigration staff, that he went to the AG’s office to meet with Talauega, and that's when the two men went to the Immigration Office together to iron things out and start the assessment of the office.
“I understand the whole purpose of installing security cameras at the EOB building, because we need to monitor everything that is going on there, in case we have to investigate something in the future, at least we have security cameras to help us,” Samana said.
When asked to elaborate, the AS-DHS director told Samoa News there are ongoing investigations regarding several issues in the territory.
“I can't comment on what specific cases I’m referring to. All I can say is that we have drug problems on island, immigration problems, and also safety issues. These are the issues that we’re working on right now to investigate, and I can’t release any specific information until our investigations with other government law enforcement agencies such as DPS and Customs are complete,” said Samana.
He confirmed that security cameras will be installed inside the Immigration office — in the ID photo room and the outside waiting area. Other cameras will be also installed at the entry and exits of the EOB, for the purpose of monitoring every movement inside and outside of the government building.
“Our department is responsible for the safety of our people," Samana emphasized. "We want to make sure that everyone is safe. This is the place where our government leaders are working everyday. So, the issue of installing security cameras is not about trying to let someone get got or trying to keep an eye on certain people. No, it’s all about prevention and trying to control every action to make sure nothing is going to happen to our leaders and everyone who uses government services at the EOB building everyday,” Samana said.
According to Samana, for the safety of everyone, DHS is planning to install security cameras around the whole island — especially in those areas believed to be used by people dealing in drugs.
Samana told Samoa News that these security cameras will be placed in areas where the public cannot see them.
“The project will soon be done and the installation of these security cameras around the island will be conducted by my staff as soon as their survey is complete. We have already installed security cameras at the main Port in Fagatogo.
“Our main purpose of doing this is to control any illegal actions, because that's our job,” Samana concluded.
In the meantime, talanei.com reports that people who showed up at the Immigration Office for Immigration ID cards last Friday, Sept. 30, were told to return this week. The reason is because the camera equipment is down. An Immigration official said that when the machine was turned on that morning it was not working.
Samoa News was told by an Immigration officer that the camera overheated on Wednesday due to being ‘over’ worked, as that was the only day designated by the Attorney General as “ID” issuance day, while an investigation is underway into a large number of fake ID cards that have been discovered.
Talanei.com reports the Attorney General said last week that he’s given directions to designate Monday to Thursday for ID card renewals and reserve Fridays for the issuance of new ID cards.
It also said an immigration officer noted their office is not issuing any IDs until the machine is repaired.