Faleomavaega described as a “true leader,” a “true friend”

Accolades recall a “dedicated champion” and “tremendous advocate” for his people
fili@samoanews.com

US Rep. Elliot L. Engel has described his former congressional colleague, the late former Congressman Faleomavaega Eni as a “dedicated champion for his constituents” while StarKist Co., president and chief executive officer Andrew Choe says Faleomavaega was a “tremendous advocate for American Samoa.” Guam Congresswoman Madeleine Z. Bordallo called Faleomavaega a “true leader” and “dedicated public servant.”

Faleomavaega, who passed away Wednesday at his home in Provo, Utah at the age of 73, had served for many years on the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs, where he was a ranking member of the subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific. Engel, a ranking member on the foreign affairs committee, released a statement yesterday saying that he “was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of my friend” Faleomavaega, who arrived in Congress in 1989 the same time Engel did.

“I came to know him as a tireless public servant and dedicated champion for his constituents of his beloved home, American Samoa,” said Engel, a Democrat from New York. “He was also a warm and caring colleague who for decades earned the friendship and respect of fellow lawmakers.” He notes that Faleomavaega “was a valued leader” on the foreign affairs committee. As the first Asian Pacific American to chair the Asia-Pacific subcommittee, “he was an early voice speaking about the importance of America's role and interests in that part of the world.”

“Eni himself helped to strengthen the relationships between the United States and our friends and allies in Asia and the Pacific,” Engel said. "I will miss Eni dearly, and I extend my condolences to his family and loved ones.” On its Twitter account, the House Foreign Affairs Committee, or HFAC, tweeted yesterday, “Saddened by the passing of Eni Faleomavaega, who proudly represented American Samoa on HFAC for decades.”

Guam Congresswoman Madeleine Z. Bordallo says she joins the people of American Samoa in mourning Faleomavaega’s passing and called him “a true leader who dedicated his life to serving and improving his community.”

“He was a dedicated public servant and faithfully served as American Samoa’s delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives for over two decades,” Bordallo said in a statement yesterday. “I will always remember the time we served together as delegates and I thank him for his tireless work on behalf of the territories. He was a leader on issues important to Pacific Islanders and used his leadership positions in Congress to advocate for our causes.”

“I extend my sincere condolences to his family and the people of American Samoa. My thoughts and prayers are with his family. He was a dear friend and he will be deeply missed,” she said.

During his nearly 3 decades of public service in Congress, Faleomavaega pushed for federal tax benefits for locally based canneries, which face stiff competition from foreigner countries with low labor and energy costs.

Faleomavaega “was a tireless leader, father, and champion for American Samoa and the greater Pacific,” according to a statement yesterday from Pittsburgh-based StarKist Co., adding that the company and its employees in American Samoa and around the globe express “deepest sadness” after learning of the “passing of the distinguished” former Congressman.

Choe said Faleomavaega was never hesitant to extend a welcoming handshake to those who needed his help and wisdom and was a “tremendous advocate for American Samoa.”

“His efforts to grow and support the local economy and to protect the tuna canneries against the daily intrusion of globalization were tireless,” Choe said in the StarKist statement. “He will be greatly missed and we send our condolences to the Congressman’s family during this difficult time.”

Dr. Robert Underwood, President of the University of Guam and former Guam Congressman, said he worked with Faleomavaega since the late former congressman was American Samoa’s lieutenant governor in the 1980s.

“He was my mentor, colleague and most of all a true statesman for the Pacific. He was relentless when he felt something was wrong and he was understanding when someone was in need,” said Underwood in a statement.

Underwood revealed that Faleomavaega went to school at Wettengel Elementary when his father was stationed on Guam. Faleomavaega was the university's Commencement Speaker in May 2010.

“My condolences go out to his wife, Hinanui and the rest of the family,” Underwood said.

In an email message to US Interior Department acting assistant secretary for insular areas Nikolao Pula, former governor of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), Ben Fitial and his wife Josie said Faleomavaega helped the CNMI during his many years in Congress.

Additionally, he supported without any reservation all CNMI requests for financial assistance to help develop the CNMI economy and improve the livelihood of the people.

“The residents of the CNMI are eternally grateful to Eni for his tremendous help and support,” Fitial wrote. “We pray and ask our Lord to bless him and grant his soul eternal rest and peace in heaven.”

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