Galeai says waste of “wonderful resolution” by Fono to people who don’t want to stay
The Fono has approved concurrent resolutions expressing gratitude and appreciation of the government and people of American Samoa to Bank of Hawai’i chairman and chief executive officer Peter S. Ho and the bank’s parent company Bank of Hawaii Corporation.
However, Sen Galeai Tu’ufuli told his colleagues that it’s a waste of a wonderful resolution for someone leaving the territory — they don’t want to stay here. He says he is unhappy that the resolution is expressing appreciation to people who have decided to leave American Samoa, but the final decision rests with the Senate.
Galeai’s brief comments came before the Senate voted to approve last Thursday the House version of the resolution, which the Senate approved the day before — on Wednesday — its version of the measure. The resolution will be presented to Ho and BoH at an appropriate ceremony and Sen. Laolagi F.S. Vaeao has offered to travel to Hawai’i to make the official presentation. However, the Fono leadership will make the final decision on the matter.
The resolutions — sponsored by the Fono leadership — provides background information on BoH, which began it’s service in American Samoa some 47 years ago, when it acquired in 1969 the Bank of American Samoa, which was established in 1914 by the US Navy.
It says BoH contributed extensively to improving the quality of life of the people of American Samoa through introduction of modern banking services and products and its continuing engagement as the principle financial services provider to ASG and as a provider of a broad rages of banking service including electronic banking such as debit and credit cards, ATMs, and online banking to businesses and consumers.
Additionally, BoH provided opportunities for employment for American Samoans both in American Samoa and abroad, providing overseas training and experience, allowing local people to move into responsible management roles in the organization both in American Samoa and abroad, including the first local American Samoa branch manager.
The resolution revealed the bank (BoH) informed ASG in 2011 that it was exiting the local market. Samoa News should point out that in 2011, the Togiola Administration was in office, not the current administration, and the bank itself made a public announcement in November 2012 with its departure set for March the following year.
Following pleas from Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga, whose administration took office in January 2013, BoH delayed its departure until a replacement financial institution could be found to fill the void due to its departure.
However, all efforts failed to secure a US owned bank for the territory and the Lolo Administration moved to established the government owned Territorial Bank of American Samoa (TBAS) — which is set to open the first week of next month at the Centennial Building in Utulei, the location previously occupied by BoH.
The resolution says Ho pledged the support of his staff to ensure a seamless transition path between BoH and the new bank to preclude any form of service disruption. Further, Ho and BoH “demonstrated their goodwill and well wishes for the success” of TBAS by “gifting Bank of Hawaii owned assets in the territory including two housing units, the Tafuna Branch and its contents, and all the assets contained in the Centennial Building, along with newly installed ATMs” to ASG.
Samoa News notes BoH was let out of its lease in the Centennial Building, reported to be around $22K a month by Gov. Lolo, which is said to have precipitated the resignation of former Lt. Gov. Faoa Aitofele Sunia, who is now a gubernatorial candidate, from his position of legal counsel to the Retirement Fund which owns the building. Faoa said he was against releasing BoH from their commitment which was up to 2021. According to Lolo, TBAS is to pay the Retirement Fund the same amount for the lease, for the same length of time (11 years), at which time a new lease will be negotiated.
The Fono expressed gratitude to Ho and BoH for “manifesting and demonstrating your corporate character of placing people before profit by your commitment to remain indefinitely in the territory until a replacement bank was in place.”