ASG office to stay open in Hawaii
In an unsurprising move, Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga is keeping open the American Samoa Government’s office in Hawai’i and yesterday appointed Afimutasi Gus Hannemann as the new director. The office comes under the jurisdiction of the Governor’s Office.
Afimutasi, who was the Senate Liaison for local and federal government affairs during Lolo’s tenure as Senate President from 2005 to 2008, has been the “caretaker” of the Honolulu-based office since the Lolo administration took over the helm of government on Jan. 3.
Afimutasi, the older brother of former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann, also led the Lolo transition team for the Hawai’i office last month.
The usefulness of the office was questioned by lawmakers last September during FY 2013 budget hearings, when they said the budget proposal of $349,500 for this office is a huge amount, considering the fact that there were only four employees (not including the director) listed in the budget document, which also states that the director’s annual salary is $50,000.
The biggest expenditure for this office is about $150,000, which covers office and parking space rental for the year.
Lolo had sought out the need to keep this office open, and it was the reason, he said, he appointed only a caretaker from the beginning.
However, in a memo dated Jan. 28, he announced the office would remain open, the appointment of Afimutasi to head this office, and listed twelve mandated functions, which includes facilitating the obtainment of travel visas for residents of Samoan ancestry in need of such assistance.
Samoa News understands this is the first time that specific functions of this office have been made public.
Lolo says the office is there to help obtain proper immigration documents for individuals of Samoan ancestry residing in Hawai’i or residents from American Samoa seeking assistance in addressing their immigration documents.
The office is also to liaison with Samoan communities or individuals requiring assistance from the state of Hawai’i and the City and County of Honolulu — where the office is located.
Moreover, it is to assist residents from American Samoa requiring medical services in Hawai’i; and must collaborate with the LBJ Medical Center in rendering assistance to patients referred from the territory, to ensure that medical appointments are kept.
It is also to provide assistance in locating places for patients to stay while attending to their medical needs during their stay in Hawai’i.
Other mandated functions for the office, which is located about a 10-minute drive from downtown Honolulu are to:
• provide assistance to all Armed Forces personnel in need of help from the state of Hawai’i, City and County of Honolulu or from the Red Cross in American Samoa for family emergencies which might require travel to the territory;
• provide assistance to all American Samoan students attending colleges and university in Hawai’i and the mainland regarding their needs;
• liaison with Hawaiian Airlines with regard to travel documents to ensure compliance with local immigration laws;
• act as the center for the distribution of information on American Samoa, travel requirements into the territory, business opportunities available in American Samoa and distribution of tourism literature to promote the local tourism industry;
• assist ASG directors in setting up appointments for meetings in Hawai’i for both government and businesses;
• liaison with the Samoan community in Hawai’i to ensure that they work together to develop programs to improve the welfare of Samoans living in the Aloha State; and
• other duties and responsibilities which the governor may assign from time to time and depending on emerging needs.