SAMOA NEWS EDITORIAL: APOLOGIES ARE IN ORDER
Samoa News published a photo page in our Tuesday, April 23, 2013 issue that contained a photo about which we have since received close to 100 phone calls over a period of three days, telling us, it was inappropriate, in bad taste, and insulting to women and all Christians across American Samoa. The callers were offended and demanded an apology.
To be honest, I am offended we received so many calls about a photo, and have yet to receive even one call about our stories on the Fono expense reports — to express outrage and anger over how the Fono is using OUR hard-earned tax dollars:
To pay a convicted felon, still on parole, $2,112.00 bi-weekly, while the youth are looking for jobs and trying to stay out of jail;
To pay Protocol Consultants to advise them on matters of culture, i.e. fa’a Samoa — I had no idea our Fono leaders and representatives were so ignorant about our culture;
To pay protocol expenses to Fono individuals, leaders included, without explanation and without accountability — these are large amounts of our money, anywhere from $2,000 to $8,000 — that are not based on receipts, but are checks being written out directly to them;
To pay for gas that is supposedly being used in vehicles on the road for Fono business — that’s about $5,000 per month — while we, the people are catching buses to work or car pooling or not taking our children to the park, because gas is just too expensive and we’ve been told: “We don’t pay you to get to work, we pay you to do the work”;
To pay consultants $8,000 a month to advise them on… what exactly… has never been publicly clarified;
To pay for travel — airfares, per diem and transportation — without explaining what Fono business was done on the trips — never mind all those Honolulu per diems paid out for the retirement fund meeting (at least we think that’s what those payments were for — were ALL of them even there?), the Fono also paid out for at least two trips to Las Vegas and several to Los Angeles; and,
To pay Fono office allowances to themselves, with no income taxes paid, and no accountability as to how it’s being used, with the exception of Tualauta Rep. Florence Saulo — who said she has been using it to pay for her constituents’ needs, such as road repairs, school repairs, electricity connections, etc. God Bless You, Mrs. Saulo.
Quite frankly, I believe we, the PUBLIC, are owed an apology from our Fono leaders and members for using PUBLIC funds to pay for their personal lifestyles, and not for the benefit and well being of the whole community.
The Fono expense reports send a powerful message to us, the people, from our Legislative Branch of the government:
“If the American Samoan people think that just because they voted (and in the case of our Senators, appointed) us into office and pay our salaries, benefits, and pensions, we are somehow obliged to listen to them, they are sorely mistaken — the fools.”
What’s that old palagi adage: “Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.”
AND, I am offended that we received only a couple of phone calls about the Western District $1Million ledger report — one from someone mentioned in the report saying it was mostly lies and blamed the former governor — while other phone calls were from certain people demanding to know our ‘source’.
Although, there was one caller, who offered us $1,000, if we could find and report on the Eastern District $1Million ledger.
Of course, there has been silence concerning Manu’a District’s share of the ASG Employees Retirement Fund loan — probably because their yacht and fautasi are such visible expenditures, and everyone knows Manu’a infrastructure begins and ends with water transportation. At least that’s what we, the people, have been told every time they ask for more money to buy another boat… every two years or so…
AND, I am offended that we have not received any phone calls about the rise of reported child molestation cases in the territory, and why the Fono has yet to pass legislation that would put these predators away with clear cut punitive sentences. You would think somewhere in their use of public funds would be travel and per diem “to study the laws of Las Vegas” to be able to pass meaningful legislation on this most important issue.
Having said the above, I offer the following:
On behalf of Samoa News staff and management, and in the spirit of community wellbeing and service, I sincerely apologize for the photo; it was an honest mistake, and Samoa News regrets any ill feelings or anguish it may have caused our readers.