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Sen Galea'i accuses ASPA of corrupting election process

Sen. Galeai Tu’ufuli has accused the American Samoa Power Authority board of directors and management of corrupting the election process by publicly campaigning against the veto override referendum, which would have given the Fono authority to override the governor’s veto.

The outspoken Manu’a senator also accused ASPA of using government equipment and property to promote their “political agenda” through their utilization of — among other things — the state run KVZK-TV to promote their opposition of the referendum.

Besides appearing on KVZK-TV the night before the general election to urge voters to reject the referendum,  ASPA board members along with the management issued a three page memo, asking electors/ employees to vote “no” on the referendum.

The memo said, among other things, that the Fono has not paid their utility bills for the past three years, but the people have to pay. It also alleges that the Fono could have appropriated the funds to pay the utility payments, but has chosen not to and this “is a reason why the ASPA has raised its rates in the past.” (Details of the memo were printed in the Nov. 9th edition of Samoa News)

“ I am condemning the ASPA on their attitude towards the Fono. How dare they blame the Fono for the hike in certain utility rates,” said Galeai in a phone interview last Friday afternoon. “The vote override referendum has nothing to do with the ASPA rates and fee hikes or ASPA operations.”

“Their action should not be tolerated by the Fono — and I for one, will not tolerate such statements made toward the Fono, or their accusations that the Fono is the cause of the rate hikes,” he said.

Galeai says he is concerned because this is the first time that a government entity has “become a political action committee” publicly campaigning for an issue on the ballot. “It’s a "no no" for any government entity to be involved in any political issues or campaigning,” he said.

And as a government owned authority, ASPA should not be utilizing any government facility or equipment for any political purpose, because by doing so, they are preventing employees from voting freely in a democratic society, where people exercise their freedom to vote without intimidation, Galea'i noted.

“ASPA’s action corrupts the election process,” said Galeai, who added that he plans to raise this matter with the Federal Communication Commission, the U.S. Department of Interior and Gov. Togiola Tulafono — the governor’s office.

Galeai says the veto override is part of the political process — and ASPA tried to influence "not only their own employees, but the population at large — the electorate.”

“This is not a dead issue for me, and ASPA has just awoken the giant with their involvement in political matters. I cannot allow these people to do this,” he said.