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Until then, the squeaky wheel gets the oil

We had a story in our paper last week — Mar. 28th — about Vice Speaker Fetu Fetui Jr and Speaker of the House Savali Talavou Ale voicing their disappointment with the way the media was carrying out its news coverage of the House of Representatives. 

Fetu, who made the comments during Fono announcements, said he listens to the news on KHJ everyday and he's come to the conclusion that their news coverage is biased. “As you all know, there are a lot of essential issues raised by all of the faipule inside this chamber almost everyday; but if you listen to the news on the radio, they only air issues raised by Sanitoa and Andra — almost everyday,” he said.

Fetu said this is very sad because he works hard to raise good issues for the betterment of the people, but it seems like the news coverage by the radio station only delivers issues raised by two faipule, instead of the whole House of Representatives. He said if this is how the radio station conducts its news coverage for the House, something needs to be done to stop it.

The House Speaker added that the media should not take advantage of the freedom of press they have, to voice only issues they want, instead of providing fair coverage on what is being said during the House sessions or hearings.

He then warned his fellow lawmakers that the Fono is not guided by news from the newspaper or the radio station. “Your job is to inform the public of facts and accurate information of what is going on here in the Fono. Remember that you are the voice of everyone, not a few of them,” Savali said.

THE GONG on both of these House leaders pointing to ‘bias’ coverage and admonishing faipule to know that they are “the voice of everyone, not a few” should not be lost on anyone reading about this issue. In fact there should be ears bleeding from the sheer volume of that reverberating b…

You need only to remember that Rep. Larry Sanitoa is one of two faipule from Tualauta while Rep. Andra Samoa represents Fofo District — they are also 2 of the 4 faipule that did not get committee assignments — as a result of opposing Savali’s House speakership position.

These faipule therefore make a point to have their voices heard for their constituents — either through questions when issues come to the floor after committee, or explaining to the media in press releases about their work.

In other words, Sanitoa and Samoa have not allowed the gatekeepers of the House to silence them. And we thank them for that alone! How many other faipule actually make a point of talking to the media about how they stand on issues?

Just look at their latest explanation sent to media, separately — for the reason they voted no on HB 36-5 — Revenue-Excise Tax on Imports-Harbors and Navigation-Dockage and Wharfage-Commerce and Trade- Customs Regulations —This bill earmarks funds for debt service on the ASG Economic Authority Series 2018 Bonds.

Rep. Andra Samoa said she voted no for several reasons, among them is that she believes “this Bill did not go through a proper vetting/ screening process of how it will adversely impact every working employee of the Government as well as the private sector.

“I believe this bill has been rushed through without any transparency, accountability, due diligence and proper analysis of actions taken not in the interest of proper planning and design to benefit the people,” she concluded.

Of interest, she points to the additional 2¢ to each gallon of petroleum sold out of the government’s Tank Farm to pay for the 2018 bonds — asking has anyone discussed its impact on StarKist, on the commercial fishing boats, on everyone that drives a car?

(In fact —I noticed the only ones called to testify, were the ones imposing the tax, the government. And no where in their explanations was there even a bit of concern about its impact on the people.)   

Rep. Larry Sanitoa in his remarks to Samoa News on the same issue points to reminding everyone that “under the American Samoa Constitution, the American Samoa Legislature is the only branch explicitly granted the power to pass laws appropriating and enabling the expenditure of public funds, by approving budgets submitted by the Governor.

“There has been no supplemental money bill submitted to the Fono to explain the expenditures and appropriation of the $50 Million in Bonds money the government received in December 2018. Yet, the House just passed the administration bill to increase the cost on fuel and other fees to pay for these Bonds.

“It is extremely disappointing that our House leaders continue to ignore the Rule of Law and our constitutional responsibilities as lawmakers,” he said, and also noted that the bill further burdens low income families, coming on top of previous taxes and fee increases over the last two years.

“Whatever very little disposable income our families have is now being earmarked to pay for these bonds and loans to which they had no input on.

“The problem is being exacerbated given there have been no increments, no COLA for our retirees, and now a proposed increase on contribution rate by ASG employees, etc.,” he said.

Here’s my 2¢:  2020 Elections are just around the corner … GONG!

BTW: In a poll on asking, “Do you think Fono sessions should be on TV?” 95% of responders say yes.