DHR director calls Senator’s claims at budget hearing — “unbecoming” conduct
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Human Resources director Mrs. J. Liu has voiced her “disappointment” towards Sen. Fonoti Tafa’ifa Autafa’s “unbecoming” conduct as a policy maker with the senator’s “libelous and derogatory” remarks against Mrs. Liu during her department’s fiscal year 2021 budget hearing early last week.
As reported by Samoa News last week Wednesday, Fonoti raised with Mrs. Liu questions about Le Fonuea eatery located besides the A.P. Lutali Executive Office Building. Without providing any evidence or citing any specific law, Fonoti accused Mrs. Liu — one of the owners of the eatery — of violating the law.
In a Sept. 14th letter, after her department’s budget hearing, Mrs. Liu wrote to Sen. Magalei Logovi’i and Rep. Vailiuama Steve Leasiolagi, co-chairmen of the Fono Joint Budget Committee, saying that she was prepared to “provide a full and transparent overview and offer additional insight” to any inquiry by the committee regarding DHR’s budget.
However, a “very minimum substance on our proposed budget was discussed,” she wrote.
Mrs. Liu explained that her letter is to “express my disappointment towards” Fonoti “and dissatisfaction with her conduct unbecoming of a policy maker, a ranking Matai of the Fonoti family”, and an appointed Tualauta senator “for her libelous and derogatory remarks against myself, the board of directors for 3BEVS Corporation and the Village of Vaitogi.”
(It should be noted that 3BEVS Corporation owns the Le Fonuea catering and eatery.)
Mrs. Liu reminded the co-chairmen that her appearance before the committee was in her official capacity as director of DHR and as a statutory requirement, to fulfill the review and provide clarity to the committee regarding the department’s proposed FY 2021 budget.
But when “afforded an opportunity for a parliamentary inquiry”, Sen. Fonoti “pursued a quest to assassinate my character and defame my life of public service that spans 52 years to the American Samoa Government and a law-abiding citizen,” Mrs. Liu pointed out.
“Senator Fonoti’s baseless accusation that a dining facility leased on government property was in direct violation of the law yet failed to produce any substantiated evidence to support her claim,” Mrs. Liu noted. “To blatantly launch such a frivolous claim paints a false perception in a public forum.”
Mrs. Liu also dismissed as “falsehood” the implication by the Tualauta senator that 3BEVS Corporation — which Mrs. Liu says has been serving American Samoa for 40 years — is excluded from paying water and electric utilities.
And when Fonoti “proclaimed that I refrain from future illegalities to prevent the village of Vaitogi from burning — a historical reference — is highly offensive to me, the Village Council and every resident and constituent of Vaitogi,” said Mrs. Liu, referring to a statement Fonoti made, when Magalei interjected reminding the senator to focus on questions relating to the budget.
(Vaitogi village council held the annual sa — or curfew in which no one can enter or exit the village — early last week as a remembrance of the historical event.)
Mrs. Liu assured Fonoti that all requisites necessary to lease government property, registration of a business, and securing health permits were in conformance with the law.
“While the line of questioning had no bearing or substance to the original intent of the hearing, I found it necessary to defend myself and our business by setting the record straight,” she said, and appealed to committee members and its leadership to “reinforce decorum and conduct of its members that reflects the core values of the Chamber they duly represent.”
“Our failure to do so will embolden this type of behavior, serve as a determent to the integrity of our legislative halls and sets a negative precedent for our children and future leaders,” she concluded in the letter which was copied to the governor and lieutenant governor, Fono leaders, Sen. Fonoti, the two Tualauta faipule in the House and senior staff in the Governor’s Office.