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Fetu Fetui Jr shaking hands with Rep. Sataua Dr. Mataese Samuelu

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The FY 2019 budget is the top priority on the agenda as the Fono reconvened this week following a three-week mid session recess. Many issues were raised by faipule during the first week House members returned to work after a recess that was taken to preserve session days for its most pressing task.

During the House session, Vice Speaker, Fetu Fetui Jr said it was during the Fono mid-session recess that he received a lot of complaints from members of the public regarding the Department of Public Safety’s (DPS) service.

“DPS is doing a great job protecting the safety of our people; but there are also problems which make people ask why it’s so easy for police to investigate and immediately prosecute some people for crimes they are accused of, but it takes a long time to investigate and prosecute criminal cases involving others,” Fetu said.

One of the issues Fetu mentioned was the package that contained drugs which was found in the LBJ Hospital mail in May of this year. He said there was evidence to support the case but he doesn’t understand why it’s taking so long for police to move.

It was towards the end of May, that seven (7) packages containing high grade crystal methamphetamine were found in the LBJ Hospital mail.

Fetu has called on the chairman of the House Public Safety/ Homeland Security Committee, to set a hearing with the DPS Commissioner, so the public can get a better understanding of what’s going on in his department.

Rep. Lavea Fatulegae’e Palepoi Sialega Mauga echoed Fetu’s call for a hearing with the police commissioner, saying one of the issues representatives need to understand is the one involving the young girl who drowned at the Pala Lagoon Swimming Center in Tafuna earlier this year in June.

“I need to find out why this little girl drowned during a school picnic in the presence of school teachers and also lifeguards at the Lagoon. I was told that there was a police investigation regarding this matter but the Fono needs to know the outcome of the investigation and what caused the accident,” Lavea said.

Increase in electricity and water bills by the American Samoa Power Authority (ASPA) was another issue raised during the House session.

Rep. Kitara Vaiau told representatives that there is a process the government has to follow whenever they want to implement any changes in their service; and that is, public hearings. Kitara said sometimes, the community will only find out that there is an increase in their electricity or water bills when they receive their bills, without any notifications about public hearings to discuss the issue.

Fetu chimed in and told Kitara that ASPA is a semi autonomous agency of the government, and they were given the authority by the Fono to make their own decisions for the benefit of the people.

Kitara immediately responded, saying that despite the authority given to the semi autonomous agencies of the government, including ASPA, to make their own decisions, there is only one process they have to go through when dealing with changes in their service.

“Our people have the right to know what is going on in our government. The community deserves to understand why the electricity and water bills increased,” Kitara said.

Rep. Sataua Dr. Mataese Samuelu brought up health concerns of families who live close to the airport area where the asphalt plant is, saying he can smell the strong odor coming from the area, and this can affect the lives of the people, especially young children.

Transportation for Manu’a was another issue raised in the House, with Manu’a faipule, Rep. Vesi Talalelei Fautanu Jr saying there is a need for an extra flight to Manu’a every week, due to the increase in the number of people who come to Tutuila for family matters and want to return to Manu’a the same week.

Vesi thanked the government for the service for Manu’a, but said one flight a week and the trip by the Manu’atele every other week is just not enough for Manu’a’s transportation needs.