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Gov heaps high praise on Thursday's “full-blown” repatriation exercise

ASG first responders and other personnel
No word on whether or when a repatriation flight would be scheduled

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga has informed cabinet members that it’s the administration’s “collective pledge” that no action will be taken on a repatriation flight for stranded local residents “until we are absolutely sure” that the actions taken will “prevent the entry of the virus into our home.”

The governor made the statement in his Sept. 25th memo to Police Commissioner Le’i Sonny Thompson, Port Administration director Taimalelagi Dr. Claire Poumele and Health director Motusa Tuileama Nua, following a “full-blown” repatriation exercise at Pago Pago International Airport that started around 6p.m last week Thursday.

The exercise followed several smaller practice exercises with all ASG agencies involved, including first responders.

In his memo, the governor said the full blown exercise manifested bold and effective leadership of the three directors and more striking to himself and Lt. Gov. Lemanu Palepoi Sialega Mauga was the “observed unity and fluidity in the performance of assigned duties and responsibilities.”

He also said that it was “impressive to see everyone in appropriate protective gear and we appreciate the fact that they overcame the discomfort, inconvenience, aches and pain inherent in the wearing of this protective clothing.”

“It has always been our primary mantra to focus on protecting lives of all our residents whether stranded in the States or here at home,” he said. “Hence, our focus has always been and will continue to be to protect all our employees who will be in harm’s way if we opt collectively to repatriate our stranded residents.”

Additionally, it will be “our main objective to ensure that we will leave no stone unturned to eliminate the risk of any accidental importing of the Coronavirus on to our shores,” according to the governor, who’s memo was also sent to all cabinet members.

“It is therefore our principle charge to assure our people that all our actions are centered on protecting their lives as well as our people who are stranded off-island,” he said, noting that “it is our collective pledge that no action will be taken until we are absolutely sure that the actions we’re taking will prevent the entry of the virus into our home.”

Lolo requested that his and Lemanu’s profound gratitude be conveyed to all respective staff members for their dedication and commitment to “our efforts to protect the lives of our people, along with their devotion to faithfully and diligently carrying out their assigned duties and responsibilities that will assure that our repatriation strategy will generate resounding success measured by the safe repatriation of our stranded residents, preempt the entry of the coronavirus, and that all of our employees are protected.”

Some of the participants — first responders in white PPE — late last Thursday afternoon at airport arrival terminal awaiting the start of the repatriation exercise at Pago Pago International Airport simulating an arrival of a repatriation flight with at least 300 passengers on board. [photo: courtesy]

“It is without a doubt that all our people — including those stranded outside thoroughly appreciate their dedication,” he said and pointed out that it was “remarkable and heartwarming” to see the support from the community who gave up their time to improve the reality of this exercise by assuming the roles of passengers.

Lolo said he and Lemanu were touched by the participation of young children and older folks in the exercise. He requested that the three directors find some ways to express appreciation to these “community volunteers who helped us stage this successful repatriation exercise.”

The governor also thanked the government’s COVID-19 Task Force members who demonstrated support and acknowledgement of the hard work that went into staging this exercise.

“It was impressive to see the seamless collaboration among all government employees,” said Lolo who again thanked the three-directors for staging a successful repatriation exercise.

The governor made no mention in the memo as to when he will make a decision on a repatriation flight for American Samoa residents stranded in the U.S.