It wasn’t a good day yesterday at the Fono for the TBAS CEO
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Vice Speaker of the House of Representative Fetu Fetui Jr did not walk out silently during a House hearing yesterday morning with members of the Territorial Bank of American Samoa (TBAS).
Fetu said he was very disappointed with TBAS CEO, Mr. David Buehler over a personal issue involving his two daughters who were terminated by the bank a few months ago, according to the faipule.
When given the chance to ask questions, Fetu did not mince words but asked his questions with anger and in a loud voice.
“Sir,” he said, addressing Mr. Buehler, “This is American Samoa and everybody has rights in this place.”
“This guy runs our bank and violated a lot of people’s rights. I don’t know why are you still running this bank,” Fetu said to Buehler.
“You terminated my daughters without any reason and you really hurt me.”
Fetu paused for few seconds before he continued.
“I’m not going to ask you any more questions because my daughters have already retained an attorney to handle this issue,” Fetu told to Buehler.
He stood up — slammed his hand on the table while pointing his finger at Buehler and said, “You will pay for this. I’m pissed off at you.”
He then walked out of the House chamber.
The chamber was silent for a moment before the hearing continued.
The committee chairman, Rep. Faimealelei Anthony Fu’e Allen apologized for what happened to the TBAS CEO on behalf of Fetu and faipule.
Last month also, Fetui did not mince words during a House session when he informed faipule about the decision by the TBAS to terminate three employees. One of the three employees, according to Fetui was his eldest daughter — and all of the three employees had submitted letters to the Speaker of the House, Savali Talavou Ale.
Fetui said that this is not the first time his children have been affected by the CEO’s decisions. According to him, the first incident involved his younger daughter and now it’s his eldest daughter.
Yesterday’s hearing was called by the chair of the House Government Operation committee, Rep. Faimealelei Anthony Fu’e Allen for TBAS management to appear before the committee to discuss whether the bank is prepared to handle all of the personal and business bank accounts if it becomes the only financial institution left in the territory.
Based on the information received by the House of Representatives, TBAS is handling about 12,000 accounts, while the ANZ Bank, which is rumored to be readying to pull out, has over 20,000 accounts.
Faimealelei said that the Fono takes this issue very seriously and called this hearing so that faipule would get the answers their constituents need.
Buehler said that they are aware of the situation with ANZ and they are ready to serve the people whenever they need.
He assured members of the committee that TBAS can handle all the bank accounts ANZ has if they leave the territory.
Manu’a #1 Faipule Alumamalu Filoialii Ale questioned Buehler about a new ATM machine for Manu’a.
Alumamalu reminded the TBAS CEO about his statement during their meeting last year, where he promised that TBAS would install another ATM machine in Manu’a.
“I’m happy to let you know that my people in Manu’a are still waiting for the installation of a new ATM machine as you promised last year,” Alumamalu told Buehler.
According to Aluamalu, the ATM machine in Manu’a has a lot of technical problems. There are times people can withdrawn money from the ATM but most of the time people are unable to withdraw money and they have to pay an airfare of over $100 to only come to Tutuila to withdraw money for their family in Manu’a.
In response, Buehler said that TBAS has a plan in place to solve the problem.
Alumamalu interrupted and said, “That was your same response when I asked you the same question last year. You said that TBAS has a plan in place to solve the problem. My people are paying fares to come all the way to Tutuila to withdraw money for their family.”
Buehler said that one of the problems in Manu’a is that, there is no population out there.
Alumamalu fired back and said, “don’t give me that kind of response. There is a population in Manu’a. If there is only one person living in Manu’a, that means, there is a population in Manu’a.”
Faimealelei reminded the TBAS CEO that this is Samoa and if there’s one or two people in Manu’a, “we have to serve those two people.”
“This is a government bank and also the people’s bank. If we spend millions and millions of dollars to build infrastructure for Tutuila, I believe we can also be able to install another new ATM machine for Manu’a,” Faimealelei said.
Last month, Tuala-uta Representative Larry Sanitoa said during a House Session that since December of last year there’s been talk about ANZ Bank leaving the territory.
According to Sanitoa, senior executives of ANZ Bank were in the territory last December and from what he’s learned, the bank plans to end its operations in American Samoa some time this year.
He said he talked with one of the directors of the bank who said they are now waiting for when that will happen. (Samoa News should point out that there has been no public announcement by ANZ of its departure from the territory.)
The Tuala-uta lawmaker said ANZ is the only FDIC insured bank in the territory and it behooves the House to find out the government’s plans in the event the bank does leave the territory.
Sanitoa, a member of the Board of Directors of Legal Aid American Samoa says their federal grant of $300,000 annually, must be deposited into an FDIC insured bank account.
He urged the House Commerce Committee to start making inquiries now about preparations by the Territorial Bank of American Samoa, for when ANZ departs.