Senate President on behalf of Tulifua apologizes to Galeai
At yesterday’s Senate session, Senator Galeai Tu’ufuli addressed the membership saying he was very saddened by his name being linked to political campaigning in the Fono, adding that he believes the Senate was shocked to hear this new language used in chamber regarding campaigning.
His address was in response to remarks made by Sen. Tulifua Tini Lam Yuen last Thursday on the Senate floor, in which he informed his colleagues during the Senate session that there is campaigning for Lolo L. Moliga going on in the Fono and cited Muagututia Leapei Fa’aola and Sen. Galeai Tu’ufuli as the people doing this, adding that this should not be done at all while on the job.
Tulifua, during the same Senate session, said that the Development Bank of American Samoa’s (DBAS) housing program should also be investigated due to perceived problems with funding.
Galeai yesterday, said that of the many years he has served in the Senate (including his previous term back in the late 1990s), this is the first time something like this has surfaced, especially when it comes from a fellow senator, who is also chairman of the Senate Rules Committee and therefore fully aware of Senate rules in conducting its daily business.
He said senators were appointed to head each individual standing committee, and to work together with the full membership, as well as to protect the integrity of the Senate; and what happened last Thursday should never occur again in the Senate chamber, which is made up of the territory’s traditional leaders.
Galeai said the Senate enters the year 2012 to continue its work from the previous year, with senators working together and in harmony with other each for the betterment of the people of American Samoa.
Senate President Gaoteote Tofau Palaie thanked Galeai for his fatherly address, which is also a statement from a leader. On behalf of himself and Tulifua (who is the Senate Pro-Temp or Senate vice president), Gaoteote apologized — to which Galeai stood up saying that he does not want to interrupt the Senate President’s remarks but there was no need for such an apology.
Gaoteote went on to ask for forgiveness for any wrong made on the side of the Senate leadership and again offered his apology. He called on senators to work together in peace and harmony with happiness for the rest of the year.
Tulifua, who was present at yesterday’s Senate session, remained silent during Galeai’s remarks, and Gaoteote’s apology.
TULIFUA’S REMARKS DURING LAST THURSDAY’S SENATE SESSION
Sen. Tulifua Tini Lam Yuen’s remarks during last Thursday on the Senate floor were pointedly directed at Lolo L. Moliga, a former Senate President and currently president of the Development Bank of American Samoa, who has declared his candidacy for governor in the 2012 general election. His running mate is Sen. Lemanu Peleti Mauga, who was present in the Senate chamber when Tulifua made his sudden statement.
Tulifua informed his colleagues during the Thursday Senate session that there is campaigning for Lolo going on in the Fono. He went on to cite two men— Muagututia Leapei Fa’aola and Sen. Galeai Tu’ufuli —as the people who were campaigning, saying this should not be done at all while on the job.
Muagututia, who is an employee of the Legislative Reference Bureau, was also present — he was in the Senate gallery. Tulifua first took a glance at the Senate gallery and saw Muagututia sitting there before proceeding with his statement that the Fono employee was campaigning on the job and follows Sen. Galeai Tu’ufuli around, adding that he knows the pair are campaigning for Lolo.
Tulifua said he is in full support of President Barack Obama’s plan to reduce the federal government’s workforce. He said this should also be done at the Fono in order to save money that could be used for other purposes, such as the subsidies for the American Samoa Power Authority and LBJ Medical Center.
The senator then pointed out that the Senate has probed and investigated issues pertaining to the Togiola Administration and this should also be done for the housing program, administered by DBAS and overseen by Lolo, who Tulifua says is like a brother to him.
Senate President Gaoteote Tofau Palaie interjected saying that he has concerns over statements about the issue of campaigning raised in the chamber and he does not believe this is the proper venue to raise such matters. He also said that if Tulifua has concerns with the housing program, they should be raised directly with DBAS.
However, Tulifua went on to say that every issue dealing with the government should be looked into, not just certain matters, but Gatoeote replied that Tulifua was talking about campaigning and named a candidate inside the chamber, which is not appropriate.
Tulifua continued, saying that his constituents have raised the concern that several houses under the DBAS loan program are incomplete and the Senate should also probe this loan program to find out why some of these homes are standing there incomplete.
Gaoteote said the Senate Government Operations Committee has the oversight in looking into this concern and can schedule a hearing to call in Lolo for an explanation. As a former DBAS board member, Gaoteote said that DBAS has held board meetings on this same issue and it was revealed that some recipients of the program used the money for other purposes, while other home projects went beyond the budget limit, which is the reason some projects are not completed.
Sen. Lualemaga Faoa said that in the past, some Fono employees tried to influence confirmation votes for administration nominees and he has raised this issue before in the Senate chamber, because it should not be done in the first place. He said the final decision on a confirmation is made by each individual senator.
As to Tulifua’s concern, Lualemaga agreed with the Senate President that the Senate Government Operations Committee should call a hearing and summon Lolo to answer questions.
Sen. Velega Savali Jr. said he was saddened with the chairman of the Senate Rules Committee (which is Tulifua) for always bringing up issues that have no connection to matters being discussed by the Senate.
Sen. Lemanu then said, he is a current DBAS board member and can provide a response to Tulifua’s concern. However, Gaoteote called on the Senate Government Operations Committee to set up an appropriate time to hear testimony from Lolo.
The committee had been chaired by Sen. Seui Laau Sr. who passed away last week, and therefore the vice chair, Sen. Fonoti T. Aufata, will be the one to call such a hearing.