Senate in Pago setting the benchmark

By The Editorial Board 03 October 2023, 10:00AM

It has been a controversy that won’t go away and continues to put the spotlight on Samoa’s security apparatus and raise questions over the alleged involvement of public officials including the offices of senior Cabinet Ministers in Apia.

Early last month this newspaper stated in an editorial that Samoa’s governing Fa’atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (FAST) administration can expect more coverage on the Kite Runner saga after the American Samoa Senate began its inquiry into the matter. 

A few weeks later an article (American Samoa labels Kite Runner incident as ‘national embarrassment) was published in yesterday’s edition of the Samoa Observer. It reported on the concerns raised by the U.S. territory’s Senate President Tuaolo Manaia-Fruean.

In a follow-up hearing last week by the Senate Select Investigative Committee on the status of the Department of Homeland Security’s report and recommendations into the pleasure boat, the Department of Homeland Security Director, Samana Semo Ve'ave'a was questioned on whether the "pleasure craft" had breached any local legislations during its trip to Samoa in April this year. 

Tuaolo decried the lack of “proper action” to hold government officials to account over the Kite Runner saga, saying: "It's not nice especially given that this is an issue between two countries.

"The Prime Minister of Samoa publicly said that the boat should have been seized and detained its crew when it arrived in Samoa. 

"It's a national embarrassment. How would you feel if it was a boat coming from Samoa and entering our borders without proper documentation? 

"When are we going to fix these issues and make things right? The people keep asking for answers to a lot of these issues including the importation of drugs yet we don't have the answers and we don't know what to say to them.

"You said you submitted the report with its recommendation and that's it? You just leave it at it without following up on it?"

We must say American Samoa’s Legislative Assembly is doing an admirable job in relation to the issue, going out of its way to take public officials to account over the Kite Runner saga, which as the Senate President correctly states involves the maritime security of two sovereign nations.

The last time Samoa’s Legislative Assembly was privy to information on the maritime security breach was in June this year, when Prime Minister, Fiamē Naomi Mataʻafa gave a ministerial statement addressing the nation on national issues that also involved a number of her Cabinet Ministers. Debate on the Prime Minister’s ministerial statement in the Parliament was then adjourned to a later date.

With Samoa’s Parliament scheduled to convene on 24 October 2023, there are no guarantees that the Kite Runner saga will be put on the parliamentary agenda for the current administration to lead the debate in the chamber. In retrospect, if that happened here in Samoa, it would also be a national embarrassment for this country as the American Samoa Senate President puts it for the U.S. territory.

It is clear that the Senate Select Investigative Committee in Pago Pago is taking the Department of Homeland Security’s report and recommendations into the pleasure boat very seriously and is not keen on leaving any stone unturned. 

However, can Samoan citizens and the general public expect the same level of commitment to the rule of law, transparency and accountability from our Members of Parliament in relation to the Kite Runner saga? 

Extensive coverage by the Samoa Observer on this controversy since April this year, no doubt, makes it one of the biggest stories this year. The true test for Samoa’s Members of Parliament will come on the 24th of this month when the House sits and whether the leaders of the current FAST administration will put the interest of the nation before their own and that of their parliamentary colleagues whose offices were implicated.

The Department of Homeland Security’s report and recommendations – which are currently before American Samoa’s Attorney General for review and disposition – have the names of the Samoa government ministries and agencies and officers who did the documentation for the Kite Runner

To get the ball rolling, table a copy of the Department of Homeland Security’s report and recommendations in the Legislative Assembly when it convenes later this month and set a date for its contents to be debated, or best still refer it to the relevant parliamentary committee for deliberation. Anything less is a betrayal of the trust and confidence of the people to do the right thing.

By The Editorial Board 03 October 2023, 10:00AM
Samoa Observer

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