WASHINGTON SAYS NO TO HOUSE REQUEST FOR INDEPENDENT COUNCIL IN AMERICAN SAMOA

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PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (December 31, 1998 - PACNEWS)---The United States Secretary of the Interior has denied a request by the American Samoa House of Representatives to appoint an independent attorney to prosecute government officials implicated in the sale of government vehicles and spare parts last year.

The request was based on findings by the controversial House Investigative Committee that several senior government officials, including Governor Tauese Sunia, abused their authority or gained personally from the unauthorized sale.

The Interior Department cited four reasons for turning down the Representatives' request for a special prosecutor. First, that an Office of Independent Counsel already existed. It was established by former Governor Aifili Lutali in the wake of the misappropriation of hurricane relief funds for farmers in 1991 after Hurricane Val.

Second, that local leaders have a far better sense in knowing who would be the best candidate to appoint as a special prosecutor.

Third, that the request came only from the House of Representatives and did not have the endorsement of the Senate, and fourth, that the Interior Department's appointment of an independent counsel would conflict with the constitutional power vested in the governor to make executive appointments.

Washington commended the efforts by the House to improve accountability in government and offered several suggestions to achieve the same results without outside involvement.

These include strengthening local law enforcement, establishing an office of independent counsel by statute and establishing whistle blower laws to encourage and protect those who witness wrong doing to come forward and report it early

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES MEMBERS TO BE SWORN IN ON SUNDAY

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (December 30, 1998 Samoa News)---The 21-membership of the Territory's House of Representatives will be sworn in on January 3rd for their two year term, and among them are six new lawmakers that succeeded in the Nov. 3 elections.

The most important part of Sunday's agenda is for the membership to vote on the Speaker of the House, which is currently held by Rep. Mailo Sao Nua.

Rep. Mailo confirmed already he is seeking the post again, but that will have to be decided by those who supports him and if he wins it will be his second term as Speaker but 18 years as a lawmaker.

House member term is for two years only.

Stories from the SAMOA NEWS, American Samoa's daily newspaper, may not be republished without permission. To contact the publisher, send e-mail to

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