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Monday, September 13, 1999 Samoa News

LETHAL INJECTION BILL KILLED BY AMERICAN SAMOA HOUSE

By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO--A proposed law that would have specified the use of lethal injection to carry out American Samoa’s death penalty was defeated in a 15-2 vote by the House of Representatives.

American Samoa’s religious character, as indicated by our motto, "Let God be First," was an important influence on the faipule.

Before the vote last week, Rep. Otomalesau John Ah Sue reminded his colleagues that there is already a death penalty in the law books. The death penalty law was passed over 20 years ago.

According to Rep. Matagi, the news about the lethal injection bill broke in Hawai‘i while he was in Honolulu and he heard a lot of objections from Samoans there.

Only "God can take a life away," opponents said. Some faipule believe the bill would have passed if amendments had been added that made clear who would administer the lethal injection.

Rep. Puaopea Paopao had sought this amendment for two weeks. Speaker Aina announced on Tuesday that he would give the lawmaker until Friday to submit the amendment.

Rep. Paopao was thus surprised that the bill was put to a final vote on Thursday. The Manu‘a lawmaker said he could not find a legal counsel to draft the amendment.

The bill’s author, Rep. Muavaefaatasi Ae Ae, Jr., was absent from the Fono Thursday. (He had an official excuse as he was attending to district business.) He was very disappointed when he learned that the bill was defeated without the changes.

"Mr. Speaker, you specified Friday as the last day to submit the amendments, but instead the bill went through third reading on Thursday without the amendments. I am very disappointed if this is how the House will operate from now on, not sticking to its original commitments," the Pago Pago lawmaker said.

"Whoever is responsible for bringing this important bill before the membership for the final vote on Thursday without the amendments should be sanctioned. We have a death penalty, but there is no mention of how that penalty is to be carried out," he reminded his colleagues.

"We need to complete the death penalty law. Our motto is ‘Let God be First,’ but what I don’t understand is the argument against the method when the death penalty is already there," he declared.

Territorial laws stipulate that anyone convicted of 1st Degree murder shall be sentenced to death or life in prison. There are 11 prisoners currently serving life in prison.

It has been about 50 years since the last death sentence was handed down in American Samoa. A man was hanged in the Customs House on the wharf for killing another person with a bush knife.

ASG HIRES NINE TO REPLACE FOOD STAMP DEFENDANTS

By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO--The Department of Human and Social Service (DHSS) has hired nine people on short-term contract to carry the workload of the nine DHSS employees who were suspended for allegedly ripping off the federally funded program.

The nine suspended Food Stamp employees were placed on "Administrative Leave with pay," DHSS Director Marie Ma’o told the Fono last week.

That statement prompted a challenged by Rep. Muavaefaatasi Ae Ae Jr., who asked DHSS officials (Ma’o and Deputy Director Patolo Mageo) to point out the law authorizing such a thing as "Administrative Leave."

The exchange took place during the budget hearings for the department.

"What kind of leave are these nine employees taking? Nowhere in the law books does it say anything about Administrative Leave. It’s either sick leave or vacation," noted the faipule.

Mageo said that the Administrative Leave option was recommended by the Attorney General after the employees were accused of committing fraud.

Rep. Muavaefaatasi said there is a lot of money paid to these employees when there is no such thing as Administrative Leave.

"Can’t these nine Food Stamp employees be transferred to other ASG divisions to justify their pay?" asked Rep. Otomalesau John Ah Sue.

Faipule also wanted to know why DHSS needs a new $34,000 car in addition to the seven vehicles already in the agency’s stable.

The officials explained that a vehicle is needed in Manu’a. They also informed the Fono that under federal guidelines, each of their cars is to be replaced when they are four years old.

According to the DHSS officials, the agency serves over 6,000 mothers and children through its Women, Infant and Children (WIC) program; around 2,700 elderly and disabled are served by the $4.3 million Food Stamp Program; and between 500-800 clients receive services from the Social Service/Vocational Rehab program.

NEW MISS AMERICAN SAMOA CROWNED

PAGO PAGO--Miss Vaisa’asa’a Ofisa Galea’i is the 1999-2000 Miss American Samoa, having been crowned late Saturday night at the conclusion of the 8th Miss American Samoa Pageant.

As promised, it was a night to remember. And if you weren’t there, you missed it because the pageant will not be shown on television.

Over three hundred people crowded into the Pago Bay Restaurant to enjoy the show.

The audience was captivated from start to finish. The show opened with Tiare of the Empresses of Samoa parading on stage in a Las Vegas showgirl costume. White fishnet stockings and silvery sequins were the visual accompaniment to Cher’s "Do you believe in love?"

Tiare was joined by the contestants (Sinapioa Ausage, Vaisa’asa’a Galea’i, Miss ASCC Faaseila Fruean, and Sarai Fanene), all in bright halter tops and black silk pants.

PUBLIC SAFETY OFFICER DENIES ALLEGATION BY COMMISSIONER

PAGO PAGO--"I want to clear the air and make it known that I deny the accusations that have been made against me," said Lt. S. Sipili, the Watch Commander on duty the night that inmate Suafala Williams escaped from the Territorial Correctional Facility.

Sipili, in an exclusive interview with the Samoa News, was commenting on allegations repeated by Public Safety Commissioner Te‘o Fuavai regarding Williams’ escape from custody on Tuesday, August 31, 1999.

The Commissioner was quoted in the Samoa Post as stating that he had heard that the TCF Watch Commander (Sipili’s name was not mentioned) had given Williams, a convicted murderer, permission to leave the Territorial Correctional Facility compound. Te‘o was quoted as saying that he had also heard that the Watch Commander knew where Williams was while an island wide manhunt was under way, but the Commander did not tell his or her colleagues.

Although Sipili was not named in the September 9 article, he says that it wasn’t hard for people to figure out whom the Commissioner was referring to.

"The commissioner made those statements to the media (Samoa Post) before a proper internal investigation was completed. The Commissioner jumped the gun on this," added Sipili.

He and his family have felt the brunt of what they deem to be an "unjust accusation."

"This has damaged my reputation at work, within my family, with my church and my village," said Sipili.

31 MORE POKER MACHINES WERE CONFISCATED LAST WEEK

PAGO PAGO--As of last weekend, there are 31 fewer poker machines operating in American Samoa.

The latest tally of legal poker machines stands at 241. A 1989 law outlawed any but the 259 machines then in use, but government research identified almost 400 operating machines earlier this year.

Slowly, the unauthorized machines are being identified and confiscated.

More than 100 have now been confiscated. During the Labor Day weekend raid, 31 more machines were added to the list.

BUDGET ERRORS, CONTRACT HIRING UPSET FONO MEMBERS

PAGO PAGO--"The ASG budget is full of errors," complained House Budget Committee Chairman Otomalesau John Ah Sue.

"There are too many errors," agreed Rep. Muavaefaatasi Ae Ae, Jr. It took only three days of budget hearings before the problem was confirmed.

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Tuilefano M. Vaelaa said the subtotals do not necessarily add up to the total.

A day after Senator Tuilefano made this statement, the Committee debated for 30-minutes whether to review the Department of Education’s budget because DOE officials said that their budget for FY 2000 is $35 million, but the information in the 12-inch thick budget book showed only $22 million.

A $14 million addition error was finally pinpointed and explained.

TEACHERS SHOULD ATTEND UH AT ASCC TO EARN THEIR BA

PAGO PAGO--Any public school teacher who wants to pursue a bachelor’s degree is encouraged to attend University of Hawai‘i classes offered at the American Samoa Community College.

Teachers that don’t have a bachelor’s degree will not receive increment pay raises until they obtain the degree, according to Dr. Sili K. Sataua Director of the Department of Education.

Dr. Sataua was responding to a question raised during DOE’s budget review last week. Apparently, a few teachers have complained to their representatives that they have not been approved to attend school off-island, paid for by DOE.

In response, Dr. Sataua informed the Fono about the UH teacher’s bachelor teaching program at ASCC.

"By utilizing this program, the teacher stays here to teach our students while continuing to support his or her family," said Dr. Sataua.

NEW STRATEGIES FOR EDUCATIONAL LEADERSHIP AT DOE

PAGO PAGO--Cooperation and communication are being stressed in the Department of Education under the new leadership of Dr. Sili K. Sataua.

School principals now meet on a regular basis with the administrators back at DOE headquarters.

The meetings promote sharing of information, according to Dr. Tafea Seui, Program Director for Research and Development, and this increases the likelihood that DOE programs will be successful.

Educators working at the main office are once again being sent out to teach in classrooms. Not only does this policy address critical teacher shortages, but also it gives Program Directors and members of the instructional development staff (DCI) a better understanding of the status and challenges students and teachers face in the actual classroom.

Dr. Seui, for example, has been teaching a level five reading class at Lupelele Elementary School.

Items 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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