VIETNAMESE WORKERS WANT TO GO HOME AFTER MELEE AT DAEWOOSA SAMOA

By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (November 30, 2000 - PIDP/CPIS)---Daewoosa Samoa’s 250 Vietnamese workers filed suit in the High Court Wednesday seeking air fares for their return to Vietnam.

Prompted by Tuesday’s brawl in the garment factory, the suit has been brought against Daewoosa Samoa and its owner-president Kil-Soo Lee. It also seeks an expedited hearing for December 4th. The court has not yet confirmed the hearing. The suit was filed by the attorneys for the Vietnamese workers, Virginia Sudbury and Christa Lin.

"The workers are terrified," the suit stated. "They are afraid to leave their rooms, and are not going to work at the factory. They feel that they will receive no formal protection from defendant Lee.

"They are afraid not only of defendant Lee, but of the Samoan workers as well," the suit continued. "They are fearful for their safety, and for their lives; they want to receive their owed wages but more immediately, they wish to return to their home country."

The suit outlines Tuesday morning’s unfortunate turn of events that led to the melee and its fall-out. The information provided to the court is based entirely on the sworn statements of several of the Vietnamese workers. The suit was filed the same day territorial governor Tauese Sunia ordered Police Commissioner Te’o J. Fuavai to conduct "a complete, thorough and fair investigation" into the brawl.

Gov. Tauese said the unfortunate incident concerns him greatly because not only was there harm to people, but also several very sensitive issues.

"Please ensure that a complete, thorough and fair investigation into all of the allegations is conducted and completed in a most expeditious manner and the results of the investigation forwarded to the Attorney General," Tauese informed the commissioner in a letter with copies to the media.

In the meantime, Daewoosa manager Virginia C. Soliai presented the American Samoa Government with an official statement from the company of what occurred on Tuesday.

Soliai said the Vietnamese woman that was seriously injured, identified only as Ms. Quyen, had refused to work, when asked by company supervisor, Nuuuli Ioane. Soliai said the woman slapped Ioane in the face and at the same time, Vietnamese workers rushed Ioane with scissors.

In an exclusive interview with Ioane, he said that while slapped by the Vietnamese woman, he was punched from behind by a Vietnamese man and another Vietnamese man tried to stab him with scissors.

When he ducked his head, the scissors cut him on the cheek. Ioane claims that Vietnamese workers were slacking off on the job and would not follow company policies.

Ioane said that under company policies, anyone who sleeps or slacks off is told to go home and this was the situation with Ms. Quyen.

Accompanied by a company security guard, Ioane said Ms. Quyen was led out of the factory when the incident occurred and the rest of the 250 Vietnamese in the factory jumped him.

He said the 36 Samoan workers came to rescue him, not to beat up the Vietnamese. Ioane together with the Samoan workers have filed statements with police.

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