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CONGRESSMAN ENI F.H. FALEOMAVAEGA American Samoa U.S. House of Representatives Washington, D.C.

NEWS RELEASE February 19, 2001


Congressman Eni Faleomavaega announced today that the Ambassador of Vietnam is seeking his assistance in resolving the problems relating to the Vietnamese workers in the Territory of American Samoa.

"Ambassador Le Van Bang contacted my office shortly after directing his assistant, the Charge D’Affairs, to respond to the Governor’s (Tauese Sunia) recent correspondence to the Embassy," Congressman Faleomavaega said.

"I am pleased that the Ambassador is taking preliminary steps to resolve this crisis. I am also pleased that he directed his assistant, the Honorable Pham Van Que, to inform the Governor’s office of Vietnam’s attempt to bring resolution to this matter," Congressman Faleomavaega said.

"At this time, I have informed the Ambassador that our local leaders must have a voice in determining what course of action should be taken. I will be discussing the matter in further detail with the Governor and Fono leaders this week. In the interim, members of my D.C. staff will be meeting with Vietnamese Embassy officials as early as Tuesday, February 20th," Congressman Faleomavaega said.

"Although the Ambassador and his Charge D’Affairs have acknowledged the Government of Vietnam’s intent to help its workers return home, it is still unclear as to whether or not Vietnam is committed to assisting financially. It is my intent to meet with the Ambassador upon my return to Washington to clarify and solidify the Government of Vietnam’s participation in bringing this matter to a fair and expeditious resolution," Congressman Faleomavaega said.

"It is my understanding that the Governor will be in Washington for the National Governors’ Association conference during the time of my scheduled meeting with the Ambassador. I have invited the Governor to meet with us during this time. If his schedule permits, this will be an opportune time for us to work together to resolve this crisis for the good of our Territory and the Government of Vietnam," Congressman Faleomavaega said.

"In preparation for our discussion, I have made plain to the Ambassador that we will need to resolve three primary issues now facing our Territory and the Government of Vietnam. One, we must address the issue of back wages owed to more than 250 Vietnamese workers. Two, we must come to terms on transportation costs associated with the workers returning to Vietnam. Three, we must address the concerns of those voicing objections to returning to their homeland," Congressman Faleomavaega said.

"Ultimately, I believe we are faced with this crisis because Company 12, under the auspices of the Government of Vietnam, failed to establish a firm understanding with Daewoosa about which party would assume responsibility for the workers’ wages, food, lodging, and airfare to and from Vietnam. Because no clear contractual agreement was made between the two parties, the Government of Vietnam is now caught in a dispute that is well on its way to becoming an international incident," Congressman Faleomavaega said.

"I have expressed my concern to the Ambassador that the people of American Samoa are also suffering as a result of Company 12 and Daewoosa’s failure to implement good-faith business practices from the onset. The New York Times, the Orange County Register and the Dallas Morning News have released reports suggesting that Samoans lack compassion for the plight of the Vietnamese people," Congressman Faleomavaega said. "Yet the truth is many in our Territory have embraced the people of Vietnam, provided them with food and lodging, and tended to their medical needs."

"It is most unfortunate that the situation at Daewoosa has escalated to the point of crisis," Congressman Faleomavaega said. "But I am hopeful that after consultations with our local government leaders and Vietnamese officials we can resolve this serious matter once and for all."

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