DAEWOOSA SAMOA ATTORNEY DEFENDS COMPANY OWNER LEE

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By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (March 28, 2001 - PIDP/CPIS)---Attorney for Daewoosa Samoa and owner Mr. Kil-Soo Lee, Marie Alailima Lafaele, said she is confident that the federal system of justice will "ferret out fact from fiction."

Lafaele was responding to media inquiries over the arrest of Mr. Lee last Friday on federal criminal charges of forced labor and servitude.

The federal complaint filed in Honolulu last Friday, the same day Lee was arrested here, claims that Mr. Lee "defrauded [workers]; failed to pay [workers] and at times deprived [them] of food; [and] beat and physically restrained these workers to force them to work."

"I am confident that our federal system of justice will ferret out fact from fiction," said Lafaele, responding to the charges against Mr. Lee. "There is much incentive on the part of the workers to make such allegations against Mr. Lee, Daewoosa Samoa and the Vietnamese government.

"Such allegations, if accepted as fact, can pave the way for approval of a T-visa application and help qualify these workers for permanent U.S. residency status," she added, noting that this is precisely the agenda these workers are being encouraged to pursue by their attorneys and certain federal persons.

"It is unfortunate that the agenda has resulted in telling untruths about the way Mr. Lee, the Samoan management and the Samoan security guards managed the workers and the factory," said Lafaele.

The Vietnamese workers have accused Samoan assistant production manager Nuuuli Ioane and the company's security guards of slapping and beating them.

Ioane and other Samoan workers have denied to the local media they beat any of the Vietnamese workers.

Lafaele said allegations of involuntary servitude and forced labor is a course that is being pursed wantonly and without caution as to the evidence and concern for the truth.

She said investigators knew full well that most workers just wanted to be paid their back wages and to continue working at Daewoosa until their return home. She also noted that there were attempts to provide that opportunity under new management.

"Unfortunately 'off-island vigilantism' in generating adverse publicity made pursuing such a course impossible," she pointed out. "It is curious that the off-island vigilantes, the lawyers for the Vietnamese workers, and one very determined lawyer on the Human Rights sub-committee staff seem to be the ones who can safely dictate what is good for others and retreat back to a comfortable office job knowing that it wasn't their factory that was shut down or their job that was lost."

Of the Daewoosa situation, Lafaele said, "Let’s not forget, there were Samoans, Chinese, Vietnamese as well as Korean workers who had their safety nets taken away. It is arrogant to be engaged in the practice of trading one's pearls of wisdom for another man's food.

"Lets not allow other people's obsessions with shutting down garment factories and vigilantism cloud the fact that people need to eat. The impact of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 needs to be studied carefully," she added.

Lafaele was retained to defend the company in the civil action lawsuit brought against Daewoosa by former employees.

Lafaele said she has not been retained for any new matters pertaining to Lee or Daewoosa, including the federal criminal charges in Honolulu.

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