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PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (Samoa News, May 3) - Eight local
employees from the Lyndon B. Johnson (LBJ) Tropical Medical Center were arrested
earlier this week by Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) agents for their
alleged involvement in the American Family Life Assurance Company (AFLAC)
medical insurance scheme.

The suspects were handcuffed and taken into custody by armed
federal agents who escorted the eight suspects via a United States Coast Guard
aircraft to Honolulu, Hawaii last Tuesday.

Many locals have been in an outrage since the arrests, claiming
that the federal agents were disrespecting the Samoan culture when they barged
into the LBJ, allegedly armed, and arrested the suspects from their place of
employment without any prior notice and without giving them the right to contact
family members to inform them of what was going on.

This past Thursday, in response to the arrests that took place
at LBJ, the Samoa News quoted former Department of Public Safety Commissioner
Tuilefano M. Vaela'a as saying that the families of the eight suspects who were
arrested by federal agents "have the right to sue." Furthermore, Tuilefano
stated that federal agents "cannot just run over our people like that."

Apparently, many people believe that the federal agents were
wrong for executing the arrests in the manner that they did.

However, outspoken Pago Pago Representative Muavaefaatasi Ae Ae
Jr., currently suspended from the House for calling a collegue a dog, told
To'asavili / Samoa News in an interview yesterday morning that he is very
pleased with the FBI intervention into the AFLAC case and he has no regrets
about how the federal agents executed the arrests.

"Our people cannot let our culture and traditions get in the way
of upholding the law. The point is, when you commit a crime, you pay the
consequences. It's as simple as that," Muavaefaatasi remarked.

"What we need to remember is that the people in our territory
are not given special treatment as compared to other federal suspects in the
United States and other US territories. Federal agents arrest people suspected
of committing federal crimes in the United States the same exact way they
arrested the eight locals this past Tuesday. So why are we complaining? Is it
because our people are so enticed in our culture and way of life that we think
everything, including the upholding of the law, should fall within our cultural

Muavaefaatasi further stated that the FBI involvement into the
AFLAC investigation and execution of the arrest warrants were already known to
the Governor and the American Samoa Government (ASG) Attorney General (AG).

"It's not like the suspects shouldn't have expected something
like that to happen. I'm sure everyone has heard or seen on the news how federal
agents go about doing their job. I personally applaud the work of the federal
agents and understand that they arrested the suspects in the way that they were
trained to."

Yesterday's issue of the Samoa News quoted Mrs. Agnes Pa'i Sunia
(LBJ credit and collections manager and also the wife of ASG Attorney General
Fiti Sunia) as saying that "our rights were abused by federal law enforcers."
She further stated that the federal agents should have opted to have the local
law enforcers carry out the arrests as "they are used to arresting our people."
Furthermore, Mrs. Sunia stated that the arrests "goes against our culture."

Mrs. Sunia also wondered why the federal agents were armed when
they made the arrests.

Regarding the federal agents being armed, Muavaefaatasi stated
that our people need to understand that federal agents are armed because "they
are trained to carry weapons. The reason why our local law enforcement personnel
do not carry guns is because our local law forbids the arming of local police
officers unless they are ordered to do so."

(The most recent case involving the arming of local police
officers was when the arrests were made in the Wyatt Bowles Jr. case.)

In further detail, Muavaefaatasi explained to To'asavili / Samoa
News that the reason why the federal agents had to come into the territory and
arrest eight locals was because of the "lack of teamwork between the local law
enforcement agencies and the FBI."

Muavaefaatasi recalled a case that occurred when he was the
Chairman of the Public Safety Committee in the Fono. In that case, the suspect
was residing in the village of Pago Pago and the feds were looking for him
concerning his involvement in a brawl in Chicago. Muavaefaatasi, in
collaboration with OTICIDE, managed to contact the suspect and give him an
option of either having the agents come into the territory to arrest him or
traveling to Honolulu to meet with federal agents who will escort him back to
Chicago. The suspect chose the latter and "everything worked out" Muavaefaatasi
recalled. "It's all about teamwork. Had the local law enforcers worked together
with federal agents and kept in contact with them, something could have been
worked out and none of this would have happened."

He added by saying that if the AFLAC case had been kept in the
territory rather than having the matter transferred off-island, the FBI would
have never gotten involved and the fiasco that took place at the LBJ this past
Tuesday would have never taken place.

"If our local government cannot handle our own matters in the
territory, how can we not expect federal agents from off-island to do their job?
Once a case is transferred outside the territory, it is no longer in our hands
and technically, the federal agents who are involved in the case are then
responsible and any action taken after that should be understood as necessary."

Muavaefaatasi stated that many people tend to use our culture as
an excuse when it comes to crime. The faa-Samoa has caused many people to
believe that social status comes into play when it comes to dealing with the
enforcement of the law. "It doesn't matter if you are a paramount chief or a
high government official. You do the crime, you do the time" he said.

Muavaefaatasi does believe that a federal court system should be
present in the territory to deal with federal matters on local soil rather than
transferring all our federal cases off-island. "Handling our federal matters
off-island not only brings shame and a bad name upon our people, it also shows
everyone that we are not able to deal with our own problems."

Speaking of the AFLAC fraud scheme, Muavaefaatasi stated that
the problem started when the case was transferred off-island. "The Attorney
General (AG) should have kept the case in the territory rather than transferring
the matter off-island. Former Assistant Attorney General Robert Maez filed the
initial lawsuit for the AFLAC fraud case but the case was sent off-island by the
Attorney General for reasons that are undisclosed. It was a local decision to
send the matter off-island to the feds so essentially, we really can't blame the
FBI for being involved as it was not their choice to do so; but rather, the case
was handed to them."

Currently, the FBI has a local field office in the territory and
it has been reported that, although they will not intervene in the Wyatt Bowles
Jr. investigation, they will be looking into five unrelated cases stemming from
the Wyatt Bowles investigation. It is also expected that other local
investigations by the feds are pending but information on those cases are yet to
be disclosed.

May 9, 2003

Samoa News: www.samoanews.com

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