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Visiting delegation feted on way to Saipan

By Tina Mata’afa PAGO PAGO, American Samoa, (Samoa News, August 5, 2009) - The Congressional Delegation led by U.S. Representative Nick J. Rahall (D-West Virginia) was welcomed yesterday by Acting Governor Fepule΄ai Afa Ripley Jr. and a number of government officials and lawmakers at the Pago Pago International Airport VIP lounge.

During his brief remarks upon arrival, Rahall, who last visited the territory in 1975, thanked those in attendance.

"We thank you so very much for having us on this trip," he said, noting they have been working closely with American Samoa Congressman Faleomavaega Eni Hunkin "in the best interest" of the territory.

Rahall -- chair of the House Committee on Natural Resources, which has oversight jurisdiction on the U.S. territories -- said the territory is "well represented" in the U.S. Congress, and added the delegation looks forward to working with the acting governor and the legislature during their trip.

"We are happy to be here and we look forward to our visit," he said.

Fepulea΄i, on behalf of Governor Togiola Tulafono (who is in Hawai΄i for Samoan Heritage Week with other government officials), the government and people of American Samoa, welcomed the delegation.

He relayed Togiola’s regrets for not being here during their stop.

Following a reception at the VIP lounge, the special guests were transported to Leone village, where a church service was led by Reverend. Emau Petaia and Cathechist Toetofi Tavale. Hymns were provided by the CCCAS Leone choir.

Leone chiefs and the aumaga welcomed the delegation with a traditional Samoan ΄ava ceremony held at Faopi΄o, guest house of the late Paramount Chief Tuitele.

First to drink of the ΄ava was Rahall, followed by Fepule΄ai, members of the delegation, government and traditional leaders.

Delegation members -- Faleomavaega Eni F. Hunkin (D-American Samoa), Madeleine Z. Bordallo (D-Guam), Henry Brown (R-South Carolina), Donna M. Christensen (D-U.S. Virgin Islands) and Gregorio Kilili Sablan (D-Commonwealth of Northern Marianas Islands) -- thanked Leone and the government for their hospitality.

Jim Costa (D-California), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources, Committee on Natural Resources, did not make the visit.

A ranking Leone chief welcomed the group to Leone and extended "the warmest talofa and heartfelt greetings" to the delegation.

He said, "We are honored and humbled by your presence here today."

Fepulea΄i before he drank of the ΄ava, noted the “power” of the House committee headed by Rahall voiced his hope that the “committee will continued to do good things for all people especially American Samoa."

Sablan, who said it’s been only eight months since CNMI has had a representative in the U.S. Congress thanked Faleomavaega for helping the government of CNMI

Christensen thanked the village of Leone for their hospitality.

A feast held at the guest house of the late Faiivae Galea΄i -- Pouono -- followed the ava ceremony and traditional sua presentations.

The delegation, accompanied by several spouses -- Mrs. Billye Brown and Mrs. Antonina Hunkin and staff members -- Brian Modeste; Jean Flemma; and Bonnie Bruce meet today with members of the Fono.

Items that will be discussed during the 11 a.m. meeting include the economy, the COS Samoa Packing closure and the minimum wage.

Faleomavaega said last week in a news release the congressional visit to the territory will specifically examine the tuna fishing and processing industries and consider what needs to be done to keep StarKist in the territory.

The delegation is scheduled to depart today, via government aircraft for Palau, the next leg of their Pacific tour.

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