Am. Samoa Congressman Discusses Future After Election Defeat

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Faleomavaega to write book, hopes to return to territory

By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, Nov. 11, 2014) – Congressman Faleomavaega Eni is considering future options, with job offers being made to him as a consultant, but he has not made any final decisions yet, according to an interview with Samoa News before he left the territory. He did say that he is working on a book about his nearly three decades as American Samoa’s non-voting delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives.

After being re-elected to Congress for 13 consecutive two-year terms, since 1987, Faleomavaega was unseated in last Tuesday’s general election by Aumua Amata, who had been seeking the post since 1994.

Amata departed Monday night for Washington D.C. where Congress has scheduled new member orientation for ten days, starting Wednesday this week.

FUTURE PLANS

Asked about future plans, Faleomavaega told Samoa News that first, he needs to return to Washington D.C. to close down his office, but he "has not made any other plans for now."

"We’ll see what’s out there in the form of options, although I have been offered very good jobs as a consultant on the mainland," he said in a phone interview last Friday before he left that evening, headed back to the nation’s capital.

"But I’m not interested in staying on the mainland. I feel like I could still be of help, but I’m not clear in what capacity. So I want to see what's out there, and where I could do more for our people," he said.

"However, I also want to come back home to help. I feel that I would be more productive and helpful here especially dealing with our youth at the American Samoa Community College and in schools, sharing the sense of my experience with our young people," he said. "Help our young people on how best to plan for their future, either in the private sector, military, government or in Washington D.C."

Faleomavaega says he also wants to look at "our bilateral relations with our cousins in Samoa" and work on better relationships between the two Samoas. "There is tremendous potential there but in what capacity I can help, I don’t know at this point," he said.

HIS HEALTH

The out-going Congressman’s health has been a major concern by local residents after he was med-evaced to Honolulu in October of last year, from complications which he said were due to exposure to ‘Agent Orange’ while serving in the Vietnam war.

Asked if his health was the reason he was unseated in the Delegate race, after some 27 years in Congress, Faleomavaega said, "I think it was one of the critical issues in the campaign, and there were also a lot of rumors floating around that I’m way too sick. It's understandable."

He said there was also rumors earlier this year that he was dying— or on his death bed— and these rumors still continued up to campaign time.

"I thank the Lord that I recuperated, but at times of campaign season everything comes into play. We are no different than any other state or territory during campaigning, that these types of issues would come up, and these are factors that come into play on election day," he said, but did not specifically say that his health was an issue that resulted in his loss for re-election.

"But in the end, our people - our voters - made known their wishes and I respect that very much. Our people chose Amata and I wish my sister Amata all the best," he said. "Again, this is how democracy works; it's the people who decide their next Delegate to Congress."

NEW BOOK

Faleomavaega confirmed that he is working on a non-fiction book "to be released soon" and is in the process of finalizing it. He says it will be based on his 27-years of experience and service in Congress.

Some details of the book will deal "with issues I feel are critical for our future," he said and explained, "I have complained all these years that the U.S. is not paying more attention to Asia and the Pacific, which is what we—American Samoa and Samoa—are part of."

He says the attitude of the U.S. towards the Asia Pacific region is much less than when it comes to Europe, which is where the federal government has focused more attention.

He said the book would cite concerns he has with the US lacking focus in "in our region, which is an important region."

HIS OFFICE

Asked when he and his staff are to move out of their Washington D.C. office, Faleomavaega said they are to vacate Capitol Hill before Jan. 3, 2015 which is when the new Congress takes over and his local office will do the same "fafo ma le ma’afala" - the Samoan phrase referring to vacating a home or premises.

The local district office is located at the ASTCA building in Tafuna.

"Fafo ma le ma’afala for us after tackling any last minute issues in Washington," he said with a hearty laugh and repeated at least three more times that "ua fafo ma le ma’afala". The Congressman was in good spirits during the ten minute phone interview and he also said, "we all have to look for jobs now"—referring to himself and his staff both here and D.C.

"That’s just how things are. You are elected to office for two years and after those two years, if voters decide on someone else, then we leave office. That is our political system," he said and repeated what he told Samoa News on election night, that "I will offer my assistance and help in any way to Amata in Washington D.C."

Faleomavaega acknowledged that while Congress returns this week for a final session of the year, "we’ve gotten pretty much what we requested for American Samoa, and I’m happy."

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