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Tuesday, September 30, 2014
Faleomavaega Rips Obama, Kerry Over PRIMNM Announcement
By Selected News Articles @ 8:12 PM :: 3327 Views

Faleomavaega Rips Obama, Kerry Over PRIMNM Announcement

From ABCDEFG Blog September 30, 2014

A clearly frustrated American Samoa Congressional Delegate Eni Faleomavaega has lashed out at President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry over Obama’s decision to sign an Executive Order creating a Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument (PRIMNM). While expressing his appreciation that the conservation zone expansion would only involve Wake Island, Jarvis Island and Johnston Atoll, he said “I am displeased that the White House rushed this decision just so Secretary Kerry could have a sound bite at the United Nations.”

“Given the seriousness of the issue, I believe the Administration should have been more thoughtful about this process,” argued the delegate, “[because t]his decision affects the economies of Hawaii, American Samoa, CNMI and Guam, and every stakeholder among us deserved to be heard.” Reflecting disappointment that he was crowded out of the decision-making process, he continued: “[I]t is unfortunate that the White House and State Department really didn’t engage in a meaningful discussion with local leaders or Congress about this initiative.”

Pointing to stalled negotiations for foreign fishing rights in the Pacific, Faleomavaega again accused Kerry of rushing for a sound bite while “the Administration may have failed to consider that its expansion just might spell trouble later for the American tuna industry in light of an un-negotiated South Pacific Tuna Treaty. An un-negotiated treaty,” he warned, ”means less fishing grounds for our tuna boats and, environmentally, may lead to overfishing if Pacific Island nations open up fishing grounds to the highest bidders and if Asian and European vessels are given the green-light to do as they please. . . . In consideration of these facts, I believe if the Administration is truly serious about conservation, then it would have made the renewal of the South Pacific Tuna Treaty a higher priority than the expansion of PRIMNM.”

He gamely tried to reclaim his relevance by saying that he had been told by White House aides on September 24 of the President’s intentions to sign the Executive Order but was asked not to say anything until Kerry announced it in New York at a follow up meeting to his June Our Ocean Conference. Faleomavaega did not attend the Apia meeting and while it is unclear if he also were not at the follow on gathering, judging from his news release that makes no mention of it, he was not.

It had to be annoying to him that by not announcing the White House decision, his thunder was stolen because the lead story in the September 25 Samoa News was based on a press release issued late in the afternoon of the 24th by the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council, which apparently was not under the same embargo, ignored it or was faster on the draw, leaving Faleomavaega relegated to saying “me, too.” Wednesday afternoon National Geographic also published a story on Kerry’s Wednesday morning announcement, so it seems more likely that the delegate’s crack press staff, which long has been accustomed to dictating what and when off-island news is reported locally, was caught napping.

It is curious that Obama has given Faleomavaega such back-handed treatment considering the delegate went out of his way to take a gamble and endorse the president’s first bid for the White House in 2007 when the Illinois senator was still considered a long shot. Both men were raised and schooled in Hawaii and Faleomavaega apparently felt a kinship with him. In fact the relationship was considered so close that some conspiracy theorists charged that during the campaign on one of the delegate’s frequent trips to Indonesia, he was asked to negotiate with Jakarta authorities to get Obama’s childhood school records sealed.

However, the latest attack on Obama and Kerry is another sign that he is distancing himself with the soon-to-be lame duck president and secretary of State as he tries to tries to mend fences with Kerry’s predecessor Hillary Clinton, the frontrunner for the 2016 Democratic Party nomination for president. That break was underscored when he also said he would cross party lines to back legislation by a Republican in the upper house. Referring to his objection to the PRIMNM order, he said: “This is why I stand with Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska who has introduced legislation to change the law so that no President will ever have the power to lock up millions of acres of public lands and waters without Congressional approval.” -- A dramatic move for a man who just three-and-a-half years ago was chairman of the subcommittee that had jurisdiction over the global environment.

With virtually every member of the House, except those not running for re-election, having left Washington for home for the critical final weeks of the campaign, it is curious that Faleomavaega is still there. There was a Washington dateline on September 25 press release, which Samoa News buried in a larger story recounting the reactions of a number of organizations to the conservation zone. Having missed the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) summit in Apia, it seemed possible that Faleomavaega might have wanted to recoup by attending the U.N. Secretary General’s Climate Change summit in New York just ahead of this year’s General Assembly speeches but there is no evidence he traveled to New York for that gathering or even for Indian Prime Minister Modi’s meeting with Members of Congress.

Indeed, the only evidence of Faleomavaega activity was a press release pathetically announcing he participated in the annual White House picnic for Members of Congress. Since this event is held every year, is open to all Members of the House and Senate and their families regardless of party and is not meant for conducting business, it is hardly newsworthy and only the Samoa Post ran a story. Neither Samoa News nor Radio KHJ-FM found it newsworthy. As with the annual Easter Egg roll and the White House Christmas party, this event is purely for socializing and photographs.

In addition to the usual pictures with Obama and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D), Faleomavaega made a point of mentioning (and providing the press a photo with) “my good friend, Chairman Frank Lucas of the House Committee on Agriculture, which has responsibility over American Samoa’s food stamp and voucher programs that I have worked on all these years to keep in place and increase our funding.”

Why single out Lucas? Perhaps because one of his election opponents also had a photo taken with Lucas when the chairman passed through Pago Pago in August as part of a Natural Resources Committee-led Congressional Delegation on which the second most senior Democrat, Faleomavaega, was noticeably absent. And so it goes.



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