Am. Senate expedites resolution to stop imports from Samoa


The American Samoa Senate this week, expedited the passage of a Senate Resolution which requests the Governor to put an “immediate stop to the imports from Samoa” coming through the Department of Agriculture. 

The non-binding resolution, recommends an investigation and review to ensure local laws – including Bribery of a Public Servant – and any other laws have not been violated by employees of ASG’s Agriculture Department. 

Samoa News reports the measure was prompted by Soliai’s suggestion at last Friday’s Senate session for a resolution, seeking to halt the import of eggs from Samoa saying that such imported products have not received approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and this is a serious concern to the Fono.

Without USDA approval, Soliai says this raises concerns pertaining to the health effect on children who consume such products that have no federal oversight.  Soliai and other senators had followed this issue through media reports by newspaper and radio – which are cited in the Senate resolution. 

With Agriculture Department director Solialealofiotagaloa I. T. Mutini currently off the island til later this month, Soliai’s call for a Senate committee hearing on Monday has is postpone until lawmakers reconvene after Mar. 13. 

For the resolution, the Senate recalled the Governor’s State of Territory Addressed at the opening of the 38th Legislature on Jan. 09 this year, where he discussed “how despite the drastic changes and the higher cost of living we are all experiencing now, “[ASG] continues to seek ways to support the people of the territory, private businesses and sustain the government.” 

The resolution noted that this is the “role of government, i.e., to govern by making laws, rules and regulations, and by framing policies in the interest of the country and its citizens.”

 “It is to provide for collective services for the benefit of the community as a whole, such as national defence, relations with other countries, public order and safety, and to regulate the social and economic system of the country,” the resolution says 

In an effort to carry out its administrative mandates, the resolution notes that American Samoa picked up discussions with Samoa regarding various social and economic challenges, through the Atoa o Samoa” formerly known as the “Two Samoa Talks”.

Through the talks, American Samoa and Samoa continued its goals of working together for the betterment of both countries.  The resolution cited the Governor’s State of the Territory Comprehensive Report that the : Atoa Samoa” talks last October culminated in the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) highlighting mutual development and collaboration in numerous areas, including trade. 

Since the “Atoa Samoa” talks, the resolution said Samoa News had reported that ASG through “the Department of Agriculture has been given the green light for Sunshine Pacific to export eggs on a weekly basis to be sold in a local store.”  

And its cited part of the news article, which states that “ASG [has] granted a long-term request by the Samoa Government to import [their] meat into the US territory.” 

Additionally the newspaper reports last November that, “American Samoa will soon be able to get farm fresh eggs imported from Samoa”. 

And it’s understood that other raw products, besides poultry products have also been imported since late last year. 

The House Agriculture Committee held a hearing early last week, where Agriculture Department’s deputy director Siauini Taala – the current acting director – testified and “confirmed hat eggs from Samoa were being imported and distributed to local restaurants”, according the resolution. 

And it cited a news report by KHJ News/Talanei on Feb. 01entitled, “The Egg Saga Continues” – corroborates the importation of eggs since last year.  

The resolution further cited the KHJ report: “[The eggs] were distributed by [the] Department of Agriculture employees, using DOA vehicles during office hours.  The business owners have told KHJ news that payments for the eggs are made to a company called Sinalei Landscaping Services.”  

And the deputy director confirmed he owns a landscaping business to the House Agriculture Committee.

The resolution declared that it’s “alarming and unethical that an ASG Department, in this case, the Department of Agriculture, is actively engaging in an operation for profit, under the guise of helping the community.”

“It is highly concerning that Department of Agriculture resources are being used to sell the products of a foreign, private company,” according to the resolution which also notes that the Agriculture Department has failed to support the governor’s promise in his State of the Territory Address to support the people of the territory and private businesses.  

The resolution contends that the importation of the poultry products being shipped in on a weekly basis from Samoa goes against ASG’s  priority and the governor’s promise to support private business.

American Samoa currently has existing and active locally-owned egg farms that have been providing poultry services to consumers and local companies over the years,” the resolution states. 

For ASG and DoA “to facilitate and profit from the importation of these imported products directly affects our own local sales. It sets up our own local egg farms and businesses to fail, as they must comply with all of the local and federal regulations and pay for all fees associated with running a local business,” the resolution points out. 

And “these local and federal regulations and laws are now being bypassed by these foreign companies that have partnered up with the Department of Agriculture to bring in their goods for sale,” it says. 

“These foreign companies who do not need to comply with  our laws to secure a business license, secure a tax ID number in which to pay taxes to our government, secure a facility from which to distribute their products, hire any local employees to do their work for them in American Samoa, undergo food and sanitation inspections from the Department of Health, pay for a DOH health permit in order to sell their products” it says. 

Additionally, these same foreign companies can now bypass USDA and U.S Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) certifications which “keep our nation’s meat, poultry and processed egg supplies wholesome, safe and properly labeled”.

Furthermore, these are the same USDA and FSIS “certifications which protect consumers, our local residents from the dangers of food-borne illnesses such as E.coli contamination by adopting a zero-tolerance policy for this pathogen in raw beef products.”

Thanks to the USDA and FSIS’ tough standards, we are safe from Salmonella and Campylobacter, bacteria commonly found in poultry and meat,” the Senate resolution points out. 

Besides requesting the governor to put an immediate stop on imports from Samoa, the Senate recommended – through the resolution – for the Attorney General’s Office to apply to the High Court of American Samoa for an Independent Prosecutor toinvestigate and review this situation to ensure” local law – ASCA §46.4701Bribery of a Public Servant” and §46.4702 “Public Servant Acceding to Corruption”, and “any other laws of the land have not been violated by the employees of the Department of Agriculture”.

According to the resolution, “we must ensure the unacceptable activity by the Department of Agriculture does not happen again. ASG employees must be held accountable for their actions.”

The resolution recalled a statement by former Associate Justice Louise D. Brandeis of the U.S Supreme Court: “Our government…teaches the whole people by its example.  If the government becomes the lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for the law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy.”

The resolution noted that it’s the priority of the  government and its leaders to ensure that any product or service provided in the territory for its people is safe. 

“Extensive measures must be considered in evaluating and assessing imported products to protect the life and well-being of our people,” it says. 

Broad measures must be taken to ensure ASG employees are all working towards the common goal of “improving government services, fortifying our community, and empowering our people” 

As “[t]together we secure the best future for American Samoa,” the resolution said, citing the Governor’s State of the Territory Comprehensive Report, which was distributed to lawmakers early last month. 

After the Senate approved the measure, it was recorded in Fono journal and thereafter transmitted to the Governor’s Office. 

SOURCE: Samoa News