Sunday, November 09, 2008

American Samoa Congressman responds to Guam concerns

Updated Wed Nov 5, 2008

A number of American affiliated states in the Pacific are also holding elections. Firstly, to American Samoa where 17 thousand registered voters have cast their votes for candidatres running for governor and Lieutenant governor; the non voting delegate to the US Congress and members of the House of Representatives. Faleomavaega Eni Hunkin is running for his 10th consecutive term as American Samoa's non voting delegate to the US Congress.

GERALDINE COUTTS: Talofa, are you likely to be re-elected as the delegate to Congress?

ENI HUNKIN: Well, I don't want to make too quick a prediction but as you know, we're the last jurisdiction where the votes are counted, so just now our polling stations are closed and they're starting to count the ballots. And they do it manually.

GERALDINE COUTTS: So, you've got no idea then?

ENI HUNKIN: No, not really.

GERALDINE COUTTS: Faleomavaega, I was just wondering if you could stay with us for a moment, because we are going to play another insert and I want you to comment on it. In Guam, the administration of the Republican Governor, Felix Camacho, is concerned about the possible impact of an Obama administration on the military build up the island. 12,000 US marines are being transferred from Okinawa in southern Japan to Guam, and this is providing a boost to Guam's economy. Governor Camacho's spokesman Shawn Gumataotao says they're worried those plans might change under the new administration. Faleomavaega, we'll get your comments after we've heard from Shawn.

SHAWN GUMATAOTAO: One of the things that will be first and foremost on our minds is to ensure that the new president of the United States will again continue the commitment made between the United States and Japan for resources to support the move of US marines from Okinawa to Guam. That is the primary transition issue that will be faced by not only the government of Guam, but it will be faced by the US Department of Interior, who has oversight of the territories and also the United States Department of Defence, which will be in the position to implement that program. Again, that is the single biggest transition issue that we will face here.

GERALDINE COUTTS: And finally, Faleomavaega Eni Hunkin, a Congressman from American Samao is online from Pango Pango. As the Asia-Pacific subcommittee on the House Committee on foreign relations, what do you think about that comment. Are they duly concerned and are they correctly so?

ENI HUNKIN: Well, yeah, I can understand Governor Camacho's concerns because now we have a new administration and it really comes down on the re-valuation on how the new president is going to look at our overall strategic, military interests throughout the Asia-Pacific region. And transferring some 9,000 marines and their families to Guam, you're talking about $14 to $15 billion funding that the leaders and the people of Guam are looking at as a golden opportunity, as it well benefit them economically, obviously. But the question here - there's going are also going to be other members of Congress who are also gonna say, "Hey, why send them to Guam, bring them to my district." You know what I mean, here in the United States. Because of the tremendous amount of money that we've already expended in this terrible war in Iraq and the problems we're faced with now in Afghanistan, ah, we'll just have to, kind of, wait and see what are going to be the new recommendations of the new military leaders and especially whoever's going to be the new Secretary of Defence. That's going to be the primary agency leader that's going to single out exactly what's going to be out there for us, as far as the Asia-Pacific region is concerned.

GERALDINE COUTTS: Senator Barack Obama in his presidential campaigning said that he was going to cut the military budget by 25%. Does that therefore follow that the Pacific will take its share of that cut?

ENI HUNKIN: I have no reason not to believe that. 25% is pretty huge out of, out of over a $500 billion budget that is supposed to have, that we've approved in the current fiscal year. So I'm sure that every agency, every activity, ah, every program that has been earmarked for this is definitely going to be impacted. And I have no doubt that this $8 or $9, $10 billion usage for the transfer of these 9,000 marines may have to be re-evaluated and reassessed.

GERALDINE COUTTS: Now, just before we let you go this evening, sir, can I just ask you when you think the votes will be in, in American Samoa, for both your position and for the governor's jobs and lieutenant-governor?

ENI HUNKIN: Ah, we will know in a couple of hours, Barbara. So, like I said, everybody else is probably - Guam and Northern Marianas are the first ones to have complete their elections and American Samoa is the last to complete its election. So, we will know - it's about 6:45 right now and probably in another two or three hours we will know the outcome of both the elections for the congressional seat and also for the governorship.

GERALDINE COUTTS: Faleomavaega Eni Hunkin we'll let you go so that you can watch the counting as it goes along. Good luck and thank you very much for joining us on Pacific Beat today.

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