ASG Hawaii office on Dillingham remains open

Photo Credit: 
Faletuiga/Tina Mata'afa-Tufele
Gus Hannemann (right), director of the American Samoa Government Office in Hawaii, speaking to Honolulu Star Advertiser Photojournalist Cindy Ellen Russell during a press conference held January 2013 in Waipahu.

FOR THE FIRST TIME, SPECIFIC FUNCTIONS OF THE ASG-HAWAI'I OFFICE ARE PUBLICIZED

(Honolulu, HAWAI'I)--In line with a memo issued late January by American Samoa Gov. Lolo M. Moliga, the American Samoa Government Office in Hawaii remains open. Located on Dillingham Boulevard, the ASG Hawaii Office comes under the jurisdiction of the Governor's Office and the decision for the office to remain open was reported Jan. 30, 2013 by Samoa News in American Samoa.

A look at americansamoa.gov, the official web site for ASG shows that a page titled "Hawaii Office" is currently under construction. "More information on the Hawaii Office to come," the site reads.

According to the Samoa News report published in January, Afimutasi was senate liaison "for local and federal government affairs" during Lolo’s tenure as Senate President 2005 to 2008. He was designated “caretaker” of the Hawaii office when the Lolo administration was sworn in Jan. 3, 2013. Afimutasi is older brother of former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann and also led the Lolo transition team for the Hawai’i office in December 2012.

The usefulness of the Hawaii office was questioned by American Samoa lawmakers last September during FY 2013 budget hearings. Lawmakers said the budget proposal of $349,500 for the Hawaii office is a huge amount, considering there were only four employees (not including the director) listed in the budget document, which also states that the director’s annual salary is $50,000.

The biggest expenditure for the local ASG office is about $150,000, which covers office and parking space rental for the year.

Lolo sought out the need to keep this office open, and it was the reason, he said, he appointed only a caretaker from the beginning.

In a memo dated Jan. 28, the American Samoa governor announced the office would remain open and appointed Afimutasi to head this office. The memo also listed twelve mandated functions, which includes facilitating the obtainment of travel visas for residents of Samoan ancestry in need of such assistance.

Samoa News reports that this is the first time specific functions of this office have been made public.

Lolo says the office is here to help obtain proper immigration documents for individuals of Samoan ancestry residing in Hawai’i or residents from American Samoa seeking assistance in addressing their immigration documents.

The office is also to liaison with Samoan communities or individuals requiring assistance from the State of Hawai’i and the City and County of Honolulu.

Moreover, it is to assist residents from American Samoa requiring medical services in Hawai’i; and must collaborate with the LBJ Medical Center in rendering assistance to patients referred from the territory, to ensure that medical appointments are kept.

It is also to provide assistance in locating places for patients to stay while attending to their medical needs during their stay in Hawai’i.

Other mandated functions for the office are as follows:

• provide assistance to all Armed Forces personnel in need of help from the state of Hawai’i, City and County of Honolulu or from the Red Cross in American Samoa for family emergencies which might require travel to the territory;

• provide assistance to all American Samoan students attending colleges and university in Hawai’i and the mainland regarding their needs;

• liaison with Hawaiian Airlines with regard to travel documents to ensure compliance with local immigration laws;

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