Interagency Working Group (IAWG) meets at Lee Auditorium
A milestone meeting was held at the Rex Lee Auditorium on Tuesday January 30 attended by Honorable Governor Lolo Matalasi Moliga, Lieutenant Governor Lemanu, members of the American Samoa Drug Control Commission, dignitaries of the Federal Government, Cabinet members, representatives of Samoan Affairs and relevant support to discuss a path forward for the recently formed American Samoa Drug Control Commission (ASDCC) in order to prevent and halt the proliferation of illegal drugs in American Samoa. The meeting presented the Interagency Working Group (IAWG) comprised of federal representatives assembled by U.S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral Vincent B. Atkins including regional officials from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), Homeland Security Investigations (HIS) Hawaii, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Alcohol Tobacco & Firearms (ATF), National Oceanographic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and U.S. Postal Investigation Service (USPIS).
Chief of Staff HTC Fiu Saelua opened the proceedings with welcoming remarks and then called upon Deacon Malaki Timu to offer a prayer and blessing. The Deacon led the gathering in a traditional hymn and then offered a succinct blessing. After introductions of the American Samoa Drug Control Commission and the visiting federal dignitaries, Governor Lolo Matalasi Moliga stood for his remarks. Governor Lolo welcomed the attendees and stated that it was a unique and special occasion to see so many federal authorities on island at one time, noting that it's the most he’s witnessed in 50 years of government service. Governor Lolo specifically thanked U. S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral Vincent B. Atkins for his efforts as a "real friend" to bring together the distinguished group with the immense pool of knowledge and experience. Governor Lolo recounted when the American Samoa Drug Control Council was first created there was a strong desire to have this level of involvement and participation of federal authorities. The Governor commented on the
composition of the American Samoa Drug Task Force which includes leaders from religious, community, business and government organizations noting that the perils of drugs and the threat to our society requires a focused and collaborative solution. Governor Lolo articulated that the most serious problem with drugs is the growing presence on school campuses and the negative impact on our youth, stating “if we don’t act today, there will be no tomorrow”.
U.S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral Vincent B. Atkins spoke next and expressed his appreciation for the gathering and establishment of the Interagency Working Group. He concurred with Governor Lolo in recognizing the need to address the scourge of drugs, noting that it is an international problem that takes the lives of over 50,000 American lives every year. Rear Admiral Atkins stressed the importance of joining forces to form a network of “good people” with the common goal of countering illegal drugs. He noted that there are many challenges ahead but through working together with a common sense approach a good solution can be found.
Following the special remarks, a short intermission was held prior to presentation of data and statistics by local agencies. Presenters included for the Department of Public Safety, Commissioner Le’i Sonny Thompson; for the Department of Treasury/Customs Division, Deputy Director Keith Gebauer; and for the Department of Port Administration, Director Taimelelagi Dr. Claire Poumele.