Rep. Christina E. Sablan (D-Saipan) believes the House of Representatives Committee on Gaming should summon Gov. Ralph DLG Torres and Imperial Pacific International Holdings Limited board chair Cui Li Jie to testify at a legislative oversight hearing on the governance, financial suitability and compliance failures of Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC.
That will ultimately be up to the committee members to decide in a vote, said Sablan, who is the committee’s vice chairperson, in response to Saipan Tribune’s inquiry about the oversight hearing.
The lawmaker said Wednesday she would defer to Committee on Gaming chair Rep. Edwin K. Propst (D-Saipan) to provide more detailed updates about the hearing. She, however, stated that Propst has issued letters pursuant to the investigative authority of legislative committees, requesting certain records by particular deadlines.
Sablan said more letters are forthcoming this week.
She said they expect hearings to be held in June 2021.
The lawmaker said the list of witnesses they will be summoning to testify should be finalized once the committee has received and reviewed the requested records.
“We should all take very, very seriously the federal court’s findings that IPI was complicit in a human trafficking and forced labor scheme, and that unsafe and unlawful conditions persisted even after IPI was on notice that workers had suffered serious injuries at the construction site, workers were not being paid, and federal investigations were underway,” Sablan said.
She noted that IPI is now barred from the H2B worker program and, as she understands it, also from the Commonwealth-Only Transitional Worker program.
As it stands, “how will they ever finish the Garapan project, let alone the remaining development phases they promised in the casino license agreement?” Sablan asked.
Last December, U.S. Department of Labor WHD assistant director Patrick Candoleta informed IPI that because of IPI’s failure to timely respond to the Oct. 23, 2020, notice of debarment issued by U.S. Labor, IPI is debarred from receiving H-2B certifications for a period of five years from Nov. 22, 2020.