SAIPAN — The resumption of the House committee hearing on some of Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Gov. Ralph Torres' public expenditures triggered a heated argument between the witness' lawyer and the House legal counsel who, at one point, accused the witness of "prolonging" and "disrupting" the proceedings, which, he said, could be "grounds for contempt."

Special Assistant for Administration Mathilde "Keko" Rosario appeared again on Friday before the House Committee on Judiciary and Governmental Operations to continue answering its members' questions.

This time, the committee, chaired by Democrat Rep. Celina Babauta, asked her about music entertainment devices, camping equipment and other items for which the lawmaker said the governor was reimbursed after buying them from a Walmart in Boise, Idaho, and In Motion Supermarket at San Francisco International Airport.

Besides Babauta, also present during the hearing were Reps. Tina Sablan, Edwin Propst, Donald Manglona, Vicente Camacho, Richard Lizama and the lone Republican member of the committee, Vice Speaker Blas Jonathan Attao. With Rosario was her legal counsel, Viola Alepuyo. In the gallery were Rosario's family members and a few administration officials.

As in the hearing on Thursday, the questions on Friday were translated into CHamoru, and Rosario answered in CHamoru. This, once again, triggered lengthy discussions and arguments on what the law says about translations during an official government proceeding.

"I respectfully submit that this (hearing) is an official function where the culture and the traditions of the people of the CNMI must and should be recognized, to include the absolute and fundamental right to speak and be spoken to in CHamoru," said Alepuyo, Rosario's legal counsel.

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