Palemia: The story of Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi

By Joyetter Feagaimaali’i-Luamanu ,

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The memoirs of Tuilaepa Neoti Fatialofa Auelua Lupesolai Galumalemana Lolofie Aiono Dr. Sa’ilele Malieleagoi was officially launched yesterday.

The book fittingly called “Palemia” is now available from Samoa Stationery And Books outlets in Samoa and overseas. 

Held at Taumeasina Island Resort, the launch was well attended by government officials, guests and his family. The Head of State, His Highness Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi and the Masiofo, Her Highness Filifilia Tamasese, were present.

The book tells how a boy from an isolated village grew up to become the Prime Minister of Samoa. It follows his journey from Lepā to Apia, Wellington, Brussels, Singapore, Beijing, Tokyo, London, New York and many other international destinations, always returning to Lepā and the FaaSamoa that shaped him.

The Book’s co-Author, Dr. Peter Swain, helped compile the memoirs. He said his time with Prime Minister Tuilaepa has taught him so much about Samoa. 

 “Samoa’s culture is oral, however we have attempted to capture on paper Tuilaepa’s voice as he tells his story.”  

Dr. Swain said Tuilaepa recalled his father’s advice on becoming a matai (chief).

“At the end of the sofa’i, when it was just me and my dad, Malielegaoi Veni he said to me ‘now that you are a matai, listen to me very carefully son, you must learn the full elements that makes a chief a chief. 

“You should first of all learn to joke. Learn to joke and engage in humor, debate and exchange. If you are able to do that, you will become the most influential speaker in the house of Chiefs, because you will entertain.” 

According to Dr. Swain, the second part is being able to learn how to deliver a suitable Samoan speech, Samoan style. 

The third part of being a Samoan chief is to know the genealogy, the gafa, between your village and other villages. 

“In that way you have weapon with you that you can use to silence any opposing speaker.” 

Dr. Swain said throughout his long career, Tuilaepa followed his father’s advice.

He said when reading the Palemia, it is clear that Tuilaepa has been very mindful of maintaining his political base through his tautua and by connecting and balancing the affairs of the state with the affairs of his village, taking the people with him. 

“Maintaining this balance, has kept him grounded in the fa’asamoa and connected to his community ensuring that his decision making and leadership remains relevant to village life.” 

Publisher Fergus Barrowman of Victoria University Press said the decision to print the Palemia was an easy one. 

 “I found it absolutely riveting reading of a great story and the wonderful generous and enlightening account of recent Samoan culture and politics.”

According to Barrowman when the book was given to higher officials for review and approval, the initial response was that it would take some time.

That was not the case, it took a couple of days and Barrowman was told to publish the memoir. 

“So the publishing has been very easy especially with the assistance of Peter Swain who is the editor and co-writer of this book. 

“He has shown a wonderful understanding of how to serve the voice of the narrative and how to put Tuilaepa first and to bring forth his wonderful personal story and the strong vibrant voice. 

The memoir was reviewed by Tuiloma Neroni Slade.

 “This is a book of anticipation, a book of events, events of defining consequence in the light of Samoa,” he said. 

FIRST COPY: His HIghness Tui Atua and Her Highness Filifilia Tamasese with their copy of Palemia. Photos / Misiona Simo
FIRST COPY: His HIghness Tui Atua and Her Highness Filifilia Tamasese with their copy of Palemia. Photos / Misiona Simo

“For some, perhaps even a book of revelation, but this memoir is a political state craft in the moment of supremacy and it is a proclamation on deeds and achievements.” 

He said the book has the Prime Minister’s personal account, and viewing of the causes of the event of momentous of political significance shaping the direction and the management of the modern development of the country. 

“In the past few days, the Samoa Observer has carried a broad outline of the memoir and from it, I think general indication has been given of what the reader might expect. 

 “The realities of nation building under a largely untested constitution, the shifts and turns in political leadership, party politics, opposition politics, the maneuvering and the intrigues. 

“The personalities of note, political assassination, the public servants strike seen as a defying moment, the national economy at its modernization, the response to critics, natural disasters, multitude of challenges and the accomplishments. 

“There is much here [book] that will generate interest and fascination and perhaps for some, fortitude in reading of matters past or matters which might have been left in the past.” 

Tuiloma also made it clear that he was not giving a sales speech and refrained from touching the specifics of details. 

“What we have in this memoir are the insides and the reflections of a man who has been at the very center of policy making and governance for an extended period of time. 

“The perspectives are idiosyncratic and offered from a range of elevated vantage points as member of parliament since 1981; having lead a senior government bureaucrat for a number of years, view points from the position of senior government posting. 

“The first from 1982 following his long years of tutelage under the honorable Tofilau Efi the political grand master that we all know. and the personal reading of all this, as the prime minister since 1989. 

“There is much in this treasury of intimate engagement first hand knowledge and experience from which to draw.” 

Tuilaepa thanked Dr. Swain for his work.

 “Dr. Peter Swain saw me on a courtesy visit and in the course of our conversation, he casually suggested that it would be a great idea to write a memoir of my leadership experiences for posterity and that he would help do it. 

“My initial reaction was one of uncertainty. Memoirs are usually written at a time when most of the characters involved are either dead or have lost their memory. 

“As you will find out, many of characters in the book, are still very much alive, very active and still kicking. 

He said he eventually gave the “go ahead, but I was still unsure whether Peter will honor his commitment as three other candidates have made similar bids before Peter but have never seen me again. 

“Without Peter we would never have a launch this morning.” 

He said in the complex world of Samoan politics, many inspiring politicians have often seen him for advice about their future potential careers in politics.

“One I can recall told me that he was farmer and he was married, and his wife and three young children were living in New Zealand. 

“He has decided to come back to Samoa to pursue his luck at the next general election, where he would stand as a candidate from his village. 

“My advice for him was to go back to New Zealand and take care of his wife and his kids. I told him, when your children are grown up, and have completed their education and you are near 70 years old, then you can afford to be irresponsible and stupid and come back and run for politics.”

The book was sold at the launching for $70. S.S.A.B organised the event.

© Samoa Observer 2016

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