The Tautua Samoa Party might have been crushed by the Human Rights Protection Party (H.R.P.P) last Friday but there is no lack of fighting spirit in one of their newest members.
Ili Ta’ateo Tafili, the new Member of Parliament for Aana Alofi No. 2, has vowed to do his part to rebuild an opposition party to strengthen Parliamentary democracy in Samoa.
“Looking at the votes, people think that an opposition party does not have a role to play but we do,” Ili told the Samoa Observer yesterday.
“An opposition party plays a vital role in making the most righteous decisions for a country.
We provide the balance and checks. We look at all the pros and cons of any decision made in Parliament and argue whether we need it now or later.”
Ili, who ousted the Minister of Women, Community and Social Development, Tolofuaivalelei Falemoe Lei’ataua, believes this is the beginning of a new era for the opposition.
He will be joined by veteran M.P., Aeau Peniamina Leavai and Olo Fiti Vaai as Tautua Party members.
“People have their own views and opinions and if the majority have decided to join the H.R.P.P then that’s their own free will,” Ili said.
“As for us, we are now looking at developing a very strong opposition party. I know the Prime Minister will agree to what I am saying because in any democratic government, there should be an opposition.
“Personally, I think that a government will operate well with an opposition party rather than going as a one-party state.”
Looking at his personal journey during the elections, Ili said he is extremely humbled.
“This is a great honour given to me by the people of my constituency and I am very grateful,” he said. Ili defeated Tolofua with 814 votes to 556.
“It was not an easy choice for people to make between me and Tolofua,” he said.
“It wasn’t easy for me and it was not something that I prepared for overnight. It was a long journey and I am happy [that] it all turned out well.”
Asked why he wanted to be a member of the Tautua Party, he said the decision was not made by him alone.
“The last representative of our constituency was a member of the Human Rights Protection Party. And my village thought that it would not be proper to also have another candidate running as a H.R.P.P member,” he said.
“So joining the Tautua party was the appropriate way to do it. And it’s not that my village had any hard feelings towards the government or anything, it was nothing like that.
“For me personally, I was looking at how I can give something back to my constituency. So I considered joining the Tautua Party to voice the opinions of my constituency. The people have spoken and this is what they want.”
And he has no regrets.
“When I declared my candidacy, everyone knew I was running under the flag of the Tautua. I am standing by my decision and the decision of our people to be a member of the Tautua Party despite not having many members.”
He believes people did not vote for the candidates of Tautua because they “are not aware of the danger of not having an opposition in any government.”
“It’s very dangerous to have one party in Parliament,” he said. “There should always be an opposition party to question their decision and to advise them to look at their decision carefully because it is for the whole country.”
As the new M.P for Aana Alofi No.2, he said his priority is to help the people of his constituency in any way he can.
“There is a part of our constituency called Vaialua and the people there are vulnerable to the sea level rising,” he said. “That will be my priority for now. I want to build a sea wall for the village.”
He also wants to improve infrastructure.
“Because most of our people depend on farming and agriculture as their main source of income so, I want to help improve our roads so that people are encouraged to work on their plantation.”
A native of Nofoali’i, the 55-year-old is married to Siliilagi Ta’ateo. They have five children, three girls and two boys.
He is an old student of Saint Joseph’s College and the Trades Training Institute [T.T.I] at Vaivase.
In 1984, he moved to New Zealand. They moved back to Samoa in 1991 and he started teaching at the Polytechnic Institute until 1993.
From 1993-1998, he worked at the Samoa Airport Authority and at the same time, was a part-time teacher at the Polytechnic Institute.
From 1998-2006, he worked at Samoa Breweries as an Engineer.