One of two women candidates vying for the Urban East constituency seat in the General Elections is Namulauulu Dr. Malofouosamoa Nu’ualofa Tuuau-Potoi.
While people easily recognise her from a distance with her red hair and the many hibiscuses’ she wears, what they do not know until now is that the 67-year-old has always harboured a desire to become a politician.
Born in the sub-village of Nu’ualofa, Vailoa Palauli, Namulauulu says she is ready to fulfill that dream.
“I have always wanted to be a politician all my life but the timing wasn’t there,” said Namulauulu.
“My parents didn’t name me (Malofouosamoa). It was our village mayor that named me Malofouosamoa because that was when the first Parliament or self governance of Samoa started and I have always been conscious of that.”
Namulauulu will be going up against the Associate Minister of Public Enterprise, Papali’i Niko Lee Hang and businesswoman, Tole’afoa Mara Coffin Hunter.
But she is confident.
Remembering the past, she recalled an M.P from Palauli, the late Tualaulelei Mauli, who was one of the key people in the original government before Samoa became Independent.
“He and my father always talked about politics,” she recalled, something that has obviously rubbed off on her.
During the previous election, Namulauulu’s husband, Masoe Leota Dr. Toga Potoi, ran for the Asau seat. He did not succeed.
But Namulauulu, a former Chief Director of the Public Health from 1997 – 2005 said her preparations have been going well.
The daughter of the late Rev. Elder Tuuau Sao and Gogosina Aiono Tuuau Sao, she believes her “destiny” has always been to serve God and people.
“Our upbringing as faifeau’s children is that you grow up serving people whether its frying pancakes for tea and those things,” said Namulauulu.
“It is sort of our second nature to serve God and the people and for 32 years I have been in public service and the last ten with private sector.
“I think it’s time to move on to something more challenging and I believe I have the maturity, the wisdom and diplomacy.”
The candidate believes that once you get older you become wiser, more diplomatic, more balanced in perspective of life. This is as opposed to the younger ones whom she said are more angry, unsettled and impatient.
“From experience at the end of the day it is always the lawmakers that make a difference in people’s life,” she explained. “Not just making laws but enforcement that makes a difference in the improvement of the quality of life.”
Speaking about the political parties, Namulauulu explained her reasons for choosing the Human Rights Protection Party.
Remembering her mother that passed away recently, Namulauulu said she had asked the 91 year-old which party she should run for and she chose H.R.P.P. Another reason is that after talking to her constituents, the majority of them support the H.R.P.P.
“My mother being a faifeau’s wife says you must always go and support the government. She believes that whoever is in government is God’s appointment.”
Recalling the meeting she had with Prime Minister Tuilaepa, the candidate said she had asked if she could run under the H.R.P.P. flag.
“His response was yes because the urban east is a new seat even though there is reigning (M.P. Papali’I Niko). I didn’t want to be a fence sitter. I don’t want to be regarded as a second class H.R.P.P, it’s either that one or the other. I see a lot of independents jumping the fence and as a professional woman I think it’s unethical.”
Moving on to the issues, one that is a priority for Namulauulu is education. She wants to advocate compulsory education at public primary and second schools. She also wants to explore strategies to revive church’s “aoga faifeau”.
All of which is aimed at getting kids off the streets of Apia especially in the urban area where child vendors are a major issue.
“Yes we have compulsory education but it’s not being enforced,” she said. “I think parents need to be held accountable.
“Poverty today is a sign of the whole system because if you look at Samoa’s population, the majority of them are youths.”
In addressing this issue, the candidate used an example from the Australian Pacific Technical College (A.P.T.C) where studies are carried out to see what sort of skills that the market demands.
“Once we identify this we train the students accordingly.”
Having a lot of experience and background on health, Namulauulu still feels the service could be better. Being part of government reforms too, she said, initially aimed at cutting costs, increasing efficiency and effectiveness.
But such has not been addressed.
“The public and clinical health in the past, worked together with women committees,” she said. “I want to revive that. It was actually the health service that killed (that relationship) where they came in and said they didn’t want women to interfere but that is part and parcel of primary health care; it is their participation.
“It’s really bad what you see now with the separation of the N.H.S (National Health Service) and M.O.H (Ministry of Health). I feel that it’s not integrated but its more vertical, they stand alone and isolated.”
Compared to her time, she said the health sector seemed to have more people but less teamwork.
“The national outcome is, we all work with one common vision to improve the quality of life for our people,” she said. “Compared to those days, there is a lot of money now, more salaries but little work.
“This is because they have that mindset of I do my own thing. There is no integrated team work…they fight over outcome measures rather than combining their work.”
Part of her projects is to have a pilot center to see women committees participate where a committee hall is used for clinic.
She said a healthy Samoa means to revitalize and reestablish a holistic integrated primary health care, public and clinical health service as it was in the past.
That aside, Namulauulu agrees that Samoa has come a long way.
“There are challenges and I feel that health service can be better delivered with improved team work spirit…it’s too palagi-nized. One of the things I advocated for in health reforms is to Samoa-nize everything to make it feel, smell, taste and look Samoan.”
Tourism is another issue for the candidate.
Being the Chairperson for the Animals Protection Society (A.P.S), Namulauulu advocates for tourism development in urban area and for humane treatment of animals, in particular dogs.
She is an animal lover and believes that the Police management unit’s initiative where dogs are put down is inhumane and contradicts A.P.S’s mission.
If there was one organisation that Namulauulu feels it has not been fully utilised is the Scientific Research Organisation of Samoa (S.R.O.S).
According to her, despite the organisation having discovered a lot of methods and products to export, very little of it is being used.
“They have done so many researches but the results are not being put out there,” she said.
“It’s such a huge gap, I mean we are lucky we have a research center but we are not even making use of the research they have done. For example the mosooi perfume. It’s small but it has a niche market and we have so many mosooi and frangipani but very little is done with it to market.”
Another example she used was the avocado tree. She said the Ministry of Agriculture should be working with S.R.O.S to develop local products.
“Agriculture is such a dead horse,” she said.
Namulauulu‘s theme for the election is “Striving for Excellence in services with love, care and compassion.”
She resides at Tiapapata and Vaivase uta and hails from the villages of Vailoa Palauli, Gautavai, Fasitoo-uta, Lauli’i, Falealupo and Fagali’i.
Namulauulu had worked as a public health specialist for 32 years including being a medical officer in the various district hospitals.
A medical doctor by profession and retired, she is currently working part time at the Potoi Medical Clinic as a business partner. She also does voluntary work for her church, N.G.Os and civil society organisations.