Head of State addresses disability forum

By Deidre Taotua ,

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His Highness Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi.

His Highness Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi. (Photo: File/Samoa Observer)

The Head of State, His Highness TuiAtuaTupuaTamaseseEfi, has welcomed the participants of the 5th Pacific Regional Conference on Disability being held in Samoa this week.

His Highness TuiAtua and the Masiofo Her Highness FilifiliaTamasese were honoured guests at an ava ceremony staged at Hotel TanoaTusitala to welcome the meeting’s participants.

In his address, His Highness TuiAtua focused on “inclusivity” and “idiosyncrasy.”

“In Samoan, inclusiveness may be worded: “Aua ne’i faasino’esea” -  which literally means, “to not exclude”. There are many ways by which one can exclude or avoid exclusion. You can exclude by word, by look, by voice or by body language: by the way you blow your nose or stamp your feet,” the Head of State said.

“In the Samoan language, we have a saying: “Pele iupu, pelei ‘ai, peleifoliga, peleiaga”. This means that if something is precious (pele) to us, it or they would not be excluded. Evidence of this is found in our words (peleiupu), our behaviour (peleiaga), in the food we share (pelei ‘ai), and/or by our facial expressions (peleifoliga).

“This ‘pele’ environment is an environment of joy, love and compassion. By contrast, an exclusive environment is one where ‘pele’ is absent or lacking.

“In the Samoan culture to be excluded by others in society is bad enough, but to exclude yourself by personal choice is worse.” (Read His Highness TuiAtua’s speech in full on the Sunday Samoan)

Australian High Commissioner, Sue Langford, also addressed the Forum.

“I think we all know that there is more work to do,” she said.

“People with disabilities continue to face barriers…”

She went on to say that the Australian government recognizes the importance of people with disabilities. She encouraged networking at the conference.

“We can all travel around the world and promise to introduce all the strategies that we like and all the policy promises that we like,” she said.

“But I think for them to work and to create change we really need to focus on the implementation and the outcomes and we also need to work in partnership.

“I think we need to do this not just in our respective countries but also in the region and around the globe.

“So I want to encourage you all to use this opportunity to share information and practical ideas and in particular I encourage you to think about how we can ensure children with disabilities to go to school regardless of where they live, and have the opportunity to graduate and study at technical college or university and how we can ensure all young school leavers and graduates.”

The event is jointly organized by Nuanua o le Alofa as the host organization and funded by the Government of Australia through the Department of Foreign Affairs Trade.

© Samoa Observer 2016

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