The former Minister of Finance, Faumuina Tiatia Liuga, received a stern telling off from Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi last week.
“Before you say anything further, think about your time,” Tuilaepa said. “I don’t want to go back to the past. I thought you would never bring this up but I urge you to think deeply about it.”
The chiding happened during the discussion of the 2016/2017 Budget in Parliament when Faumuina questioned the government’s commitment to the development of Savai’i.
Reminding Prime Minister Tuilaepa and his administration about the H.R.P.P’s motto of ‘what’s good for Upolu is also good for Savai’i,’ Faumuina said there is an urgent need to take the development of Salelologa to the next level.
Compared to Upolu, Faumuina said there are hardly any opportunities in Savai’i and this is why most people on the big island have migrated.
Faumuina spoke about the strategic importance of turning the Salelologa Wharf into a full-blown international wharf, to attract businesses to Savai’i.
“No business would want to move to Salelologa because it’s very expensive to transport goods from Apia to Savai’i,” said Faumuina. Looking to the Minister of Finance, Sili Epa Tuioti, who is the M.P for Salelologa, Faumuina urged him to prioritise the development of the Salelologa Township.
He said it would be a waste of another Parliament term for M.Ps from the big island if the government doesn’t move on the Salelologa Wharf development.
“Let’s go to Savai’i and establish our own government because it seems like the government is being biased in the development of the two islands,” Faumuina said. Faumuina added that the government should relocate the key services such as the hospital and the Police office to Salelologa from Tuasivi so that it would become easier for people in Savai’i.
But Faumuina’s tone did not go down well with Prime Minister Tuilaepa. He objected and asked Faumuina why he did not any of what he is talking about when he was a Cabinet Minister.
“You were the Minister of Finance before,” Tuilaepa reminded. “But why has it taken you so long to look into to those developments?” Tuilaepa told Faumuina to leave his request to the government because these are the things he should have done when he was in a position to make those strategic decisions. During his time, Famuina had served as the Minister of Works, Transport and Infrastructure, Minister of Environment and a Minister of Finance. In response to Tuilaepa, Faumuina said he never had the opportunity to do any of those projects.
“I was never given many projects for me to work on,” he said. “Whatever the Cabinet decided upon, those were our priority. But this is the time we need to focus on the development of Salelologa.”
Faumuina pointed out that he started the construction of the Salelologa wharf when was a Minister. It was when he moved away from the portfolio that the project was put on hold. This is why he is asking the government to finish the project.
But Tuilaepa refuted the claim.
“You moved away from where you were and you became the Minister of Finance. That is where you should have continued to push for that project to be completed.
“Before you say anything further, think about your time.”
He did not elaborate.
Still Faumuina would not budge. He reminded that during his time as the Minister of Finance, the government’s priority was to the clean up after Cyclone Evan. That cost $400million, he said.
Prime Minister Tuilaepa took the floor immediately. He said once the country is affected by a natural disaster, the recovery work immediately becomes the government’s priority. And that means all projects are put on hold. “I don’t want to go back to the past,” Tuilaepa said. “I thought you would never bring this up but I urge you to think deeply about it.” Back on the floor, Faumuina said he is only raising the issues because he believes the people of Savaii deserve the best – just as the people of Upolu are enjoying. On that note, he said the government should also consider establishing a branch of the National University of Samoa in Savai’i.
Business opportunities which provide jobs and incomes will stem the migration to Upolu, he said. Access to quality education in Savaii will also keep bright students there.
“Let me remind you that what’s good in Upolu is also good for the big island of Savai’I,” he said. The Member of Parliament also asked the government about the process of the National Broad Band Highway. He said this is one of the projects believes would benefit Samoa, especially in the education sector because it would allow students from Savai’i access to some of the best teaching methods and teachers in Upolu.
The service can also be useful for the Ministry of Justice and Courts Administration especially Judges who can still work from Upolu internet technology. Lastly, Faumuina said that as Members of Parliament, it is their responsibility to remind the government about projects that can make a difference and improve livelihoods for all Samoans.