Rugby on agenda as P.M. Tuilaepa meets Japanese Prime Minister
Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi has congratulated Japan on becoming the first Asian country to host the Rugby World Cup.
Tuilaepa, who is also the Chairman of the Samoa Rugby Union (S.R.U.), offered the congratulatory remarks during a bilateral meeting with his Japanese counterpart, Shinzo Abe.
The meeting took place days before the two nations go to war on the rugby paddock in a do or die World Cup match for Samoa on Sunday morning.
Tuilaepa and Mr. Abe will watch the game together.
And rugby was certainly not lost in the conversation between the two leaders.
“I extend to you our warm congratulations for successfully hosting the World Cup tournament in Japan, a first for Asia, and for your team’s successes in the pool games,” Tuilaepa said in his official speech. “I will say that Samoa’s record to date is somewhat checkered.”
Japan is heading to the game as red hot favourites, having secured two wins against Russia and the world’s second ranked team, Ireland. Samoa on the other hand had beaten Russia on their first game before they were humiliated and kept scoreless for the first time in the history of the World Cup by Scotland, on Monday.
Still, Tuilaepa remains optimistic.
“I am looking forward to visiting Toyota City this weekend to watch the match between our two rugby teams,” Tuilaepa said. “I anticipate this to be a very exciting match and hope to see both Japan and Samoa reach the latter stages of the tournament.”
Away from rugby, the leaders discussed issues of climate change, infrastructure development, water and sanitation, education, maritime, connectivity and transport.
Tuilaepa and Mr. Abe also witnessed the exchange of notes for ¥2,500,000,000 assistance to fund a new inter-island ferry for Samoa. Samoa’s Ambassador to Japan, Fa’alavaau Perina Sila-Tualaulelei, signed the deal with Kenji Wakamiya, State Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan.
“We are grateful to have received approval for our request for a replacement interisland vessel which will assist with the transportation of our agricultural products to our neighbouring markets thus increasing significantly our export capacity; strengthening business and trade links with neighbouring countries and maintaining safe and efficient sea transport for our people and tourists between the island,” Tuilaepa said.
He added that this further demonstrates Japan’s commitment to improve Samoa’s maritime security, trade and the development of business opportunities.
The Prime Minister also thanked Japan for their contribution in a number of key projects in Samoa. One of them is the Pacific Climate Change Centre opened last month at Vailima.
“The ongoing Vaisigano bridge reconstruction project enhances our climate change resilience, offers mitigation to the residents along the river banks inclusive of tourism infrastructure against severe flooding, and ensures connectivity between the central business district, industrial zone and the rest of the country’s transport links,” Tuilaepa said.
“We look forward to its completion next year.”
Looking ahead, Prime Minister Tuilaepa acknowledged the growing relationship between the two countries since diplomatic ties were established in 1973.
“Japan-Samoa relations continue to grow with renewed partnerships and strengthened engagement at the bilateral level in infrastructural development in alignment with the implementation of the Indo Pacific strategy.
“I would like to express our sincere appreciation to you, the government and people of Japan for the assistance Samoa receives to support our country’s sustainable development aspirations.
“Japan has provided assistance to the following sectors: transport and infrastructure, water and sanitation, education, environment and disaster management, and health through regional support.
“It would be remiss of me not to underscore the important technical cooperation programs through which J.I.C.A. experts and volunteers are assisting to buffer capacity gaps in Samoa.”
Tuilaepa travelled to Japan from New York where he spent last week.
In Japan, he is accompanied by his good lady, Gillian Malielegaoi, Peseta Noumea Simi, C.E.O. of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Francella Strickland, A.C.E.O. International Relations, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Ambassador Fa’alavaau and Justin Lima, Counselor of the Embassy of Samoa in Tokyo.