Deputy P.M. Fiame Doctor of Letters
Education is important not only to Samoa, but to the Pacific region. It is the cornerstone of our development.
These were the words of Deputy Prime Minister, Fiame Dr. Naomi Mata'afa as she was conferred the Honourary Degree of Doctor of Letters (D.Litt) yesterday.
Fiame, who is also the Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, was accorded the recognition during the University of the South Pacific (U.S.P.) Alafua Campus graduation at the E.F.K.S. hall in Sogi.
“I would like to acknowledge my family, those who have passed on, and those who are currently with me still on this journey, who have nurtured and sustained me through their council and fellowship,” she said.
“I would like to especially acknowledge my parents who have both passed away in giving me the values as a guide as to how one is to conduct one’s life.
“This journey has been an extraordinary one and I am indeed blessed with the grace of God, His guidance, His counsel and His comfort.”
From her experience as Samoa’s Minister of Education for 15 years from 1991-2006, Fiame highlighted the crucial role the university plays in harnessing greater collaboration.
“A lot has been said about regionalism, so often we hear of the Pacific Islands Forum going through reviews, reforms and looking at how we as a region can really act collaboratively as a region. It continues to be a challenge for us.
“I would like to encourage the leadership, especially through the USP infrastructure, especially its council, which has the representation from our member countries that if U.S.P. is the successful regional organisation, we should continue to demonstrate to other sectors in our region that we can still work effectively in this way.
“As small country States, it is so critical for us to work together as a region to pull our human resource, so that we can all move together, move forward in our development.”
Fiame said during the time she was part of the USP council, there continues to be the challenge on the balance of national and regional interests.
“Sometimes it can seem to make the choice of either or, we either go the national way or the regional way. Can I say using this platform, that especially of our leaders, that we can go both ways,” she said. “That it can be a win win both for our regional interests and national interests to work together. It is not an either or.
“I would like to make a plea to the current leaders in the USP Council that they may be reminded of this, and especially at this the 50th year of the university, going forward that the generation who will step up to carry forward the torch for the Pacific will be continuously reminded that this is our region and for us to survive we need to work together.”
In acknowledging the Council and Senate of the university, Fiame said the award is a marker in her personal journey, as no one ever makes their journey alone.
“The recognition culminating in the awarding of this honourary degree has been all due to those I have had the honour and privilege to work with and live with throughout this period,” she said.
“I want to congratulate my fellow graduands and to thank them for their endeavors not only for themselves, but for their families, but also in the contributions they can potentially make for their development and the development of Samoa.”
Fiame was educated in Samoa and later moved to New Zealand to further her secondary and tertiary studies.
She has been involved in national politics for more than 30 years, and is one of the longest serving Members of Parliament, including being the first female parliamentarian.
In the regional sphere, Fiame has made notable contributions as the Pro-Chancellor of U.S.P. from 2006-2012, and has represented Samoa and the region in international forums, such as being part of the Executive Board of U.N.E.S.C.O and the Board of Governors of the Commonwealth of Learning to name a few.