"Tui has said after this term, he is done": Village mayor
The village mayor of Lepa, Utaulu Konelio, says the Prime Minister has won the support of elders from the constituency he has represented since 1980 and assured them this will be his final term in office.
The comments come after a ruling from the Lands and Titles Court (L.T.C.) reversing the banishment of Tuula Kilivi Lafi Tuitui, often mooted as a potential candidate to run against Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi.
But in an interview with the Samoa Observer, Utaulu, who is Kilivi’s uncle, said their district – composed of Aufaga, Lepa, Lealaalatele, Siupapa and Saleapaga – had unanimously decided to support Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Dr. Malielegaoi.
He said that Tuilaepa had told senior villagers this would be his final run for office.
“This is his last run for office. So for this district, it’s done. It has already been decided. Tui (Tuilaepa) has said after this term, he is done. So the villages in the district have met and it’s unanimous, as I said before – we are going to support him for the next five years,” said Utaulu.
“After that, he is done. There are a lot of people who wish to run for Parliament from the villages in our district. All the villages in our district wish to have a Member of Parliament in office. It can’t just be Lepa, Lepa, Lepa. So we have already informed the people who wish to run to please have patience. We will give the toeaina (the old man) the next five years to complete what he is working on and afterward those people will be free to run.”
It was not possible to seek comment from the Prime Minister late on Friday evening.
Lepa, he said, has a number of people in government positions that are eyeing the seat in Parliament for their district.
“But they [the candidates] have all been blocked. There are a lot of good candidates here with impressive credentials but the district and the village have blocked them from running. We will give this opportunity to the old man to finish his work,” Utaulu told the Observer.
As for the Prime Minister and anyone else who wishes to run for political office from Lepa, the village has spoken.
“There are many who want to run for political office from here,” said Utaulu.
But the Prime Minister has already met with village leaders and informed them that this is his last bid as leader of the country for the next five years.
“[Firstly], it’s already been decided and the village has decided that the person who chooses to violate this decision of the village will be fined. The fine is hefty – five cows and 100 pigs if someone impedes on this decision which the village has unanimously agreed upon,” he said.
“Tulua Kilivi is a matai of this village. His family was banished from the village. My matai title Utaulu, it is a title from Siupapa. But in [...Saleapaga], there is the matai title of Tuula…he was banished from Saleapaga…we don’t know why he was banished from the village.”
Matai of Saleapaga say that Tu’ula cannot run because he has not rendered monotaga to the village, Utaulu added.
“The second reason he cannot run is that the matai of Saleapaga have said Tuula Kilivi has not rendered monotaga. So there are two things that prohibit Tuula from running for political office,” he said.
Utaulu and Tuula Kiliri’s mother are brother and sister.
As village Mayor, Utaulu is tasked with signing off on documents when anyone in the village seeks to run for political office, he said.
His sister, who lives in Vaitele, has asked to meet with him to discuss Tu’ula’s potential bid to run against the Prime Minister for the seat in Parliament from their district.
“But it cannot be done. Tuula Kilivi cannot run,” Utaulu said.
“So I will meet with my sister [on Saturday] in Vaitele so we can have a conversation. But the truth is he cannot run. So these are the reasons he cannot run – that [...] he has not rendered monotaga.”
He noted that Tuula Kilivi was banished from Saleapaga by the village council.
Tuula could not be contacted for comment on Friday.
Utaulu said their support for Tuilaepa came despite reservations about reforms for the L.T.C. bills being discussed in Parliament. The Parliamentary Committee soliciting feedback on major reforms to the court has not yet come to Lepa, he said.
“Our district has met and we discussed that. A lot of matai oppose the bills, particularly the point where the number of sa’o is limited to five. A lot of the matai oppose that. That is none of the Government’s business. That is a family matter,” saidUtaulu.