Farmer confident of growing election following
A farmer and businessman from Saleaula is making his debut in the political arena at next year’s general election but says he has high hopes of claiming the right to represent his beloved village in Parliament.
Va'aaoao Salu Alofipo, who is 61 years of age and from Saleaula, has nominated to contest the 2021 General Election from the constituency of Gagaemauga No.1.
He was one of the 11 candidates who registered with Samoa’s newest political party, Fa'atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.), last month.
Saleaula used to be under the electoral constituency of Gagaemauga No.2, however a recent division of electoral constituencies created by changes to electoral law removed one of the three Gagaemauga seats in the upcoming election.
Saleaula now falls under the Gagaemauga No.1 electoral constituency together with the villages of Patamea, Samalaeulu, and Mauga.
The changes to the law themselves is one of the main drivers behind Va'aaoao's political aspirations.
But Va'aaoao's move to enter politics was not one that he thought of overnight.
"I have been preparing for a long time for this," the father-of-seven told the Samoa Observer.
"When I returned from Australia where I lived for more than thirty years, I was chosen to be the President of the School Committee for the Saleaula Primary School,” he said.
“That was where I saw that there's a lot of work that's needed to be done."
As a farmer, Va'aaoao's main campaign platform basis will be agriculture.
"I am a true believer that agriculture is the backbone of a country's development and it can eradicate poverty,” he said.
"I want to offer my service to find a market so our farmers can sell their crops and earn money from them. I want to develop agriculture so we do not have to say that there is poverty and have to depend on our families overseas to keep sending us money.
"Especially for agriculture, that is why I became a part of the Farmer's Association for Savai'i's farmers and I am currently the President for that association. At that same time, we started the Small Business Enterprise Center (S.B.E.C.) at Itu-o-Tane where I also became a President.
"The reason for that is because I strongly support small businesses. I am a true believer that the development of Samoa starts from the ground, not from the top. Because our constituency has a lot of lands, this is an asset that no one else can take from you, your land, and your identity."
When he was asked about why he decided to run now, Va'aaoao said that Samoans overseas had been making a lot of noise about Saleaula’s loss of a seat.
"What I said to my village was that the Government's spear has destroyed the authority (Pule) Saleaula has. And I promised our village that I will make the sacrifice just so the seat could return to Saleaula,” he said.
"I thank La'aulialemalietoa and Olo Fiti Vaai, who is also from the village of Saleaula and holds the title Levaopolo. It was these two who stood up and fought for Saleaula's seat (in Parliament).
"They know very well that ever since 1960, our village was written down under the Gagaemauga No.2 constituency.
"Unfortunately, one arm has been cut off for our constituency and has been thrown to Upolu. We are suffering because of that. Our beloved village of Salamumu has been glued to the Aiga Malosi, Aiga Sa Tunumafono. But the question is, are their genealogies connected? I don't know? How about their honorific salutation?
"We are thankful that F.A.S.T. came to the rescue, Fa'atuatua I le Atua Samoa ua Tasi has offered a place of refuge for our village. I know we will get back our seat, I am not just saying this just for the sake of it, I am confident that we will get our seat back because we have put our faith in God who is righteous."
He also commended the current M.P. for the constituency, Fa'aso'otauloa Pati Taulapapa, for his efforts in trying to win back the seat.
"As you are aware, Fa'aso'o made an emotional plea in Parliament where he said: "Tuilaepa, before I die, I want to witness the seat be returned to Saleaula, please. Not only that, but we also went back to our village of Saleaula and talked to the elders to find another way so we can get the seat back,” he said.
"Those are the reasons why I decided to prepare for this, and our village of Saleaula to offer my help to assist our village and people."
Va'aaoao said he was drawn to run under F.A.S.T.'s banner because of the party’s history of defending Saleaula.
"It has been recorded in Parliament and it was also the reason why La'auli was sacked from Parliament for standing up for Saleaula. If it weren't for this courageous man (La'auli) who stood up for what is right and to return Samoa back to how it was from the beginning,” he said.
Va'aaoao said his political aspirations have been well received by the village.
"For our village, Saleaula, there are four sub-villages (aufono)," he said.
"I belong to the Vaitu'utu'u family line. So once a sub-village agrees on an issue, they will wait for the big village (whole village) to assemble then each sub-villages will be given the chance to present an issue.
"So that was the process I followed. The village accepted my wishes and they asked me which political party I would join, and I told them it would be the new political party that will be established soon by La'auli."
As a man of faith, he strongly believes that he will succeed in the upcoming election.
"I am confident because of my faith in God. If people vote for us, and we succeed, we will definitely win back our seat. I also believe that Saleaula and Lealatele should work together and I also ask them to support us in the upcoming election.
"The way I see it, it's very simple.
"This is because every Saleaula can feel the pain we are feeling after losing our seat.
"There is no doubt that the whole village (Saleaula) and every Saleaula living not only in Samoa but also abroad are raising their hands to support F.A.S.T. the party that is standing up and fights for what is rightfully ours.
"It's also easy because God is with me."
Va'aaoao Salu Alofipo is married to Fati Alofipo and they have seven children and eight grandchildren.
In addition to farm work he is the owner of Agape Global Rental.