Laga'aia joins "brothers" run for Palauli III seat
A 66-year-old farmer from Fa'ala Palauli, Laga'aia Tiaituau Tufuga, has set his sights on the Palauli III Constituency seat.
The seat is currently held by the incumbent M.P. and Associate Minister for the Ministry of Public Enterprises, Tuifaasisina Risati Palemene.
But Tuifaasisina is not the only opponent he will face, as the current Member of Parliament’s brother Aiolupotea Toni Leleisiuao, has also declared his candidacy and will run under the Human Rights Protection Party [H.R.P.P.] banner.
Laga'aia is running under the Fa'atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi [F.A.S.T.] party ticket.
Asked what inspired him to contest, Laga'aia said he is only following the wishes of his village and constituency.
"This is the first time for me to contest in an election," he told the Samoa Observer.
"My village [Fa'ala] has asked me to contest and I am accepting their request. I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to serve and give back to our constituency.
“I am happy to do the wishes of our village as they said that they want an M.P. who is always there at the constituency giving back and helping out each family. Not someone who only shows up once a year or when it's closer to the election.
“They said they need someone who is always present to see and [attend to the] needs of the villages and the constituency and also voice their struggles in Parliament so the Government can consider and find ways to help out."
It is the wish of the constituency for him to run under the FAST banner in the 2021 General Election, Laga'aia added.
"They told me that they want a change in Government.
"I agree with them and I feel the same way, because every time I listen to Parliament meetings and interviews with the Prime Minister, I find myself getting disappointed because of the things he says and how he responds to questions.
"He is usually rude and aggressive and the language he uses sometimes is too much for me.
"This is something that's been discussed by our people – that our Prime Minister is rude and he treats people like his children – which is not a great attribute of a leader, in my opinion.
"The children of the nation look up to him, therefore, he needs to set an example for the children to follow. That's why we need a change in Government."
The father-of-five claims the Government is not fair when it comes to development as benefits did not flow down to rural areas, especially in Savai’i.
"We are tired of hearing that phrase they [Government] keep using ‘what's good for Upolu is also good for Savai'i’, when our people from Savai'i keep moving to Upolu because there are better opportunities there in Upolu for them.
"The reason why more and more people keep moving is because there is no university here in Savai'i, therefore our children have to move to Apia after college.
"There are also better employment opportunities offered in Apia compared to Savai'i and that is why most people migrate to Savai'i.”
Laga'aia emphasised that this is an issue that the Government should address and there should be equitable development to ensure Savai’i and its people also benefit.
"Most of our families own lands here in Savai'i, but they can't do much because there are not enough opportunities in Savai'i,” he reiterated.
"And if they stay in Savai'i, you only have the land and sea to rely on. Which is not a bad thing for me because it was how our forefathers survived. To me, it's not a bad thing because we get food from the land and we can sell those goods to earn money. Therefore, all we need is to push our families and encourage them to work the land."
As a farmer, Laga'aia strongly believes that agriculture is the backbone of any country's development. Therefore, there should be a strong push from the Government to not only enhance the skills of local farmers, but help them out by providing resources and infrastructure. "If our people are well-equipped, then they will be motivated to work. For example, for our village, most of the families have moved further inland to live.
“They have decided to live near their plantations. However, the problem is, the roads to the plantations and further inland for our village and constituency are very bad.
"That discourages our people from working in their plantations because of the poor condition of the roads that take them to their plantations."
But these challenges are not new, according to Laga'aia, as they have asked the current M.P. to raise these issues in the Parliament but to no avail.
"We wanted help from the Government to fix our roads. That is something our village and constituency have been asking our current M.P. to voice in Parliament.
"The other thing is we have been asking for help with electricity and water supply for the families who have moved further inland. But still up to now, nothing has been done so our people there can enjoy these services.
"As a farmer myself, I strongly believe that agriculture and fisheries are the backbones of development for this country. Once these areas are well-developed and our families are well-equipped, there will be no complaints about the high cost of living and people struggling."
Nevertheless, Laga'aia said it's disappointing to see that more and more villages are backing the three bills, which a Special Parliamentary Committee is currently holding public hearings to get feedback from the people.
"The other area is the enforcement and the rushing of the three bills that propose monumental changes to the judiciary of Samoa. It shows a lot of power from the ruling Government. They are abusing the power that they hold and it's like this country is controlled and ruled by one man."
Laga'aia added that he wanted to be a candidate for F.A.S.T. because he is of the view that there is no freedom in the ruling H.R.P.P.
"The way I see it, love no longer exists there at that party. All they want is to make laws so they can benefit from it. They don't care about how those laws would affect the people of this country. That is why I keep saying that we want to see a change in the Government.”
Laga'aia has five children and six grandchildren and also holds the title Gasu from Satupa'itea and Tupa'i from Falealupo.