Former Health Director flies F.A.S.T. flag in Parliament bid
A former Director-General of the National Health Services, Leota Laki Lamositele-Sio, has his sights set on securing the Palauli-le-Falefa seat in Parliament at the next General Election.
Leota is contesting the election for the second time, after he lost to veteran Member of Parliament, Faumuina Tiatia Liuga, during the last General Election.
Leota first entered the political arena in 2016 as an Independent candidate, but later joined the ruling Human Rights Protection Party (H.R.P.P.).
This time around, he is flagging the Fa'atuatua I le Atua ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.) banner. A Statistician, Accountant and Management specialist by profession, Leota believes that this is his time.
"Preparations so far have been great, so I am quite confident," he told the Samoa Observer. "I have seen the villages of the constituency needs and I recognise those issues oh so well, and if I am elected, I will make sure those issues are addressed."
Leota said his preparations for the 2021 Election started five years ago.
"Nothing is easy in this life, it's always hard," he said. "In saying that I am confident does not mean that I will definitely win. Even if I know that my chances of winning are high, I have to be mindful that anything could happen so I have to be on my guard."
According to Leota, he has already presented his will to contest to his villages, who welcomed his wishes and have given him their support.
"Especially for my villages of Sili and Gautavai," he said. "I have been a matai for more than thirty years, I am always there at the council meetings and very much involved in the decision making for our village.
"So it wasn't difficult to present my will to the villages and they kindly accepted it. My villages have already given me their blessings and they have given me a lot of support and I am grateful and thankful for that.
"The indications of the support I have received makes me happy. I have also made an effort to visit the other villages within the constituency."
Asked why he has decided to join F.A.S.T., he said: "F.A.S.T. is an alternative party that has come in, and to me, it has come in just in time for what's happening now.
"In any democracy, we need to have good political parties. Whether it is opposition or governing, we need to have good parties, so it can create some sort of balanced and create good governance.
"To me, I am grateful that we have had the courage to be a part of F.A.S.T. whose vision and motto is to strengthen family values.
"I mean it's great to see all the developments happening around Samoa, with all the tall buildings and big developments, but the downside of it, it correlates with a lot of social issues and if you are not able to monitor, evaluate and see how you can create that balance and if nobody is whispering to you that there's something wrong with that, it can become worse.
"And I believe that F.A.S.T. is in that position, and we can see some gaps there and we would like to help. It's not so much accruing kind of thing and improvement on the governance of our country.
"It was an easy decision to make. Because we saw that there is a great need for a political party to exist. If you have faith in God, and his calling, then it should not be hard for you to make any decision."
Leota had a long list of aspirations not only for his constituency but also for Samoa as a whole.
Equality, says Leota, is key to the development of all aspects in Samoa.
In elaborating his point, Leota suggests that there is inequality in a lot of areas in Samoa and we need to address it.
"There is a famous concept that focuses on empowerment, so we need to empower all sectors of the community to make sure that we are able to support and push them and enable them to provide for their families.
"We need to make sure that they are given the same opportunities to thrive, starting from human developments, education, health, our private sectors, Non-governmental organisations, mission schools and private schools, and so forth."
"I have learned quite a lot of good things from my time at health. Even up to now, despite any issues that are there, the workforce at the health is still fighting a very challenging battle at the moment.
"All I can offer is my moral support to them and if I am elected, I will not hesitate to give that support to them. Because if you are healthy, then you are able to do a lot of things, and you can think properly. So health is always a priority.
"Challenges to health are always budget constraints. There's always a budget constraints to them.
"Then you have the workforce, because as we get into complicated health issues, like pandemics, it means they need new knowledge, and not just medical knowledge, but also technical knowledge and how to address those issues.
"Like right now, we are concentrating on preventing COVID-19, but they may have neglected other services like in Non-Communicable Diseases (N.C.D) and infectious diseases. But those are very serious issues we need to look at careful.
"I believe that the percentage of NCD in the country is still very high, compared to other countries. It's not only high, but there are a lot of problems that are related to that issue.
"We have to deal with them, because when we have a sick population, it demands a lot of medicine, and they are usually not cheap. So if the hospital is always full, which means we need a lot of supplies to cater to our people. Then we have people complaining when they are asked to pay more than what they can afford.
"That's why I feel sorry for our health-workers because they are not only responsible for our sick people, but they are also the ones who face the people to go to the office every day. They face a lot of challenges.
"There is also this ongoing issue of scarcity of resources and equipment to assist them with the work that they do and having to deal with the complaints from the people every day.
"What I would like to see is, to strengthen primary healthcare.
"Basically, health prevention, and can be done with very close cooperation between the community and the health authorities. We also need to look at a lot of NGOs, for example, the Samoa Cancer Society, and all those we also need to look at how we can strengthen those organisations because they are really contributed to our health sector."
"The roles of mission schools and NGO schools are not recognised. If you total up the number of children who are in those schools, it is quite high. So would government would have had to accommodate those if those who are not there, especially some of the mission schools have been there for a long time.
"They should be given adequate assistants, so that they are on the same level, playing field with the government schools. Because after all, when they graduate, they stay here and they work in Samoa and contribute to the development of Samoa.
"You can see in government, that most of those who are holding high positions in government, and in the business community, they are all alumni of the mission schools in Samoa.
"That is my intention, to try and even out and make sure that there are equal opportunities there for our people.
"Equal opportunities should be there for service providers. Education and health are the same. For health, we need to recognise and appreciate the services of private clinics, private doctors, and NGOs because they are also contributing to welfare.
"Our community, in my view, has the capacity, the knowledge, and the ability, but they just need to be equipped with the right resources so they are capable enough to do the work they are required to do for the people of Samoa.
"Those are some of my aspirations."
Moreover, as former Director for Small Business Enterprise Centre (S.B.E.C), he believes that small businesses offer a lot of employment opportunities for our people.
"Basically, a lot of it is informal in a way. But if you see, in one village, there will be probably maybe twenty stalls. And everyone who is employed to do that, it's quite a lot.
"It creates self-employment opportunities for our villages. Therefore, we need to try and encourage, promote, and access to a lot of help they need a lot of help. I see that there has been quite a good improvement in that area, but they still have issues."
However, the rise in the establishment of foreign-owned shops and businesses in Samoa is a threat to the small local-owned businesses, said Leota.
"You can see that the foreigners have a lot of capital, knowledge, and support and they are taking away some of the businesses, that we, the local community have.
"We have to monitor the situation very carefully so that we are able to harmonise. So how are we going to try and still maintain that interest? If we look at some of our local shops, we have that have stopped operating because of the establishment of another business owned by a foreigner at that certain area, it's quite sad to see.
"Because they spent money building the shop, even before they started operating. So it would be a waste of money, time, and effort trying to set up their business, but then they had to close it because of the existence of a foreign-owned shop."
Leota is married to Galumalemana Margaret Lamositele-Sio and they have six children.