Desire to serve inspires Vaele's foray into politics
Running for Parliament was never part of the plan for Va'ele Pa'ia'aua Sekuini.
But a growing desire to serve his village of Matavai, Safune as their representative in Parliament has inspired Vaele's decision to enter the political ring.
The 56-year-old is contesting the Gagaifomauga No. 2. seat, currently occupied by the Associate Minister of Justice and Courts Administration, So’oalo Mene.
Gagaifomauga No.2. is made up of six villages: Paia, Samauga, Lefagaoali'i, Matavai, Faletagaloa, and Fatuvalu.
The farmer and businessman has already registered for the upcoming April election and will be flying the Fa'atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.) banner.
"I have the utmost respect for the current Member of Parliament of our constituency, So'oalo Mene," Va'ele said.
"But I've decided to offer my shoulder and lend a hand to help the people and serve my constituents with whatever talent and experience God has instilled in me.
"I am well aware that being a Member of Parliament isn't an easy task, the role comes with a lot of responsibilities and expectations, which is why I commend our incumbent M.P. for all his hard work and efforts in trying to answer to the needs and wants of the people of the constituency.
"But my inspiration to contest derived mainly from my aspiration to serve our people."
Va'ele and his wife, Matimaivasa, had lived in Upolu for so many years for work and education purposes.
However, the father-of-five moved back to Savai'i a few years ago to develop his family at Matavai, Safune, and look after his father and family.
Moving back to Savai'i where he was born and raised, gave Va'ele a clear picture of the struggles and difficulties families in the rural areas face on a daily basis, said Va'ele.
"Coming back to Savai'i after residing in Upolu for some time, I realised that there are a lot of issues and difficulties faced by average families within the rural communities and constituency.
"I discovered that there are a lot of gaps that need to be filled in terms of development.
"There are areas that need improvements for the welfare and livelihood of the people living in our rural communities."
Aside from running a retail store at Matavai, Va'ele started a plantation to help out with the development of his family.
According to Va'ele, the constituents depend on agriculture and fisheries for food and income. However, there are a few factors that he listed, that are discouraging people from working the land to further develop their families.
"For this part of the island, people depend heavily on the land and sea for food and income. This is probably one of the many constituencies who have been blessed with good lands in Samoa.
"When I moved back (to Savai'i), I started my own plantation and I discovered that there is a lot of wealth hidden there in our soils.
"But there are quite a few obstacles that are discouraging our people from working the land. For example, almost every household owns a plantation.
"So the chances of families earning money from selling taro or banana on the side of the roads are very low.
"There are not enough markets for them to sell their crops and earn income to further develop their families. Nevertheless, the distance from the town and the main market is another problem.
"The access roads to the plantation is another major problem that is discouraging our people to keep working on the land.
"The other issue is, the few families with small businesses around these areas are not thriving well. They do not earn as much as the small businesses in the town area. It would be nice if the government could help these small businesses."
Running under the F.A.S.T.'s banner was not a difficult decision for Va'ele, the father-of-five admits.
"It was not a difficult decision to make for me. When I finally made up my mind to run for the election, I knew that I would run under the F.A.S.T. banner.
"Firstly, because of their policies and plans highlighted in their manifesto.
"Most of the policies they have laid out are exactly what is needed for the development of my constituency.
"They have an eye-catching manifesto and it covers pretty much all the things that I want to develop for my constituency.
"A good example is connectivity in schools, especially in rural communities. I was very happy with the project that F.A.S.T. and NetVo Samoa came up with to establish free wifi connectivity for schools in Savai'i. Unfortunately, that has been stopped for the time being.
"But the idea of offering that type of service for our children is something that is needed.
"If our children in Upolu are enjoying good internet services and connectivity that makes learning a lot easier for them, then our children here in Savai'i deserve to have the same access to learning materials and information for their studies and assignment.
"I've seen it first-hand that there is a need for that service to be provided here in this part of the island.
"The name F.A.S.T. was the other reason that lured me to this party.
"The translation and abbreviation of the name gave me the courage and strength to take up this challenge. It is not easy, but I am a true believer that if we put our faith in God and through fasting and prayers, we will be able to overcome anything and everything that comes our way.
"I am also confident that they will do great things for our country and the future of Samoa."
While Va'ele said he does not want to make any promises just yet, he vows to "serve his people with humility" should they give them their trust and vote for him comes April next year.
"I am someone who is staying at the constituency, so I understand the difficulties each family face and what it truly needed. As I said before, I have the utmost respect for our current M.P., I don't want to make any promises just yet, but all I can say for now is, I am just a servant.
"I will serve with humility to the best of my abilities for a better tomorrow."