Veteran politician unfazed by another boundary change
The realignment of villages for a central constituency over three consecutive General Elections, does not concern the incumbent Member of Parliament.
The newly defined Vaimauga No.3 electoral constituency is made up of some 4563 registered voters, including those who were registered under the now dissolved Urban East seat.
The incumbent Tapunuu Niko Lee Hang, who is also caretaker Minister of Works Transport and Infrastructure, said he is confident the changes will not damage his chances for re-election.
“The pros [of the changes] are that most of the voters that voted for me [in the past] are still on the new electoral roll,” said Tapunuu.
The politician has occupied the constituency's seat, originally known as the Individual Voters’ seat, for four consecutive terms.
The Individual Voters' seat was initially established during Samoa’s independence, to provide representation for citizens of non-Samoan descent who lacked a connection to traditional villages.
Asked about the changes to Vaimauga No.3, Papalii said he is unfazed.
“A lot [of constituents] are [from] the same area since the Individual Voters' roll, and then changed to the Urban seat,” he said.
He will be contesting under his Tapunuu matai title against rival Feagaimali’i Bruce To’omalatai and Veatauia Fa’atasi Puleiata.
“It's not a problem for me only when they go to the booth then I don’t know what happens there and I leave that to God,” he told the Samoa Observer.
A potential disadvantage Tapunuu could face with the changes made to the seat is having new voters from villages such as Maagiagi added to the constituency's electoral roll.
But the veteran politician, who is an accountant by profession, says there were some people from the same village who had previously registered under the urban seat.
“I’m a bit confident about the roll because I know a lot of people are still there that voted for me before,” he said.
“I’ll leave it up to God and whatever he does for me I’ll be happy.”
Major works completed during his tenure include the construction of the Leone and Vaisigano bridges, the concrete crossing road at Samalaeulu, the Lotosamasoni Bridge, the West Coast road extension from Vaitele to Malua, and several others.
Tapunuu had previously served as the Minister of Finance, during which time he was the Chairman of the Public Accounts Select Committee and Samoa’s Public Trustee.
His portfolio in the recently dissolved XVI Parliament put him in charge of the Ministry of Works, Transport and Infrastructure as well as the Electric Power Corporation, the Samoa Water Authority, the Samoa Shipping Services, the Samoa Shipping Corporation, the Land Transport Authority, the Samoa Ports Authority, and the Samoa Airport Authority.