Va'ele dedicates victory to late father
When Va’ele Pa'ia'aua Iona Sekuini won the electoral race for Gagaifomauga No. 2 on Friday night, he was surrounded by supporters but there was only one man he wanted by his side.
That was his late father, Pa'ia'aua Sekuini Va'ele, who passed away in December last year.
The 56-year-old farmer and businessman achieved a total of 478 votes, preliminary figures show. That should be enough to wrest the seat from the former M.P. and Associate Minister of Justice and Courts Administration, So'oalo Feo Mene who polled a total of 426 voters.
In an interview with the Sunday Samoan, the candidate for Fa'atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.) credited God for his win.
"I am humbled and am overjoyed with excitement," he told the Samoa Observer.
"I would not have done this without the guidance of God and his spirit. Therefore, I give Him back the glory for all that he has done for us.
"As they say, every calling is from God, and I am grateful and humbled with this blessing."
Despite having to run against not one but four candidates for the seat of Gagaifomauga No. 2., Va'ele said he believed his preparations helped him across the line.
"For our preparations, we really did our best to go out and talk to individual people about things that need to be improved within our constituency," he said.
"The feedback they gave us during those small conversations we had whenever I got the chance [I] was really motivated. Most of the people were really pushing me and are hoping to see change.
"I know for a fact that some voted for me because they know me very well. Because I stay here in the village, they know that I understand the daily struggles faced by our constituents and individual families.
"So their support for me is so that I could voice these needs in Parliament."
Moreover, Va'ele said he strongly believes other people voted for him because of the party he represented.
"The majority of the people I talk to, they all say the same thing, that they are hoping for a new Government," he said.
"They want to see change.
"So their support for me is their way of voicing what they want to see and their way of supporting the party that I represent. I am grateful and can never have the right words to describe what has happened, but the glory goes back to He who made it happen for me."
Va'ele thanked his constituency for placing their trust in him as a representative.
"I want to express my sincere gratitude to my constituency, to everyone who has been there for me from the beginning," he said.
"I also want to thank the church ministers for all the different denominations within my constituency. Your constant prayers and words of encouragement really helped me throughout this journey.
"I also want to thank our families and relatives near and far, our friends and our villages for their ongoing support and push."
This was Va'ele's second attempt at becoming a politician. The first time he ran for office was back in 2011 and he did not succeed.
Va'ele said he would dedicate his ultimate success to his late father.
"When the results came out on Friday night, I could not hold my tears wishing and hoping he was still around to witness such a big achievement and to celebrate with us," he said.
"He was here with us since the beginning of my preparations and it was just heartbreaking knowing that he could not be here with us to celebrate this. However, I still dedicate this win to him and I hope he is proud and happy looking from above.
"I also want to make special mention and thank my uncle Va'ele Poloa'iga for his support and prayers."
Va'ele and his wife, Matimaivasa, had lived in Upolu for so many years for work and study.
But 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, he said.
"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," the new M.P. said.
"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.
Va'ele said his constituents depend on agriculture and fisheries for their food and income. But he said a lack of outlets was limiting families' ability to succeed in retail.
"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," he said.
"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."