Laga'aia conquers in Palauli No. 3 race
A 66-year-old farmer of Fa'ala Palauli and Laga'aia Tiaituau Tufuga has emerged as the leading candidate for the Palauli No.3 seat, according to Office of Electoral Commission preliminary results.
The seat was previously held by the incumbent M.P. and Associate Minister for the Ministry of Public Enterprises, Tuifaasisina Lisati Palemene.
The other candidates were: Aiolupotea Toni Leleisi'uao (H.R.P.P.), Fiso Taranaki Mailei (Tautua Samoa), La'ulu Ianeta Chan Tung (H.R.P.P.), Tafili Pesamino Niupulusu Leo (H.R.P.P.) and Mata'afa Fonofa'avae Mata'afa (F.A.S.T.).
Laga'aia ran under the Fa'atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi [F.A.S.T.] party ticket in his first bid for Parliament.
Friday night's unofficial results show that of the 1,666 total voters for Palauli No.3, Laga'aia polled a total of 581 votes, with Aiolupotea coming second with a total of 348 votes.
Coming third was the former M.P. Tuifa'asisina with 30 votes less than his brother Aiolupotea's total.
Tafili collected 274 votes, Mata'afa gathered 86 votes, La'ulu with 33 votes, and Fiso with just 26 votes.
Prior to the election, Laga'aia was overwhelmed that he had fulfilled the wishes of his village (Fa'ala) and constituency who urged him to put up his hand for the election this year.
"This is the first time for me to contest in an election," he told the Samoa Observer at the time.
"My village [Fa'ala] 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 was also the wish of the constituency for him to run under the F.A.S.T. banner, Laga'aia added.
"They told me that they want a change in Government, because they were not satisfied with the behavior, attitude of the leader of this country.
"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."
Before the polling contest began, Laga'aia said every time he listened in to Parliament and interviews with the Prime Minister, he was disappointed because of what the Leader would say and how he responds to questions.
The father-of-five claimed 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 that 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.
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.
Laga'aia has five children and six grandchildren and also holds the title Gasu from Satupa'itea and Tupa'i from Falealupo.