Data life's building blocks: late Chief Statistician

By Matai'a Lanuola Tusani T - Ah Tong 31 December 2021, 12:17AM

The unexpected passing of the nation’s Chief Statistician came as a shock to those close to her, but her work ethic and commitment to her job has been widely acknowledged and praised.

The former Chief Statistician, the late Aliimuamua Malaefono Ala Taua Faasalaina passed away in November, after the launching of major reports focused on the agriculture sector of which she played an integral part.

Her departure left a void in the Samoa Bureau of Statistics (S.B.S.) office and she is dearly missed by family and colleagues who spoke fondly of her. 

The Chief Statistician spent most of her life working in the statistical service starting in 1987.

Her hard work and perseverance led to her elevation as the Chief Statistician in 2018 rounding up 31 years of service at the time.

Aliimuamua took over after the retirement of the S.B.S. Chief Executive Officer, Muagututia Sefuiva Reupena. Although the chief statistician held the matai title Aliimuamua from her father’s family in Saanapu, she was better known to her colleagues as Malaefono or simply “Fono”.

Her former boss Muagututia spoke highly of her and her ambition to become the chief statistician.

“I can testify that Malaefono was determined, gifted and was someone that didn’t like to ask too many questions,” said Aliimuamua’s former boss. “There was no question about her appointment [as C.E.O.] because she was well prepared for the position and had many gifts from God.”

Muagututia recalled that when Aliimuamua first started work at S.B.S. he asked her what her dream was.

He said Aliimuamua’s response was that her dream was to become the chief statistician, a dream that he too shared.

The passing of the chief statistician was received with sadness by the United Nation agencies that worked closely with her for many years. A statement from the UN office shortly after Aliimuamua’s death acknowledged the chief statistician’s work and contribution in the development of the nation.

“Through her data knowledge and exemplary commitment to Samoa and its people, Malaefono served the cause of evidence-based public policy, transparent governance and international reporting, contributing substantially to the country’s development progress and performance on the global stage,” read the statement.

“Aliimuamua Malaefono was truly a gifted, kind hearted and inspiring woman leader who was instrumental in guiding many of the United Nations projects in which her analytical skills made a difference. 

“In many ways, Fono’s love for quality data changed lives and made development cooperation more effective for those most in need in Samoa. 

“Our hearts and prayers are with Fono’s family at this time of bereavement.

“As we pay tribute to Aliimuamua Malaefono for her respect for the U.N. values and her tireless work with us across many important programmes, we wish to extend our most sincere and heartfelt condolences to her husband Malama Taaloga Faasalaina, her children, grandchildren and extended family and to the Government of Samoa and the staff of the Samoa Bureau of Statistics.”

An award winner in her line of work, Ali’imuamua received the Samoa Public Service Innovation and Excellence Individual Award for Organisational Development and Capacity Building Initiative In 2015. 

Aliimuamua began work for the S.B.S. in 1987 after graduating from the University of the South Pacific in Suva Fiji with a B.A. in Economics and Administration. Five years later, Aliimuamua left the Bureau to work at the School of Social and Economic Developments at the University of the South Pacific in Suva, Fiji as a research officer and part-time lecturer for population studies. And upon her return on island she was rehired by the Bureau.

Some of the highlights of Aliimuamua’s career include successfully conducting and analysing four Population and Housing Censuses for S.B.S. in 2001, 2006, 2011 and 2016. 

This contributed to the provision of regular and timely population data to meet increasing demands for population information for planning, policy-making and program interventions such as community projects on water and environment, youth and women’s programs, employment programs, S.D.G.s, S.D.S. and many others. 

Ali’imuamua holds a Master’s Degree in Demography from the Australian National University, a Postgraduate Diploma in Population Studies in addition to her undergraduate study and is a graduate of Samoa College. 

She also attended the prestigious Kish Fellowship in Sampling Programme for Survey Statistician, Michigan University in U.S.A. for eight weeks and holds a Postgraduate Sampling Course from U.N.E.S.C.O. Fellowship Bank Programme with Massey University, New Zealand in 2003.

By Matai'a Lanuola Tusani T - Ah Tong 31 December 2021, 12:17AM

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