The foreword of Palemia; A Memoir*
Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi
Foreword of the Palemia
Early in 2015, Dr Peter Swain paid me a courtesy visit at my office.
In the course of our conversation he casually mentioned that it would be useful for posterity if some of my experiences during my long years as a leader of our government were recorded in a memoir. I had also been thinking along the same lines, these are the kinds of activities that are more often undertaken when one has retired.
However, by then the memory has often become blurred as much and therefore lost. It is unusual to writes one memoir when many actors involved are still very much active. I knew that the retelling of past events could open up old wounds.
But history is history. Things must be told exactly as they occurred otherwise the underlying lesson is hidden and buried.
Peter Swain’s casual, thought provoking comments lingered on in my mind, and we agreed to start on the project of compiling a memoir.
Over the last year Dr Swain has made a several visit to Apia to conduct interviews at my office, in between appointments; at my home at Ululoloa, after hours; and in my hotel room, when I was transiting through Auckland during my brief visits to New Zealand for official government business. I am indebted to Peter for his capacity to capture much of the detail of our long conversations, for stimulating my recollections of past events and compiling this memoir.
In the 2016 general election, the Human Rights Protection Party (HRPP) won 47 out of 50 parliamentary seats, a record achievement with the opposition party being demolished in the process. We were given an overwhelming mandate by the people to execute our policies over the next five years.
I have faced huge challenge as a leader of the HRPP and leader of the government to deliver on the promises set out in our 2016 General Election Manifesto, a process we have faithfully followed since the HRPP won its first election in 1982 and in eight successive general elections.
My undivided attention is called upon to govern Samoa, and I therefore have no spare time personally to write memoir posterity.
This simple political story focuses on issues of great political significance that have a bearing on the development and process of the long-term vision of the HRPP, and especially on what government must do to raise the wellbeing and standard of living of our people.
The HRPP leadership recognized, right from the beginning, that good financial, monetary and economic management and balanced social development also promote good politics, from the point of view not only of our people but also in the eyes of our donor partners who greatly value the proper use of their development assistance.
Whilst the narrative focuses on the leadership and power struggles throughout the period of the HRPP’s custodianship, the party’s ascent to power can also be seen as an accident of history. Party politics was regarded as divisive long before the HRPP came to power. The single event that changed the political landscape in Samoa was the three months strike by public servants over the refusal by the government of Prime Minister Tupuola Efi to compromise on the public service Association’s (PSA’s) request for an overdue salary increase in 1981.
The high handed manner in which government handled this very sensitive issue, including the mass dismissal of all those who went on strike, on top of many economic hardships suffered by the public in general, led to its demise.
The general election that took place less than ten months after the strike could not have been expected to return a government that was so unpopular. The HRPP became the natural alternative choice under the circumstances.
The opportunity given to the HRPP leadership was immediately used to rebuild an economy that was in complete ruin when we took over. Measures were put in place straight away, with the help of the international community to destabilize the economy and revive the private sector the engine of onwards, the HRPP became known as a ‘Party of Doers’ and ‘the Party of the People’.
Actions speak louder than words. Subsequently the HRPP governments have worked hard to sustain this legacy.
I want to pay a special tribute to our first two Prime Ministers, the Honorable Va’ai Kolone and the Honorable Tofilau Eti Alesana, for their leadership of the HRPP from its beginning to where it is today and for their personal and political vision.
I learnt much about the unique science of Samoa-style politics from these two leaders. I also learnt from the Honorable Tupuola Efi who in September 1970 was the newly appointed Minister of Public Works in the government of Tupuola Tamasese Lealofi IV when I was the new Acting Deputy Director of Public Works.
He advised me to talk to as many people as possible and to learn from them. Little did I know that twelve years later he and I would be in opposing political camps and yet we were both products of the same Marist Catholic education system.
I must also pay tribute to our HRPP caucus, Cabinet Members and supporters who have worked with me during 34 years of governing. Nothing could have been achieved politically without their backing and their hard efforts to achieve our common goals.
Special acknowledgment is also in order for all the CEOs of ministries and corporations and the rest of the public services for their in-depth advice, know-how and technical inputs into the implementation of numerous projects carried out by successive HRPP governments to carry out its policies.
What is told here, in connection with the successes of the development efforts of the HRPP, reflects also the collective contributions of everyone to whom I have referred.
It is my hope that this memoir will be a useful guide to all aspiring politicians in the future, the telling as it does the political path the HRPP has travelled and providing a model of democratic government that shows how we tackled problems and stayed on course as we did during those 34 years and beyond. Party politics In Samoa has finally put to rest the age-old ‘born to rule myth of the past.
* The Palemia is available from S.S.A.B Stores in Samoa and overseas