Former Cabinet Minister Fa'amoetauloa passes away

Former Cabinet Minister, Fa'amoetauloa Lealaiauloto Taito Dr. Faale Tumaali'i, has passed away.

He died on Monday.  He was 70.

Fa'amoetauloa was the Minister for the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment under the administration of Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi.

His wife, Evelyn Sarote Tumaalii told the Samoa Observer in an interview that her husband’s passing was unexpected.

She said a medical check off island did reveal some issues and he underwent a triple bypass surgery last year.

Talking of her late husband, Mrs. Tumaalii said his passing was a blow to the family and described him as a “poor village boy” who wanted nothing but the best for his country and family. 

Reminiscing about their lives prior to their marriage, she said the former politician cautioned her to think carefully before agreeing to marry him, as he was of the view that they will face challenges.

“Before we got married he told me that he’s a very poor boy from Samoa, especially from the village of Lelepa at Savai'i," she said. 

"He said before I take that step and marry him, think very carefully because life is not going to be easy and I told him yes I will take that risk and I was confident,” she said.

“He said ‘my heart is always in Samoa’ and there was no second guessing him. He will come back on his own and so we came back, he has always been and he has never forgotten Samoa, and deep down inside he was always a village boy. Always.

“And he knew how to faapau koko (traditional frying of cocoa) and make the umu, he brought out two boys and he knew all that, and he was taught by his grandparents and he knew the Faasamoa so much.”

The couple had three children – two were born in Fiji while he was undertaking his bachelor's degree and their youngest in Samoa – before they moved abroad for him to do his masters degree. 

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It was not easy for the family while they lived abroad when Fa'amoetauloa did his masters degree studies, with the widow revealing that they lived a difficult life. But her husband was determined to graduate, she added.

“If I don’t get my degree I will get back to Samoa in a coffin. That was how determined he was and so he got his masters and that and those people at the University of New South Wales said that it’s best that he goes for an applied science masters because it’s easier rather than a research masters,” she said. 

But former MP refused to go for second best, saying “I’m just as good as the palagi” and did a masters by research degree, making both his family and his scholarship sponsor Australia AID proud. 

Postgraduate studies for a doctorate degree soon beckoned for the Samoan trailblazer, which saw the family return to Sydney, Australia in order for him to undertake his studies at the University of New South Wales. 

Fa'amoetauloa was determined to return to Samoa at the completion of his studies and according to his wife declared: “When this is finished, it’s finished and while I’m schooling, I know we haven’t been to church because we were in Sydney, but when I finish my studies and that it’s my time to return to God and I should return to God and thank him.”

The family survived on the former politician’s scholarship stipend while living in Australia, enabling them to save their father’s salary payments made by the Samoa government while he was studying, which they then used to purchase land on their return to the homeland. 

“So we didn’t have a home here and we went back for his doctorate studies, whatever allowance we had from his pay that the government pays while we were away, we saved up and we bought the land,” Mrs. Tumaalii said.

Before leaving Samoa again, he built his family a house and he said to his wife: “Evelyn, don’t worry, we’ll build a house and go back but at least there’s something.”

Mrs. Tumaalii said her late husband loved Samoa and he always wanted to do things for the Government and for the good of the country, which was why he became a cabinet minister and was committed to his job. 

As a Cabinet Minister for five years, she said he did his best to capitalise on any opportunities for Samoa, especially on issues such as climate change. Towards the end of his term in public office, he told his wife, “well I can only do so much and then it’s over to somebody else to take on the struggle”.

Faamoetauloa was a firm believer in God hence his position as a Senior Exhorter (aoao fesoasoani) in the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa (C.C.C.S), added his wife.

“It’s just that we’ve been away for so long because he got sick after the election and so we were away for about a year and that laps the aoao feasoasoani so we’ve only just came back  so it didn’t have time to be taken for his application or whatever you call his application to be taken to the Pulega again,” she said.

Faamoetauloa is survived by his wife, children Nanai Faamoetauloa Iupati and Samantha Tumaalii, Masina Edweena Tumaalii, Faamoetauloa Cedric. H and Abby Tumaalii, and two grandchildren. His funeral service is scheduled to be held on Thursday at the C.C.C.S at Vailele.  

Prior to entering politics, he was the C.E.O. of the Scientific Research Organisation of Samoa (2006-2010) and before that a lecturer at the University of Newcastle in Australia (1996-2006). The former politician also had stints with the Australian Defence Science and Technology Organisation (1993-1996), New South Wales Agricultural Research Institute (1991-1993), and Samoa’s Ministry of Agriculture (1989-1991) and had a doctorate degree (PhD) from the University of New South Wales.

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