Parliament mourns Va’afusuaga Toleafoa Ken Poutoa
The Legislative Assembly was thrown into mourning on Wednesday by the announcement of the sudden passing of Member of Parliament Va’afusuaga Toleafoa Ken Poutoa.
The M.P. for Lefaga and Falese’ela was only 53. He was remembered as an active parliamentarian who was fondly bestowed the nickname "radio" by colleagues who recalled his enthusiasm for contributing to debates inside and outside the chamber.
His sudden passing on Tuesday came after he had been medically evacuated to New Zealand for emergency treatment, and was announced during the start of Wednesday’s parliamentary sitting.
The Speaker of the House, Leaupepe Toleafoa Fa'afisi, wept and his voice quavered with sorrow as he announced Va’afusuaga passing. The M.P.s banded together to observe a moment of silence in honour of the fallen M.P.
“It is with sadness that I announce the passing of Va’afusuaga Toleafoa Ken Poutoa, the Member of Parliament from Lefaga and Falese’ela,” Leaupepe said.
“He first entered Parliament as the M.P. of Lefaga and Falese’ela for the 16th Legislature from April 2016 to 2021 when he was called by God.
“He was a member [of] the Economic Sector Committee and the Privilege and Ethics Committee.
“Va’afusuaga Toleafoa Ken Poutoa [was] a member of the Human Rights Protection Party and he passed away on 19 January, 2021.”
“I speak on behalf of the Legislative Assembly to express condolences to the grieving families, his wife and children and the respective constituency.”
In Parliament on Tuesday, Leaupepe remembered the M.P. as a parliamentarian with an eye for detail and who was quick to initiate debate on the floor of Parliament during debates on national budgets and even supplementary budgets.
Va’afusuaga was airlifted to New Zealand for medical treatment early last week.
The Associate Minister for the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology, Lealaillepule Rimoni Aiafi, told the Samoa Observer that “Ken” would be sorely missed.
“He was also a very successful businessman,” said Leala.
“Another unique thing about him was that he was such a hygienic person.
“The way he looked after his vehicles. His cars were always clean.
“To this day, we still nicknamed him 'radio', because [Va’afusuaga Toleafoa Ken] loved talking. It is something he enjoys conversing with his friends.”
Leala recalled attending Samoa College as a contemporary of Va’afusuaga Toleafoa Ken’s.
“We played in the first XV together. In fact we won the school boys final against Pesega College at the time,” Leala said.
“Growing up I had spent a lot of time at his family home and our relationship goes way back before we became politicians.”
Prior to leaving for New Zealand, Leala visited Va’afusuaga Toleafoa Ken at the hospital.
“In fact, I scolded him for not getting enough rest the night before he left for New Zealand. I will miss him,” said Leala while struggling to contain his emotions.
“[He was] a committed M.P. and the many projects [he drove] in the constituency will attest to that.
“His main focus was the welfare of his people [it is very] bittersweet that he passed while still serving his people and the respective constituency.
“He was a stable man and was not easily swayed.
“It’s very sad that his Parliament term ended this way, [while he had] a whole future ahead of him.
“And in Parliament, we all hear what the Speaker was doing urging the Members of Parliament to speak out. [Va’afusuaga Toleafoa Ken] left a landmark; he was always the first to take the floor during the budget deliberations.”
In Parliament, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi also expressed condolences on the passing of the M.P.
He announced that Vaafusuaga would be given an official state funeral.
Another Member of Parliament, Fuimaono Te’o Samuelu took the floor and became emotional as he greeted his colleagues in the shadow of the absence of his “good friend Va’afusuaga Ken.”
A businessman by background, Toleafoa, was a Board Director of the Samoa Shipping Corporation before he entered the Parliament in 2016.
In 2018 at Faleaseela he was bestowed with the Va’afusuaga title, the highest honour in his family.
A devout Catholic, Va’afusuaga Toleafoa Ken is survived by his wife and daughter.