Associate Minister "shocked", but honoured

The new Associate Minister for the Ministry of Health says he was "shocked" by his appointment, but 81-year-old Tea Peato says he is "honored" to be appointed.

Tea, the Member of Parliament for the constituency of Fa'asaleleaga No. 4, takes up the role from the former M.P. and his election opponent Tofa Li'o Foleni. 

While the new Associate Minister is not a novice to the political arena, this is his first time to be in the Government bench as he used to be an opposition member.

Speaking to the Samoa Observer, Tea said the appointment came as a surprise for him and he will be working alongside the Minister and M.P. for Vaisigano No.2., Valasi Tafito Selesele. 

"I never expected that I would be chosen to be one of the Associate Ministers for this parliamentary term," said Tea. 

"As I told you before, I didn't want to contest again in this year's election as I am getting old. But because of the push from the elders of our village and also my friends, I decided to contest one more time this year."

Initially, Tea wanted to contest under the flag of the Samoa National Democratic Party (S.N.D.P.). However, S.N.D.P. formed an alliance with the new F.A.S.T. party last year and decided that they would use the F.A.S.T. ticket. 

"The Minister of Health, Valasi, was one of the people who pushed me to contest again. Then we all agreed to join forces with F.A.S.T. and we were successful. 

"For me, that was more than enough for me. I was happy and grateful that I got voted back in parliament after the election and did not expect or anticipate being chosen as an Associate Minister. 

"I was also a bit reluctant when I was told that I had been chosen because I am not the type of person who wants to stay in Apia. 

"I prefer staying in Savai'i and I don't want to keep traveling between the two islands. 

"But if this is God's will for me, I will gladly offer my service and strength to serve our people, especially our community in Savai'i to the best of my ability."

The businessman from Sa'asa'ai had served three terms in Parliament previously. He first entered Parliament in 1982 under the Samoa National Democratic Party (S.N.D.P.).

"That was when we had elections after every three years," Tea told the Samoa Observer. Tea was then re-elected after his first term. 

"However, the third time I tried, I was defeated."

After losing in 1988, Tea then stayed and helped out with his family business. 

"I then took a break from Parliament and focused on growing our family business."

However, in the year 1996, the village of Sa'asa'ai approached Tea and asked him to contest again. 

"So I competed in the election and was elected back in Parliament and served for five years as an opposition member," he said. 

When asked why he chose to be an opposition member back then, Tea laughed and said: "It is just the way I am, I can't explain why I joined the opposition side."

But this time around, Tea said he is happy to be on the government side and is grateful that he made the decision to contest under the flag of the F.A.S.T. party. 

Tea is hoping to develop the health sector in Savai'i during his time in office. 

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