By: Leaosa Faaifo Faaifo. Photos by AHCC Media.
The final service for long serving Member of Parliament Tapunu’u Unasa Toleafoa Tepafoa’i Papaliitele Niko Lee Hang was an emotionally moving portrayal of who he was as a man, brother, husband, father, grandfather and parliamentarian.
The life of the former Cabinet Minister was celebrated in a service held at Apia Harvest Centre Church (AHCC) where he was a senior member of the congregation.
Tapunuu served on the AHCC Governing Board and was Patron of the church’s Teen Challenge Program. He was a Deacon who also played the base guitar and guitar with the Praise and Worship Ministry.
The service was well attended by close family, friends, and the highest level of Government represented by His Highness the Head of State, members of the Council of Deputies, Deputy Prime Minister Tuala Tevaga Ponifasio, Cabinet Ministers, and Members of Parliament from both sides of the floor.
He was described by his children as a Man of God – a loving father with a heart of gold. A father a grandfather, an uncle who would be sorely missed.
His youngest daughter Myna Vaitupu spoke on behalf of her siblings and bravely told of a man that made sure all his children were taken care of and loved.
She told of a man who stringently put all his faith in God reflecting good qualities that has allowed them the opportunity to live happily and comfortably.
Her eulogy was followed by Tapunu’u’s children and grandchildren performing a song that was dear to them and their father.
Mrs Doris Lee Hang, graciously and affectionately spoke of his loving and caring nature towards her and their children and grandchildren. Tapunuu’s wife shared of the hard-working man Tapunuu was. He made sure that whenever he was called to be with his Lord, his family would be well taken care of. As a family, they felt and knew that he loved them with all his heart.
Mrs Lee Hang said she knows Papalii is now with his Lord. Her husband was a God-fearing man, with faith in His Lord. A loving father to his children and husband to her, a deacon to his church and faithful servant of the Lord.
Deputy Prime Minister Tuala Tevaga Iosefo Ponifasio delivered the Government’s eulogy where he elaborated on Tapunu’u’s life as a public servant for 25 years from 1976 to 2001 and as a Parliamentarian for 22 years from 2001 to 2022 – an achievement of five consecutive parliament terms.
Tapunu’u was an accountant by profession and served in this capacity for Samoa Life Insurance for 14 years. He was appointed as a Financial Controller for the Government from 1990 to 1997 and was with the Public Trustee office for 4 years from 1997 to 2001.
He then contested the seat for individual voters and won to become a Member of Parliament in 2001 under the name Niko Lee Hang where he was appointed Associate minister of Justice until a ministerial portfolio reshuffle in 2004 elevated him to Associate Minister for Revenue from 2004 to 2006.
9Tapunu’u was re-elected for the second time in the 2006 General Election and was then appointed as the Minister of Finance.
He came back to Parliament after the 2011 General Election and was appointed Chairman for the Parliamentary Finance Committee.
After winning the 2016 General Election on his fourth straight term he was appointed Minister of Works Transport and Infrastructure until 2021.
Tapunu’u came back to Parliament as an opposition MP after winning the Vaimauga No.3 seat at the April 2021 general election and was serving as a member of the Parliamentary Finance Committee when he passed away.
He is remembered in Parliament for his huge role in some of the country’s major development projects such as the new Faleolo International Airport, International Wharf and Ferries, clean water and electricity development initiative, bridges, and many others during his time as a Minister of Cabinet.
Tapunu’u remains one of the longest serving Members of Parliament and a noble leader to the Parliament and Government of Samoa.
He is laid to rest at his family’s property at Vailima.