Today marks 20 years since Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi was sworn in as Prime Minister on November 24th 1998.
He is the country’s longest serving Prime Minister is the region.
Ask for a comment from the Samoa Global all he said was “there is nothing much to say except thanking God for these many years.”
This was all he articulated with an enormous smile on his face.
Tuilaepa was more interested to talk about the developments in Samoa and the work that the Human Rights Protection Party had done for the country and its people.
Tuilaepa first entered parliament in 1981as a Member of Parliament from of the constituency of Lepa.
Born in Lepā, Malielegaoi is an economist by profession.
He attended high school at St Joseph’s College in Lotopa and then continues to St Paul’s College in Auckland. He then achieved a master’s from the University of Auckland and became the first Samoan to receive a master’s degree in Commerce.
Tuilaepa was the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance under the reigning of the late Tofilau Eti Alesana followed by the H.R.P.P’s return to power after the coalition government of Va’ai Kolone and Tupua.
For a while he was both Prime Minister and Minister of Finance after Tofialu stepped down from the Prime ministership position.
However, following a Cabinet reshuffle after the following elections in which he led the HRPP for an additional term, Tuilaepa surrendered the post of Minister of Finance to Misa Telefoni Retzlaff who also became the new Deputy Prime Minister at the time.
He relinquished the Ministry of Finance post because of the amount of responsibility and work involved in being both the Prime Minister and Minister of Finance.
Another reason is, in order to do the job of the Minister of Finance properly it requires a full-time Minister because at the time Tuilaepa has twice reassigned the Finance portfolio since.
Married to Gillian Meredith with eight children, Tuilaepa has been re-elected by the constituency of Lepa over the years.
During Tuilaepa’s term one of the biggest highlights towards him and his party which it didn’t start out smoothwas when the government has passed highly controversial legislation to switch Samoan road use from right to left-hand traffic.
According to the Wikipedia the controversy resulted in a peaceful demonstration which drew more than 15,000 people, the largest protest demonstration in Samoan history, and to the founding of the People’s Party, a political party established to protest against changing sides.
“In 2011, Tuilaepa’s government introduced a bill to shift Samoa west of the International Date Line, to facilitate economic relations with Australia, New Zealand and Asia (by ensuring that Samoa would no longer be one calendar day away from them).
“Opposition politicians also criticised it, arguing that it would not increase exports, and that it would in fact deprive Samoa of “its unique tourism selling point as the last place on earth to see the sun”, just east of the Date Line. Tuilaepa responded by calling opposition MP Lealailepule Rimoni Aiafi (of the then Tautua Samoa Party) “very stupid”, adding that “only an idiot” would fail to see the merits of the bill.
“However, the bill had the support of the Samoa Chamber of Commerce and the vast majority of the private and finance sector.
“The major benefit being that, given that most trade was conducted with New Zealand and Australia, and a growing trade sector with South East and East Asia, that being on the same day as these major trading partners would lead to improvements in productivity, as more trade could be facilitated during a shared five-day week, as opposed to the previous situation of only sharing three-week days to conduct business.”