Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

“I have a lot of respect for our Prime Minister and the government of Samoa” – Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Sa’ilele Malielegaoi

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Neueli Mauafu | Reporter

A recent visit to New Zealand has Samoa’s former Prime Minister in a contemplative mood. 

It was a year to remember for Samoan politics. After a 39 year reign as the government, the HRPP party suffered a narrow loss to the FAST party in that fateful 2021 election

The change of power meant the end of former Prime Minister Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegaoi 23 long years in the top job.

Fast forward three years and Tuilaepa is settling in well in his new role as the opposition leader. 

“I am still fit and healthy, especially now that we are doing our job as the opposition in giving our advice and opinions to the new government of Samoa,” the 79 year old says.

“We the opposition party are the voice for the voiceless who need clarity over certain issues discussed in parliament.”

Since being in the opposition, there have been numerous disagreements between Tuilaepa and the current prime minister Fiame Naomi Mataafa.

A notable incident was the suspension of Tuilaepa and his colleague Lealailepule Rimoni Aiafi from parliament in 2022 which was later overturned by the Supreme Court.

But despite all these issues, he says that there is always respect for Fiame and her party.

“I have a lot of respect for our Prime Minister and the government of Samoa at the moment,” he said.

“But that does not mean it will stop us from doing our job. I disagree with the statements saying we are the ‘disagreeing party’. The correct word for it is that we are the “opposite” to the government or opposition.”

Tuilaepa and members of his HRPP party were recently in New Zealand, taking part in a celebration with supporters from New Zealand and Australia. It was a chance for leaders and supporters to meet and greet in person for the first time.

“Our reason for travelling over to New Zealand was to meet with our supporters based in New Zealand, and also some of them who could make the trip from Australia” Tuilaepa says.

“We’ve communicated online via social media, but it is special now as we get to meet face to face. They have heard our voices, but have never met us in person” 

While in the country, Tuilaepa has thrown his support behind the NZ citizenship review bill being pushed through Parliament by Green Party MP Teanau Tuiono.

The Bill seeks to repeal a 1982 law which prevented Samoans from claiming New Zealand citizenship. That was the year the Privy Council ruled that Samoans born between 1924-1949, should be regarded as New Zealand citizens. The New Zealand government of Robert Muldoon  acted swiftly to nullify this decision with the establishment of the 1982 Citizenship (Western Samoa) Act.

It was a decision that the Samoan Prime Minister and HRPP leader at the time Vaai Kolone had agreed to.

“We all disagreed on it, in fact I was probably the person who was leading the charge against it,” Tuilaepa says. 

“In my opinion, if New Zealand wants to overturn things, let them do it on their own and they can take the blame for it. 

“But I don’t want them to use the idea of Vaai agreeing as a way of saying the whole of Samoa is agreeing on it.”

Despite concerns over the influx of Samoans migrating to New Zealand, Tuilaepa believes the addition of more Pacific Islanders is a benefit to New Zealand.

“Majority of the people that carry New Zealand’s sports are of Pacific heritage. Why do they represent New Zealand? Because it’s their input to the country.

“Even our workers coming from the islands are helping New Zealand’s economy. Most of the jobs they do are because the people here in New Zealand do not want to do it.”

With the next general elections in Samoa looming in 2026, Tuilaepa is confident he’ll still be fit to run but for now, he says that decision rests on the people of his district. 

“What is important for me now is to see my Party get back to its full strength and put Samoa back to where it was before.” 



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