Tuilaepa says Samoa has reaped many benefits from Starkist
Samoa Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi says one of the good aspects of global warming is that waters in the Western Pacific are getting warmer and driving fish south, which will benefit fishing in the South Pacific in the future.
Tuilaepa made the comments Saturday in his speech at the Veterans Memorial Stadium during StarKist Samoa's 50th anniversary which was attended by more than 3,000 people.
The Samoa prime minister was invited by StarKist as one of their guests and this was, of course, important for the company since the majority of its workforce is from Samoa.
In his remarks Tuilaepa expressed his sincere gratitude for the invitation to represent the people and government of Samoa, “offering our hearty congratulations and best wishes” to StarKist in having attained 50 years of operation not just in American Samoa but in the Pacific region.
“Today we gather to salute the feat of a journey spanning 50 years for StarKist which is now the largest single producing cannery in the world. This is indeed cause for celebration,” he said.
“Since we are all very mindful of the fact that like other business ventures that have been in operation over long periods of time, the road to glory has not always been smooth sailing nor were without setbacks and challenges,” he added.
Tuilaepa said, “For small island countries such as ours, our remoteness and distances from the center of hubs of bigger nations around the globe though especially from the bigger deeper oceans where fish is... plenty will always be a hinderance."
“Perhaps this is one good and positive aspect of global warming and climate change as... it’s driving the fish to our waters from the Western Pacific to our oceans, increasing the amount of catches in the future,” he said, adding the world is currently experiencing times of economic instability and uncertainty.
“Thus in my view for any company such as StarKist Samoa to be and remain successful, it is important that profitability, through high productivity, be achieved,” he said. “Good work ethics, honesty, consistency and commitment to diligently pursue excellence in performance will always... yield good results and high return on investments.”
The Prime Minister went on to say that high labor costs, causes the departure of many companies from a country. And such was the case that led StarKist Co. in 1985 to close down its plant in Terminal Island, Calif.
“Low labor cost, plus numerous challenges of great distances from consumer markets however can, over time, be overtaken by other venues with greater competitive advantages,” Tuilaepa said.
Similar to StarKist Samoa, Tuilaepa noted, Yazaki Samoa — which manufactures harnesses for automobiles— has been operating in Apia for a number of years, and it employs hundreds and hundreds of workers, with the majority being in the low income bracket.
“The future of these companies are never certain, nor guaranteed,” he said, however, these companies rely on productivity.
Therefore, “employees at all levels and management must and need to work cooperatively together to raise the level of performance in order to guarantee a certain future for them and their families and by extension, their countries,” he said.
In his Samoan speech, Tuilaepa said the benefits reaped by American Samoa from StarKist Samoa is also benefiting his country of Samoa through money sent home to help families as well as daily flights to Apia carrying boxes of goods and other food items, including a lot of turkey tails — which resulted in laughter from the crowd.
He said Samoa has continued to benefit over the last 50 years from StarKist because the majority of the company’s workforce is from Samoa. Tuilaepa noted in particular the benefits for American Samoa from StarKist Samoa are not fully realized unless they are also shared with Samoa.
He said the cannery in American Samoa is also the cannery of Samoa, and his country wishes it had a StarKist cannery there so its citizens don’t have to come here seeking jobs and there wouldn't be so many overstayers in the territory. This sparked another round of applause and laughter from the crowd.
The Samoa Prime Minister thanked the governor and the government for allowing the citizens of his country to live and work in American Samoa, saying he believes there is a lot of use for his country’s men and women living here, and they should live here forever and not be bothered. This comment brought laughter from the crowd.
Tuilaepa thanked Dongwon for keeping StarKist Samoa in the territory and said that if some time in the future the company looks at moving away from Pago Pago, to consider Samoa which is always looking for excellent businesses like StarKist.
He added that one of the things done in Samoa to honor owners of foreign businesses with great success is bestowing on the owner, a Samoa chiefly title and telling the owner that this is a high ranking important matai title. With more laughter from the crowd, Tuilaepa explained further that such titles “are honorary” chiefly titles, which shows the owner that he is now a Samoan and that his family and home country is Samoa.
And more laughter came from the crowd, as Tuilaepa shared that in September next year, the UN Secretary General will be visiting Samoa and he is thinking of a chiefly title to bestow on the UN leader.
He said it wouldn’t be shocking to find out later that the U.S. President has been bestowed with a Paramount chiefly title from American Samoa — like “Tuiolosega”. He said this is one quick way of making sure that an American Samoan is in the White House.
Tuialeapa went on to point out that Samoa has already bestowed the chiefly title of “To’asavili” on New Zealand Prime Minister John Key and this means — a Samoan is now the top leader of the New Zealand government.