Memoir of Samoa PM Tu'ilaepa Sa'ilele Malielegaoi released
Palemia is the Samoan word for prime minister and it is the title of a book released today in Samoa which details the long and fascinating life of Prime Minister Tu'ilaepa Sa'ilele Malielegaoi.
It is a memoir of Tu'laepa's time at or near the top of the Samoa government and the changes and development in the country since he started school there more than 60 years ago.
Many of those changes Tu'ilaepa has had a hand in.
He started in the public service after completing a Masters in Commerce degree, then entered politics in 1981, becoming Finance Minister in the 1990s and prime minister in 1998.
Palemia has been written in conjunction with development academic Peter Swain.
Don Wiseman spoke with Dr Swain and suggested the memoir shows someone who seemed born to the cut and thrust of politics.
PETER SWAIN:Well I think one of the themes that comes through this book is the theme of the Fa'a Samoa and the Fa'amatai. Being a Samoan chief, being a orator chief a Matai an Ali'i his experience of village politics and Samoan politics really informed his role as a prime minister later on and supported his governance and one of the challenges of governance in Samoa is balancing the traditional polity of village politics with the western style parliamentary democracy and I think those are one of the challenges that you see right throughout his career. And certainly Tuilaepa had the skills that came out of the political Samoan tradition and then he has blended those in with his palagi side his masters in commerce his time spent working in the international financial institutions. Blending those two together has been an important part of his premiership.
DON WISEMAN: Would you say that he is better at that process or better at that than pretty much anyone else there?
PS: Well it is a balancing act politics and one of the other themes that come through this book is the idea of taking the people with you. It is no good having all the skills of being a parliamentarian if you do not have that connection with the grassroots of your community and get voted in each time and he is able to achieve those balances.
DW: We talked about him being prime minister for nearly 19 years and he is going to be there for sometime yet it would seem. Yet this is a country where there has been a lot of turbulence near the top. Just prior to him coming in and so on. It is remarkable that he has managed to do that. Why do you think he has done this when others before him failed.
PS: One of the things I learn't in working on this book with Tuilaepa and it is a book that he has participated throughout in, is how strongly democratic he is. In each case before elections he goes back to the party and seeks mandate again to be leader. He is an instinctive democrat and when you look at the Fa'a Samoa. Samoans are very democratic in terms of the chiefly system and one of the tensions is between those who think there right is to born to rule and those who have a democratic instinct and his democratic instinct comes through very strongly and this shows up in the election results in the last election the HRPP party which he leads won 94 percent of the seats and there is very few political leaders who are into their fourth term who have successfully increased their mandate from the people.
DW: Well we mentioned this turbulence that had existed certainly at the beginning and just after he became prime minister there was the assassination of Luagalau and some suggestion that in fact it was Tuilaepa that was the intended victim.
PS: This was seven months into Tuilaepa's premiership there is deeper tensions that were going on at that time. There was a new generation of leaders coming through. Older leaders who hark back to the days of I guess a more cultural traditional way of leadership. And the new leaders who were in some ways that were technocrats that were shifting Samoa in terms of the modern world. So this tension was there and the assassination was the product of a range of tensions that were going on and yes clearly Tuilaepa was one of the targets for that assassination. And so it is a very dramatic start his first period in as prime minister. The first number of years say the first six seven years were balancing out and dealing with that turbulence and getting things onto an even keel, consolidating his leadership. And what we have seen.
DW: It was something that was done very smoothly wasn't it?
PS: Incredibly and one of the important things that come out from the book is the political stability that Samoa has had for the last two decades. So we had this period of turbulence, when he first came into parliament in 1981 there were four prime ministers in the first 12 months. So there was a period of change going on there when he came in as leader to succeed Tofilau there was a turbulence as he settled into his position. Subsequently Samoa's political stability its economic development have been on a strong upward plane since that time. So that is an important factor in his leadership.
DW: In terms of his economic Nous how important has that been for Samoa moving through those really tough periods to the relatively buoyant period they are in now?
PS: Well I think that is critical, again as I say the older leaders in the earlier days dealt with a developing country coming into indepence with very few resources mainly agriculture fishing, a few commodities. He led the transition into a modern economy. Freed up the markets put in place a decent banking system. A decent system for financial management for fiscal management. All those things were driven by Tuilaepa first as finance minister during Tofilau's premiership and then during his won long period as prime minister. So he has been the central figure in that move to stability and in that way. Samoa stands out in relation to many other Pacific nations.