Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegaoi (born 14 April 1945) is a Samoan politician who has been Prime Minister of Samoa since 1998.
Born at Lepa, Samoa, Malielegaoi is an economist by profession. He attended high school at St Joseph's College, Lotopa then obtained a master's from the University of Auckland, becoming the first Samoan to receive a master's degree in commerce.
He worked for the European Economic Community and Coopers & Lybrand before being elected to the Samoan parliament in 1980.
Tuilaepa was the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance under Tofilau Eti Alesana following the Human Rights Protection Party'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 Premiership. However, following a Cabinet reshuffle after the following elections in which he led the HRPP for an additional term, Tuilaepa relinquished the post of Minister of Finance to Misa Telefoni Retzlaff who also became the new Deputy Prime Minister.
The reason given for Tuilaepa's relinquishment of the Ministry of Finance was the amount of responsibility and work involved being both Prime Minister and Minister of Finance and to do the job properly required a full time Minister. Tuilaepa has twice reassigned the Finance portfolio since that time.
Malielegaoi lost two relatives in the 2009 Samoan earthquake and tsunami, including the daughter of one of his nieces. Most of Malielegaoi's hometown of Lepa, Samoa, was destroyed in the tsunami, leaving just the church and the village's welcome sign standing.
Regional Polynesian integration
In late 2011, Tuilaepa initiated a meeting of Polynesian leaders which led, in November, to the formal launching of the Polynesian Leaders Group, a regional grouping intended to cooperate on a variety of issues including culture and language, education, responses to climate change, and trade and investment. The Group was in part a response to the Melanesian Spearhead Group.
Tuilaepa's government has passed highly controversial legislation to switch Samoan road use from right to left-hand traffic. 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). According to Samoa Observer editor Keni Lesa, many Samoans viewed the bill as "another crazy idea from our crazy prime minister". 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 Tautua Samoa Party) "very stupid", adding that "only an idiot" would fail to see the merits of the bill.
Opposition to Fiji's Bainimarama
Tuilaepa has emerged as one of Oceania's most vocal critics of Fijian interim leader Commodore Frank Bainimarama, who came to power in the 2006 Fijian coup d'état. Tuilaepa has stated that Bainimarama has shown little respect for the opinions of regional Pacific leaders. Tuilaepa has said that Bainimarama's actions since the 2006 coup have shown that Bainimarama has no intentions of returning Fiji to democratic rule or holding transparent, free elections. Tuilaepa cites numerous actions by Bainimarama to back up his criticisims, including rescinding assurances to leaders at a regional meeting in Tonga that elections would be held in May 2008. He has also criticized Bainimarama as a "no-show" at regional meetings of the Pacific Islands Forum in Niue and Papua New Guinea. Tuileapa has said that Bainimarama's failure to compromise, hold democratic elections and meet with regional leaders is not the "Pacific way."
In a February 2009 continuation of the war of words between Bainimarama and Tuilaepa, Commodore Bainimarama accused Samoa's foreign policy of being dictated by New Zealand. He also accused Tuilaepa of being "un-Pacific". Tuilaepa fired back, questioning whether Bainimarama was sober when he made these claims and reiterating that Bainimarama shows little respect for Pacific leaders.
Prime Minister Tuilaepa competed for his country at the 2007 South Pacific Games in the sport of target archery. In participating in the Games, the Prime Minister became the first elected leader to represent his country at a multi-sport event.
Having taken up the sport only five months prior to the Games, Tuilaepa was ranked second in Samoa in the combined bow discipline. The Prime Minister's son was also a reserve team member.
On day 10 of the Games, Tuilaepa won a silver medal in the mixed recurve team play event.
- "The Hon. Tuilaepa Malielegaoi". University of Auckland School of Business. http://www.alumni.auckland.ac.nz/uoa/home/alumni/photo-galleries-and-video/distinguished-alumni-lectures-and-speeches/disguished-alumni-speaker-day-2009/the-hon-tuilaepa-malielegaoi. Retrieved 2009-10-05.
- Ah Mu, Alan (2009-10-01). "PM lost two relatives". Samoa Observer. http://www.samoaobserver.ws/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=13715:pm-lost&catid=1:latest-news&Itemid=50. Retrieved 2009-10-05.
- McClean, Tamara (2009-10-02). "Searching ruins for reason to live after the tsunami". The Daily Telegraph (Australia). http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/searching-ruins-for-reason-to-live-after-the-tsunami/story-e6freuy9-1225781822624. Retrieved 2009-10-05.
- "NZ may be invited to join proposed ‘Polynesian Triangle’ ginger group", Pacific Scoop, 19 September 2011
- "New Polynesian Leaders Group formed in Samoa". Radio New Zealand International. 18 November 2011. http://www.rnzi.com/pages/news.php?op=read&id=64516. Retrieved 25 November 2011.
- "American Samoa joins Polynesian Leaders Group, MOU signed", Savali, 19 November 2011
- "Samoa provokes fury by switching sides of the road", The Telegraph, July 3, 2009
- "Right-to-left driving switch upsets Samoans", ABC Radio Australia, August 12, 2008
- "People’s Party to elect leaders", Samoa Observer, November 9, 2008
- McLean, Tamara (3 June 2011). "Samoan PM attacks dateline switch critics". The Sydney Morning Herald. AAP. http://news.smh.com.au/breaking-news-world/samoan-pm-attacks-dateline-switch-critics-20110603-1fjnn.html. Retrieved 25 November 2011.
- "Samoa’s Prime Minister again challenges Fiji’s interim Prime Minister". Radio New Zealand International. 2009-03-01. http://www.rnzi.com/pages/news.php?op=read&id=45078. Retrieved 2009-03-02.
- Andrews, John (18 August 2007). "Samoa PM draws bow for his country". The New Zealand Herald. http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10458420. Retrieved 25 November 2011.
- "Samoa PM wins archery silver". ABC Radio Australia. http://www.radioaustralia.net.au/southpacificgames/news/s2021663.htm. Retrieved 2007-09-06.