Pālemia – launch speeches by Tuiloma Neroni Slade and Peter Swain

Fergus Barrowman and Peter Swain in Samoa

Pālemia: Prime Minister Tuila'epa Sa'ilele Malielegaoi of Samoa, A Memoir was launched in an event in Samoa on May 31. The launch speeches given by Tuiloma Neroni Slade and the co-writer of Pālemia, Peter Swain, are reproduced here.

Tuiloma Neroni Slade

Tuiloma Neroni Slade:

"Palemia, A Memoir is the book of anticipation! A book of events. Events of defining consequence in the life of Samoa. For some, perhaps even a book of revelation!

This Memoir is political statecraft at a moment of supremacy. It is a proclamation on deeds and achievements: the Prime Minister's personal account and viewing of the causes and events of momentous political significance shaping the direction and management of the modern development of the country. In the past few days the Samoa Observer has carried a broad outline of the memoir and from it I think general indication has been given of what the reader might expect.

The past 35 years, the focus of the book, were among the critical years in the experience of a newly-independent island State, and the Prime Minister renders his accounting and historical perspective on a range of key aspects: the realities of nation-building under a largely untested Constitution; the shifts and turns in political leadership; party politics, opposition politics, the maneuvering and intrigues; the personalities of note; political assassination; the public servants strike, seen as a defining moment; the national economy and its modernisation; the response to critics; natural disasters; and the multitude of challenges and accomplishments. There is much here that will generate interest and fascination - and perhaps for some, fortitude in reading of matters past or which might have been left in the past.

But, this is not a sales pitch on my part, and I have no wish to risk the theatre-rush for copies and, therefore, I shall leave it to others and refrain from touching on the specifics and the details. What we have in this memoir are the insights and reflections of a man who has been at the very centre of policy-making and governance for an extended period of time. The perspectives are idiosyncratic and offered from a range of elevated vantage points: as member of Parliament since 1981, having been a senior Government bureaucrat for a number of years; viewpoints from the position of senior Cabinet postings, the first from 1982; following long years of tutelage under the Hon Tofilau Eti, a political grand master; and a personal historical reading of all this as Prime Minister since 1989. There is much in this treasury of intimate engagement, first-hand knowledge and experience from which to draw.

More in biographical form, this is also the story of a young boy growing up in the village of Lepa, exceedingly remote and difficult to access in those days, and the determination of his young life to get to where he is today; solidly rooted in family and culture; fixed on purpose and his search for education and advancement, unafraid and undaunted by the obstacles. Those of us of a certain age will understand the circumstances of the country at the time, indeed, will have experienced similar hardships that have conditioned the aspirations and lives of the Prime Minister's generation.

This, then, is a tale of remarkable self-assurance, of high reaching ambition and endeavours, steeped and sustained by deep cultural values and connections. It is a book which offers invaluable inspirations, in particular for the younger generation.

There are also matters of obvious closeness to the Prime Minister's heart, with a charming tribute to his lady, Gillian; an acknowledgement of equality to one, almost always unheralded but so true and unerring in the co-partnership of leadership.

The writing of political memoirs, although not seemingly common in the Pacific, is an age old pastime. It seems to be favoured by politicians the world over. Almost every British Prime Minister since World War II has published some form of memoir; and there is a similar trend with many Presidents or former Presidents in the United States, as elsewhere. Indeed, something of a memoir industry grew up around President Richard Nixon. Multiple reasons were suggested; because it was necessary therapy, Watergate vindication, vengeance or more probably royalties to pay off substantial debts! (I am, of course, not suggesting any such motivation here.)

The political memoir is a dynamic format and often the favoured literary genre because it is where history and politics are narrated in personalised form. For those in high office and positions of leadership there is a powerful if not irresistible impulse to generate a public record of deeds that would make future generations remember names and accomplishments. Or, as some would say, it is part of the 'quest to surmount the bounds of mortality'.

The title is all too important. Lord Balfour once said of Winston Churchill that he had written a big book about himself and called it The World Crisis. But, of course, in our case, there is pertinence. This is the Memoir of he who, since 1998, has taken monopoly of the office of Palemia for well nigh 20 years; and leader of a political party which, after 35 years and following a 94% sweep at last year's elections, is now in undisputed political dominance.

The Memoir remarks on the astounding results of the 2016 elections and the now unique challenges to effective democratic governance, with a Parliament of chiefs without opposition and need for political management of sizeable back-bencher numbers. The implications of an overwhelming majority especially for the sovereignty of the Constitution and the easy temptation in altering its provisions would be a particular concern. The Constitution is not an ordinary statute after all, but supreme law with special character.

I was a bureaucrat contemporary of the Prime Minister in Government service and I have some familiarity with some of the key events recounted. (And I have my own memories.) I must say that it has been a particular honour to serve him as Prime Minister, as it has been a special privilege for me, and I should think, a diminishing number of other colleagues, to have served every Prime Minister of our country since Independence.

When contemplating my career move to international judiciary I informed the Prime Minister of the high-level competition and huge task that faced me and our small country. His encouragement was unwavering, and he was fatherly.

'Humanity and justice lie in your heart', he said, and remember always that you are a Samoan. So armed, and somewhat like the Manu Samoa, I went forth. Years later, on my return to the region, he telephoned to say that the Government was thinking of proposing me as Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum. I said I was deeply honoured, but would appreciate time to consult my wife. 'Is that necessary' was the immediate come-back! Again, I thought to myself, who am I to challenge decisive leadership!

Let me say that it is a matter of immense pride for every Samoan to observe the Hon Prime Minister and the high estimation he commands internationally. Whether in the halls of the United Nations, the high table of the Commonwealth or among Pacific leaders he is listened to closely and well acknowledged for his long experience and clear viewpoint. Acknowledged also for his way with famous women! As recounted in this book, who else would be sought out in Rio de Janeiro by Hilary Clinton and kissed and hugged while so many world leaders looked on?

This Memoir is wide in coverage, and there is a large list of characters. But not every event and not all are named. Each of us concerned would have to figure out the implications. Omission, or the feeling of being neglected, might sometimes be more grieving. In Gordon Brown's post-prime ministerial memoirs Tony Blair's name was notable by its loud and total absence!

The Prime Minister has noted that it is a little unusual to be publishing his memoirs while so many other actors are still active. If that be open invitation to such actors or, if in that there is hint of a second volume to come, then there would be cause for those with contesting memories to start lining up outside Dr Swain's door.

Dr Peter Swain has been spoken of - and already spoken for - by no less than our own, the Hon and distinguished Professor Luamanuvao Winnie Laban. Though we now know that Peter had cast the acorn seed for this memoir, his admiring co­authorship is that of the trained scholar and professional, and the presentation of this work and his informed commentary add substantive measure to this important Memoir.

And, so ladies and gentlemen, we now have the personal memories and reflections of the Prime Minister, carefully recalled and assembled in this Memoir. Thesingular merit of the Palemia memoir is that we now have it in our hands in recorded form. It does not pretend to be the definitive history. Yet, history is written. It would seem to me that, at least for the moment, it has claimed a place of its own, in the Samoan politics of memory.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in his poem 'A Psalm of Life', suggested that our real destiny is not enjoyment, and not sorrow, but, in the words of the poet, "to act, that each tomorrow/Find us farther than today." In our salute i Lana Afioga le Ali'i Palemia for this memoir I'm sure you would wish to join me in a warm fa'amalo and to thank him for having so acted, for all these years, for all of us.

Fa'afetai tele.


(left to right) Gillian Muriel Malielegaoi, Peter Swain, Tuila'epa Sa'ilele Malielegaoi and Reverend Nuuausala Siaosi Siutaia

Peter Swain:

"Le mamalu e, o Samoa potopoto i ou sa ma faiga,

malo le soifua maua, ma le lagi e mama.

Talofa lava O le Ao o le Malo, Afioga Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi ma Masiofo Filifilia.

Talofa lava o le Sui O le Fono a Sui Tofia.

Talofa lava Afioga Patu Sapolu, Chief Justice, the Judiciary, and members of the Diplomatic Corps.

Mālō le Soifua Lau Afioga i le Pālemia: Tuila‘epa, Neoti, Fatialofa, ‘Auelua, Lupesoli‘ai, Galumalemana, Lolofietele, ‘A‘iono Dr Sa’ilele Malielegaoi. Grand Chief of Papua New Guinea.

Talofa lava lou Faletua pele Gillian ma le ‘āiga potopoto.

Talofa lava and warm Pacific Greetings to our honoured guests, family and friends, to numerous to acknowledge individually.

However, I must acknowledge the chiefs and orators of the Vaimauga. Malo le soifua. Talofa lava Lau Afioga Patu Ativalu, Tofaeono ma Asi Tunupopo. Talofa lava Luamanuvao ma Fauono.

Talofa Professor Asofou So‘o, thank you for your generous welcome.

Malo soifua Tofa Tuiloma Neroni Slade and Fergus Barrowman, thank you for your kind words. And thank you Reverend Nuuausala Siaosi Siutaia for blessing Pālemia and your prayer.

During the last two years I have been privileged to spend many hours with Prime Minister Tuila’epa recording his memories, thoughts, and observations. Hearing about his personal life story as well as his time as Member of Parliament, Prime Minister and regional leader. His detailed recall of dates, people, events, conversations and dialogue is remarkable.

Together we have written Pālemia, which aims to tell a balanced story that documents the history and places in context the life and political career of Prime Minister Tuila’epa.

In my time working with Tuila’epa I have learned much about Samoa, and the key figures and events in Samoa’s recent political history. Also, I have learned the importance of the Fa’asamoa and how it underpins Tuila’epa’s Premiership and the governance of Samoa.

Samoa’s culture is oral, however, we have attempted to capture on paper Tuila’epa’s voice as he tells his story.

Rather than talking about the book, I would like to give you a little taste of it. Let me read you a short extract from Pālemia. This is whereTuila’epa recalls his father’s advice on becoming a matai, and tells him the essentials of Samoan oratory.

‘At the end of the saofa‘i, when it was just me and my dad, Malielegaoi Veni, he said to me, ‘Now that you are a matai, listen to me very carefully, son. You must learn the full elements that make a chief a chief. You should first of all learn to joke. Learn to joke and engage in humour, debate and exchange. If you are able to do that, you will become the most influential speaker in the house of the chiefs, because you will entertain. You will entertain the full council with stories, with things that will make them laugh and lighten up any situation, especially when many of the discussions of the council will involve heated debate and there will often be disputes that cause arguments and bad relationships between chiefs. But if you have that art, if you develop that art of making up funny stories that will lighten the burden of differences and make people very happy, you can influence the way you want the debate to go. After that, for the second part, you learn how to deliver a suitable Samoan speech, Samoan style. The third part of being a Samoan chief is to know the genealogy, the gafa, between our village and other villages. In that way you have a weapon with you that you can use to silence any opposing speaker.’

Throughout his long career, Tuila‘epa has followed his father’s advice. Particularly the part about using jokes and stories to get people onside and to make a serious point.

When you read Pālemia it is clear that Prime Minister Tuila‘epa has been very mindful of maintaining his political base through his tautua and by connecting and balancing the affairs of the state with the affairs of his village, taking the people with him. Maintaining this balance has kept him grounded in the fa’asamoa and connected to his community ensuring that his decision-making and leadership remain relevant to village life.

Tuila‘epa’s premiership has led to unprecedented political stability and strong economic development in Samoa whilst preserving the essence of the fa’asamoa in Samoan society. Tuila’epa has committed his life’s work to serving Samoa, the country he loves.

Tuila‘epa Sa‘ilele Malielegaoi has met with the Queen of England, had audiences with the Pope, talked over global affairs with the President of the United States of America, the President of China, the Prime Minister of Japan and many other global leaders. He has addressed the United Nations General Assembly and the Security Council, but at heart he remains a village matai from Lepā.

Tuila’epa has often been the target of criticism by journalists, academics and politicians from Samoa and elsewhere. As Prime Minister, Tuila‘epa has not always been in a position to speak out and balance the public account. He wanted this book to be in the form of a memoir, based on his recollection of important events in his life, career and premiership, with background information that reflects the political history of Samoa and the complexities and challenges faced in the governance of a Pacific Island nation.

I trust that Pālemia has met those aims.

I would now like to say some words of thanks.

Mālō le Soifua Lau Afioga i le Pālemia, Tuila’epa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, fa’afetai tele lava Tuila’epa. Fa’afetai fo’i Gillian ma le ‘āiga.

It has been a great honour to work with you Prime Minister. Thank you for your generosity, your openness, and your patience. Thank you for trusting me with your story. And having the courage to tell your story in your own words without censoring or editing it.

As you say in your foreword ‘History is history. Things must be told exactly as they occurred, otherwise the underlying lesson is hidden and buried.’

Fa’afetai lava Sipiki and Sii, from the Prime Minister’s Office for your assistance and support. Fa’afetai fo’i Lapi, Vaovasamanaia Filo.

Fa’afetai tele lava i le ‘āiga potopoto i Samoa ma Niu Sila.

I also acknowledge with gratitude Fergus Barrowman, Publisher Victoria University Press, for his faith and patience on taking on this project and for his wise and careful management of the development, editing and publication of Pālemia. Thank you Fergus you have produced a handsome book.

Thank you to Fiti Leung Wai, CEO and President of Samoa Stationary and Books, for sponsoring and arranging this book launch, and for distributing Pālemia in Samoa. Fa’afetai lava Fiti.

This book grew out of Luamanuvao’s insistence that we must listen to and record the stories of our Pacific Island leaders. Mālō O si a’u lava avā fa’apelepele. Fa’afetai tele lava Luamanuvao.

In conclusion, Pālemia is the story of how a young boy from Lepā came to Apia, gained an education, worked hard and became Samoa’s most successful and longest serving Prime Minister. I hope that Tuila’epa’s story will provide an inspiration for the next generation of Samoan leaders.

Prime Minister Tuila‘epa, Pālemia, this is your day, it is now time for you to launch your memoir.

Ia manuia."

Prime Minister Tuila'epa Sa'ilele Malielegaoi

Pālemia is available for purchase now at good bookstores or through our online bookstore.

h/b, $50.