Tuilaepa Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi

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Tuilaepa Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi
Tuilaepa Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi 2018.jpg
6th Prime Minister of Samoa
Assumed office
23 November 1998
O le Ao o le MaloMalietoa Tanumafili II
Tufuga Efi
Vaʻaletoʻa Sualauvi II
DeputyMisa Telefoni Retzlaff
Fonotoe Nuafesili Pierre Lauofo
Fiame Naomi Mata'afa
Preceded byTofilau Eti Alesana
5th Minister of Foreign Affairs
Assumed office
23 November 1998
Preceded byTofilau Eti Alesana
3rd Leader of the Human Rights Protection Party
Assumed office
23 November 1998
Preceded byTofilau Eti Alesana
Deputy Prime Minister of Samoa
In office
8 April 1988 – 23 November 1998
O le Ao o le MaloMalietoa Tanumafili II
Prime MinisterTofilau Eti Alesana
Preceded byTufuga Efi
Succeeded byMisa Telefoni Retzlaff (2001)
Personal details
Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Neioti Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi

(1945-04-14) 14 April 1945 (age 75)[1]
Lepa, Western Samoa Trust Territory (now Samoa)
Political partyHuman Rights Protection Party
Spouse(s)Gillian Meredith[1]
Alma materVictoria University of Wellington, New Zealand

Tuilaepa Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi (full name, Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Neioti Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi) is a Samoan politician who has served as the Prime Minister of Samoa and Leader of the Human Rights Protection Party since 1998, and is Samoa’s longest serving head of government. Tuilaepa first entered parliament in 1981 when he won a by election to represent the electorate of Lepa. He also served as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance in the government of former Prime Minister Tofilau Eti Alesana, and in addition also held the portfolios of Tourism and Trade, Commerce & Industry.[2]


Tuilaepa was born in Lepa, Samoa. He attended high school at St Joseph's College in Lotopa and at St Paul's College, Auckland.[3]:55 He then obtained a master's from the University of Auckland, becoming the first Samoan to receive a master's degree in Commerce.[4]

He worked for the European Economic Community and Coopers & Lybrand before being elected to the Samoan parliament in 1980.

Tuilaepa lost two relatives in the 2009 Samoa earthquake and tsunami, including the daughter of one of his nieces.[5] Most of Malielegaoi's hometown of Lepa, Samoa, was destroyed in the tsunami, leaving just the church and the village's welcome sign standing.[6]

Political career[edit]

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 of 2001 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.[citation needed]

Tuilaepa first won election to represent his Lepa district in 1980,[1] after the death of the previous representative. He has been re-elected for Lepa since that time. He served as finance minister in the Tofilau government of 1991 and 1996. In 1996, he was appointed deputy prime minister. In 1998, Tofilau retired from parliament (and hence the prime ministership) due to ill-health. Tuilaepa then became the 6th Prime Minister of Samoa. He has successfully led his HRPP party to re-election in the 2001, 2006, 2011, and 2016 general elections.[1] In 2008 Tuilaepa became Samoa’s longest serving Prime Minister, surpassing that of his predecessor, Tofilau Eti Alesana.


Opposition to Fiji's Bainimarama[edit]

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.[7] 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.[7] Tuilaepa cites numerous actions by Bainimarama to back up his criticisms, including rescinding assurances to leaders at a regional meeting in Tonga that elections would be held in May 2008.[7] He has also criticised Bainimarama as a "no-show" at regional meetings of the Pacific Islands Forum in Niue and Papua New Guinea.[7] Tuileapa has said that Bainimarama's failure to compromise, hold democratic elections and meet with regional leaders is not the "Pacific way."[7]

In a February 2009 continuation of the war of words between Bainimarama and Tuilaepa, Bainimarama accused Samoa's foreign policy of being dictated by New Zealand.[7] He also accused Tuilaepa of being "un-Pacific".[7] Tuilaepa fired back, questioning whether Bainimarama was sober when he made these claims and reiterating that Bainimarama shows little respect for Pacific leaders.[7]

Regional Polynesian integration[edit]

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 co-operate 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.[8][9][10]


In June 2017, the Samoan Parliament passed a bill to increase support for Christianity in the country's constitution, including a reference to the Trinity. Article 1 of the Samoan Constitution states that “Samoa is a Christian nation founded of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit”. According to The Diplomat, "What Samoa has done is shift references to Christianity into the body of the constitution, giving the text far more potential to be used in legal processes."[11] The preamble to the constitution already described the country as "an independent State based on Christian principles and Samoan custom and traditions."[11]

Sporting aspirations[edit]

Tuilaepa was founder of Apia West Rugby, and is currently chairman of the Samoa Rugby Union.[12] Tuilaepa competed for his country at the 2007 South Pacific Games in the sport of target archery.[13] In participating in the Games, Tuilaepa 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. Tuilaepa's son was also a reserve team member.[13] On day 10 of the Games, Tuilaepa won a silver medal in the mixed recurve team play event.[14]

Matai titles[edit]

Tuilaepa has the following Fa'amatai titles.[citation needed]

  • Tuilaepa
  • Lupesoliai
  • Neioti
  • Aiono
  • Fatialofa
  • Lolofie
  • Galumalemana (Vaitele)
  • Aueluā


Traffic lane switch[edit]

Tuilaepa's government passed highly controversial legislation in 1998 to switch Samoan road use from right to left-hand traffic.[15][16] The controversy resulted in a peaceful demonstration which drew more than 15,000 people the largest protest demonstration in Samoan history,[15] and to the founding of the People's Party, a political party established to protest against changing sides.[16][17]

International Date Line shift[edit]

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.[18] However, the bill had the support of the Samoa Chamber of Commerce and the vast majority of the private and finance sector. The major benefit being that, given that most trade was conducted with New Zealand and Australia, and a growing trade sector with South East and East Asia, that being on the same day as these major trading partners would lead to improvements in productivity, as more trade could be facilitated during a shared five-day week, as opposed to the previous situation of only sharing three-week days to conduct business.

Measles outbreak[edit]

A measles outbreak began in September 2019.[19] As of 26 December, there were 5,612 confirmed cases of measles and 81 deaths, out of a Samoan population of 200,874.[20][21] Over two percent of the population has been infected.[20]

The outbreak has been attributed to a sharp drop in measles vaccination from the previous year. In 2013, 90% of babies in Samoa received the measles-mumps-rubella vaccination at one year of age.[22] On 6 July 2018 on the east coast of Savai'i, two 12-month-old children died after receiving MMR vaccinations.[23] The cause of death was incorrect preparation of the vaccine by two nurses who mixed vaccine powder with expired anaesthetic instead of the appropriate diluent.[24] These two deaths were picked up by anti-vaccine groups and used to incite fear towards vaccination on social media.[25] The government stopped its vaccination programme for 10 months, despite advice from the WHO.[26] The incident caused many Samoan residents to lose trust in the healthcare system.[27]

Nevertheless, as of 29 December a public inquiry into the government's role in suspending vaccinations had not been announced. Deputy director of health Gaualofa Matalavea Saaga stated, "Having our case blasted out to the world is the last thing we want."[23] Samoa’s political opposition called for the health minister to be removed from his position.[23]

Assassination attempts[edit]

Tuilaepa has been the target of three plots to kill him; one of those being almost successful when in 1999, Eletise Leafa Vitale, tried to kill him but instead one of Tuilaepa 's Cabinet Ministers was murdered. In December 2010, another plot was uncovered by Samoan police and, in August 2019, authorities foiled a detailed plan to assassinate him.[28][29][30]


  1. ^ a b c d "Government of Samoa – Official Website". Archived from the original on 13 February 2010. Retrieved 4 January 2020.
  2. ^ "Prime Minister Tuilaepa Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi" – via
  3. ^ Swain, Peter. Palemia: Prime Minister Tuila'epa Sa'ilele Malielegaoi of Samoa, A Memoir. ISBN 9781776561155.
  4. ^ "The Hon. Tuilaepa Malielegaoi". University of Auckland School of Business. Archived from the original on 27 March 2009. Retrieved 5 October 2009.
  5. ^ Ah Mu, Alan (1 October 2009). "PM lost two relatives". Samoa Observer. Archived from the original on 20 February 2012. Retrieved 5 October 2009.
  6. ^ McClean, Tamara (2 October 2009). "Searching ruins for reason to live after the tsunami". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 5 October 2009.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h "Samoa's Prime Minister again challenges Fiji's interim Prime Minister". Radio New Zealand International. 1 March 2009. Retrieved 2 March 2009.
  8. ^ Andrews, John. "NZ may be invited to join proposed ‘Polynesian Triangle’ ginger group", Pacific Scoop, 19 September 2011 Archived 18 January 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ "New Polynesian Leaders Group formed in Samoa". Radio New Zealand International. 18 November 2011. Retrieved 25 November 2011.
  10. ^ "American Samoa joins Polynesian Leaders Group, MOU signed". Samoa News. Savalii. 20 November 2011. Retrieved 30 July 2020.
  11. ^ a b Wyeth, Grant (16 June 2017). "Samoa Officially Becomes a Christian State". The Diplomat. Retrieved 19 June 2017.
  12. ^ From the PM to the CJ, they all played rugby for the Marist Sports Club – Talamua, 27 October 2015
  13. ^ a b Andrews, John (18 August 2007). "Samoa PM draws bow for his country". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 25 November 2011.
  14. ^ "Samoa PM wins archery silver". ABC Radio Australia. Archived from the original on 11 September 2007. Retrieved 6 September 2007.
  15. ^ a b "Samoa provokes fury by switching sides of the road", The Telegraph, 3 July 2009
  16. ^ a b "Right-to-left driving switch upsets Samoans", ABC Radio Australia, 12 August 2008 Archived 6 June 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  17. ^ "People’s Party to elect leaders", Samoa Observer, 9 November 2008 Archived 19 May 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  18. ^ McLean, Tamara (3 June 2011). "Samoan PM attacks dateline switch critics". The Sydney Morning Herald. AAP. Retrieved 25 November 2011.
  19. ^ "Ministry of Health Press Release 1 – Measles Epidemic – Samoa". ReliefWeb. Government of Samoa. 16 November 2019. Archived from the original on 1 December 2019.
  20. ^ a b "National Emergency Operation Centre, update on the measles outbreak: (press release 36) 22 December, 2019". Retrieved 22 December 2019.
  21. ^ "Samoa Bureau of Statistics, Population & Demography Indicator Summary". Retrieved 22 December 2019.
  22. ^ "'Why My Baby?' How Measles Robbed Samoa of Its Young". 19 December 2019. Retrieved 19 December 2019.
  23. ^ a b c "Samoa's perfect storm How a collapse in vaccination rates killed more than 70 children". Retrieved 29 December 2019.
  24. ^ Pacific Beat (2 August 2019). "Samoan nurses jailed over deaths of two babies who were given incorrectly mixed vaccines". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corp. Archived from the original on 14 December 2019.
  25. ^ Agence France-Presse (28 November 2019). "Samoa measles outbreak: WHO blames anti-vaccine scare as death toll hits 39". The Guardian. UK. Archived from the original on 29 November 2019.
  26. ^ Jackson, Lagipoiva Cherelle; Lyons, Kate (17 December 2019). "'These babies should not have died': How the measles outbreak took hold in Samoa". The Guardian. UK. ISSN 0261-3077. Archived from the original on 18 December 2019.
  27. ^ Clarke, Melissa (8 December 2019). "Anatomy of an epidemic: How measles took hold of Samoa". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corp. Archived from the original on 10 December 2019.
  28. ^ Zinn, Christopher (15 April 2000). "Samoan cabinet ministers get death sentence for killing". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 December 2019.
  29. ^ Field, Michael (6 December 2010). "Samoan PM assassination plot investigated". Retrieved 1 December 2019.
  30. ^ "Three men charged in connection with plot to assassinate Samoa PM". RNZ. 16 August 2019. Retrieved 1 December 2019.
Political offices
Preceded by
Tofilau Eti Alesana
Prime Minister of Samoa