Straight-shooting PM ready to take on the world

Samoa willing to say no to China

Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi has been Samoa’s Prime Minister for 17 years. The frank and outspoken leader has had a long career in politics, diplomacy and public administration. Known for often setting the cat among the pigeons on sensitive regional matters, he rarely minces his words when asked for an opinion – no matter how controversial the issue. Critics have frequently accused him of high handedness for his style of getting on with the job, but few would grudge the passion and integrity he brings to his role of leading Samoa regionally and globally. In his characteristic no-holds-barred style and rare blend of passion and earthy wisdom, the Prime Minister talks to Islands Business on a range of topics and issues – SIDS, climate change, Samoa’s graduation from the LDC list, development, China and even Fiji.

What does Samoa hope to achieve at SIDS? Small island states are most vulnerable to climate change. We will be the first to go under as sea levels rise. It’s not just the flat atolls, but all low-lying islands will be affected. Our people have always lived on the coast, which has facilitated access to food, transportation, trade and commerce. As water levels rise, this crucial habitat is threatened. The problem is everybody knows about this, yet not enough is being done about it. We want some definitive answers at this conference.

What would you want these outcomes be? It’s not just sea level rise threatening habitats and lifestyles. Higher sea temperatures are destroying reefs, leaching coral and killing marine life. The regularity of natural disasters that are increasingly attributed to climate change is taking a toll on food and water security, habitats, livelihoods, health and so many aspects of life. Cyclone Evan destroyed our coconut and breadfruit industry. The reality is unpleasant. The future is very bleak for SIDS. Again, we have known all this for quite a while. The only thing left now is to take decisive action – action identified by climate scientists. In recent climate change conferences, the general agreement among countries was for limiting the increase in temperature to 2 degrees. 1.5 degrees is what SIDS is asking for. 

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