The Human Rights Protection Party

What is Good for Apia is also good for Savaii!
"O le mea e lelei i Apia, e lelei foi mo Savaii"

HRPP History


Every new beginning has a reason.

The founding and formation of HRPP in early 1979, has important political implications to  future generations, historians, political scientists and researchers.

Samoa was already 17 years old as an independent country when HRPP was formed in 1979. Its leaders had practical experience  in politics and public administration. Samoa's unique brand of democracy was cushioned by its age old Samoan culture and  traditions based on mutual respect - ava fatafata.
This ava fatafata guides its debates in Parliament and the way members  generally behave outside of Parliament.

It made Samoan political lifestyles quite unique.

Up to 1979, the independent organs of the Government of Samoa, in the Judiciary, Parliament and the Executive were  functioning well.

However, the way the Executive branch discharged its functions became a cause for concern. Decisions made were affecting the basic rights of the  public servants. Such as the misuse of political power to establish Commissions of Inquiries to remove a number of Heads of  Government Departments without proper and justifiable causes.

This concern for the misuse of power was confirmed when the Government was finally sued for the wrongful dismissal of the Superintendent of Nursing and the Director General of Health. The Court ordered Government to pay SAT$250,000 in damages.

In retrospect, the first 17 years of Samoa's Independence were years of stagnant growth. It was clear that Samoa has had enough time to come to grips with the reality of life under our own stewardship. It was time therefore for change. There were no political parties formed to drive Samoa's economic, social and political development. And there was no opposition voice to keep the Government of the day in check and give the country an alternative for a  better way of life.

These were briefly the major concerns that dominated the thoughts of the members of the HRPP at its inaugural meeting of early 1979  at Ulugia Suivai's residence at Vaiusu.

Va'ai Kolone was elected Leader and Leota Leuluaialii Ituau Ale became Deputy. Leota  resigned shortly after to rejoin Tupuloa Efi's government. He was replaced by Tofilau Eti Alesana. Both Vaai and Tofilau were from the Island of Savaii. To the leaders of HRPP, seniority was more important than geographic representation.

Choosing the name "Human Rights Protection Party" reflects the emphasis on the protection of  the human rights of all the Samoan people so that they can fully enjoy bringing up their children in an environment where everyone has freedom of expression, universal access to education and health care, enjoys the protection of the rule of law and  freedom to practise religious beliefs. 

Such ideals were not easy to achieve. It was why the name was an issue discussed again and again in the early years of the Party to consider whether it was appropriate to continue to retain its name. 

"Human rights" is a term that also has sensitive connotations and questions were often asked whether the HRPP government would be able to fulfill and satisfy all the Human  Rights issues our people aspire for?

In the end, Caucus decided to maintain the name.

The HRPP label will indeed become a continuous challenge for members to live up to its guiding motto: "Works speak louder than words and what is good for Apia resident is also good for those in the rural areas". And to achieve this goal, the help of the Holy Spirit shall always be invoked by the supporters who firmly believe that Samoa is founded on God.

The appointment of the Prime Minister during this period was voted upon by the newly elected Members of Parliament following general elections. Before  the birth of party politics, it was not immediately known who was to become the Leader of Government after the elections  results are declared.

The 1979 general elections showed strong support for HRPP. It was only when HRPP members defected on the offer of posts by  the Tupuola custodian Government that HRPP fell short of becoming the Government that year by only 1 vote. The vote count in  Parliament was 24 for Tupuola Efi and 23 for Vaai Kolone.

The HRPP became the government in 1982 for the first time under Vaai Kolone as Prime Minister following the general elections of 1982. The result  of the vote was now reversed: 24 for Vaai Kolone and 23 for Tupuola Efi.

HRPP received overwhelming support of the public servants in the General Elections of 1982. The public servants went on strike  for three months against Government in 1981 for its failure to grant salary increases requested while the medical doctors had been given two successive salary rises.

The Public Servants had earlier asked for a general increase in salaries but were rejected by the Government for obvious reasons. General elections were pending and the granting of any salary increases would require also increases in tarrif and tax, a prospect that was inappropriate for this would also invoke anti-government feeling which would come in the form of a vote against the Government.

Government was also relying heavily on bank loans to fund its operations thus crowding out the  private sector. Foreign exchange reserves were critically low. The economy was in the worst possible situation since Samoa  became Independent.

In short, Samoa was bankrupt!

Under these dire circumstances, the people of Samoa sought new leadership to save the country. The public servants strike that lasted three months became the mouthpiece for the silent majority in opposition to bring about change that was long overdue.

The dispute ended in Court after the strikers were terminated en masse from their jobs. The Court ruled the dismissal decision by Government illegal and ordered the reinstatement of those who went on strike.

When the General Elections took place in 1982, the country turned against the Government and voted in favour of the HRPP to form a new Government.

1982 was the most unstable period in Samoan politics since Independence. There were four different governments and four Prime Ministers in that year. These were major historical changes effected peacefully within the framework of the Constitution.

The first change was when Vaai Kolone became the first HRPP Prime Minister in April taking over from Tupuola Efi after the  General Elections. The HRPP government fell in September 1982 when Vaai lost an election petition in Court.

Tupuola Efi was again sworn in as Prime Minister. But Tupuola's government fell again when the budget was defeated in  Parliament 3 months later in December 1982. Tofilau Eti Alesana, the new HRPP Leader was then sworn in as the fourth Prime Minister at  the end of 1982. At the time, HRPP had the one seat majority in the House following the Vaimauga West by-election in October  1982.

Tofilau became Prime Minister for five terms - totaling 13 and a half years which showed the country's confidence in his leadership and the development priorities of the HRPP Government.

Tofilau stepped down 23 November 1998 on health reasons and the HRPP leadership was passed on to Tuilaepa Sailele  Malielegaoi. Tofilau who passed away in April 1999 was the countrys' longest serving Prime Minister.

HRPP won the 1985 general elections on a landslide with a two-thirds majority of seats in Parliament. But a split within the party due to a leadership struggle quickly emerged after Tofilau was elected as leader. Vaai Kolone and several MPs who supported him resigned from HRPP.  Several more MPs who were not appointed to Cabinet left the HRPP and joined Vaai Kolone after Tofilau announced his new Cabinet.

Vaai Kolone and his followers subsequently joined the Opposition led by Tupuola Efi and formed a Coalition government. Tofilau with a reduced membership in Parliament resigned as Prime Minister at the end of December 1985 opening the way for the Coalition government to take over.

Vaai Kolone was again sworn in as the new Prime Minister and Tupuola Efi became Deputy Leader in the Coalition government that first introduced VAGST for services in the Tourism and entertainment industries with the declared objective to be extended in due course to cover other goods and services.

In the General Elections of 1988, HRPP bounced back with an increased majority in Parliament.

Hon. Tofilau  Eti Alesana was again sworn in as Prime Minister in the third HRPP Government. Many members that joined the Coalition  Government were voted out by their HRPP dominated Constituencies in the 1988 General Elections.

The HRPP Government of 1988-1990 decided it was time to introduce the universal suffrage. This would give any citizen who was 21 years old and over,  including women, untitled men and members of the clergy the opportunity to vote.

Until then, only matai title holders were entitled to vote in the 45 Traditional Seats, while the non-title holders in the Individual Voters Roll were allowed to vote and to stand as candidates for the two seats in Parliament.

In the Samoan Matai Roll, only Matai Title holders can stand as candidates to contest in 45 out of 47 seats in Parliament.
The question of universal suffrage was put to a vote in a Plebiscite and the majority of those who voted were in favour of the change. Thus Samoans who were  21 years and over in the Matai Roll exercised their rights to vote in the 1991 General Elections for the first time.

The HRPP Government amended the Constitution in 1990 to add two more Parliamentary seats for Safata and Salega increasing  the seats in the House to 49. There were also four Cabinet Ministers added making it 13 from 9 Cabinet Ministers that existed since 1962 and the Parliamentary term  was also increased from 3 to 5 years.

The protest marches from 1994 to 1998 were organized under the Tumua and Pule banner but were actually led by the Opposition Leader, Tupua Tamasese Efi  and his Parliamentary supporters.

Parliament in June 1993 had just passed the amendments to the VAGST to extend the coverage to all other goods and services as originally envisaged by the Coalition and now activated by the HRPP Government which welcomed this Coalition initative as the most equitable system to raise revenues for the Government.

However in September 1993, the taro plight which suddenly appeared out of nowhere, struck and wiped out overnight Samoas'  taro industry that was earning $10 million a year. A staple food source was totally lost.

The VAGST and the taro blight provided a godsend chance of a lifetime for the Opposition to create a political crisis. With the impending burden on the people through the loss of a staple food crop combined with expected increases in the price of basic food items, the Opposition immediately moved to exploit the public's displeasure. The plan was simple. Apply continuous pressure to delay indefinitely the launch of the VAGST already set for 1 January 1994.

When the HRPP rejected the Opposition's proposition, the Opposition's next strategy was to harness support from the traditional powerful orators of the Political Districts of Tumua and Pule who were responsible for the many unnecessary bloody civil wars in the past power struggles in Samoa.

The Opposition strategy was extremely dangerous, but the ends justified the means.

By provoking the traditional powerful orators of Tumua and Pule to oppose the elected Government, the Opposition was dangerously bringing this country very, very close to a blood path.

The protest marches started in 1994 and continued through to 1998. They were a basis for launching baseless attacks and  unfounded criticisms against the ruling HRPP Government.

This was one of the most controversial issues raised again and again in a deliberate attempt to discredit the HRPP Government. The Controller and Chief Auditor Su'a Rimoni Ah Chong was the youngest Samoan accountant to be appointed to the abovementioned position since Independence in 1962. He was also the first to be appointed under the terms of the Constitution where the appointee shall continue to be Controller and Chief Auditor until he retires at 60 years of age.

Before then, all other Controllers & Chief Auditors were appointed on 3 year terms. Most were contracted from New Zealand.

To terminate a Constitutional appointment, needs a two thirds majority in Parliament and this was not an easy task. 
The Report raised some issues that implicated the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament. This was why the Prime Minister Tofilau Eti Alesana decided that if the Report was given to the Public Accounts Committee, their investigations could be compromised. How could such an investigation be credible if the Chairman of the Committee was also implicated?
So the Prime Minister then moved a motion to have the Report investigated by a Commission of Inquiry. The Leader of the Opposition and his Party seconded the motion.

But this motion gave rise to Su'a's legal action against the Prime Minister, Cabinet Ministers and Parliament. He alleged that their decision to send the Report to a Commission of Inquiry was unconstitutional. The Controller and Chief Auditor failed miserably to see the farsighted wisdom behind the Prime Minister's motion.

The Supreme Court subsequently ruled that as soon as the Report of the Controller and Chief Auditor is tabled in Parliament, it becomes a property of Parliament and it is Parliament's prerogative to do what it likes with the report.

Su'a again appealed the Supreme Court's decision and the Court of Appeal upheld the Supreme Court decision.

The Government believed the reason for the Controller and Chief Auditor's behaviour was that his appointment was overly protected under the Constitution. He was of the mind that it was not easy to get a two thirds majority in the House to support the termination of his appointment. He was wrong. Even several members in the Opposition bench joined the Government to approve his termination.

The HRPP Government further moved to limit the appointment of the Controller and Chief Auditor to three year terms.

This places the CCA's appointment in line with the terms of other CEOs.

After Parliament passed the ammendment, Su'a Rimoni Ah Chong was invited to continue working under the new terms and conditions of his appointment plus $45,000 to help with his legal fees.

However, he rejected the new conditions and presented his own terms and conditions instead.

Government then decided to advertise the post.

Many years later, Sua Rimoni formed his "Samoa Party" which actively campaigned for the 2006 General Elections. Many members stood as candidates but not one was successful.

An orchestrated campaign of baseless and distorted allegations against the HRPP and the Prime Minister led to a number of defamation cases against one of the leading local newspapers which became the ugliest mouthpiece for numerous unfounded fabrications, a typical strategy to sell the paper regardless.

These cases were unavoidable. Untruths tend to be believed if the Government continues to remain silent. As well, there was a growing belief promoted by the Opposition and its Leader that a sure way to defeat the HRPP was to convince the Head of State of Hon. Tofilau's serious misdeeds and thereby remove the Prime Minister under the Head of State's powers even though the removal action might be unconstitutional.

Tofilau Eti Alesana won these court cases and there were huge lessons for the journalists to learn to report only the truth and to observe also journalistic ethics and principles. This historic decision on this case had taught all the journalists in Samoa that there is no absolute freedom of expression in Samoa or in any other democratic country in the world. 

This was one of the most disrupting campaigns initiated by Tumua and Pule and backed by the Opposition Party. The aim was to organise some 220,000 signatures from both local and overseas Samoans with a petition to remove the HRPP Government.

The Opposition marched to the Head of States' residence at Fa'atoia with strong men carrying specially made wooden boxes containing many heavy files of the names of those that were coerced to join the campaign.

Because of the gravity of the issue, a Commission of Inquiry was set up to investigate the petition and signatures. Specialized lawyers were brought in from overseas to advise the Commission.

The Commission found that only 12 signatures were legally valid! The rest of the signatures were just first names, had no addresses and numerous consecutive names were clearly signed by the same person. The project was unconvincing and the Opposition had to fail.




No HRPP activity is complete without a Prayer of Thanksgiving - a tradition borned from the very inception of the Party. A Prayer House built to the uniquely Samoan architecture at Mt. Vaea fulfils the dream of the HRPP leaders for a weekly Prayer breakfast session open to anyone to pray together for God's blessings for our Nation.

Rev. Afamasaga Mautofu is the official Minister in attendance leading these weekly meetings every Wednesday evening at 7p.m.

"The Prayer Breakfast" meetings became "Prayer Supper Meetings" where the spiritual messages delivered with the accompanying prayers are the food to nuture the souls. These prayer Supper Sesions were formally initated by the late Prime Minister Hon. Tofilau in 1991.

These prayers together with all the prayers offered by the Nation provided a continuing source of spiritual strength to the leaders of the HRPP. Since this Prayer House or Church is an Asset owned by the people of Samoa, the use of the "Fa'avae i le Atua Samoa" Prayer House is also open to any denomination. Contact Rev. Afamasaga Mautofu for further information.

Tofilau Eti Alesana died April 1999 and his able leadership led to the final recognition and acceptance of Party Politics in Samoa. He led the Party to victories in the 1985, 1988, 1991 and 1996 General Elections.

In 2001, meanwhile Tupua Tupuola Efi was finally removed from the leadership of the Opposition Party - the SDUP - after many unsuccessful challenges against the HRPP in 6 General Elections of 1982, 1985, 1988, 1991, 1996 and 2001.

Hon. Le Mamea Ropati, one of the founding members of HRPP and held ministerial posts under the first two HRPP Administrations, took over the SDUP leadership with Hon Asiata Saleimoa Vaai as Deputy Leader.

Hon. Asiata Saleimoa Vaai, a lawyer by profession was the son of Hon. Vaai Kolone, former leader of HRPP and who was later elevated by the HRPP to be a Member of the Council of Deputies.

Tupua Tupuola Efi was also elevated by the HRPP as Member of the Council of Deputies and later appointed to the Head of States post when Malietoa Tanumafili 11 died May 2007. The transition was quite smooth. With the HRPP holding more than two thirds majority of the seats in Parliament, what HRPP does, influenced the final outcome of the appointment of the Head of State.

The HRPP conducted its own secret vote and three names emerged: Tupua Tamasese Efi, Fiame Naomi and Tuimalealiifano Va'aleto'a in that order. Thus Tupua Tamasese Efi's name went forward to the Clerk of the House in accordance with the law.

For the first time in the history of Samoan politics, a non-Tama-a-Aiga name, Hon. Fiame Naomi was proposed for the Head of State's position and more importantly, Fiame is a woman. If the vote had gone her way, Samoa would have had a Head of State who is a woman.

On the eve of the 2011 General Elections, important electoral legislative changes with vital positive implications for the future are already making a deep impact in the political debates prior to the elections.

The Parliament of 49 members must now for the first time since independence hold matai titles, eliminating the inequality that existed where two seats held by the Individual Voters out of 49 are non matais.

The Constitutional Amendment which also eliminated party hopping is also effected now. This amendment is an important ingredient to political stability in the future. And the registration qualification for candidates proposing to contest the elections which requires the prior certification by the Village Mayor that the candidates are indeed performing their matai duties to the village, will ensure that future candidates will be of a higher calibre that can only be of benefit to the Constituency and Country.

These electoral legislative reforms in Samoa should lead to improved governance in candidates selection for good leadership in the Parliament of the Independent State of Samoa.

The HRPP Management and Caucus hold great hopes based on a proven track record over the recent term 2007-2011, that HRPP would again secure the confidence of the country in its quest to lead Samoa in the next five years from 2011 to 2015.   

The HRPP maintains its belief in the founding principles of the Government of Samoa as enshrined in the Constitution that Samoa is founded on God.

The Government continues to work closely with the National Council of Churches in programmes such as National Prayers and Fasting Week, Prayer Meetings for Parliament ahead of its final session of the year, and other programmes in youth developments.

Government also recognizes the major role of Samoan women through the Ministry of Women and this is evidenced in the revival of a National Womens' Council to promote exchanges and consultations to support general development in the rural communities.

These include the revival of the weaving of the fine mats, tapa and other handiwork pertaining to Samoan women so as to maintain their value and quality and contributions to Samoan life in general.

The authority of the Village Councils, supported by the Womens' Committees and churches leadership through their continuous guidance of our spiritual lives, will continue to maintain the peace, harmony and stability of our society today and in the future.

But there are also introduced changes from outside that we cannot escape.

Sustaining our Samoan customs and traditions and steering the changes that are useful and desirable make it easier for the Government to respond to the daily needs to raise the standard of living and development of our people.

HRPPs vision is presented in HRPP's guiding theme - That what is good for the people living in Apia, is also good for those in the rural villages.

It is a vision that requires enough financial resources and skilled and well trained public servants to be able to effectively respond to the nations needs. It is why the public service has ongoing  Institutional Strengthening programmes to raise capacity.

HRPP believes it is a sin to know what to do but fails to do so out of fear.

HRPP's first 30 years of governing and proactive management of the economy are marked by high level of development achieved and consistent economic growth.

The HRPP Government continues to monitor very closely its financial resources and performance. Because HRPP became the Government following previous Governments poor financial and economic performance and management, its leaders are also mindful that HRPP can also lose power if it should fail to manage the economy well.

As the oldest and mature political party, the HRPP leadership must always be vigilant as we continue to navigate Samoa's voyage into the future.

Print PDF

HRPP © 2011 - 2016. All rights reserved.