From humble beginnings: The life of Tuiloma Pule Lameko

By Ilia L. Likou ,

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A FAMILY MAN: The late Tuiloma Pule Lameko and his wife Melini with their children, Vui Lance, Aumua Isaia, Tole'afoa Viali, Faumuina Esther and Taituuga Maryanne Lameko.

A FAMILY MAN: The late Tuiloma Pule Lameko and his wife Melini with their children, Vui Lance, Aumua Isaia, Tole'afoa Viali, Faumuina Esther and Taituuga Maryanne Lameko.

The nation paused to farewell Member of the Council of Deputies, Tuiloma Pule Lameko, on Friday during a national holiday. 

A state funeral was accorded to honour Tuiloma’s contribution to the development of Samoa, as well as to recognise his years of service to the nation as a public servant and a Member of Parliament. 

During his final service, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi and Tuiloma’s eldest son, Vui Tuiloma Lance Lameko delivered eulogies, recalling the life of a hard working man and a national leader.

But Tuiloma’s life started off from very humble beginnings. 

The following is an excerpt* about Tuiloma’s life that was part of the programme for his final service. It reads: 

Tuiloma Lameko was born in Iliili, Saleilua Falealili to an impoverished family. 

Due to economic hardship, he couldn’t attend primary school. 

Instead, he attended the C.C.C.S. free pastor’s school in the forties and fifties where he was taught only the Bible and mathematics in Samoan. He excelled and was an outstanding student. 

The Principal of Poutasi Primary School at the time, Sauaga Tagiilima noticed his academic capability during the annual ‘suega a faifeau ole falefitu’. He organised for him to attend Poutasi Primary School and paid for his entry exam to Avele School. 

Lameko was found to be too old. His mother Lina, desperate for him to go to school borrowed his cousin Luatua Siliga’s birth certificate which made him 4 years younger. He used Siliga’s birth certificate to enter Avele and for most of his life until his real birth date was found in 2006. 

He passed the exam to Avele, came to Apia for the first time and Avele became the opening door to his future. The family almost abandoned the opportunity because he had no school uniform and fees. 

FAREWELL MEKO:  Aumua Isaia Lameko at his father’s burial site on Friday with mourners.
FAREWELL MEKO: Aumua Isaia Lameko at his father’s burial site on Friday with mourners.

Tagiilima pushed for him to come to Apia while his family searched for his fees and uniform. Some Avele old boys including his cousin Afasene Simanu and another kind heart Tolagi Opetaia were sympathetic towards him and lent him their uniforms.

He remembered Avele as the place that inspired him, that if anyone could survive the hardship there, they could survive in life. ‘E le galo oe Avele’, hence he advocated as an MP with the Avele Old Boys in the 1980s for the school to be reopened.

He later passed the entry examination to Samoa College but left after a few years because he had no school fees. 

He then tried the Teachers Training College for a term but also left because of no school fees. 

He found work as a cashier at WSTEC in 1957 to support his family and provide proper education for younger siblings. He worked and took night classes to complete the ‘Public Service Certificate’ and to become a public accountant. 

He taught himself public policy, economics and law. The rest is history.

He believed in God’s favour and calling in his life for leadership. He was determined to prove that poverty can be eliminated from a family, an extended family, a village and a country. 

When he reached 80, he was thankful and cannot fathom the love, kindness and favour of God in his life as he says “Oka se alofa o le Atua ia te au.” 

He raised his children to get the best possible education from abroad, something he always yearned for. All his life, he remembered fondly and talked frequently about the two most important and influential people in his life, his mother and grandmother.

He was always grateful to Akesa, his grandmother who raised him with strong values, his mother Lina for her unwavering and unconditional love, the people mentioned here and his family.

 *Translated & edited from his own writings.

© Samoa Observer 2016

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