A packed public gallery of the Fono Ekepule today as the heads of government agencies gathered to witness the closing of the 17th Niue Legislative Assembly.
After 24 years of political life, the first woman to be elected to a village seat, former Cabinet Minister and the member from the village of Alofi North Hon. Va’aiga Tukuitoga informed the Fono Ekepule and the listening public that she will not be seeking re-election and today delivered her valedictorian speech.
The opportunity for a valedictorian speech is granted by the Speaker to a member who has indicated that they will not be seeking re-election and will retire from parliament.
Hon. Va’aiga Tukuitonga was elected to the Fono Ekepule in March 1999, defeating then Premier Frank Fakaotimanava Lui in the Alofi North seat, only the fifth woman to be elected to the Niue Legislative Assembly.
She was the second woman to be appointed as a Cabinet minister during the government led by Hon. Young Vivian from 2005 to 2008. Today the former school teacher and proponent of Taoga Niue, said that it has been an incredible journey but after exactly 24 years, she feels it is time to leave and spend time with her family.
Hon. Vaiga Tukuitonga recalled a few of the highlights of her political career spanning the administrations of four leaders, former premier Hon. Sani Lakatani, former premier Hon. Young Vivian, the late former premier Sir Toke Talagi and current premier Hon. Dalton Tagelagi.
“As a minister, my portfolios were Education, Taoga Niue, Justice, Lands and Surveys, Women’s Affairs, Cultural and Heritage and Administration.
“During my tenure, I am proud to say that during the Vivian government, one the key highlights amongst many others, was that we were able to successfully complete and open the new government building for Niue at Fonuakula”.
Tukuitonga said that during her time in Cabinet, she worked with many New Zealand High Commissioners and acknowledge the presence of the Diplomatic Corp in the gallery, New Zealand’s High Commissioner Helen Tunnah, and Australia’s High Commissioner Louise Ellerton.
Va’aiga Tukuitonga said that during her political career, she attended many meetings and conferences and that she is proud to have left an impact in the region as a proponent of women in politics.
“I’m proud to say that I left quite a significant impact in these meetings, especially for women in politics, education, language, cultural heritage, and Pacific women parliamentarians”, said Hon. Tukuitonga.
In ending her speech, an emotional Tukuitonga spoke of her late husband Saukia Tukuitonga who passed away last month, and thanked her children and her family for their support of her lengthy political career.
Fifteen members of the twenty-member legislature delivered their farewell remarks, thanking their constituencies for the opportunity to be a representative of the people over the past three years.
Speaker Hima Douglas extended the apologies of five members including Liku MP Hon. Pokotoa Sipeli, Namukulu MP Jack Willie Lipitoa (QSM), and Common Roll MPs Stanley Kalauni and Richard Hipa who are all overseas.
Starting today, the Cabinet of Premier Dalton Tagelagi will go into caretaker mode until after the election of the new premier after the upcoming general elections scheduled for Saturday 29th April.