SAMOAN GOVERNMENT MINISTER LUAGALAU ASSASSINATED

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APIA, Samoa (July 17, 1999 – Agence France-Presse)---Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi Saturday appealed to his nation to let the government carry out its investigation of the assassination of Minister of Public Works Luagalau Levaula Kamu Friday night.

Luagalau died from a single gunshot to the heart at a function marking the 20th anniversary of the ruling Human Rights Protection Party.

He had been master of ceremonies at the function and had just introduced Tuilaepa when he stepped outside to take a cellular telephone call.

A news blackout has been imposed in Samoa following rumors that Tuilaepa was the real target of the assassin who some eyewitness say was wearing military style gear and carrying a rifle in a bag.

Unconfirmed reports say he was speaking on Tuilaepa's phone when he died.

Tuilaepa appeared on Televise Samoa and Radio 2AP in a short live address in which he appealed for calm and asked that the investigation be left to the authorities.

No arrests have been made.

New Zealand High Commissioner Matt Price, who was present at the function, said there was a loud bang.

"A lot of people thought it was an explosion of some sort and I thought it was an LPG cylinder exploding," he told Radio New Zealand.

"It was a very loud explosion, and it wasn't until after Luagalau was taken from the scene that it was confirmed that it was a gunshot."

Members of the Alafua rugby union team who were holding their end of season raffle across the road from the hall say they saw a man with a rifle on his shoulder run past and up the road but they did not pay too much attention to him.

A team member who is an off duty police officer said they did not know what had happened only minutes before at the hall.

The hall is some distance from the road.

Luagalau was pronounced dead on arrival at the national hospital.

The shooting has shocked this nation of 170,000 because it is the first assassination of a political figure since Samoa won independence in 1962.

Samoa prides itself on its political stability based on its two cornerstones, traditional customs and Christianity.

New Zealand acting Foreign Minister Simon Upton said the death meant New Zealand had lost a great friend.

"The death, in such tragic circumstances, is a matter of great loss to Samoa," he said in a statement.

"New Zealand conveys its deepest sympathy to the Samoan government and the family for this sudden loss."

While Luagalau's ability as a minister has been questioned, he was well liked for his friendly manner.

A lawyer by profession, Luagalau is survived by his wife, Maiava Visekota Peteru, with whom he ran a law firm, Kamu and Peteru, for years before resigning when he won his Parliamentary seat in 1996 and was immediately appointed to Cabinet.

The father of four was promoted to the Public Works portfolio by late Prime Minister Tofilau Eti Alesana and was regarded as a top candidate for the deputy leadership of the HRPP and deputy Prime Minister.

Both posts were held by present Prime Minister Tuilaepa, when Tofilau died of ill health earlier this year and are vacant.

His wife, Maiava, is a Member of Parliament also for HRPP, winning the Aana Alofi No. 1 seat in a by-election last year.

BACKGROUND

SAMOAN CABINET MINISTER SHOT DEAD AT POLITICAL FUNCTION

APIA, Samoa (July 17, 1999 – Agence France-Pressse)---A cabinet minister has been shot and killed at a function held by Samoa's ruling Human Right Protection Party, his family confirmed Saturday.

Public Works Minister Luagalau Levaula Kamu was killed by an unknown assassin late Friday night.

Relatives and friends of the minister crowded outside the emergency entrance of the Tupua Tamasese Meaole Hospital, a five minute drive from Apia, as his body was taken into the morgue where it will undergo a post mortem Saturday.

The function, marking the party's 20th anniversary, was held inside St. Joseph's College compound at Alafua.

Family members say the minister was MC and had gone to a less crowded area to answer his cellular phone when he was shot through the heart.

A police official confirmed the death but made no other comment.

Government radio has made no announcement on the event either.

Luagalau was a Member of Parliament from the Salega constituency on Savai’i island.

He won his seat on his first run for Parliament in 1996 and was picked for the Cabinet by then Prime Minister Tofilau Eti Alesana.

Luagalau was given several portfolios before being promoted to Public Works.

The son of a Methodist church minister, he spent much of his younger years overseas, in New Zealand and Hawai‘i for education - graduating as a lawyer after studying at Victoria University in Wellington and Auckland University.

Luagalau ran a law office with his wife, Maiava Visekota Peteru, before running for Parliament.

Maiava, also a lawyer, was elected to Parliament in the Aana Alofi No. 1 constituency in a by-election last year.

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