BACKGROUND: SAMOA MP LUAGALAU MURDERED BY GUNSHOT IN APIA

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By Fili Sagapolutele

APIA, Samoa (July 19, 1999 – Samoa News)---A massive investigation is under way in Samoa to find the assassin who shot and killed the country’s Minister of Public Works, Electric Power and Water Authority.

Member of Parliament (MP) Luagalau Levaula Kamu was shot from outside, through a hole in a brick wall, at St. Joseph’s College Centennial Hall in Apia around 8:00 p.m. Friday night, just when the Government’s ruling Human Rights Protection Party’s (HRPP) 20th anniversary celebration was getting under way.

Samoa News was on Upolu at the time of the shooting, but police released limited information. Several eyewitnesses said MP Luagalau, who was Master of Ceremonies for the celebration, had just finished introducing the leader of HRPP and Prime Minster of Samoa Tuilaepa, Sailele Malielegaoi, when he stepped into a back room of the hall to answer his cellular phone. It was then that the shooting occurred.

As early Saturday morning brought sunshine and a new day to Samoa, word of the murderous shooting of a Member of Parliament had already reached every corner of Apia, from the new market at Fugalei to passengers mingling at Fagalii Airport.

Radios were tuned to Radio 2AP to find some comfort or answers about the tragedy that has placed a dark cloud over this nation of more than 170,000 who pride themselves in their culture and Christian beliefs.

"Why did it happen?" was the question asked by many people along Apia’s Beach Road and throughout the business community.

Around 9:00 a.m., Radio 2AP announced special bulletins concerning the shooting of Luagalau, with a notice that Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi would address the nation later in the evening.

The rumor mill had starting rolling about the possible reasons behind the shooting, but police declined to comment on the case. The only information available at the time were statements from rugby players who were gathering across the road from the Hall (Friday night). They said they saw a man with a rifle running away from the scene around the time the shooting occurred.

A hospital official told Samoa News Saturday morning that the late member of Parliament was shot at close range in the chest and was pronounced dead on arrival. That information, however, could not be confirmed with police on Saturday. Police would not allow photos of the shooting location or reporters near the building.

At approximately 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Tuilaepa addressed the nation with condolences going out to the family. In Tuilaepa’s 25-minute speech that was carried live on state-run radio and television, he told the nation to let the government conduct its investigation and said the country would notify the public of the results.

Tuilaepa went on to say the disaster had wasted the life of an appointed servant who many considered friendly and kind.

"These are the days that test our wisdom and test our confidence," he added.

At Fagalii airport, two elderly women who witnessed the turmoil faced by Samoa in its struggle for independence noted in Samoan that this is the first assignation of a political figure since Samoa gained independence in 1962.

"This shooting, although it places a black mark on Samoa, is now a part of history," said one 62-year-old woman.

A lawyer by profession, Luagalau is survived by his wife, Visepota Peteru, also a Member of Parliament, and four children. Luagalau resigned from his law firm when he won a seat in the 1996 general election and was immediately appointed by late former Prime Minister Tofilau Eti Alesana to the post of Minister of Works.

Both Luagalau and his wife are members of the HRPP.

His wife was also in attendance during the 20th Anniversary Celebration and was serving food in another part of the Hall. She wasn’t aware that her husband had been shot until his body was taken away by ambulance.

Several people, including some of the rugby players who may have seen the assailant, have been interviewed by police as speculation mounts concerning the reason behind the shooting.

Two people at the Fagalii Airport suggested that the Government of Samoa hurry the investigation to find the assailant before the person leaves the country, possibly bound for Tutuila, American Samoa to hide.

Samoa News extends its deepest condolences to the family of the late Luagalau, especially his wife and children.

Details of the funeral have not been released, but friends and family from American Samoa are expected to attend the funeral service.

Items from the SAMOA NEWS, American Samoa's daily newspaper, may not be republished without permission. To contact the publisher, send e-mail to

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