SAMOAN WOMEN ELECTED TO NEW ZEALAND PARLIAMENT

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NZ First Party member ‘speechless’

By Aigaletaule’ale’a F. Tauafiafi APIA, Samoa (Samoa Observer, Nov. 29, 2011) – A "speechless" Mrs. Asenati Taylor has become the second Samoan woman to make it to New Zealand Parliament. The first was Luamanuvao Winnie Laban, who entered as Labour MP, and was made a Cabinet Minister.

Taylor ran in last Friday’s election on a New Zealand Party ticket in the Manukau East electorate and won. The National Party, however, breezed in a landslide victory.

But it was Winston Peters and his NZ First Party that caused the biggest surprise. Nearly everyone was caught off-guard when NZ First secured a massive seven percent (7 percent) of the party vote to storm back to parliament with eight MPs. Taylor is number eight.

Last night she was speechless when she was contacted by the Samoa Observer.

"It hasn’t quite sunk in yet," she says. "I’m trying to absorb it all."

With family and supporters calling and dropping by, there was much celebration at the Taylor’s Avondale residence.

"Maybe because I’m old fashioned or something but it’s taking a while to take it all in," she says. "But it’s very encouraging, uplifting and exciting."

She acknowledges the Party’s achievement was all the work of their leader, Winston Peters.

She compares him in Samoan "using our own Samoan words. We would call Winston a warrior."

During the campaign, she admits, the Party never doubted their leader’s ability to get back to parliament.

"He’s risen above all the accusations and against all the odds. But we always knew he had it in him." On election night, the man himself appeared surprised by the magnitude of the result. At 9:30 p.m. he turned up at Party headquarters to deliver his victory speech, the earliest he’s ever come out on an election night.

"In the past few weeks and months we have told the people of New Zealand to hang on because help is on its way," he says. "And tonight – it’s arrived!"

As expected, Mr. Peters had a number of gems for the media throng. "We will never forget this campaign," he says.

"The nature of this campaign (is so different) because for much of it, NZ First was marginalized, Cinderella-rized, stigmatized and even demonized."

In acknowledging NZ First supporters for not doubting he could return to parliament, he says, "Tonight, it’s about thanking the people who have shown they believe in democracy still, and believe in a fair go."

Later Taylor confirms her leader had contacted and congratulated her for making it into parliament.

"Yes, he ran up. He was very happy and excited that I’m going to be one of the Pacific MPs on his team. Actually, I’m the one and only," she laughs.

However the reality that she’s an MP is cause for excitement. Gaining the opportunity to exact influence inside the country’s decision-making body is history in the making.

"It means I will be the voice for issues raised by the local community," she says.

"I will have to be a very effective member of parliament representing them." And that means "I will be putting my knowledge and understanding as a Pasifika woman into good use.

"More importantly, I would like it as an opportunity for Manukau East’s voice heard in parliament because it has been absent for quite some time."

She says the priority issues that need urgent attention "are the rising unemployment among people in the Pasifika community and the cost of living.

"We have to discuss with our team, with our other members to look at the list of priorities and push for that in Parliament, so that we achieve some of the things we asked people to support us on." Winston Peter agrees.

"There are serious economic problems we face as a country and we will never get through them unless we’re united as one people," he says. "And we do believe that in that unity, we share in the pain and we all share in the gain. And that’s what NZ First stands for."

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