It was an emotional time for Tuvalu’s latest addition to parliament, Pelenike Tekinene Isaia. Her late husband Isaia Italeli, who was Tuvalu’s Minister for the Environment, died while attending a fisheries meeting in Samoa in July. A month later, she was asked to step into his big shoes and continue where her late husband had left off.
“It was hard losing my husband,” she told ISLANDS BUSINESS from her Nui Island. “But I thought about my four kids and their future and decided I will take up the fight to secure their future and the future of our nation. “I knew what my husband believed in and what ideals he stood for, so what better way for me to continue that legacy—but in parliament. “So when I won, I was not only proud but excited about the prospects of how I would perform.” It was evident she would swing her support behind Prime Minister Willie Telavi as her late husband was a close colleague. Her support ensured Telavi remained in power.
The 45-year old becomes the second female to be elected to parliament. Isaia beat Leneuoti Matusi by 62 votes to bring back glory to her home and relatives. Before this, she was Nui branch manager of the Tuvalu Cooperative Society. She gave thanks to those who supported her. “Of course I will fight for women’s rights in parliament—but there is also a need to respect the human rights of all of our people,” she said. Telavi is expected to take up her husband’s portfolio while she takes on the Home Affairs portfolio.
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