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Apisai Ielemia (19 August 1955 – 19 November 2018)[1] was a Tuvaluan politician. He served as the tenth Prime Minister of Tuvalu from 2006 to 2010, and was returned as a member of parliament in the 2010 Tuvaluan general election. He was re-elected to parliament in the 2015 Tuvaluan general election. On 5 October 2016 Chief Justice Sweeney of the High Court of Tuvalu declared that Ielemia’s parliamentary seat was vacant as he was not qualified to be a member of parliament, as the consequence of the short time the opposition MP served time in jail following his conviction on 6 May 2016 in the Magistrate’s Court of charges of abuse of office during the final year of his term as Prime Minister (August 2006 to September 2010).[2][3][4] The abuse of office charges related to payments deposited into a National Bank of Tuvalu personal account. The 5 October 2016 decision of the Chief Justice[5] was controversial as it appeared to contradict the June 2016 decision of Justice Norman Franzi of the High Court of Tuvalu that had quashed Ielemia’s conviction and acquitted him of the abuse of office charges. The appeal to the High Court held that the conviction was “manifestly unsafe,” with the court quashing the 12-month jail term.[6][7]

Apisai Ielemia
Apisai Ielemia cropped.jpg
Prime Minister of Tuvalu
In office
14 August 2006 – 29 September 2010
MonarchElizabeth II
Governor GeneralFiloimea Telito
Kamuta Latasi
Iakoba Italeli
Preceded byMaatia Toafa
Succeeded byMaatia Toafa
Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Environment, Trade, Labour and Tourism
In office
24 December 2010 – 2 August 2013
Prime MinisterWilly Telavi
Preceded byEnele Sopoaga (Foreign Affairs, Environment and Labour)
Succeeded byTaukelina Finikaso (Minister of Environment, Foreign Affairs, Labour, and Trade)
Personal details
Born(1955-08-19)19 August 1955
Died19 November 2018(2018-11-19) (aged 63)
Funafuti, Tuvalu
Spouse(s)Sikinala Ielemia

In an application for leave to appeal his ruling, Chief Justice Charles Sweeney found:[5] "When The Hon. Apisai Ielemia commenced to serve his sentence on 6 May 2016, he became a person who was then disqualified from being elected as a member of Parliament". The judge specified that if Ielemia had, in the context of his appeal, sought "an order staying his sentence of imprisonment [before] he had commenced to serve it", then his seat would not have become vacant, as he would not have been imprisoned.[8]




Ielemia was elected to serve in the Parliament of Tuvalu by the constituency of Vaitupu on a non-partisan basis: his lack of alignment is not unusual in the politics of Tuvalu, since political parties have not emerged in the country.

Prime Minister of TuvaluEdit

with Yasuo Fukuda (at the Prime Minister's Official Residence on December 6, 2007)

In general elections held on 3 August 2006 prime minister Maatia Toafa's government was defeated and Ielemia was elected by the new parliament on 14 August to become the new prime minister.[9][10] He also became foreign minister.

Ielemia continued Tuvalu's pursuit of close relations with the Republic of China, and in December 2007 visited that country, where various bilateral issues were addressed. He gained a higher international profile during the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen by highlighting the dangers of rising sea levels.[11] In September 2008 Ielemia and the President of Kiribati, Anote Tong, attended a conference to improve relations with Cuba.[12]

Prospects for stabilityEdit

In a country which had in recent years seen frequent changes of government through the use of the parliamentary no confidence device, Ielemia's government, in office since 2006, seemed at the beginning of 2009 to offer somewhat of a rarity: the prospect of a government of Tuvalu running its full course. Prior to Ielemia's appointment as Prime Minister, the average length of Prime Ministerial terms of office had been considerably shorter; this history underscored the relative stability of his government, and by extension, the underlying parliamentary system which supported it.

Ielemia was one of 10 MPs who were re-elected to parliament in the 2010 general election.[11]

Ministry of IelemiaEdit

As of September 2006, the government of Prime Minister Apisai Ielemia consisted of the following members:[10]

Subsequent political careerEdit

Apisai Ielemia and Sikinala Ielemia with President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama (2009)

Following the general election held on 16 September 2010 Maatia Toafa was elected as prime minister with the support of five new members of parliament and three members that had supported Prime Minister Apisai Ielemia, this resulted in an 8:7 majority in the parliament.[13]

However, on 15 December 2010 Prime Minister Maatia Toafa's government was ousted in a vote of no confidence and Willy Telavi was elected to the premiership by a slender majority in Parliament (8:7).[13][14] Ielemia was among Telavi's supporters, and was appointed to Telavi's Cabinet as Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Environment, Trade, Labour and Tourism.[15]

Following Prime Minister Telavi's removal by Governor General Sir Iakoba Italeli on 1 August 2013 in the context of a political crisis (Telavi had sought to govern without the support of Parliament), Ielemia and the rest of Cabinet were voted out of office a day later following the no confidence motion.[16]


Ielemia died on 19 November 2018 at his home on Funafuti. On 22 November 2018 Tuvalu's patrol vessel, the HMTSS Te Mataili, carried Ielemia's body to his home island, Vaitupu.[1]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b "Former Tuvalu prime minister laid to rest". Radio New Zealand. 22 November 2018. Archived from the original on 22 November 2018. Retrieved 15 January 2019. His body was transported to Vaitupu by Tuvalu's patrol boat, Te Mataili, on Tuesday night.
  2. ^ "Tuvalu MP claims nepotism after exclusion". Radio New Zealand. 17 October 2016. Retrieved 22 October 2016.
  3. ^ "Tuvalu PM calls media reports blatant lies". Radio New Zealand. 24 August 2017. Retrieved 24 August 2017.
  4. ^ Pareti, Samisoni. "Tuvalu demonstrate against top judge, former PM seeks re-election in Vaitupu seat". PINA/ISLANDS BUSINESS/PACNEWS. Retrieved 17 May 2017.
  5. ^ a b Chief Justice Charles Sweeney (2 November 2016). "Attorney General v Apisai Ielemia" (PDF). CASE NO 5/16. Retrieved 1 September 2018.
  6. ^ "Drama full day in Funafuti". Island Business. 13 October 2016. Retrieved 16 October 2016.
  7. ^ "Legitimacy of Tuvalu by-election questioned". Radio New Zealand. 21 August 2017. Retrieved 21 August 2017.
  8. ^ "Tuvalu demonstrate against top judge, former PM seeks re-election in Vaitupu seat", Pacific Islands News Association, 12 December 2016
  9. ^ "Palamene o Tuvalu (Parliament of Tuvalu)". Inter-Parliamentary Union. 2006. Retrieved 7 March 2013.
  10. ^ a b "Tuvalu elects Apisai Ielemia as new prime minister". Radio New Zealand. 15 August 2006. Retrieved 5 April 2017.
  11. ^ a b "Tuvalu PM re-elected, seeks to form govt". Sydney Morning Herald. 17 September 2010. Retrieved 17 September 2010.
  12. ^ "Cuba-Pacific ministerial meeting underway in Havana" ABC Radio Australia, 17 September 2008
  13. ^ a b "Palamene o Tuvalu (Parliament of Tuvalu)". Inter-Parliamentary Union. 2010. Retrieved 7 March 2013.
  14. ^ "Willie Telavi the new prime minister in Tuvalu". Radio New Zealand International. 24 December 2010. Retrieved 19 September 2011.
  15. ^ "Tuvalu – Heads of Government Listing", Australian Department of Foreign Affairs
  16. ^ "Tuvalu opposition votes out government", Radio New Zealand International, 2 August 2013

External linksEdit