Moving farewell to Winnie
Departing Mana MP Winnie Laban fought back tears as she delivered her valedictory speech to colleagues and a packed public gallery at Parliament last Tuesday.
Ms Laban resigned in August, after over a decade in politics, to take on a new role as assistant vice-chancellor Pasifika at Victoria University.
In her final address she reflected on her years in office, first as a Labour list MP in 1999 and later as minister of Pacific Island affairs and electorate MP for Mana.
Some family members, colleagues and supporters in traditional dress bowed their heads in respect as she made an emotional tribute to her late mother and role model Emi Asi Tunupopo Patu.
‘‘ I vividly remember my mother sitting in the Speaker’s gallery during my maiden speech. Mum was in a wheelchair, supported by bottled oxygen.
‘‘She had been released from hospital for the evening following major heart surgery. She was determined to be with me that night. My mother remained my most loyal supporter until she passed away in December. Her courage, strength and determination have been my greatest inspiration. Tonight I honour her.’’
She spoke of her two passions, family and her Samoan heritage, which formed the basis of many of her public speeches and much of her service to the community.
‘‘I was honoured to be the first Pacific Island woman elected to this Parliament, and later to become a minister of the Crown. I have often shared our family story when I have spoken at citizenship ceremonies in Porirua City and up the Kapiti Coast. It gives great hope and encouragement to immigrants to know that their children can aspire to high public office.
‘‘I look forward to another child of immigrants [Tokelauan Kris Faafoi] being elected as the next MP for Mana,’’ she said.
Ms Laban has also been a rigorous advocate for women, Pacific and Maori people, the elderly, and ethnic minorities.
Following the address, her niece Marlena Devaux sang a Samoan aria about hope and prosperity for the future.
‘‘As I leave Parliament I will not be looking back. I did my best for more than a decade, now it is time to move on . . . I am very excited and look forward to starting work at Victoria University in November,’’ Ms Laban said.
The mood turned to one of celebration at the following reception with performances from Aotea College’s winning barbershop quartet, The Fource, and Ms Devaux.
Labour of love: Winnie Laban is congratulated by Labour Party deputy leader Annette King following her valedictory speech at Parliament last week.