Speech for the 56th Anniversary of Samoa’s Independence

Speech: 56th Anniversary of Samoa’s Independence

Consulate General of Samoa, Fale Samoa, Bader Drive, Mangere Town Centre

4 June 2018

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Acknowledgements

Ose taeao ese lenei taeao. Aua e le masani ai ona tatou fa’atasi ma le Palemia o Samoa. E ao lava ona tatou patipatia le alofa ole Atua ua mafai ai ona tatou maua lenei avanoa le aumaua.

Ua paia la le taeao, ua mamalu foi le aso. Ole taeao manino, ma le taeao totoa. Ole taeao ua maualuga, ma le taeao ua ula foi, aua ua paia le popo, ma ua mamalu ua o’o Samoa ua aofaga potopoto.

  • Susuga Auelua Fatialofa Lupesoliai Tuilaepa Dr Sailele Malielegaoi, Prime Minister of Samoa, lau Masiofo, ma lau faigamalaga;
  • Afioga Faolotoi Fatialofa Reupena Pogi, Samoa Consul-General, le afioga le Konesula o Fa’afetauaiga, ma le Ofisa Tutotonu i Magele nei;
  • Reverend Ministers of the Mafutaga Faifeau Samoa, Auckland;
  • Afioga Lilomaiava Phil Goff, Mayor of Auckland Council, Councillor Alf Filipaina;
  • Lemauga Lydia Sosene, Chair of the Mangere-Otahuhu Local Board, ma le mamalu o la outou laulauafono;
  • Afioga Aiolupotea Sina, General Manager Regional Partnerships, Ministry for Pacific Peoples;

O lea foi ua tu malo lo tatou aso, ole faamoemoe ua taunuu, ole laau ole ola lea.

Lea ua maea ona susunu le tatou taulaga osi, lea sa taitaiina ele sui ole Aiga Sa Levi, Pastor Fonoti, ma le Mafutaga Faifeau Samoa i Aukilani, o suli vaaia lea ole Atua.

56 Years of Achievement

Faafetai le Atua ua atoa nei le 56 tausaga talu ona Tutoatasi Samoa. Ole atumotu muamua lea ole Vasa Pasefika ua laasia lea tulaga. Aisea? Ona ole agaga Saili Malo o Samoa, na tofi mai e le Atua.

Today we mark 56 years of Samoan independence. Throughout more than half a century Samoa has proved itself a successful parliamentary democracy that is rightfully the envy of many. But during those years we have not lost sight of our roots, of our unique Samoan identity.

Rather we have protected and nurtured what God has deemed uniquely ours. We have successfully woven our traditional customs and protocols into the vibrant tapa of a new modern society.  There is no more powerful symbol of this achievement than the elections of Faipule o Samoa and the anointment of Samoa’s Head of State through the use of the Samoan matai system alongside the western parliamentary system.

This reflects the successful alignment of the two powerful forces that have shaped modern Samoa – traditional custom and protocol and the importance of collective decision-making and national consensus.

Ole fa’aipoipoga lenei o faavae masani o Samoa mai anamua ile faamatai, ma faavae faatemokalasi o faaonapo nei.

It may not have been a marriage made in heaven but at 56 years it’s proven an enduring one.

New Zealand and Samoa

They say what is true endures. Faimai ole mea moni e tumau.

That I believe is true of the links that exist between our ancestral homeland and modern Aotearoa-New Zealand.

The political connection between our two nations stretches back more than a century to 29 August 1914 when a New Zealand Expeditionary Force landed in Apia.

It was a period of administration that was not without its darker passages.

E ui i faaletonu na tulai mai ile va o Niu Sila ma Samoa i taimi o pulega faa-kolone, ae tumau pea le tatou valelei seia oo mai lava ile aso.

In 2002, our then Labour Prime Minister formally apologized for the disastrous failure to quarantine the SS Talune in 1918 and the shooting of leaders of the non-violent Mau movement in 1929.

Through this apology, this historic moment of recognition and reckoning, a sombre taking of account, is also evidence of the strength and resilience of the historic and familial links that bond our two nations. These bonds are set to play an increasingly important part in shaping Aotearoa-new Zealand’s emerging Pacific identity.

Common Service in War

Ua tatou iloa nei sa iai le sao a Samoa ia Niu Sila i taimi o taua tetele ale lalolagi.

It is only now beginning to be recognized how deep and true are the bonds that bind our sister nations.

Bonds first forged in the fires of war. After its engagement in Samoa, the New Zealand Expeditionary Force was moved to the Western Front and we now know that as many as 90 Samoans volunteered to serve alongside them.

A fact hidden from sight in large part by the misleading nature of the historical record itself. Our Samoan boys went by their English names (in order to gain entry as soldiers) such as Sammy Churchwood, Luis Aspinal, Poe Foster, Eric Henry and Doug Irwin.

E ui e suafa i latou i igoa afakasi ina ia talia ai e Niu Sila, ao toa ia mai Samoa, e pei ua galo iai latou sa faamaumauina tala faasolopito, ma o lea sa iai foi Samoa i taua tetele ale lalolagi.

Our volunteers served mainly alongside Maori in the Pioneer Battalion but also with other units on the Western Front and in the Middle East. They were also not alone. Volunteers from other Pacific nations including Tonga, Tuvalu, Fiji, Kiribati, Niue and the Cook Islands also fought alongside New Zealanders.

Not surprisingly, the Samoan contribution in the Second World War was far larger in its size and significance.  Samoans were engaged in every aspect of the war effort both at home in Samoa and overseas.

The rediscovery of the connection that most Samoan volunteers served with the Maori Battalion, has had a powerful impact on the younger generation of Samoans raised here in Aotearoa- New Zealand.

E taua ia te au le susue i luga ile pupula malamalama ole laoso, e toatele tagata Pasefika, faapea Samoa sa auai i taua tetele ale lalolagi, ae ua taua latou o tagata Maori.

Goodbye My Feleni

New Zealand-born Samoan playwright, David Mamea’s Goodbye My Feleni, first staged on ANZAC Day three years ago, was a landmark in this process of recovery and recognition.

Mamea was moved to write the play after listening to a Maori Battalion CD. He recalls:

“I heard someone talking in Samoan introducing two Samoan songs. Something pulled right away at my heart, that 70 years earlier and halfway around the world, four young Pasifika men sang of their homelands and their fears, and risked their lives for the world we have today.  I knew I had to write something about that.”

And David Mamea did.

The Impulse to Identity

Paying tribute to these forgotten faces provides a way for the younger generation to connect with their new home here in Aotearoa-New Zealand. As one young South Auckland-raised Samoan has put it:

“Anzac Day means a lot more to me now. It means a lot to heaps of people but the fact that we have one day to remember them is huge.”

E ao i tupulaga Samoa ma le Pasefika atoa i Niu Sila ona malamalama lelei i tala faasolopito o tatou Atunu’u, ma tatou sao i upufai o malo, e le gata ia Samoa ma le Pasefika atoa, ao le tatou sao foi ia Niu Sila. E taua ina ia latou maua le agaga ole Saili Malo.

This process of recognition is part of a broader impulse to identity that is transforming our view of ourselves as Samoan-descended New Zealanders and the wider recognition of the nation’s emerging Pacific identity.

I like to think that identity comprises three things – a sense of a shared place, a shared history and the prospect of a shared future.

More than 60 percent of our Samoan community here is now New Zealand born and that percentage will inevitably grow in the years ahead. New Zealand-born Samoans will increasingly see this country as their home – this is where they will develop their shared sense of place.

E ui i lea, ae aua nei galo, poo lea le lelei o lau gagu, o oe ole Samoa. Poo lea foi lou manatu o oe na fanau i atunu’u a Papalagi, o oe ole Samoa. O upu masani a Samoa-E fiu lava e faalafi le tetea, ae aliali pea. E fiu foi lava e nana le tamaimoa, ae ioio mai lava.

Language and Identity

There is a very real risk that the next generation will come to see Samoa not as an ancestral home, but more as a distant ancestral memory. Something of limited value and even less relevance.

Whether this occurs depends on two determining factors – the preservation of our language and culture, and the emergence of a truly Pacific culture in Aotearoa-New Zealand.

You will be aware that this year we are celebrating a decade of Samoan Language Weeks.

I consider this especially significant because I believe the protection and promotion of Samoan and other Pacific languages is my Ministry’s first duty of care.

Afai e le uumau tou alo ma matou fanau ile gagana Samoa ma faavae ole tatou aganu’u, e sau se taimi ua mou atu ma leiloa.

A people is defined by its language and art. Our languages and arts are ways of perceiving the world and ourselves. They are what make us who we are. They are what give our identity its character and force. They are pathways to, and the source of our unique vision. All such pathways, all such visions are valuable to all God’s children.

The protection and promotion of our language is vital to the development of a shared sense of place – a common heritage that links our ancestral roots with our contemporary reality.

The key to our future resilience as a community is the application of ancient wisdom in a modern context.  It’s about recalling our traditional values and employing them in a contemporary way.

The place of our ancestral homeland in our emerging consciousness as a new people will change, but the links will endure. All that is true endures.

A Changing Culture

The other and possibly more powerful factor in our changing perceptions of place and identity reaches far beyond the Samoan community. It is New Zealand’s changing perception of its place as a Pacific nation and its emerging sense of Pacific identity.

Our Prime Minister, the Rt Honourable Jacinda Ardern, has so often said:

“Pacific values and Pacific culture are now an integral part of New Zealand. Increasingly we see ourselves as part of the Pacific world.”

Ua amata lava ona faatauaina e Niu Sila o ia ose atumotu tumau ole Vasa Pasefika, e le’o se atunu’u o Peretania. E ao pea ona tatou fesoasoani e faalauaitele lea mau, ia faataua le Pasefika, ona atunu’u, faigamalo ma ona tagatanu’u.

This is of course increasingly evident in both a demographic and cultural sense. Our Pacific populations are our youngest and fastest growing. And Maori and Polynesian culture in all its aspects entered the mainstream long ago.

Its influence is now adding huge impetus to the swelling stream of our national culture. This will continue to broaden and deepen the stream of our national life as a new identity takes shape around what, in reality, will be a new Pacific people.

Pacific Economy

When I became Minister for Pacific Peoples, I charged my Ministry to immediately work with Treasury and Pacific Business Trust to establish and identify the Pacific Economy.

I wanted to know the dollar value of our contribution to the overall economy of Aotearoa-New Zealand. The value of our workforces’ contribution. The contribution of our artists, our sports people, the value of our church assets and their work, and the value of our cultural practices that keep so many supermarkets ticking along.

When that work is completed, the Pacific Economy will reflect to us our economic contribution to New Zealand and perhaps the value of our remittances to the Pacific region.

Pacific Reset

Recently, the new Coalition Government lent political expression to these emerging trends. It announced what has been called a Pacific reset. It signals a historic change in the relations between our two nations and the wider Pacific.

It recognises that our shared history informs our vision of both the past and the present. A present that is increasingly defined as a Pacific presence.

It recognises a new reality and it places that within a changed political frame.

I will have to leave the explanation of the details of the reset to my esteemed colleague the Right Honourable Winston Peters, the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

But in brief. The reset will not only see a dramatic increase in our economic and social commitment to the Pacific but a recognition of the geo-political importance of the region and the huge challenges our sister nations face, especially with Climate Change.

I have shared with the Minister for Foreign Affairs that Samoan-New Zealanders look to the islands of Samoa in the Pacific region as our ancestral lands, our spiritual homes, in the same way urban Maori see their Marae and Iwi and Hapu in the regions, as places to return our deceased loved ones. The same is true for all Pacific people. And he gets it.

He also gets it that our ability to meet the challenges in the region, and to contribute to the peace and prosperity of the region, is greatly strengthened by the familial connections that link New Zealand with the peoples of the Pacific.

The continued growth of prosperous and culturally confident Pacific communities here in New Zealand has an important part to place in this process of readjustment and confirmation.

Confirmation of a historical link that stretches back over a hundred years and which we as Samoan-descended New Zealanders form a vital, an indispensable part.

Change and the Ocean of Time

We stand at a turning point in our collective histories – where the streams of our thoughts, our place, our identity, and time merge together. We stand as always in a changing world.

We cannot stop or control change. The key question is how we frame our perceptions of the future and how we prepare for change.

E le mafai ona tatou taofia suiga ole soifuaga. Ae e ao ona tatou saili se tali ile fesili lenei. E fa’apefea ona tatou sauni ma tapega mamao tatou fanau ma tupulaga mo fesuiaiga ole soifuaga ua iai nei?

The Pacific reset is about framing those perceptions and preparing for change.

Change that aims to secure the continued peace and prosperity of the Pacific. Change which Samoa as the first sovereign Pacific nation has an important part, in my estimation, a leading part to play.

In November this year, my Ministry will gather our Pacific leaders – men, women and our young people to finalise a new vision for Pacific people in Aotearoa-New Zealand.

A new vision that takes account that Aotearoa-New Zealand is now our permanent home. A new vision for achieving greater prosperity and success for future generations, and those that will follow. A new vision to ensure our families remain vibrant, strong, healthy and resilient. A new vision to ensure the survival of our languages, our cultural values and spirituality.

One where we can confidently continue to navigate the old and the new and at times fuse the two. One where we can maintain our links to our ancestral lands and our genealogical connections.

We will need your guidance, your experiences, your vision, your foresight and your on-going tapuaiga.

Our ancestors navigated their way through the vast oceans in canoes made from natural materials. They took with them their cultural traditions, their languages and their spirituality.

They were guided by reading the ocean currents and the swells of the ocean waters. They looked for direction from the flight paths of birds, reading the stars, and knowing the exact spot where the sun would rise and set.

They did not have watches, compasses, or IPhones, but they had their minds and the ability to memorize, and by constantly observing their surroundings they reached unknown destinations and founded new societies.

We too, now stand, before the ocean of time, and how we read the signs of change around us will determine the future we navigate for this generation and those who come after us. May God guide us and may we dare to be bold.

Fa’afetai ma ia soifua.

Ends.