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Lifting our game
Tonga-New Zealand 1950
Sione comes to New Zealand - A Samoan migrants story
NZ Economic Transformation Report


Samoa through New Zealand eyes
- at Malietoa’s passing

Samoa’s independence, 45 years ago, was the lifting of the curtain in the first Act of the Pacific self determination drama. The burial of Samoa’s 95 year old Head of State, Susuga Malietoa Tanumafili 11, in May 2007, lowered the curtain on that successful first Act which ended Samoa’s UN Trusteeship.

New Zealand, influenced by the United Nations and capable Samoans such as Malietoa, granted Samoa its independence and entered a bilateral Treaty of Friendship. New Zealand also fostered Acts of political self determination in other Pacific Island countries.

Samoa's diaspora
Now 180,000 Samoans live in Samoa and 120,000, some helped (but not without difficulties) by that Treaty of Friendship, live in New Zealand. Many of those Samoan New Zealanders were born in the world’s largest Polynesian city, Auckland.

The first Samoan woman MP in the New Zealand Parliament, Luamanuvao Winnie Laban, was amongst those who joined the New Zealand Governor-General, Prime Minister, MPs, Mayors, Samoan community, Maori and other leaders to pay respects to Malietoa, dubbed one of the fathers of Samoa. Descendants of other fathers of Samoa, including the Tamasese family, paid their respects and provided a reminder of success and failure in New Zealand’s colonial period in Samoa. Overseas Samoans returned home. Some brought their Polynesian New Zealand styles of journalism - MPIA’s Harrington with his interviewing via cellphone, Leota Ale with his Hard Talk, Samoan Capital Radio and NiuFM with their community building content.

Amongst the foreign delegations paying their respects were Malietoa’s Tongan relatives – including the King of Tonga and a school age descendant of these two leading families. Their presence was a reminder of similarities and differences between Samoa and its neighbours – Ma’atu, the young man personified the union between the two countries.

Samoa's traditions
Samoa’s traditional social system, where – as a Malietoa family eulogy said – a man is a king and a king is a man – remains strong. Respect, equality and relationship are features of the Samoan way, the Fa’a Samoa. The speaker of Samoa’s Parliament Tolofua i Valelei Leiataua says Samoa’s constitution is a successful blend of the Samoan way, Christian principles and the Westminster system of government, and produced a peaceful nation.

The speaker expects two names to emerge for consideration for the appointment of Malietoa’s successor as head of state – logical candidates for the five year appointments by Parliament are Tuiatua Tupua Tamasese Efi and Tuimaleali'ifano Sualauvi II

Samoa's successes
Tate Simi, CEO of Samoa’s Ministry of Commerce, Labour and Industry, says Samoa’s economy is a success story.

Women too, play an increasingly strong role in Samoan public life affirms Tate Simi, a New Zealand educated draughtsman and poet who generously gave of his time and knowledge on Malietoa’s day of burial to provide impromptu comment for this report.

“Women’s role has improved dramatically in government and politics over the last few years”.

He gives much credit for the increasing participation of women to Fetaui Mata’afa, widow of the first Prime Minister of independent Samoa, Fiame Mata'afa Faumuina Mulinu’u II, and second woman elected to the Samoan Parliament. In turn, their daughter, Fiame Naomi Mata'afa, now a senior cabinet minister in Apia, demonstrates the increased influence of women in Samoan public life – from Parliament to the Judiciary.

Tate Simi expects his daughter, now finishing a degree in New Zealand, will find the increasing democratisation of life in Samoa will give her even more opportunities to participate. Her generation enjoys equality in access to education. They have a lot to be thankful for to these pioneers.

Samoa's challenges
But Samoa is not strong enough to provide a full life for all Samoans, as Tate Simi comments on the day Malietoa is taken to his final resting place. Tate Simi watches a school group walk to give their respects to Malietoa and predicts half of them will stay in Samoa and half will go overseas.

Tate Simi decribes the contemoporary Samoan New Zealand relationship as “finally matured”. The countries are now open and frank about the nature of their relationship, warts and all. He recalls the apology given to Samoa some time ago by Prime Minister Helen Clark for “some of the indiscretions of the New Zealand administration” in colonial times.

Dr Kilifoti Eteuati, now Samoa’s High Commissioner to Canberra is an historian to whom to turn to learn of an indigenous view of the movement for Samoa for the Samoans.

Three retired former New Zealand foreign service officers, Sir George Laking, Frank Corner and Gerald Hensley, deserve credit for their efforts to overcome the legacy of those early Kiwi indiscretions.

Contemporary community voices, officials and Parliamentarians in New Zealand have to manage both their relations with self governing Pacific Islands, Samoan and other Pacific New Zealanders living as Kiwis. Private conversations with senior New Zealand officials in Wellington, the day after Malietoa was laid to rest, provided a reminder that institutions charged with managing some of these domestic and external relations are under performing.

Next generation
The opening Act in Samoa’s self determination era is ended. New Acts are being played out by Samoa and its neighbours. The next generations have the opportunity - and need - to build on what Malietoa and other fathers, mothers and friends of Samoa and the Pacific have left them.

by Anthony Haas, who flew with part of the official New Zealand party on the RNZAF Hercules to Apia for the funeral of Malietoa.

20 May 2007




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