2 Jun 2005

Independence Day celebrations kick off in Samoa

10:19 am on 2 June 2005

Samoa is today celebrating 43 years of independence from New Zealand.

Official celebrations started a short time ago with a flag-raising ceremony.

The ceremony will be attended by Samoa's Head of State, American Samoa's Governor Togiola Tulafono, congressman Faleomavega Eni Hunkin, the Tokelau leader Pio Tuia and French Polynesia president Oscar Temaru.

Terry Tevita of the Samoa Observer says compared to previous years, this year's celebrations are scaled down to just one day's worth of ceremony.

But he says they expect thousands to attend the celebrations...

"Ranging from schoolchildren to cultural groups, community groups and longboat crews, sports teams, all sorts of people. I believe there are also celebrations with the Samoan communities in New Zealand, Australia, and also Hawaii and the US mainland."

New Zealand MP Winnie Laban was born in New Zealand after her Samoan parents immigrated in the 1950s.

Mrs Laban says Independence Day is an important time to remember how far Samoa has come since being given to Germany under the 1898 Berlin Conference.

She says political independence from New Zealand in 1962 remains a landmark but Samoa's growing economic independence is also worth celebrating...

First of all it was the first country in the Pacific to get independence and political independence. And secondly they're doing extremely well in the econmic arena amidst the context where we have some of our Pacific cousins struggling. But it's the whole metaphor of hope and I think that's what's important .