29 Aug 2023

Aupito reveals the reservations he helped PM overcome for raids apology

12:02 pm on 29 August 2023
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks during Dawn Raids apology at the Auckland Town Hall

Photo: RNZ / Marika Khabazi

Former New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had reservations about the cultural aspects of the dawn raids apology, long-serving Labour Party MP Aupito Williams Sio revealed in his Parliamentary valedictory speech.

Ardern said in her apology on behalf of the New Zealand government that the infamous early morning raids of the 1970s left Pacific communities feeling "targeted and terrorised".

During his final remarks in the House last week, as he retires after 15 years as an MP, Aupito thanked Ardern for agreeing to deliver the dawn raids apology, which was held in August 2021.

He told his parliamentary colleagues and a packed public gallery that he swelled with emotion when Ardern agreed.

"I was even more emotional when you agreed to participate in the ifoga, despite your reservations," he said.

As part of the ifoga, a Samoan ceremony of apology, the party seeking forgiveness typically sits before the house of the wronged party, and is then covered by fine mats.

Ardern performed this at the dawn raids apology, which is understood to have been the first time a world leader has performed the ifoga.

On the Pacific Days show last Wednesday, Aupito explained to host Ma'a Brian Sagala that her reservations were about not being familiar with some of the Samoan cultural customs, especially the ifoga.

"You have to remember, I'm asking a head of state, the Prime Minister of a nation, to humble herself in a foreign ceremony, a ceremony from another culture," Aupito said.

He said he was the only one in Cabinet and the Labour Pacific caucus who had experienced or fully understood the ifoga, so his job was to explain the process and allay any reservations Ardern had.

Aupito William Sio, the MP for Māngere, dressed in traditional Samoan attire for his valedictory speech in Parliament, 22 August 2023.

Aupito William Sio, the MP for Māngere, dressed in traditional Samoan attire for his valedictory speech in Parliament, 22 August 2023. Photo: Johnny Blades / VNP

Aupito told Pacific Days there were risks with a Head of State performing a custom from another culture, and he also didn't want to offend other Heads of State who might wonder why a New Zealand prime minister was participating in the ifoga.

Aupito said his role was to make sure he was protecting the mana and dignity of the prime minister, while also making sure the ceremony was genuine and authentic to the Samoan people and to himself.

This article first appeared on the Pacific Media Network website and is republished thanks to a sharing agreement between RNZ Pacific and PMN

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