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Independence celebrations underway

APIA (Samoa News)--More than 150 groups, making up some of the hundreds of people, gathered early Friday morning, June 1, at the “Malae of Tiafau” in downtown Apia, to await the arriving of VIPs, guests and dignitaries to mark the 50th Independence celebration in Samoa.

Students from various schools in the country started arriving at the malae around 3a.m. or 4a.m. On an overcast day in 1962, the New Zealand flag and the Samoan flag which flew side-by-side at Ti’afau since 1948 were lowered by then New Zealand Prime Minister Hon. Keith Holyoake (NZ flag) and Samoan Prime Minister Fiame Mata’afa Faumuina Mulinu’u II(Samoan flag), according to the country’s history provided by the government.

Joint Heads of State Malietoa Tanumafili II and Tupua Tamasese Mea’ole then raised the lone Samoan flag to the apex of the flag pole signalling the birth of the Independent State of Samoa, which is the first Pacific island country to gain independence.

On a sunny morning on June 1, 2012, the official flag raising ceremony got under way just after 7a.m. at the Malae o Tiafau with the arrival of Samoa’s Head of State, Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi, who delivered his Independence Day addressing calling this year’s celebration a historical one for Samoa, saying that “Samoa, is not government - Samoa is family and brotherhood.

“From the first of June last year, we as a country and as a people began to prepare ourselves, mentally, physically, spiritually, and resource-wise for this day,” he told the gathering in a five hour ceremony broadcast live on radio and television, which included a live television feed to neighboring American Samoa.

“This is a momentous day in the history of our country. Today is the 50th anniversary...the birth of our nation, the Independent State of Samoa.

“Today, we come together from far and wide, as children and friends of Samoa, to take pause, bear witness, reflect on and share in the maturity of our nation,” he said.

“Today, we are grateful and a proud nation,” he said and spoke about the birth of the nation, following its struggle to gain independence with the later support of the New Zealand government. He recalled what he described as a “historical moment” 10 years ago, when New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clarke “came to Samoa to say on behalf of her government and people we recognize the wrong of our early administration and we are sorry.”

The “power” of her gesture and her words “will live on in our hearts,” he said. The Head of State also acknowledged the “good leadership” of past prime ministers and heads of state. He recalled briefly some of the issues faced by Samoa during its Fifty-Years since Independence and cited the most recent one which is the 2009 tsunami which killed more than 100 people in Samoa.

Another part of recent history for Samoa deals with sports, such as the country’s Manu Samoa rugby team and weightlifting team. The country also hosted twice successful South Pacific Games.

As part of the 50th anniversary, he said the government offers amnesty to 35 prisoners.

“In our remembrance, we forgive, we acknowledge, we are thankful and we celebrate in unity our independence as a nation,” he said.

Following his address was the official flag raising followed by country’s national anthem.

Thereafter was pass-in-review, or parade, which lasted for about three hours. Will have more updates on the celebration when more information becomes available.

Samoa News reporter Fili Sagapolutele contributed to this report from Pago Pago, American Samoa.