Today is a day of celebration.
Throughout the country – and especially noticeable in front of the Government building this morning – our people will take a moment to pause and reflect on the importance of our political independence, 56 years after that historical day when the late Malietoa Tanumafili II and the late Tupua Tamasese Meaole hoisted Samoa’s flag of freedom for the first time, in 1962.
It was indeed a proud moment. And what Samoan would not have been?
Keep in mind that when the leaders of this nation started the fight for freedom in the years leading up to 1962, they were charting a new course, not just for Samoa –but for many countries in this region that would follow.
Their wisdom, courage and vision for the future were unquestionable. They saw this day and they risked their lives so that we can have this celebration in 2018 in peace and harmony. We owe them a debt of gratitude.
Last night, it was fitting that during the opening Church service for Independence that the Chairman of the National Council of Churches, Leaupepe Kasiano Leaupepe, paid tribute to their vision. During the sermon, Leaupepe reflected on the hardship Samoa’s forebears faced in their attempt to regain political independence.
“Our forefathers depended on one thing, the heart to do the impossible,” he said. “Each one of them had a heart of gold, heart of bravery…”
Today, we want to ensure we honour that sacrifice. We want to acknowledge with deep gratitude their commitment to ensure the generations of today are able to enjoy living in their country freely, without fear or bondage.
Looking back at our journey as a nation, knowing the lack of resources and the absence of technology they had to work with, the quality, vision and the great scholarship we can learn from our original Constitution tells us that our forebears were indeed ahead of their time.
We say this with the knowledge that our Constitution holds the wisdom and dreams of both our forebears not just for their time but for the generations of Samoans to follow – including all of us.
And as we grapple with many of the challenges staring us in the face, daring us to come up with answers that are relevant and legitimate, we should always seek and find comfort, refuge, understanding and solace in that wisdom. Without such wisdom, it is safe to say we would not be where we are.
There would be no celebration today.
Alas, that is not the case.
Today, we celebrate everything there is to be proud of about Samoa. We celebrate our land, language, culture, dances, beliefs and most importantly our people. Indeed it is the people that is our most precious and valuable resource.
As a country, are we problem-free? Absolutely not.
We have arrived at a critical junction in our journey where there are tough decisions that need to be made. While we have a long way in terms of development, it has not come without cost. There are tensions bubbling just beneath the surface that could easily explode and get out of control if they are not handled with care.
In terms of governance, the ruling party, H.R.P.P., has controlled political power for close to 40 years now and there are generations of Samoans who have not heard anything different other than the H.R.P.P. spin on things. This is partly responsible for some of the tensions we have today. When one group feels like it is invincible, problems surface and people start to rise up.
That’s what we foresee in the immediate future. But today is not about those problems. On this day, let us be reminded about what matters. Let us pay tribute to our forebears and the path they carved out for Samoa with their blood, tears and sweat. We must never forget their struggles.
Today let us both celebrate the achievements of the past 56 years and remember all the efforts and sacrifices made to ensure peace and good governance in our nation.
On that note, we want to congratulate the Head of State, His Highness Tuimaleali’ifano Vaaletoa Sualauvi II, Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, the Government and all Samoans for this milestone. Happy 56th Independence Day Samoa, God bless!