On Anzac Day, Samoa College student, Romario Pose and L.D.S. Pesega College student Layton Lolo received Highly Commended awards from Samoa Stationery and Books in the 2016 First World War Centenary Competition. The competition was organised and funded by the New Zealand High Commission with the winning entry representing Samoa in France. Romario’s entry was a letter to the Prime Minister while Layton’s entry was a poem. Professor Silafau Sina Va’ai of the National University of Samoa judged the entries.
A letter to the Prime Minister
25 March 2016
Afioga Tuilaepa Fatialofa Lupesolia’i Dr Sailele Malelega’oi
Prime Minister of the Independent State of Samoa
FMFMII Government Building
Dear Honourable Prime Minister,
SUBJECT: Acknowledgement of the Samoan and Allied servicemen and women during the First World War
On August 29, 1914 in the first month of World War 1 (WW1) the troops of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force anchored on Upolu and seized control of Samoa from Germany; following a request by Great Britain for New Zealand to perform their imperial service.
This saw the enlistment of Samoan men to join the Allies to fight the Central Powers in a clash of nations and empires at Gallipoli. Sleepless nights passed by, numerous letters from loved ones flew in and out of war zones with replies of being safe secure and the unsure return.
Promises that they would come back were broken as some did not. Families were doleful with the loss of a son, daughter, father, mother and not being able to see their corpse for final valedictions.
The experience of war is unimaginable and their courage immeasurable. The soldiers not only engaged in battle for their families and country but also for every other civilian considered to be an ally.
Lives were devoted to fend off danger so it would not reach our shores. The sacrifice of these heroic men and women meant our guaranteed safety and freedom.
The war affected each respective country that was involved for which their economies collapsed, death rates increased and they also suffered a great loss of their patriots and culture. The Allies fought hard for four devastating years and later triumphed in victory.
As we near the day where we monumentalise our audacious soldiers, I would like to emphasise the importance of Anzac Day. The Australian and New Zealand Army Corps along with Pacific island soldiers is the reason for this day.
It is the day that is commemorated on 25 April each year when we remember with fondness all soldiers who served and died during WW1 and a day when we can all come together and remember the sacrifices made by the Allies not forgetting the Samoans who accompanied them.
This one day is our tribute and remembrance of our heroes. This year will mark the 100th anniversary of the New Zealand division engagement in the battle of the Somme during the First World War.
Throughout the years, it is sadly noted that the soldiers’ efforts and actions go heedless and unknown by the people for whom they died. After 98 years since WW1, Anzac Day seems to be taken lightly by the Samoans.
Its essence and true meaning is fading as each year passes by. Only a few hundred people appear at the ceremony while some are clueless about the relevance and ultimate purpose of this day due to a lack of knowledge and understanding.
I applaud the efforts of government for the morning commemoration of the Anzac Day service and this letter is not a complaint but rather a request. Our way of saying thank you does not seem to be enough in comparison with what they have done for us.
If we exhibit our gratitude more, it may bring peace love and comfort to the families knowing that their loved ones are still being appreciated and recognised.
Therefore with utmost respect, on behalf of the families of the soldiers who fought in WW1, I hereby humbly ask and solicit your good self, Honourable Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, Prime Minister of Samoa to consider my request to make Anzac Day an official public holiday. I believe this is not for myself but for those who fought for us in war.
Nevertheless as I am growing older and also learning many new things each day, I have come to know and understand more of WW1. I am grateful for the soldiers who fought for us and pray that they are at peace.
Though we did not see them in battle, we continuously think and pray for them. I ask again for your alliance and support to make this day a tribute to the brave. Their sacrifices will always be remembered.
We have been blessed with a life of liberty, safety and invulnerability. As it says in Psalm 29:11, “May the Lord give strength to His people! May the Lord bless His people with peace” We are Christians and we must always give thanks and show our gratitude for the lives we have to the ones who assisted in making this possible. Your acceptance of my request would be very much valued and cherished.
A mere voice like mine will never be heard. However with your assistance and discretion as the leader of the Government, positive changes will be seen. It would be commendable if Anzac Day is acknowledged as an official public holiday for it will not only help boost awareness to our communities and country at large to understand the meaning of this day in particular; but it will also allow our people to appreciate and remember our lost soldiers.
We must work hand in hand to acknowledge and pay tribute to our heroes, not that we would ask anything in return for their service but I believe we must still honour them with great ovation and recognition.
May God continue to guide the paths you choose so that you may lead our country with love and courage and to make the right decisions for the sake of our people. The heroes have shown us courage and strength and I believe it is our turn to give back.
Lest we forget.