The President of the Returned Services Association (R.S.A.), Tuala Iosefo Ponifasio, has demanded more respect towards the R.S.A.
In his speech to dignitaries and the diplomatic community during the ANZAC Day commemoration ceremony in Apia yesterday, Tuala said R.S.A. needs a new building.
He said he sees how the community doesn’t respect the organisation as they should because of its reputation as a nightclub.
“That’s the bottom line, this place is not respected by the community,” Tuala told Samoa Observer.
The R.S.A. building is meant to represent the spirit and legacy of the ANZAC's and currently does not do them justice.
He says a new building, which could be called ANZAC House, would improve the status of the R.S.A. in people’s eyes.
“We want to do something to make R.S.A. more secure and prominent."
“We think R.S.A. has a significant place in the history of Samoa and in relation to the partnership with New Zealand and Australia and we want something to earmark the relationship,” he says.
This year’s ANZAC Day service was well attended by diplomats, Samoan dignitaries and veterans with their families.
Tuala says the spirit of what it means to be an ANZAC is about trust and respect for your fellow people.
“When you’ve been serving in the military, there is no one you can rely on but the guy next to you,” he says.
“You need him to save your life and simply by saying that, you are tapping into elements of trust.”
Tuala acknowledged values that guide ANZAC soldiers as far back as World War 1 and said they should guide us still today.
He included endurance, courage, ingenuity, good humour, good heartedness, and comradeship.
“These values still exist in our defence force today, but forgotten or taken for granted by some.”
He said in today’s society, especially “when the going gets tough” people need those values more than ever.
“The men of Gallipoli taught us these values. We can remember them and honour them by continuing to respect ANZAC Day. This is why we have an R.S.A. club.”
As well as expressing a desire for a new building, Tuala said ANZAC Day should be returned to its status as a public holiday.
While the R.S.A. has not raised this formally yet with Government, the President says he intends to open up the discussion again.
He says while the Government probably had very good reasons to change ANZAC Day from being a public holiday, Tuala would like to see the event recognised more than just a memorial day.
“ANZAC Day is not about glorifying war in the past,” he says.
He suggests that continued hostilities around the world mean the horrors of the past may repeat themselves, and so the values of the ANZAC's should be remembered.
“It’s about the status of the future. We have to keep our guard up and stay vigilant.”