Prime Minister Tuilepa Lupesoliai Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi has praised the New Zealand Government’s Pacific Reset Policy.
Speaking at a reception last Friday to mark the 56th anniversary of the Treaty of Friendship between Samoa and New Zealand, the Prime Minister told departing New Zealand High Commissioner David Nicholson that Samoa is grateful for the New Zealand government’s renewed focus in the region.
He indicated in his speech at the reception that the New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters is expected soon in Apia and he is looking forward to the visit.
“I would be grateful if you will convey to your government our gratitude for your latest experiment your reset policy. I look forward to talking to Winston Peters, when he lands here in a few days’ time. I have a very long list of very tiny projects which will make his visit more exciting,” he said.
Commentators say the New Zealand government’s new policy is in response to the growing presence of China in the Pacific Islands. But Mr Peters did not make a direct reference to China when he announced the new policy in March this year, which would see $714 million in aid going to the region over the next four years.
“Pacific perceptions of New Zealand are also being shaped by our different patterns of engagement across the region. In Polynesia, where our political, cultural, and historical links are much closer, New Zealand is certainly viewed as a family member. But the Pacific overall has also become an increasingly contested strategic space, no longer neglected by great power ambition, and so Pacific Island leaders have more options. This is creating a degree of strategic anxiety,” he said, in a speech at the Lowy Institute for International Policy in Sydney.
The New Zealand and Samoan governments recently commissioned a $10 million facility to host State-sanctioned events next to the Government Building, a project which coincidentally is located next to the China-Samoa Friendship Park and Arts and Cultural Centre. The official ground-breaking ceremony for the project – which will be funded by the Chinese City of Huizhou – was held in May this year.
Mr Nicholson, in his farewell speech at the same reception last Friday, said he was disappointed with newspaper reports that quoted him as being critical of China’s interests in Samoa.
“I am very disappointed to be quoted in the paper today as being critical of China’s interests in Samoa. In fact that wasn’t the case, what is it again, Donald’s fake news or something going on there? I wanted to say how warm the relationship between the Chinese Ambassador and his wife since I have been here,” he said.