U.K. to step up presence, says diplomat

The United Kingdom (U.K.) will open a High Commission in Samoa next year.

The U.K. High Commissioner to Samoa, Laura Clarke, said this yesterday as she met with Samoan Government leaders and representatives of the private sector and civil society. 

So far she has met with Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, and the Head of State, His Highness Tuimalealiifano Va'aletoa Sualauvi II.

As the representative of the United Kingdom to Samoa, Wellington-based Ms. Clarke wants to strengthen a relationship she feels may have “been taken for granted.”

“I would acknowledge that the U.K. in the early 2000's stepped away from the Pacific a bit too much actually, and we reduced our presence too much."

“Part of what we’re trying to do now is to put that right, because we’ve got such shared history in this region,” she said.

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Next year should see the opening of the first British High Commission in Samoa. Ms Clarkes said this move is historical.

“I think it’s historic in terms of our relations."

“We have had a close relationship for such a long time but we’ve never had a proper High Commission, so I think it’s a really positive thing.”

Though she tells the story humbly, Ms Clarke was the instigator of this milestone.

Returning to New Zealand from her first visit to Samoa in March, she wrote to the head office in England suggesting more should be done with Samoan partners.

Little did she know, the head office was debating where to inject extra funds, making her telegram extremely “fortuitous,” Ms Clarke said.

“We advocated very strongly for Samoa to be one of the posts because of its regional leadership role, and convening power both within the Pacific and more widely.”

Ms Clarke will tour Apia and will spend time with other foreign diplomats, civil servants and the media until tomorrow morning when she flies back to New Zealand.

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