Today as we celebrate, let us think about freedom, and what it truly means. Now and in the future.

And so Samoa is once more celebrating today.

On these shores and anywhere else in the world where there are Samoans, we take a collective pause to remember and reflect on that historical day when this nation took the bold step of being the first country in the Pacific to gain political independence from its colonial rulers.

In times like this, we remember with gratitude and appreciate the moment 57 years ago when the late Malietoa Tanumafili II and the late Tamasese Meaole hoisted Samoa’s flag of freedom for the first time in 1962. It was when the words of our national anthem, “Samoa tula’i ma sisi ia lau fu’a” rang out loud and proud for the first time among our forebears who fought and persevered to secure our independence.

Keep in mind that that particular proud day at Ti’afau was only the culmination of a struggle that started many years before. It’s a struggle that cost precious lives. We must never lose sight of that. Many of our forebears involved in that struggle have passed on. 

Only a handful are alive today. If you have the opportunity to be around one of them, take a moment to honour them, say thank you. 

Today in Samoa, we stop, sit down and pay tribute to their courage, vision, sacrifice and love. We say love because it wasn’t for their love, this day would not have been possible. It would have remained a dream.

But love was the motivation and in the end, love conquered. We are grateful; extremely grateful.

We’ve always maintained that our forebears were pioneers, way beyond their years. Think of the lack of resources, money and the absence of technology they had to work with back then. Think of their struggles, the pain and the tears.

And yet judging from history and our original Constitution, the quality of their vision and the great scholarship we can learn from them is simply outstanding. It goes without saying 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.

Today is undoubtedly a time of celebration. This morning down at Mulinu’u, thousands of Samoans and non-Samoans are gathering. They are there to celebrate everything there is to be proud of about Samoa; our land, language, culture, dances, beliefs and most importantly our people. The celebration is not confined to Samoa. Elsewhere in the world, Samoans all over are also holding their own unique celebrations, thinking of home.

But today is not just a time of celebration. It is a day of reflection. How fare's Samoa 57 years after independence? Where are we heading as a nation? And what vision do we have for future generations of this country?

Our forebears have been called home but they have passed the baton onto the generations and leaders of today to carry. They are encouraging and cheering us on.

Fifty-seven years after Samoa became independent, it is fair to say we have come a long way as a nation. Much has been achieved with many changes. We acknowledge with gratitude the work of all our leaders, Government and in all areas of society. We thank our Head of State, His Highness Tuimaleali’ifano Sualauvi II, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, the Government and all the leaders for their work. 

But we believe that while we have come a long way in terms of development, it has not come without cost.

Ladies and gentlemen, our prized possessions are under threat. We are talking about our land, culture, language, values and our inheritance as Samoans.

Looking around Samoa today, there are hardly any reminders of the past. The old Courthouse on Beach Road remains the only relic of the past but even a fight to keep that is not looking very promising at this stage.

Whether it’s a coincident or by design, it feels like this Government is on a mission to completely erase history so that no one would remember how we arrived where we are today. Which is the tragedy of it all.

Even the celebration of today doesn’t have the feel of the Flag Day of old where traditional games and the fautasi regatta have become distant memories. The celebration feels so watered down they might as well discontinue it.

For a people to know where they are going, they need to understand where they came from. For a nation to appreciate what it has now, it cannot ignore the people who built the foundation to enable today. Those people are our forebears, our ancestors. They deserve better.

If they were alive today, what would they say about what Samoa has become? Would they recognise the occasion down at Mulinu’u where even the prayer has been monitored and controlled to fit a certain time?

What would they think about how the Constitution has been butchered blue by this ruling administration?

What would they say about the fact most Samoans have been driven out of their shops while foreigners push them on to the streets as vendors and mere barbecue sellers?

What would they think of all the aid and loans our future generations would have to pay? Is that love? Is that what our forebears would’ve envisioned for this country when they gave us our independence?

Today, as we celebrate, let us think about freedom, and what it truly means. Now and in the future.

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