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British High Commission opens in Samoa

The British High Commission in Samoa has opened at Lille’s Complex on Cross Island Road.

Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi, ceremoniously cut the ribbon in front of the new offices on Monday night.

Diplomats, Government Ministers, multilateral partners and the Head of State, His Highness Tuimalealiifano Vaaletoa Sualauvi II attended a welcoming celebration at Villa Vailima, where Tuilaepa and the British High Commissioner, David Ward, spoke about the importance of the office.

Mr. Ward, who is in his third month on the job, is Samoa’s first resident High Commissioner in charge of the first High Commission for Britain.

He and nine other new resident High Commissioners are helping expand the British global diplomatic presence, after then Foreign Secretary and now Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, announced 10 new High Commissions would open. 

“I am delighted that the Prime Minister has welcomed the establishment of the United Kingdom’s diplomatic presence in Samoa today.  This further cements the close historic and ongoing links between our countries,” he said, honouring the history of British engagement via international and multilateral partners over the years like the United Nations, European Union and the Pacific Regional Environment Programme.

Most recently, significant British funding via the Pacific Community was used to host the Committee on the Rights of the Child in Samoa last week, he said. 

"If you value the work of the U.N.D.P, of the World Health Organisation, the Green Climate Fund, of S.P.R.E.P. and others, that means you already know of the work the United Kingdom has done with Samoa, and this is a tribute to the strength of the relations between our two countries."

Mr. Ward has said the High Commission will work with Samoa on climate change and the ocean, including working on increasing renewable energy use in both countries and further afield. The U.K will also continue to support Samoa’s bid to host the 2022 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting and take on the chair position after Rwanda takes over from the United Kingdom in June this year.

Construction delays have meant Mr. Ward and his team have been sharing office space with the Australian High Commission, but Tuilaepa dutifully cut the ribbon anyway to mark the occasion.

Afterwards, he remarked in Samoan – which he translated for Mr. Ward and the audience at Vila Vailima – that he hoped the opening of the High Commission meant impending visa free travel for Samoans to the United Kingdom.

In his official remarks, Tuilaepa said he welcomed the return of Britain to Samoa, and that the new High Commission “normalises the uncertainty of Brexit” (Britain’s departure from the European Union).

He also thanked the country for the service of two emergency medical teams deployed to help Samoa tackle the measles epidemic in November and December 2019.

“Today we celebrate the realisation of new connections, in order that we strengthen our bilateral relations, cooperate towards shared prosperity and security as well as jointly tackle the unrelenting challenges of our environment and sustainable development,” he said.

The pair concluded their remarks with a toast, made with sparkling wine imported from England.

The official opening coincided with Commonwealth Day, an annual celebration on March 9. In keeping with tradition, the head of the Commonwealth, Queen Elizabeth II will deliver a message at the national service on Monday at Westminster Abbey. 

In her place, Mr. Ward delivered her address to the crowd at the reception, sharing her message of praise for diversity and connection that make up “our worldwide family,” in a connectivity era driven by advances in technology. 

“Looking to the future, this connectivity means we are also aware, perhaps as never before, that wherever we live, our choices and actions affect the well-being of people and communities living far away, and in very different circumstances,” the message says.

“For many, this awareness awakens a desire to employ our planet's natural resources with greater care, and it is encouraging to see how the countries of the Commonwealth continue to devise new ways of working together to achieve prosperity, whilst protecting our planet.”

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