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Samoa's heritage sites need legal protection

Samoa needs a “national heritage law” to protect and preserve its cultural heritage sites, says Archaeology Lecturer at the National University of Samoa, Mohammed Sahib.

Responding to questions from the Samoa Observer on the use of the Apia Clock Tower by various entities including private companies to market their products, Mr. Sahib said the cement structure in the centre of Apia has historic and cultural significance to Samoa and its people.

“It is one of the sites listed on the Samoan Heritage Project by the Centre for Samoan Studies at National University of Samoa, in conjunction with the US Embassy, Apia,” he said.

“However, the magnitude of unnecessary work carried out on the site is at an ascending rate and it presents a lot of concern. 

“Such sites should be treated with utmost care and respect as it is one of the iconic landmarks of Apia. Recent placement of advertisement on Apia Clock Tower is considered very unethical because it demoralises how important the site is.”

Mr Sahib, who is a lecturer in archaeology at the Cultural Heritage Programme of the Center of Samoa Studies at the National University of Samoa, said the clock tower was built during the colonial era and should be treated with care.

“From an archaeology perspective, the clock tower is not just a plain cement structure positioned on a brick enclosure. 

“However, the site portrays the struggles that our forefathers experienced, the love and passion they exchanged, respect and solidarity for our culture and its people.  

“Significantly, this site was built during the colonial era in Samoa’s history where our ancestors have fought for freedom and it deserves the appropriate preservation.”

When asked if action should be taken to address the placement of advertisements on the tower, he said: “Yes the practicality of advertisement placement on the Apia Clock tower should immediately be stopped.

“I understand there are numerous companies and organizations in our country who have used this site as a medium of advertisement, please I humbly urge [you] to stop such activities.

“We must conserve and safeguard these built heritage sites because they represent a type of heritage that has long been recognized for its values, and it should be well protected and managed.”

Mr Sahib further explained that the tower was built and gifted to the Samoan people in the 1920s by Ta’isi Olaf Nelson. It was erected as a memorial for his son [Ta’isi], who had died in the 1918 influenza epidemic which claimed the lives of about 9,000 Samoans.

“Since World War 1, the Clock Tower has also served as a monument to the Samoan-born soldiers who fought in WW1. Every year on ANZAC Day, April 25th, a dawn parade and vigil is held at the Apia Clock Tower in remembrance of the brave Samoans who joined the Australian and New Zealand forces and celebrates those who continue to dedicate their lives to protecting the freedoms we enjoy today,” he added.

Pointing to the absence of a national heritage law to protect culturally important heritage sites, Mr Sahib said it is time for the necessary legislation to be put in place.

“The problem in Samoa, we have numerous policies and legislations that aim to protect different aspects of our cultural heritage, that are positioned within different Government ministries and authorities,” he said.

“However, there is no ‘national heritage law’ and a central government agency that aims to govern and manage all archaeological and built heritage sites in Samoa, under a heritage law. This is something that our Government should urgently establish to safeguard and protect cultural heritage sites all around Samoa, including the Apia Clock Tower.”

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