Now that Samoa Observer has turned 40, what about the Reader, the Truth?
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.
Let me start by saying thank you very much for attending tonight’s celebrations.
I want you to know that what we’re celebrating was born from the most unlikeliest of places, which is why it is a special honour for me.
In other words, it was conceived and inspired by events that took place far away when I was a young man.
The Samoa Observer story started well over 40 years ago. It was while I was living in Washington D.C., and the ‘Watergate Scandal’ was threatening to drive President Richard Nixon, out of the White House.
And as a young poet from Samoa, working in a bookstore called Globe Books, just across from the White House, I was right there to see it all unfold.
That way, it was hard to ignore the fearless, inspiring daily news reports that were being published day after day, especially by the Washington Post.
As I was following with much interest ‘Watergate’ as it was spinning out of control, and how two young investigative reporters were redefining their roles in what then were very turbulent time in America, it was indeed, fascinating reporting and I was intrigued by it all.
Later, when Nixon resigned and avoided being impeached, I quit my job at Globe Books and moved to New York, where I lived in a place called Greenwich Village.
Later still, when I left New York and moved to Santa Ana in California, I received word that my mother was ill, and right away I knew I had to return home.
And now that I was back in Samoa, the Samoa Times’ editor was kind enough to give me a job as a reporter, and with it I was able to appreciate for the first time what publishing a newspaper in Samoa was about.
However, about one year later, I saw that we were not moving anywhere at all, so I decided it was time to move on.
That was when with my friend Ieti Lima, we launched the Samoa Observer in his family’s cookhouse at Vaimoso, a village near Apia.
I was the reporter, photographer and editor, Ieti was the advertising salesman, and with one typewriter, and the help of some friends, we produced the first edition of the Observer.
It was an exciting experiment so that no one complained. At 20c a copy, 5000 copies would sell out before noon under the old Post Office, on Beach Road, and the Samoa Observer was a dream no more.
Indeed, the beginning of an exciting journey had begun, and what a wonderful journey it’d turned out to be!
Along the way, the Samoa Observer had gone on to achieve significant achievements in newspaper publishing around the world, and with them recognition was inevitable.
It allowed the writer to travel and meet some very famous journalists and newspaper owners, one of whom was the Publisher and owner of the Washington Post, the late Katherine Graham, who played an important role in the ‘Watergate Scandal’ that inspired the writer at the time.
But then this evening, I want to attribute the Samoa Observer’s success to you, The Reader. The truth is that, it is because of your loyal and relentless support of the Samoa Observer over the years, that we are still here today.
Founded on the premise that everyone’s voice is meant to be heard - especially that of the weak and the vulnerable - we believe the Samoa Observer has remained committed to that promise, to this day.
And for that very reason, we say thank you very much to you all, for allowing the Samoa Observer to be a part of your everyday life, as well as your friend.
To Scott Griffin of the International Press Institute, I thank you for coming all the way from Vienna, to help celebrate our fortieth birthday with us, here in Apia.
To be sure, I.P.I.’s unwavering support of press freedom is the sustenance that instills hope and faith in mankind, which will in turn continue to make the world a better place to be.
To Prime Minister Tuilaepa and his Government, we would like to express our sincere gratitude for your patience and understanding of our work. Although we may come across as antagonistic now and then, deep down we know that your love of your country, Samoa, is sincere.
We know that you believe in a ‘free press’, and the vital role it’s playing in our little democracy, and for that reason we want to agree that the love hate relationship that seems to be making a habit of showing up now and then, is nothing but a front that’s nursing the respect we share.
And so at this point, I want to reassure that here at the Samoa Observer, we will always acknowledge Samoa’s support of our work, but then as journalists, we know that words can either harm or heal; indeed, it’s a tough line to follow, especially in a comparatively small society such as ours.
But then, as we also all know, the truth is sacrosanct; in other words, it is holy which follows that it must be told no matter what, and never mind the consequences.
And that is the price we have to pay, for the freedom we’re taking for granted everyday where ever we’re living in this fickle world, we call home.
And lastly, on behalf of the Samoa Observer publisher, and its editors and staff, I want to say thank you very much Samoa for remaining relentlessly supportive of your newspaper, the Samoa Observer, over the last 40 years.
Have a peaceful Sunday Samoa, God bless.