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Grandson criticises 'disrespectful' use of iconic Clock Tower

The grandson of a soldier, whose name is engraved on Apia’s iconic Clock Tower, has decried the continued use of the memorial as a billboard.

Tofilau George Westbrook, of Aleisa, is a 72-year-old grandson of a soldier, Edward Westbrook, whose name is engraved on the concrete monument.

He said the fact the Government has not intervened to date to stop the use of the memorial as a billboard disrespects the dead.

"It is straight disrespectful and inappropriate," he said. 

"The Government of Samoa has not respected those who died and risked their lives for Samoa’s freedom. Any sort of advertisement should not be happening on that Clock Tower."

Tofilau, who said he was only 11 years of age when his grandfather died, and got buried at the Magiagi cemetery, described the use of the monument by private companies such as Vodafone Samoa and the non-profit organisations like the Samoa Cancer Society as an “eye sore.”

"I don't like it. It's a memorial, not an advertisement billboard. It's a memorial, respect the dead. Leave it as it is, don't just use it for advertisement when they feel like it," he told the Samoa Observer.

But Tofilau is not the only individual to express concern at the increasing use of the Apia landmark for advertising. 

Early this year the founder of Samoa Tofia Incorporated, Taloto Obed Unasa, described the decision to rent the monument to different companies to promote their products as disrespectful of the memory of the A.N.Z.A.C. war veterans. 

“I don't think monuments which are dedicated to war veterans should be the place for us to advertise our businesses and other causes," said Taloto. 

"We don't have 10 A.N.Z.A.C. monuments here in Samoa, we have one, and I think at least we can say to our own people, let's respect that."

In July this year similar concerns were raised about the use of Clock Tower by Vodafone Samoa for advertising. 

In response, a spokesperson for Vodafone Samoa, said: “Vodafone being a responsible organisation have followed policies and procedures and obtained it's approvals from the Government of Samoa [M.C.I.L.] to install branding on its assets temporarily - similarly to previous organisations who had branded the town clock before us.”

Last month National University of Samoa [N.U.S.] archaeology lecturer, Mohammed Sahib, said Samoa needs a “national heritage law” to protect and preserve its cultural heritage sites.

“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 U.S. 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.”

The monument along Apia’s Beach Road was gifted to Samoa by Ta'isi Olaf Frederick Nelson in the 1920s, as a memorial for his son, who had died in the 1918 influenza epidemic that claimed the lives of nearly 9000 Samoans.

Since World War 1 the town clock has also served as a monument dedicated to the bravery of Samoan-born soldiers who fought in the war. It is also the site of A.N.Z.A.C. commemorations annually.

The Clock Tower is now under the care of the Ministry of Commerce Industry and Labour [M.C.I.L.]. 

The Ministry has been contacted for comment.

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