N.Z. should care about Samoa's election: academic

An academic at the University of Auckland has urged Kiwis to take an interest in Samoa’s recent general election as it is linked to their identity as a country.

Seuta'afili Dr Patrick Thomsen, who has Samoan heritage, made the appeal in an opinion piece for the New Zealand online news service Stuff.

He said as a Samoan he naturally cares about the April 9 General Election but he believes it is also important for New Zealanders to care about the election.

“My latest ancestor, my mother, who confers to me genealogically my land rights in Samoa, is sitting in the living room while I write this piece, talking to relatives via Facebook Messenger,” Seuta'afili wrote in his commentary. 

“I believe New Zealanders should also care about the Samoan election as it is tied closely to our identity as a country and is crucial to the aspirations we have for our place in the world.”

New Zealand’s historical connection to Samoa was then emphasised with the academic pointing out how the island nation became a tussle between Germany and the Allies, which opened the door for New Zealand’s colonial administration. 

“New Zealand once had designs on Samoa becoming the crown jewel of its developing mini-Pacific empire,” added Seuta'afili. 

“After ‘losing’ what was then Western Samoa to the Germans in 1899, this country (New Zealand) invaded and captured Western Samoa in 1914 at the start of World War I, making Samoa the first enemy territory taken by the allies in WWI.

“New Zealand’s administration of Samoa was a disaster, and others have written extensively on how New Zealand’s administrators acted with murderous disdain, racism and colonial intent. 

“Upon independence, Western Samoa’s government was made to develop a governance system and bureaucracy that mirrored Westminster-style democracies, and that mirror was firmly placed in front of New Zealand’s public sector.”

According to Seuta'afili, Samoans used New Zealand’s education curriculum and were drawn to work in that country’s factories, with others taking up employment on farms as “unskilled” labour.

“When we became dispensable, we even had Privy Council decisions that adjudicated in our favour, at the end of the era of the Dawn Raids.”

The academic then reiterated that Kiwis needed to learn more about their history and the impact of the legacies of a New Zealand colonial administration.

“Yes, it’s clear New Zealand needs to learn more of its own history, but the point I’m making is that these legacies and symbols of New Zealand’s colonial past are something our country is ‘kindly’ trying to exorcise from its identity,” Seuta'afili wrote.

New Zealand’s foreign policy also came under scrutiny with the academic criticising what he described as examples of New Zealand being “paternalistic, often patronising older sibling” in the face of a rising China expanding its presence in the region.

“As China continues to build its presence in the Pacific, we can no longer afford to be a paternalistic, often patronising, older sibling to places like Samoa,” he further wrote.

“China is better resourced than us (New Zealand), is more willing to assert its interests into relationships than we are and also far more agile in dealing with Pacific governments.

“So, yes, you may think as New Zealanders the election in Samoa is small peanuts. And why should you care about the election for a parliament that has only 51 members, in a country of only 200,000 inhabitants?

“As a country, if we are truly to shake off our colonial ties to Britain and avail ourselves of colonisation as the basis of shared identity, we need to learn to be a good neighbour.”

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