Magele's journey from Apia to Manchester

By Alexander Rheeney 23 October 2021, 11:10PM

It is a long way from Apia to Manchester City in the United Kingdom, but Magele Vernon Mackenzie is taking it all in his stride, as he starts a two-year master’s degree study program.

Last month the British High Commission in Apia announced Magele was the successful recipient of the Chevening Scholarship Award 2021/22 to undertake a Masters in Security and International Law at The University of Manchester.

The Acting High Commissioner Ian Richards hosted him and his family, colleagues and Samoa Chevening Alumni to wish him well on his journey.

Magele, in response to questions sent through email recently by the Samoa Observer, said he was humbled to be awarded a Chevening Scholarship.

“Thankfully my prayers were answered and truly humbled and proud to be a part of the Chevening community of scholars and global networks of current recipients and alumnus,” he said. 

“I consider myself lucky and in a way we make our own luck, our own good fortune. 

“Roman philosopher Seneca says ‘luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity’. 

“In other words we are the authors of our own narrative and praise God in all that we do.”

After a five-day journey spanning some 15,000 kilometres, the former University of South Pacific (U.S.P.) Samoa Campus staff member arrived in the UK on 28 September and “hit the ground running” attending workshops, lectures and orientation.

“I am old school so I asked the Director on zoom if we could meet face to face to discuss my studies,” he said.

“This is the beginning of a 1 year intense course of study and research. The campus is incredible, the lecturers are brilliant and the university is next level tech wise.”

The University of Manchester online portal for the postgraduate programme which Magele is taking aims to “develop the skills for a career in international security in a range of different sectors.”

Asked why he applied for the study programme, he said his security background working for the U.S. Embassy as well as the Office of the Attorney General and undertaking various security-related consultancies led to him applying for the postgraduate study programme at the UK university.

“My previous positions I would be a point of contact for key stakeholders, donor partners and international law enforcement agencies,” he said.

“Accordingly, as security investigator at the American Embassy I would oversee security, protection details and bilateral partnerships whilst performing my statutory functions and investigative duties.

“The bulk of my duties centered on in-country liaison for Samoa Police to assist international investigations for the F.B.I. regarding extradition of fugitives or diplomatic security investigations concerning American citizens.

“In 2011 I was recruited by the Office of the Attorney General to launch a flagship, D.F.A.T. funded program for the resettlement and rehabilitation of criminal deportees from around the world. 

“The Trust was sustainable and the template for the region for almost six years under my watch.”

Magele plans to focus on national security in the Pacific Islands, mapping immigration detention as well as repatriation and reintegration.

Research on the socio-legal impact of criminal deportees from Australia, New Zealand and the U.S. on Samoa and other Small Island Developing States is also on his radar.

“God willing, once I defend my thesis I hope to apply for sponsorship for a P.h.D. dissertation for scholarship to 2021,” he said.

“I am currently in collaboration with Ms. Henrietta McNeill (Fulbright New Zealand P.h.D. Scholar 2021/2022) at A.N.U. and using the case study of Samoa to analyze both the social and policing state migration management approaches that are taken towards returning criminal deportees, asking what the human rights implications are for returning criminal deportees.”

Ultimately, upon the completion of his two-year postgraduate study programme, he is keen on contributing to a  “safe and secure Samoa” with national security and strategic objectives his main priorities and thus contributing to regional security, economic growth, sustainable development and good governance.

“These are all anchored by education and I hope to develop expertise and insights from my studies focusing on the disconnect between state actors, policy makers, security advisors and practitioners on the transnational and local levels. 

“It is my patriotic duty to be proactive in protecting our physical and cyber borders. “COVID-19 has only emphasised the fact that we need to be more proactive and vigilant.”

Pacific Criminology is a field that is also under-researched according to Magele, yet it has domestic and transnational implications, which he says threatens the peace and prosperity of the country. 

“These threats on our physical (health) and cyber-attacks underscore the fragility of our borders, hence our democracy and deep respect of law and order of a safe and stable country,” he said.

“Apart from the networking within the cohorts themselves, the access to academics, experts and practitioners would be a once in a lifetime opportunity.

“Security and International Law studies is a natural choice for me because of my experience abroad, within the Indo-Pacific region and on island.”

Asked what his plans are when he returns to Samoa, Magele said he resigned his position at the U.S.P. Samoa Campus, but would be happy to return to the academic space.

“I would be happy to return to lecture and enjoyed my time in the academic space engaging with my colleagues, the students and their support systems. 

“I hope my small contribution via counseling to my students' study journey, tough love with my Rotary scholars was useful. 

“I wish the Campus Director Dr. Fanaafi Aiono Le-Tagaloa, Head of Sections, Administrators and entire Samoa Campus staff the very best for 2021.”

However, Magele accepts that he wouldn’t have made it to the U.K. without his wife “stamping his visa to leave the country” and gave credit to his family for their support while he is away studying.

“Thank you to my beautiful wife Donna Marie for always supporting me and stamping my visa to leave the country,” he said.

“In essence this accomplishment is as much my family’s as it is mine, because honestly I wouldn’t be able to do this without their love and support. 

“I may be in the UK studying law but my wife will have to hold down the fort in my absence and in all honesty she’s the brains and has had a P.h.D. in common sense for many years now.”

He also paid tribute to his mother Stella Anesi Mackenzie and his siblings and his father Taoa Muliagatele Vernon Samuel Mackenzie.

“I dedicate this to them – as a parent I wanted to be an example to my children – to never give up! I endeavor to make the most of this golden opportunity and upon my return hope to make a memorable contribution to Samoa lau atunuu pele.”

By Alexander Rheeney 23 October 2021, 11:10PM
Samoa Observer

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