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Samoa & NZ close yearlong celebration of the 60 year old Treaty of Friendship

By Lagi Keresoma

APIA, SAMOA – 31 MAY 2023: Samoa and New Zealand are celebrating two milestones today as they conclude the yearlong celebration not only of Samoa’s 60th independence anniversary, but also the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Friendship between the two countries.

At a special function last night at the New Zealand High Commissioner’s residence at Letava, Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mataafa and New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister Carmel Sepuloni acknowledged the end of a momentous year as they look back at the 60 years of Samoa’s independence and 60 years of formal diplomatic ties and the Treaty of Friendship.

Sepuloni recounted 1962 when Samoa became the first Pacific Island nation to gain independence from New Zealand and a few weeks later, the first Prime Minister, Fiame Faumuina Mataafa Mulinuu 11 and New Zealand’s High Commissioner J.D Wright signed the agreement that has bonded the two countries for the past 60 years.

“The Treaty of Friendship was and remains a remarkable symbol of our relationship, agreeing to define the connection between us on the foundation of respect for human rights and spirit of close friendship,” said Sepuloni.

She said the uniqueness of the Treaty is that no other country in the world has such an agreement with New Zealand.

“It is a Treaty based on confidence and mutual endeavour to obtain for our people full opportunity for social progress, and commit our nations to maintaining and strengthening the bond of enmity and good will that existed between us and provide continued cooperation,” said Sepuloni.

Sepuloni PM,Palanitina
Sepuloni PM,Palanitina

New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister Carmel Sepuloni, Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mataafa and guests Tupuimatagi Palanitina Toelupe and Kuiniselani Toelupe. 

Of Samoan, Tongan and European descent, Carmel Sepuloni is the first of Pacific island ancestry and woman to become New Zealand’s Deputy Prime Minister.

“The historical connection between New Zealand and Samoa extends across time where Samoa and Maori share a profound ancestral bond,” she said.

Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mataafa said the Treaty speaks to the history of New Zealand and Samoa association in the last 6 decades.

“On many issues, we have gone beyond being long standing friends and allies, co-operated well on international arena to support where appropriate and respecting our sovereignty and to acknowledge there will be different perspective,” said Fiame.

Both leaders agreed that the reopening of borders has again strengthened the people to people link.

“We have a growing diaspora in New Zealand and we continue to provide for New Zealand labour needs through the RSE scheme,” said Fiame.

“We must strive to ensure there is a balance in the use of labour mobility and worker programs between host country and pacific islands nations in order to provide strong mutual benefits within the region,” she said.

She acknowledged New Zealand’s continued support for Samoa in various areas of development and their support in addressing the vulnerability of small island states on the international platform on issues such as climate change.

NZ Sepuloni family members
NZ Sepuloni family members

Carmel Sepuloni with some of her fathers family members from Vailele.

Honour to represent NZ
On Samoa’s 60th independence anniversary, Carmel Sepuloni is proud to be here to represent New Zealand at the official closing today and tomorrow’s 61st independence celebrations.

“I am honoured to be here as a daughter of Samoa and as Deputy Prime Minister for New Zealand to celebrate the conclusion of the yearlong 60th independence celebrations of Samoa,” she said.

Born and raised in New Zealand to a Samoan father and pakeha mother, Sepuloni first returned to Samoa in 2003. She had a strong family representation of her fathers’ family at Vailele led by the village church minister, Reverend Sasulu Siaosi who himself was born and educated in New Zealand before he took up the church ministry in Samoa.

Present at last night’s special functions was the Member of the Council of Deputies, Le Mamea Ropati Mualia and good lady, the Deputy Prime Minister of the Cook Island and his good lady, the Ulu o Tokelau, members of Sepuloni’s family from Vailele, Government officials and members of the private sector.