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Tuesday, 4 June, 2002, 06:51 GMT 07:51 UK
New Zealand apologises to Samoa
Helen Clark
Ms Clark referred to the administration of the past as inept
New Zealand has apologised to the South Pacific nation of Samoa for the brutal treatment of its citizens in colonial times more than 70 years ago.

Prime Minister Helen Clark issued the apology in the Samoan capital, Apia, at a ceremony marking the 40th anniversary of Samoan independence.


On behalf of the New Zealand government, I wish to offer today a formal apology to the people of Samoa for the injustices arising from New Zealand's administration of Samoa in its earlier years

Helen Clark
New Zealand seized the western islands of Samoa from Germany just after the outbreak of World War I in 1914 and ruled them until 1962.

The blunders committed during their rule include a catastrophic epidemic, the gunning down of pacifist protesters in 1929, as well as the killing of a Samoan paramount chief, Tupua Tamasese Lealofi III.

"On behalf of the New Zealand government, I wish to offer today a formal apology to the people of Samoa for the injustices arising from New Zealand's administration of Samoa in its earlier years, and to express sorrow and regret for those injustices," Ms Clark said.

"There are events in our past which have been little known in New Zealand, although they are well known in Samoa. Those events relate to the inept and incompetent early administration of Samoa by New Zealand," she added.

Emotional response

Tears ran down the face of Tupua Tamasese Efi, a Samoan chief and former prime minister, as Ms Clark offered her country's apology.

"I was very moved," he said. "I was struggling not to cry because I don't want to be seen to be expressing hollow emotion," he said.

"This gesture is historic, and I accept it in the spirit it is given," he added.


This gesture is historic, and I accept it in the spirit it is given

Tupua Tamasese Efi, Samoan chief

During New Zealand's rule a series of mistakes brought disaster to the islanders.

In 1918 New Zealand authorities knew a ship, the Talune, which had arrived in Samoa was carrying Spanish influenza, but they still let people ashore.

In the resulting epidemic more than 22% of the country's population died.

The error led to a campaign for independence from a pacifist movement called the Mau.

In 1929 the group staged a peaceful protest in Apia, but the New Zealand police opened fire on the group killing at least 9 and injuring 50.

Among the dead was the high chief, who was killed while holding his arms high calling for peace.

See also:

27 Mar 02 | Country profiles
26 Feb 02 | Asia-Pacific
08 Mar 02 | Country profiles
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