BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Chinese Vietnamese Burmese Thai Indonesian
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: Asia-Pacific  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
LANGUAGES
EDITIONS
Tuesday, 4 June, 2002, 14:23 GMT 15:23 UK
Apology to Samoa surprises New Zealand
Helen Clark
Ms Clark had been under no pressure to apologise

In New Zealand, Prime Minister Helen Clark's apology to Samoa attracted tears, praise and some cynicism.

The prime minister said sorry for New Zealand's treatment of Samoans during colonial times more than 70 years ago.

Many of the 100,000 Samoans now living in New Zealand have applauded the gesture, which came on the 40th anniversary of Samoa's independence.


It is no easy thing for a prime minister to apologise on behalf of an entire nation

New Zealand Herald
But at least one of the prime minister's political rivals said her government was too politically correct.

Ms Clark's speech in the Samoan capital Apia was broadcast live to hundreds of Samoans at emotional gatherings around New Zealand.

It was relayed from Apia to venues in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

In Auckland, hundreds gathered at a local convention centre where they burst into applause as soon as the word "apology" was mentioned. By the end of the speech, many were in tears.

Cheers and jeers

New Zealand's largest newspaper, The New Zealand Herald praised the prime minister, and called the apology a "closure on past shame."

"It is no easy thing for a prime minister to apologise on behalf of an entire nation," said the newspaper in an editorial.

"Successive Japanese leaders found it impossible and Australia's John Howard stuttered and gagged when it came to apologising to his country's subjugated indigenous peoples.

"So we should not see Prime Minister Helen Clark's apology as mere words."

But the leader of New Zealand's Opposition National Party, Bill English, was not so sure.

Mr English said it was "appropriate to acknowledge the suffering" that took place.

But he questioned why there was no apology for more recent events in New Zealand, including a controversial campaign against Samoans who over-stayed their visa in the 1970s.

At that time, Samoans living in New Zealand were subjected to early morning house raids and random street checks. It was part of a government crackdown on illegal immigrants from Samoa.

'Politically correct'

The timing of Helen Clark's apology has surprised many.

Samoans had not demanded it, and until recently, New Zealanders were generally unaware there was anything to apologise for.

Only a matter of weeks ago, New Zealand's Foreign Minister, Phil Goff, rejected the prospect of an apology.

During a visit to Samoa in April, Mr Goff faced questions on the issue from a Samoan newspaper. At the time, he ruled out an apology saying his Labour Party had condemned the mistakes when they happened.

Samoans are not the first foreigners to receive an apology from the Clark government this year.

In February, the government apologised to its Chinese population for charging an expensive entry tax, begun in the 19th century and lasting till 1930.

The poll tax imposed great hardship on Chinese immigrants.

The latest apology in Apia has been generally well received in New Zealand.

But the IRN news agency quotes one outspoken Maori politician complaining that the Clark government is too "politically correct".

Winston Peters - leader of minority party New Zealand First says Labour hs been too busy apologising to Samoan, Maori, and Chinese, "or to anyone to whom we can pass our guilt".

See also:

04 Jun 02 | Asia-Pacific
27 Mar 02 | Country profiles
26 Feb 02 | Asia-Pacific
08 Mar 02 | Country profiles
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Asia-Pacific stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Asia-Pacific stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes