31 May 2002

Samoan leaders and academics welcome expected New Zealand apology

10:36 am on 31 May 2002

Samoan leaders and academics are glad the New Zealand prime minister plans to apologise to the people of Samoa for past injustices.

Helen Clark will be in Samoa next week to celebrate Samoa's 40 years of independence.

At a state luncheon, she is expected to express her regret for thousands of deaths arising from an influenza epidemic and the attempted suppression of the Mau nationalist movement while Samoa was under New Zealand's administration.

The head of Samoan Studies at Victoria University, Galumalemana Hunkin, says he had to hold back tears when he heard the Prime Minister may make an apology, and he struggled to understand his reaction.

"It was like the releasing of the suppression of that anger or feeling of helplessness that thousands of people in the history of Samoa were killed when their lives could have been spared by both the epidemic as well as the shooting, of course, of the leaders in 1929."

Galumalemana Hunkin says an apology by Miss Clark would be a courageous move.

Earlier this month, the foreign minister, Phil Goff, said New Zealand was unlikely to apologise for events before 1930.