The University of the South Pacific (USP), together with the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) and the Pacific Community (SPC), celebrated Samoa’s 60th Independence Anniversary yesterday (April 20, 2023).
The three regional organisations, core members of the Council of Regional Organisations in the Pacific (CROP), were hosted by SPREP in Apia, Samoa. The event is part of the year-long celebration of Samoa’s 60th Anniversary and highlights the contribution of CROP agencies, such as USP, to the development of Samoa.
Samoa’s Prime Minister, Hon Fiamē Dr Naomi Mataʻafa said, “As you will know, this year-long celebration of our country’s 60th Anniversary started in 2022. It is an occasion that every Samoan and resident in Samoa should be immensely proud of, including being the first Pacific Island country to gain independence in 1962.”
“It was a period of significant development and change in the South Pacific, where modern communications trade and tourism brought novel influences to bear on largely traditional lifestyles. Samoa was the first island country to become a full member of SPC in 1965, with other island nations following suit, as they, in turn, became independent, or largely self-governing,” she said.
Prime Minister Fiame said, “The USP, established in 1968 is owned by Samoa and 11 Pacific Island countries. We joined the Commonwealth of Nations in 1970 and became a member of the United Nations in 1976. My point is that commemorating our independence or the achievements we have made is good. Still, importantly, it should also serve as a reminder of the sacrifices made by our forefathers to ensure our sovereignty, freedom and confidence to achieve our people’s full potential.”
“On behalf of the government and the people of Samoa, it is an honour to provide this keynote address for this special event. A joint initiative by the Pacific community, the Secretariat of the Regional Pacific Environment Program, and the University of the South Pacific to celebrate Samoa’s 60th Independence anniversary under the theme Folau ma le Fa’a tuatua the CROP journey with Samoa,” she added.
Prime Minister Fiame also shared the value of the work of all CROP agencies in supporting Samoa’s individual and collective efforts towards achieving the common goal of sustainable development in the blue Pacific region.
She said, “The relationship that Samoa shares with USP, SPC and SPREP is prospectively and collectively of an enduring partnership, trust and commitment. It is also a relationship that has stood the test of time despite changes and challenges created from and beyond our blue Pacific region. The devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the pervasive impacts of climate change laid bare our vulnerability to extraordinary health, social, environmental and economic threats and challenges. We learned to exist under a new normal and strengthened our policies, response and recovery mechanisms in parallel, with similar adjustments made by the SPC, SPREP and USP.”
SPREP Director General Mr Sefanaia Nawadra said, “This is also a chance for us at SPREP to celebrate with you our 30th Anniversary. It is an opportunity for us to acknowledge together Samoa’s leadership and support to SPREP and, by extension, all of CROP in the past, now and in faith into the future as we work toward ensuring a resilient and sustainable blue Pacific continent for our Pacific people.”
USP Deputy Vice-Chancellor & Vice-President (Regional Campuses and Global Engagement) Dr Giulio Masasso Tu’ikolongahau Paunga acknowledged the Samoa Prime Minister Fiamē Naomi Mataʻafa’s late parents, who helped set up USP over 50 years ago.
“Those of us who are successful today shall not forget the past and those who enabled us to grow. Your late father, Samoa’s first Prime Minister, was among the region’s leaders who founded USP, and your late mother was our very first Pro-Chancellor and Chair of The University of the South Pacific Council.” Dr Paunga said.
Dr Paunga added, “Indeed, Honourable Prime Minster, you were Pro-Chancellor and Chair of the USP Council through some of our most challenging times. Given Samoa’s direct hand in creating the USP some six years after your independence, USP’s sailing has benefited from your leadership as you sail ahead of our fleet that is the rest of our region.”
In a pre-recorded message, Pacific Community-SPC Director General Dr Stuart Minchin said, “We at SPC are honoured to join our colleagues in SPREP and USP in contributing to Samoa’s year-long celebration of its 60th Independence Anniversary.”
Meanwhile, USP Samoa Campus Director Dr Fanaafi Aiono-Le Tagaloa, the Master of Ceremony at the event, acknowledged the Prime Minister and the three CROP agencies for their continued contributions to the people of Samoa, the region and beyond.