New Zealand Labour MP Anae Neru Leavasa reflects on Samoa's 60 years of independence

New Zealand Labour MP Anae Neru Leavasa says the killing of his great-grandfather while fighting for Samoa's independence is "huge" for his family.

Anae's great-grandfather Tupua Tamasese Lealofi III was a leader of the Mau Movement of the 1920s, battling to break free from colonial rule.

Lealofi was shot on Black Saturday, 28 December 1929, when New Zealand military police fired on a peaceful demonstration in Apia. He died the next day.

His noteworthy final words were:

"My blood has been spilt for Samoa. I am proud to give it. Do not dream of avenging it as it was spilt in maintaining peace. If I die, peace must be maintained at any price."​

​​"What he did and his sacrifice when he got shot and subsequently died and what that meant for us as a family is huge," Anae says.

"I guess that legacy stuck with us as a family, as individuals and wherever we are in New Zealand or in the diaspora of the Pacific, we know that that’s the legacy, that’s the history of the family that we can aspire to as well."

The Tupua title was passed around Anae's family, with Lealofi's younger brother taking on the name as Tupua Tamasese Mea'ole - who played a crucial role in securing Samoa's independence in 1962 and becoming co-Head of State.

"A year later, Mea'ole passed away and then that title went to my other grand-uncle and he subsequently became the Prime Minister and that was Tupua Tamasese Lealofi IV, who was also a doctor as well in Samoa," Anae says.

"The current Tupua title is held by another grand-uncle, Tui Ātua Tupua Tamasese Efi, who became Prime Minister and Head of State."

Anae says he looks up to the legacy his family created within Samoa's independence and political system.

"Sixty years is a huge milestone and just knowing that our family had a role to play in that history, it was really special having all our Tamasese family come together in Auckland.

"I know that they congregated elsewhere across the Pacific and in America and Australia, because we know where we’ve come from and the abuse and everything that happened in Samoa with the different administrations."

It's knowing where he's come from and what his family have been through that have shaped Anae Neru Leavasa as a politician - becoming a first-time MP in 2020, representing the newly-formed Takanini electorate.

"It really makes me want to make sure that wherever we are - for myself in this political system - to persevere during hardship and to make sure I stand up for whether it be tagata pasifika, our community, multi-ethnic as well, but making sure that we’re standing up for our rights, standing up for issues.

"When you’ve got that legacy behind you, it’s a hard task to try and live up to it, but I think my family would say 'just keep going'."

The visit to New Zealand by Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mata'afa this month was another big milestone for Anae.

During her trip to Wellington, Fiame and her delegation were invited to lunch with Labour's Pasifika caucus.

"Everyone just wanted to pinch ourselves," Anae says.

"We had discussions talking about family and our role here in New Zealand.

"I always look back to the footage, the film, the history that we’ve seen back in 1962. 

"We saw her father there at the first flag-raising, the first day of independence celebration and now that she’s Prime Minister, what a milestone not only for her family, but for Samoa, the first Pacific female to hold that role."


Photo supplied  Caption: Labour MP Anae Neru Leavasa