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Pacific Mission 2024: A diary - Day 3 in Samoa and final leg of the race

Grace Tinetali-Fiavaai

As the plane comes close to landing in Samoa, on the final leg of the Pacific Mission, it only seems right to pull out my phone to play Kiwi musician Victor J Sefo’s anthem: 685.

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Everyone’s heads turn back and there is laughing and cheering - understanding how happy and proud we are, as Samoans, to be arriving in the motherland.

Waking up in another country each day has now become the norm on this trip, with every journalist studying what uncle Winston or Dr Shane Reti will announce and crafting questions like detectives analysing every possible move.

The first main event is a bilateral meeting with Samoan Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, where a new partnership agreement between Samoa and New Zealand is later revealed.

Samoa’s media setup appears to be the strictest out of the three countries we’ve visited, with the local press secretary restricting questions to two from the New Zealand media and two from local media.

Of course, no one listens and there’s a battle to get questions out, despite the comms man trying to stop us.

The questions centred around the CHOGM and immigration Visa pathways, but one stands out - a reporter quickly jumps in to ask Peters about being a Samoan matai (chief) and tautua (service) because in Samoan culture, when you are a matai, you have an obligation to the village and people.

His response is classic, with his cheeky yet handsome smile: “I was a stranger and they took me in.”

It is now free time, so Peters and the rest of the team head off to eat lunch.

While the media delegation goes off to file their stories, it is a race to see who can post their material first and have the best breaking news.

My big question is whether uncle Winston will say something different to his long-time friend Tuilaepa Malielegaoi - the former long-time Samoan PM - spilling the beans about his meeting with Fiame.

We are now at the National University of Samoa, where the two ministers meet first-year students studying health science.

Later on, Samoa’s minister of education jokes that Peters’ matai name - Vaovasamanaia - translates to “the most beautiful guy around.”

There is laughter again when Reti is asked in a media standup afterwards if he will be showing off his vocals once more at another Waitangi Day reception later on.

And again, asked whether he might wear an alo’a island shirt to the reception, he says he will wear what the rest of the delegation is wearing.

Later that night, among a sea of colour, are the two Kiwi ministers in suits.

Hero Image: Deputy PM Winston Peters, who holds the Samoan high chief title of Vaovasamanaia, is gifted an ula fala from Samoan PM Fiame Naomi Mata'afa. Pool Photo / Eroti Navuku

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