The old Court House – one of the few remaining buildings from the German era in 1900
By Lagi Keresoma
APIA, SAMOA – THURSDAY 14 DECEMBER 2017: The historical old Court House that once housed two colonial administrations and the Samoan government is now placed under the care of the Samoa International Finance Authority – SIFA.
The old courthouse is rich in history as the building shares the history of three countries from 1902 when it was built and used by the German Administration.
When the First World War broke out, New Zealand seized the Samoan Islands from the Germans 29 August 1914 in a peaceful takeover and became the center of its administration for 48 years. And major decisions such as the handling of the infamous Spanish influenza that killed a 8th of the Samoan population in 1918 were made there. A few meters outside was where the New Zealand police shot and killed the paramount chief and the Mau independence movement leader Tupua Tamasese Lealofi 111 in December 1929 during a peaceful demonstration.
When Samoa regained its political independence from New Zealand in 1962, the Courthouse became the administration building housing the office of 5 separate Prime Ministers, the Cabinet, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The ground floor was the Supreme Court for almost 50 years.
Various efforts to save the building and keep its original design have been hindered by the lack of funds. The latest efforts by an organisation given the Government approval to seek funds to renovate and restore the building and maintaining its look also lacked the money.
The Prime Minister Tuilaepa Lupesolai Sailele Malielegaoi told Talamua this week that the building had been given under the care of SIFA.
“The building which holds historical, political status to the development of the Samoan government and country will be upgraded to a more secure and strong facility so it would not be easily destroyed by fire,” he said.
Tuilaepa said the building was under the care of a private organization who wanted to keep and maintain the old and historical status of the building. However, that organization ran out of money and the building was placed under the care of the Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture, then the Ministry of Police took over part of the building.
“SIFA has money and they will take over the renovation of the building maintaining its historical features and use it as their main office,” said Tuilaepa.
The plan is also to have part of the building as a hotel to generate funds for its maintenance and upkeep.
Badly in need of restoration, the Courthouse will be a major feature of the planned seafront development of Apia town. In 2014, the German-Samoa Archives and inscription into the UNESCO administered World Memory, was launched at the building to mark the 100 years since the takeover by the New Zealand forces.