APIA, SAMOA – 09 JUNE 2020: The last of Samoa’s significant historical buildings from the colonial era is finally gone.
In spite of opposition from local advocates, the 116 year old Court House was finally pulled down and out of sight in the weekend. It adds to the growing view that the ruling Human Rights Protection Party had destroyed the last significant relics of Samoa’s modern political history that included the old Fono House where Samoa’s Constitution was adopted upon independence in 1962.
The Apia Courthouse was built in 1902 by the German colonial power that governed the islands from 1900 to 1914. It has been used as an administrative center since when New Zealand ruled Samoa, and after Samoa attained independence in 1962.
The building is intimately associated with the country’s modern history. It was here that the German flag was lowered and the British flag was raised on August 30, 1914, a day after the New Zealand troops seized Samoa, a month following the outbreak of World War I.
With the Police station located a few meters inland, it was in the intersection on the front sidesteps of the courthouse that Tupua Tamasese Lealofi III, the leader of Samoa’s Mau movement, was fatally shot by New Zealand police on December 28, 1929. The event, known as Black Saturday, was a turning point in the country’s road to independence.
The two-story timber frame building housed the Prime Minister’s office and Cabinet and downstairs as the Court House. The old courthouse lost its former function and was emptied in 2010 when a new, modern courthouse was constructed in Apia in 2010 by China government funding. The main political administration centre also moved to Government Building also funded by China.
Various efforts were made to save and restore the building including a plan by New Zealand to maintain it through its funding of the on-going Waterfront Development Project.
The Samoan Government’s lack of interest in restoring the building left it to various efforts that also failed to secure the necessary funds. One of them, the Apia Courthouse Trust, tried to restore the building and find a new, viable use for it.
The land is now under the Samoa International Finance Authority – SIFA and there are plans to build a hotel on the property.