Flags: Tongan and Samoan fans urged to keep the peace

It’s a sold out match, the Samoan and Tongan rugby league game taking place in Hamilton where the Toa Samoa will play the Mate Ma’a Tonga in the 2017 Rugby League World Cup at Waikato Stadium at 7:30. However this entire week has been plagued by overzealous fans making headlines for foolish-turned-dangerous behaviour as tensions flare between the two communities. Community and political leaders, police and the players themselves (as shown in the video below) have called for calm and SPASIFIK publisher INNES LOGAN reflects on the implications of such fan-behaviour for our people



When I witnessed the tension and fighting among Samoan and Tongan rugby league supporters on social media, I was reminded of our cover story on Brooke Fraser in SPASIFIK Issue 41 published in late 2010.


Brooke Fraser, of Fijian, Samoan, Spanish, Scottish and NZ European descent, was promoting her second album Flags following her enormously successful album What to do with Daylight released six years earlier.


Brooke said, “All our lives are a little bit like flags. We have our stake in the ground for a short time … Eventually we’ll wear out and then someone else’s flag will stand where ours has stood. And we will be gone.”


Brooke witnessed the extremes of what happens in the aftermath of fighting for the right to bear their flag in triumph when she journeyed to Rwanda 11 years after the genocide of a million of its people.


Of course it’s stretching it somewhat to compare such a tragedy in Africa to a few scuffles and the occasional haymaker between Tongans and Samoans on the streets of Otahuhu. But history shows us seemingly innocuous events can escalate into tragedy.


Therefore, the threat shouldn’t be played down. What becomes clear is like most human beings, we’ll choose what flag to fly when it suits us.


When it comes to rugby union, the first choice for Pacific players in New Zealand is to play for the All Blacks. If they don’t make it, they’ll change their allegiance to the nation they’re also descended from or born in.


The Tongan rugby league team are somewhat an exception, due to the dissatisfaction with New Zealand Rugby League banning key players from the tournament. And I can’t blame them for doing so.


There has been plenty of flag flying on the streets of South Auckland since the Rugby League World Cup began. Patriotism, by definition means “love of country,” which can also create a barrier of “us against them”.


When pride puts itself ahead of being taught that all people are equal under the law, trouble looms.


It reminds me of my days as a music reporter when I interviewed legendary African American Music Producer Quincy Jones.


Race relations in the United States inevitably came to the fore when he was asked to comment whether it will ever be solved. Quincy recalled asking a good friend of his, who happened to be white.


When his friend replied “never”, Quincy asked why.


“Because if we were all the same skin colour, the same sex, the same height and the same religion or whatever, it would only be a matter of time before the majority of us who are right handed will take it out on those who are left.”


What’s left is up to you to decide. Do so wisely.