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By Khalia Strong of Pacific Media Network

Dozens of Pacific Islanders and Palagi defied the bitterly cold wind and rain for a peaceful “remember the Dawn Raids” march along Auckland’s Ponsonby Road at the weekend.

The Savali ole Filemu march recognised the anxiety which currently faces overstayers, and the pain still felt from the Dawn Raids.

Tongan community leader Pakilau Manase Lua said coming to New Zealand to improve their lives should not be a crime.

“They took a risk, OK, they broke the law, but so is breaking the speed limit. It’s not a criminal act to come here and try and find a life,” he said.

Holding a photo frame of his late father, Siosifa Lua, Pakilau said they would remember those who had never got justice for how they were treated.

“We came to build this country, and we’re still building this country, and how are we treated? Like dogs!”, he shouted.

Reverend Mua Strickson-Pua offering a prayer
Reverend Mua Strickson-Pua offering a prayer at the Savali ole Filemu march in Ponsonby on Saturday. Image: David Robie/APR

‘Those days are over’
“Those days are over. Our children are here. The generations that build this country are here.”

Labour’s Papakura candidate ‘Anahila Kanongata’a-Suisuiki says being an overstayer had personal consequences when her grandfather died in 1977.

“My mother was still an overstayer here, and she had to make a decision … return to Tonga to say farewell to her father, or remain here, for the betterment of the future of her children.”

The government apologised for the Dawn Raids in 2021, and the Labour Party is now promising an amnesty for overstayers of more than ten years, if elected.

But Polynesian Panther activist Will ‘Ilolahia says these political promises are too little, too late.

“We’ve got a deputy prime minister that’s a Pacific Islander, and now they’re bribing our people to vote for them so they can stay in. Sorry, you’ve missed the bus.”

Pacific Media Network news reporter Khalia Strong
Pacific Media Network news reporter Khalia Strong covering the Savali ole Filemu march in Ponsonby on Saturday. Image: David Robie/APR

Green Party candidate Teanau Tuiono agrees more should have been done.

“Healing takes time, it takes discussion, and it’s not just something that you can just apologise for and then it ends.

“Yes, the Dawn Raids apology was a good thing, but we also need to have an amnesty for overstayers and pathways for residency. Because let’s be clear, that amnesty could have happened last year.”

Mesepa Edwards says they are continuing the legacy of the Polynesian Panthers’ original members.

“I’m a 21st Century Panther. What they fought for, back in the 70s and 60s, we’re still fighting for today.”

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