Pacific Nation Samoa Jumps One Day Ahead In Time

Auckland/Apia, Dec 30: The tiny South Pacific nation of Samoa and its neighbour Tokelau will jump forward in time on Thursday - crossing westward over the international date line to align themselves with their other
pacific nation samoa jumps one day ahead in time...
India TV News Desk December 30, 2011 14:36 IST

Auckland/Apia, Dec 30: The tiny South Pacific nation of Samoa and its neighbour Tokelau will jump forward in time on Thursday - crossing westward over the international date line to align themselves with their other 21st century trading partners throughout the region.

At the stroke of midnight on December 29, time in Samoa and Tokelau will leap forward to December 31 - New Year's Eve.

For Samoa's 186-thousand citizens, and the 15-hundred in Tokelau, Friday, December 30, 2011, will simply cease to exist.

The time jump back to the future comes 119 years after some US traders persuaded local Samoan authorities to align their islands' time with nearby US-controlled American Samoa and the US to assist their trading with California.

But the time zone has proved problematic in recent years, putting Samoa and Tokelau nearly a full day behind neighbouring Australia and New Zealand, increasingly important trading partners.

In a bid to remedy that, the Samoan government passed a law in June that will move Samoa west of the international date line, which separates one calendar day from the next and runs roughly north-to-south through the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

Under a government decree, all those scheduled to work on the nonexistent Friday will be given full pay for the missed day of labour.

Samoan residents appeared to welcome the move. "It's good, very good," said one.

"It'll stop the confusion now, you know, the time over there and the time over here," said traveller Sio Sauni, a Samoan expatriate living in New Zealand.

The time shift will be marked by the ringing of church bells across Samoa's two main islands, and prayer services in all the main churches of the devoutly Christian nation.

The government will also host a service for invited guests and dignitaries.

Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, Samoa's Prime Minister, said recently that many individuals had told him the move would be "very, very beneficial for their business."

Namulauulu Leota Sami Leota, president of the Samoan Chamber of Commerce, echoed that, saying that the private sector supports and "fully endorses" the change.

The long-term effects of the change "will certainly override any disruption or any impact" that may arise, he added.

Being a day behind the region has meant that when it's dawn on Sunday in Samoa, it's already dawn on Monday in adjacent Tonga and almost dawn on Monday in nearby New Zealand, Australia and increasingly prominent east Asian trade partners such as China.

Like many small Pacific island states, more of Samoa's people live permanently overseas than on its islands.

Around 180-thousand Samoans live in New Zealand, 15-thousand in Australia and tens of thousands more in the US.

Other island groups with more of their citizens living offshore than on include Tuvalu, Niue, Tonga, Cook Islands and tiny Tokelau.

For Samoa, it's the second big economic modernising move by the governing Human Rights Protection Party in recent years, following its switch to driving on the left side of the country's roads in 2009, another move to align it with the two regional powers.

Tuila'epa said at the time the change made it easier for Samoans in Australia and New Zealand to send used cars home to their relatives.

Opponents predicted major traffic problems, but they never happened.

So far, only Samoa's small Seventh Day Adventist Church has indicated a major problem for its congregation, which traditionally begins celebrations for the Sabbath on Friday night and continues through Saturday.

The Seventh Day Adventist parish in Samoa's Samatau village has decided it will continue to observe the Sabbath day on Saturdays despite changes forced on the church by the westward switch of the date line.

The original shift to the east side of the line was made in 1892, when Samoa celebrated July 4 twice, giving a nod to Independence Day in the US.

The date line drawn by map-makers is not mandated by any international body.

By tradition, it runs roughly through the 180-degree line of longitude, but it zigzags to accommodate the choices of Pacific nations on how to align their calendars.

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