San Francisco Chronicle
Nation apologizes for past raids on Pacific islanders
WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern sat motionless Sunday as members of the Pacific Island community pulled a large white mat over her head, completely covering her. Moments later they removed it and embraced her.
It was part of a emotional ceremony at the Auckland Town Hall during which Ardern formally apologized for a racially charged part of the nation’s history known as the Dawn Raids.
The era refers to when Pasifika people were targeted for deportation in the mid1970s during aggressive home raids by authorities to find, convict and deport people who had overstayed their visas. The raids often took place very early in the morning.
By being covered in the mat, Ardern was taking part in a Samoan ritual known as an ifoga, in which the subject seeks forgiveness through exposure to public humiliation.
Ardern told a tearful crowd of several hundred that the government was offering a formal apology.
“The government expresses its sorrow, remorse, and regret that the Dawn Raids and random police checks occurred and that these actions were ever considered appropriate,” she said.