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Samoa confirms dateline switch

Posted on June 30, 2011, Thursday

APIA, June 28, 2011 (AFP) – Samoa’s parliament has confirmed a plan to switch timezones so that it lies to the west of the international dateline, bringing its clocks closer to major trading partners in Australasia.

The dateline — which runs through the middle of the Pacific — currently runs to the west of the island nation, meaning that it is 11 hours behind GMT and is one of the last places on Earth to see out the day.

Parliament on Monday backed Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi’s plan to jump ahead by one day later this year, meaning Samoa would skip Friday, December 30, and move straight to Saturday, December 31.

The prime minister said the change would facilitate business with Australia, New Zealand and Asia.

Business is currently restricted to three trading days a week.

He pointed out when the country’s major trading partners were starting the working week on Monday, it was Sunday in Samoa, while Friday on the island nation coincided with Saturday in Australasia.

Tuilaepa also said the switch offered tourism opportunities with neighbouring American Samoa, which would remain to the east of the dateline.

“It means you can travel between two time zones in less than an hour,” he said.

“So you can have two birthdays, two weddings and two wedding anniversaries on the same date — on separate days — in less than an hour’s flight across — without leaving the Samoan chain.” However, opposition MP Aveau Niko Palamo said he was concerned that people marking important events on December 30 would miss out.

“What about the people who were born on that day, the weddings and anniversaries commemorated on that day?” he asked.

Tuilaepa said he did not know of anyone in the nation of 200,000 who was born on December 30, although the official statistics bureau said there were 767 births and 43 marriages registered on that date.

The change would reverse a decision made almost 120 years ago to move to the east of the international dateline because most of Samoa’s trade at the time was with the US and Europe.

At the moment, the time difference puts Samoa 21 hours behind eastern Australia and 23 behind New Zealand.

After December 29, it would be be one hour ahead of Wellington and three ahead of Sydney.

Tuilaepa had already introduced changes to bring Samoa into line with Australia and New Zealand, enacting a law in 2009 that meant cars switched to driving on the left-hand side of the road, rather than the right.

An official from the tiny New Zealand territory of Tokelau, which lies to the north of Samoa and had a population of less than 1,500, said it would probably follow Samoa’s lead and also skip December 30.

str/ns/jah Samoa-dateline AFP /AA1234/290316 GMT JUN 11 ————————————————– APIA: Samoa’s parliament has confirmed a plan to switch timezones so that it lies to the west of the international dateline, bringing its clocks closer to major trading partners in Australasia.

The dateline — which runs through the middle of the Pacific — currently runs to the west of the island nation, meaning that it is 11 hours behind GMT and is one of the last places on Earth to see out the day.

Parliament on Monday backed Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi’s plan to jump ahead by one day later this year, meaning Samoa would skip Friday, December 30, and move straight to Saturday, December 31.

The prime minister said the change would facilitate business with Australia, New Zealand and Asia.

Business is currently restricted to three trading days a week.

He pointed out when the country’s major trading partners were starting the working week on Monday, it was Sunday in Samoa, while Friday on the island nation coincided with Saturday in Australasia.

Tuilaepa also said the switch offered tourism opportunities with neighbouring American Samoa, which would remain to the east of the dateline.

“It means you can travel between two time zones in less than an hour,” he said.

“So you can have two birthdays, two weddings and two wedding anniversaries on the same date — on separate days — in less than an hour’s flight across —without leaving the Samoan chain.”

However, opposition MP Aveau Niko Palamo said he was concerned that people marking important events on December 30 would miss out.

“What about the people who were born on that day, the weddings and anniversaries commemorated on that day?” he asked.

Tuilaepa said he did not know of anyone in the nation of 200,000 who was born on December 30, although the official statistics bureau said there were 767 births and 43 marriages registered on that date.

The change would reverse a decision made almost 120 years ago to move to the east of the international dateline because most of Samoa’s trade at the time was with the US and Europe.

At the moment, the time difference puts Samoa 21 hours behind eastern Australia and 23 hours behind New Zealand.

After December 29, it would be be one hour ahead of Wellington and three ahead of Sydney.

Tuilaepa had already introduced changes to bring Samoa into line with Australia and New Zealand, enacting a law in 2009 that meant cars switched to driving on the left-hand side of the road, rather than the right. — AFP

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