Samoa takes day off to skip International Date Line

Islands look to Asia for future growth

Samoans have lost a day overnight, as the country jumped straight to 31 December by shifting to the opposite side of the International Date Line.

The Independent State of Samoa, decided to skip the day in order to align its clock more closely with that of its main trading neighbors: Asia, Australia and New Zealand. The time difference between Sydney, for example, has shifted from being 23 hours behind to three hours ahead of GMT. With over half the Samoan population working overseas in the region, the switch will enable more immediate contact and mean the area shares more useful working days in the same zone.

"We've got to remember that over 90 percent of our people emigrate to New Zealand and Australia. That's why it is absolutely vital to make this change," Prime Minister Tuila'epa Sailele Malielegaoi told AP.

The move was hotly debated in the Samoan legislature, and was initially opposed by some who saw a loss of a tourist attraction (Samoa claims to be the last inhabited island to view the sunset) and fears over disruption. The prime minister called his critics "very stupid" and said "only an idiot" would not support the move, local media reports.

The Samoan islands had been more closely aligned with the American side of the Pacific for over 100 years, after American traders persuaded the Samoans to switch the date line. In 1892 the state celebrated two days of 4 July celebrations to mark the switch, and there were similar – if somewhat more abbreviated – festivities at midnight.

The country’s main mobile phone provider Digicel reported a brief 15 minute outage at the changeover as it updated its systems, but service was quickly restored.

"The interruption will only take a few minutes so we can adjust our system," CEO Pepe Fiaailetoa Fruean said. "So I would like to inform all of our customers to have alternative communication means available in case of an emergency." ®

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