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A Measure of Self-Government!

page 12

A Measure of Self-Government!

The Samoan Act of 1921 having created such strong dissatisfaction among the whole population, an Amending Act was passed by the New Zealand Parliament in 1923 providing for a Legislative Council of not le. than six "official" members (of the Public Service) and "unofficial" members (not more in number than the "official" ones) who might be either elected or nominated to the Legislative Council.

The Amending Act also sought to appease the Samoans' demand for a voice in the government of the country by setting up; i Native Council to be known as the Fono of Faipules. and nominated by the Adminisi rator to advise him on Native matters But while the right of appointment rested with the Administrator, the 1923 Act laid down that "no Native shall be appointed as a Faipule who is not qualified in accordance with existing Samoan usage and custom to occupy the position of Faipule in any council or body having advisory functions."

So far as the Legislative Council is concerned, the election of three members was called for and, together with the Hon. Mr. Williams and the Hon. Mr. Westbrook, I was elected a member in 1923. The same three were re-elected in November. 1926, by an overwhelming majority against the "ticket" standing in support of the Administrator, although more than half the electors were employees of the Administration or persons under financial and other obligations to the Administration. The Council during my terms consisted of six official members and the three elected ones. The Administrator was President, and his officers voted as a solid bloc with him. Any attempt of the elected members to carry through reforms was futile, and any opposition to the policy of the "Government" was overwhelmed by a two-to-one vote. The Judge of the High Court was a member: he would introduce some Ordinance he wished passed: he would then sit on the Bench to construe and administer it. The Administrator admitted before the Royal Commission that the "official" members of the Legislative Council were expected to vote with him on all matters of policy, and that everything introduced by him was a matter of policy!

When the Act of 1923 was introduced into the New Zealand Parliament, the Minister in charge of the measure, the Hon. C. J. Pair, stated that it was proposed to increase the membership of the Council to eleven-six official members, three elected Europeans, and two elected Samoan-. The Minister waxed very eulogistic over the Bill. He said: "For the first time the principle of election to the Council is recognised. . . . The point I wish to stress is that we are trying the experiment of giving Samoa a partial local government. I should think that this is the first time in the history of any colony where, within three years after being taken over, elective power-such as these are given to the people; but the Administration is satisfied that the experiment is worth while. . . . V1 propose now to put on this (Legislative) Council two Samoans, to be elected by the Samoans themselves."

That was the promise of the responsible Minister on page 260, No.] 1923 N.Z. "Hansard." But so far that pledge has never been kept, and every attempt of the Natives themselves or the elected members of the Council to have it honoured has been frustrated, and no satisfactory explanation of the repudiation has been forthcoming.