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"Why Bother About British Courts?"

page 25

"Why Bother About British Courts?"

When Mr. Slipper was cross-examining the Administrator on banishments he asked: "Can you give any reason why these cases should not have been dealt with by the ordinary British Court?" the Administrator replied: "Many of them are Fa'a-Samoa offences." The Chairman (Sir Charles Skerrett) was not long in taking up the cudgels and, among other things, he said: "Why bother about British Courts?" This seems a strange remark from the Chief Justice and Deputy Governor-General of a British Dominion, where at least the value of "British Justice" dispensed by "British Courts" should be fully appreciated.

To facilitate the work of the Commission and its resentment of any repetition of evidence on any subject, our counsel had to agree to grouping as many as sixteen banished Natives, by appointing one of them to give evidence on behalf of the lot, even though the circumstances were not altogether similar in every case. The Commissioners allowed Government officials to read long prepared statements, which were taken as evidence, although the petitioners were not given similar privileges; in fact, anything other than direct answers to counsel's questions were considered "statements," and were disallowed.

Tuimalealiifano, one of the two official Advisers to the Administrator, and one of the highest chiefs in the land, followed the course laid down for the Royal Commission and applied for permission to be heard. He was rejected, because the Royal Commission considered he could not give any material assistance to the Commission. This caused intense resentment among the Samoans, and confidence in the Commission was reduced to a negligible quantity, to say the best of it. Rightly or wrongly, it was felt that the Commission was more anxious to return to New Zealand as soon as possible than to make a thorough investigation.