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Samoa Under the Sailing Gods

Appendix xiv — The Petition — To His Most Gracious Majesty George V

page 314

Appendix xiv
The Petition
To His Most Gracious Majesty George V

By The Grace of God of The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, And of The British Dominions Beyond The Seas, King, Defender Of The Faith, Emperor Of India

The Humble Petition from the Chiefs and Orators of Western Samoa, representing unified Samoa under its national organization known as the Mau, sheweth:

1.That we extend to your Majesty our deep affection.
2.We send greetings to your Majesty and thanks be to God that He has restored you to good health once more, to which Samoa joins in the world-wide rejoicings and universal prayers.
3.This Petition is a cry from practically the whole population of these unhappy Isles that your Majesty, we trust, may hear and come to the assistance of our little nation, struggling against dire oppression, the squandering of our national revenue by a discredited administration which is taxing our people intolerably and burdening the generations now living, and those to follow, with a National Debt, unheard of before in our history, and which our present or future national resources can never repay.
4.That the Mau is the one National Organization of Western Samoa functioning in the social, civil and political life of 90 per cent. of the people and represents unified Samoa in a manner unparalleled in the history of these Isles.
5.That the Mau organization is the one mouthpiece with authority to act on behalf of the Samoan people.
6.That the undersigned petitioners are the approved representatives of the Mau, properly appointed according to Samoan customs and usages, and with full authority to make and forward to your Majesty this Petition on behalf of the Mau.
7.That Samoa has been recognized by the three Great Powers of Great Britain, America and Germany in separate treaties and subsequently by the "Final Act of the Berlin Conference on Samoan Affairs" signed by representatives of page 315the said three Powers on June 14, 1889, of which Article I states:

"It is declared that the islands of Samoa are neutral territory in which the citizens and subjects of the three Signatory Powers have equal rights of residence, trade, and personal protection. The three Powers recognize the independence of the Samoan Government, and the free right of the natives to elect their Chief or King, and choose their form of government according to their own laws and customs…."

and Article II provides "that the consent of the Samoan Government is requisite to the validity of the stipulations" contained in the Act, and the concluding paragraph of the said Treaty states:

"The assent of Samoa to this General Act shall be attested by a certificate thereof signed by the King, and executed in triplicate, of which one copy shall be delivered to the Consul of each of the Signatory Powers at Apia for immediate transmission to his Government."

8.That in the year 1900 a Convention was signed by the three Powers conferring all protective authority over the western portion of Samoa upon Germany and over the eastern portion of Samoa upon America, but to this Convention the assent of the Samoan people was neither sought nor given.
9.That Western Samoa remained under the protection of Germany until the month of August. 1914, when a New Zealand Expeditionary Force landed in Samoa and assumed control of the Protectorate.
10.That realizing our weakness we did not protest nor did we resist the division of the Protectorate between Germany and America, feeling confident that no change would be made in our national and political status. For the same reason we did not protest against New Zealand relieving Germany in the Protectorate over Western Samoa.
11.That in the month of November 1918, a disastrous epidemic of pneumonic-plague was introduced into Western Samoa through the neglect of the Health Department established by the New Zealand Government in granting pratique to a plague-stricken ship from New Zealand causing the deaths of over 9,000 (out of a total of 40,000) of our people creating excessive grief and lamentations in practically every home, whilst in Eastern Samoa under American rule our brethren page 316were saved from the fate which befell our people by the exercise of proper care by the authorities. This calamity is the origin of disaffection of the Samoan people towards New Zealand.
12.That our dissatisfaction was declared by way of a protest to the New Zealand Government, which then appointed a Commission of Inquiry to report upon the cause of the epidemic being introduced into Western Samoa, and that whilst this Commission confirmed the fact that the epidemic was introduced by the New Zealand plague-stricken ship, the absence of responsibility being placed on any particular person or department increased our dissatisfaction.
13.That Colonel R. Logan, Commandant of the Military Forces and first Administrator of the New Zealand Administration in Samoa, was relieved by Colonel R. W. Tate early in 1919, and continued the military administration. Colonel Tate found Western Samoa in a state of discontent with New Zealand over the ravages of the epidemic, the excessive and increasing expenditure of public funds by the Administration and the absence of representation of the people in the government of the Territory.
14.That in the month of February 1920, a party consisting of more than half of the members of both Houses of the New Zealand Parliament, headed by the Minister of External Affairs controlling Samoan Affairs, visited Western Samoa, when we again declared our dissatisfaction with New Zealand administration, and pointing out the causes of discontent.
15.That obtaining no satisfactory response from the New Zealand Government, the Mau, as represented by the Council of Faipules or district delegates appointed by the Administrator, called for a redress of grievances, but the Administration continued to do nothing, but procrastinate, so that a Petition was drawn up and signed by the Council of Faipules addressed to your Majesty praying for your gracious intervention, and this Petition was forwarded to the New Zealand Government.
16.That a further Petition was drawn up and signed in 1921 by the Council of Faipules addressed and forwarded to your Majesty's beloved son, His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, again praying for your Majesty's intervention.
17.That in the month of May 1920, the "Samoa Constitution Order" establishing civil government came in force, but the same military officers carried out the functions of government as before, and no marked change in the methods of adminis-page 317tration was noted, no redress of our grievances was made, and the dissatisfaction continued.
18.That in the month of September 1922, the Administrator, realizing that he was unable to cope with the difficulties arising through the dissatisfaction of the Samoans, caused an Ordinance to be passed by his nominated Legislative Council of Europeans which was styled "The Samoa Offenders Ordinance, 1922," giving power to the Administrator, without any process of law, to banish any Samoan and to deprive any chief of his hereditary title or titles.
19.That Colonel R. W. Tate was relieved in March 1923 by Major-General G. S. Richardson, when the new Administrator was well received by the whole population in the hope and belief that he would institute measures which would bring about the relief sought and restore confidence of our people in New Zealand administration.
20.That after every hospitality and courtesy had been extended to the new Administrator, Major-General Richardson, the people were disappointed in that instead of their grievances being redressed they were subjected to a form of oppression in that "The Samoa Offenders Ordinance, 1922," which was evidently promulgated as a precautionary measure, was brought into full operation to an extent which stifled free speech by the banishment of our leaders who dared to represent the views of our people and further aggravated by the drastic deprivation of their hereditary chiefly titles.
21.That following this oppressive policy, the Administrator banished High Chief Tamasese of Royal blood in 1924, and a similar fate was meted out to others in the same year without any semblance of a proper trial, 19 more were similarly banished and deprived of their rank and titles in 1925, and by the middle of 1926 some 50-odd Samoans of leading rank had been arbitrarily dealt with in the same manner.
22.That side by side with these drastic measures, the Administrator constructed a system of government which overturned the old and established system of the Samoans overriding social traditions and customs which had been in use from time immemorial and proved to be best adaptable for the Samoans; communal lands were individualized, village councils and district assemblies established by the Samoan social system were supplanted by councils appointed by the Administrator and his nominated representatives. page 318
23.That serious outbreaks of dysentery in 1924, 1925 and 1926 further shook the confidence of our people in the ability of the Health and Medical Department to cope with maladies of this sort.
24.That the increasing dissatisfaction of our people in New Zealand administration caused representations to be made to our respected Samoan Chief, Taisi (Hon. O. F. Nelson, senior elected representative of the Europeans in the Legislative Council of Western Samoa, on his European side, and holding his Samoan chiefly title in his own right on his maternal side), who was then away from Samoa on a health trip to Australia, to visit the New Zealand Government in Wellington and to represent the position of affairs to the Minister.
24a.24a. That the Prime Minister, the Right Honourable J. G. Coates; the Minister of External Affairs, Hon. W. Nosworthy, and the Minister for the Cook Islands, Hon. Sir Maui Pomare, granted audience to Chief Taisi (Hon. O. F. Nelson) in the Prime Minister's rooms on September 1, 1926, where Taisi received a cordial reception and sympathy was expressed by the Ministers with the sufferings of the Samoans, and the result of that meeting was that Hon. W. Nosworthy promised to visit Samoa in October of that year to investigate into the position.
25.That Taisi returned to Samoa on September 24, 1926, and after conferring with his elected colleagues on the Legislative Council, Hon. A. Williams and Hon. G. E. L. Westbrook, a public meeting was convened in the Town Hall of Apia on October 15, 1926, which meeting was attended by most of the European residents, including Government officials and several hundred Samoans.
26.That on the day that public meeting was held it was learned by radio from New Zealand that the Minister of External Affairs had postponed his visit until the coming autumn (about March 1927).
27.That a Citizens' Committee, consisting of six Europeans and six Samoans, was elected (the European members by the Europeans and the Samoan members by the Samoans present) at that meeting to prepare reports for presentation to the Minister on his arrival and to make representations to him by radio to come to Samoa as early as possible.
28.That as the Minister did not respond to the request to come early, a second public meeting was held on November 12, page 3191926, when the reports drawn up by the Citizens' Committee were read and endorsed by the meeting; it was also resolved that a delegation of the six Samoan members of the Citizens' Committee and three Europeans (two of whom were Chiefs Taisi and Tupua, both registered as Europeans but of Samoan blood and birth) proceed to New Zealand to present the reports to the Minister.
29.That the Samoan members then published an appeal to their people for funds to defray the cost of the visit to New Zealand on their behalf.
30.That the Samoan members who distributed these appeals were arrested and ordered by the Administrator to remain within the confines of certain villages for three months, and passports were refused to the six Samoan members to enable them to proceed to New Zealand.
31.That the Administrator then issued Orders of Banishment to about 100 more of our people before the Minister arrived in Samoa on June 2, 1927.
32.That the Citizens' Committee, recognizing the urgency of a constitutional investigation to offset the growing political unrest, delegated Chief Tupua (Mr. S. H. Meredith) to visit New Zealand in January 1927, to place the position before the Minister and the Government.
33.That Chief Tupua returned to Samoa and reported that he had obtained no satisfaction from the Government.
34.That the Mau, representing the Samoans, then presented to the Administrator a Declaration setting out the objects of the Mau to show that we were acting constitutionally and not subversive of the Government, in March 1927, and in that month drew up and signed a Petition to the New Zealand Parliament which was presented to Parliament by a member.
35.That the Minister of External Affairs (Hon. W. Nosworthy) duly arrived in Samoa on June 2, 1927, eight months after the time promised in the interview of September 1, 1926.
36.That nine days after the arrival of the Minister in Samoa and two days prior to his departure, the Minister called the Citizens' Committee before him and without waiting to hear from them, he read out a lengthy prepared statement denouncing the whole of the members of the Citizens' Committee for their activities, which instead of rendering the relief we sought for exasperated us.
37.That when the Minister left a letter was read to us page 320wherein the Minister ordered the European section of the Citizens' Committee to cease their activities and dissociate themselves from us, also threatening deportation from Samoa to anyone who, in the opinion of the Administrator, was likely to become a menace to the peace, order and good government of the Territory, this threat being based on the Order-in-Council which was radioed through from Wellington while the Minister was in Samoa.
38.That the petition to the New Zealand Parliament referred to in paragraph 34 was considered by a select parliamentary joint committee in August 1927, at which Taisi (Hon. O. F. Nelson) appeared and gave evidence for eleven days. The proceedings of that committee, which was held in camera, have never been published, though a demand for its publication was made in the New Zealand Parliament.
39.That while the parliamentary joint committee was sitting, the Prime Minister announced to the House that a Royal Commission would proceed to Samoa to investigate. The parliamentary joint committee, however, continued to sit until they had taken all the evidence that Taisi could offer. Yet it was given out later in the House that the committee had nothing to report.
40.That in spite of repeated protests by our counsel in Wellington against the narrowness of the scope of the Royal Commission in its order of reference, which was drawn to avoid the real issues in the cause of the Samoan unrest, and that the time allowed (four days) between the announcement of the personnel and order of reference and the departure of the Commission from New Zealand to Samoa, did not permit of adequate counsel being engaged, the briefing of witnesses and the preparation of our case. The Commission opened its sittings on the 24th September, the day after its arrival in Samoa.
41.That the Prime Minister promised counsel in New Zealand that the Commission would postpone its sittings if application was made to it by the petitioners; that was made, but the Commission refused to consider it or to honour the Prime Minister's promise.
42.That the Royal Commission refused to hear many witnesses which your petitioners desired to call and rejected special application made to it by High Chief Tuimalealiifano for a hearing, although this application was made according to the conditions laid down by the Government.page 321
43.That the Commission's findings were not based upon the evidence and are, moreover, inconsistent in themselves. They stated "they did not feel themselves competent to embark on a critical examination of the working of the Administration to ascertain whether it was overstaffed or its officers overpaid. However, they were not invited to make such an examination, nor was it a duty required of them under the Orders-in-Council." Regarding the question of audit generally, the Commission found that "no possible complaint against the Administrator or the Administration can be sustained on this head."
44.That the procedure both before and at the Royal Commission, the refusal to allow us proper time for the preparation of our case and the exclusion of evidence tendered by us, the admission of irrelevant and hearsay evidence for the Administration and the general attitude of the Commissioners to our witnesses caused us to lose all confidence in the impartiality of the tribunal long before the Commission had terminated its sittings.
45.That on the 16th of December, 1927, three of our leading citizens, the Hon. O. F. Nelson, Member of the Legislative Council; Mr. E. W. Gurr, ex-Judge; and Mr. A. G. Smyth, were arraigned before the Administrator to show cause why they should not be deported and, without any definite charge against them, other than that the Administrator "was satisfied" they were hindering the due administration of the executive government of Western Samoa, they were respectively served with deportation orders on the 22nd of December, 1927, for periods of five, five and two years respectively.
46.That in February 1928 two cruisers of the New Zealand Division of the Royal Navy arrived in Samoa and landed armed forces, which rounded up and imprisoned 400 of our people without trial. They were kept behind barbed-wire entanglements for some time and eventually released without any reason or satisfactory reason for such drastic action.
47.That Major-General Richardson was relieved by Colonel S. S. Allen in May 1928, but he brought us no remedy or relief for our sufferings.
48.That although our grievances were well known to the Government and had been set out in our various petitions, the new Administrator had no remedy other than the barren suggestion of calling a meeting of our people.
49.That notwithstanding the change of the Administrator, page 322there was no change in the methods. On the contrary, matters grew worse. The military police broke into private houses at night, trampled over sleeping women and children in their search for passive resisters who as a protest objected to pay one small tax of £2 (poll-tax) and caused general consternation among our people.
50.That several of our leading chiefs were arrested and roughly treated and in December 1928, High Chief Tamasese was rearrested, handcuffed, and eventually deported to New Zealand under custody to serve a term of six months' imprisonment in a foreign climate.
51.That notwithstanding the finding of the Royal Commission that: "No possible complaint against the Administrator or the Administration can be sustained on this head," namely, finance and audit, the New Zealand Government, at the request of the new Administrator, in November 1928, despatched another commission of inquiry to investigate into the finances and public service of the Territory and appointed for that purpose Mr. Verschaffelt, Public Service Commissioner for New Zealand, Mr. Park, Assistant-Secretary to the New Zealand Treasury, and Mr. Berendsen, Secretary for External Affairs.
52.That after exhaustive investigation and inquiry on the spot, the Commissioners submitted a unanimous report to the New Zealand Government, which report was laid upon the table of the House of Representatives at Wellington, and which report contains, among others, the following indictment of the Western Samoan Administration:
  • The finances of Samoa are in an unsatisfactory position (para. 2).
  • The public services require immediate reorganization (para. 2).
  • The type of official was of lower grade than in New Zealand (para. 2).
  • The personnel of the service had deteriorated (para. 2).
  • The direction of the various departmental services had fallen to a considerable extent into the hands of men without adequate departmental training and experience (para. 2).
  • The service was by no means creditable to New Zealand, and urgent and drastic action was necessary to improve the position (para. 3).
  • That in some departments there was no audit or check page 323whatever (para. 53) or no proper internal check or audit (para. 34(d)) and in others the audit of accounts was ineffective and of little value (paras. 107, 103, 41, 46, 17).
  • That the methods adopted were loose, affording many opportunities for fraud and peculation (para. 137).
  • That the staff employed was in excess of requirements (paras. 11, 16(e), 16(d)).
  • That there was an extraordinarily large number of native officials employed either whole or part time, exceeding 300, and their remuneration, though in many cases individually small, in total amounted to some £10,000 a year (para. 89).
  • That the retention of certain highly paid officials was not warranted (paras. 16(b), 30, 50).
  • That the retention of a much lower salaried man should suffice (para. 7).
  • That some officials were overpaid (paras. 12, 32).
  • That some departments should be amalgamated with a view to a reduction of overhead expenses (para. 29, 16(a)).
  • That a borrowing policy had been adopted, which had resulted in the growth of a public debt from nil in 1920 to approximately £160,000 at the 31st March, 1928, and £173,200 on the 30th September, 1928, imposing on an already overloaded Budget an annual burden of approximately £12,500 for interest and sinking-fund charges (para. 20).
  • That loan or capital money had been utilized to meet current expenditure (para. 23).
  • That notwithstanding regular annual assistance from New Zealand, the expenditure exceeded the revenue for four out of five years, 1923–24 to 1927-28 (para. 23).
  • That New Zealand had contributed financial assistance to Western Samoa since the inception of the civil administration to the extent of £212,000, and has also incurred an additional burden of £33,900 for the S.S. Pomare (para. 19).
  • That in addition to this a large amount has been contributed indirectly through what was regarded as the irregular Reparation Estates activities on behalf of the Administration (paras. 19, 150).
  • That insufficient attention has been paid to the control over expenditure and generally the economic result of many activities entered into had received little if any consideration.
  • That recourse had even been had to temporary borrowing page 324from the Public Trust and Post Office Savings Bank money and other funds without proper authority, including funds from the New Zealand Reparation Estates (para. 24).
  • That the finances of the Reparation Estates and the Administration were inextricably mixed and many operations having no real connection with the Reparation Estates were being conducted and financed out of Reparation Estate funds: that these irregularities necessitated a bank overdraft of £39,431 on the 31st March, 1928, in the Estates Account (para. 150).
  • That a general overhaul, reorganization and adjustment of the financial side of the Territory was an urgent necessity (para. 26).
  • That the present arrangements in respect of houses provided for officials should be reviewed. The amount of rental paid varies from £24 to £48 per annum, and in certain cases free accommodation is provided. In addition, heavy furniture is supplied in all cases.
  • Some of the houses are the property of the Administration, some of the New Zealand Reparation Estates, and some of outsiders.
  • In some cases the rentals paid by officers are less than is paid by the Administration to the owners.
  • In other cases the rentals do not represent a fair return on the capital involved.
  • In many cases the maintenance charges alone exceed the rental received (para. 27 (xi)).
  • No record was kept of the general stocks of furniture under the control of the billeting officer for the use of furnishing the residences of officials (para. 113).
  • No proper organization existed for the purchase of stores (para. 34(a)).
  • Government stores were sold to officials at too low a price and on unsatisfactory terms as to payment.
  • Sundry debtors include one senior official of the Administration, who has owed a considerable sum for a very long period (para. 120).
  • Drastic action should be taken in respect of sundry debtors. Moneys due to the Treasury were outstanding too long and too much latitude was allowed in the incurrence of debts to the Treasury by officials. The number of persons indebted to the Treasury, the Reparation Estates and the Engineering page 325and Transport Department is astounding, often in substantial amounts and for long periods and some to all three. The position in this respect is discreditable. No charge is made for interest on outstanding sums (para. 27(x)).
53.That the above extracts from the report made by Messrs. Verschaffelt, Park and Berendsen to the New Zealand Government at last have established that the people of Western Samoa had most serious grounds for complaint against the maladministration of the mandated territory and that the attitude of your petitioners was justified.
54.That a petition was prepared and signed by 7,982 male adults and taxpayers of Western Samoa, out of a total of 8,500 and presented to the League of Nations through the New Zealand Government.
55.That whereas our accredited representative, Chief Taisi, was not allowed entry into the hearing of the petition by the Permanent Mandates Commission of the League of Nations, the New Zealand High Commissioner in London, assisted by the ex-Administrator, Major-General Sir George Richardson, were permitted to make ex parte statements which were thoroughly misleading and incorrect and which could not have been substantiated by them under cross-examination.
56.That High Chief Tamasese invoked the aid of Habeas Corpus while in jail in New Zealand and the Supreme Court decided that as the Mandate was from the League of Nations and not from your Majesty, the Habeas Corpus Act did not apply to Samoa.
57.That whereas Samoa was to be an integral part of your Majesty's Dominion of New Zealand, laws are made for us by the New Zealand Government without our approval or consent, and without any consideration of our peculiar requirements; our finances are extravagantly expended without representation in violation of the principle "no taxation without representation" and yet we are deprived of the privileges contained in Habeas Corpus and the other fundamental laws of the British Constitution and the bulwarks of British Liberty.
58.That in May 1929 the Government-owned steamer, Maui Pomare, while preparing for a trip to Samoa, a serious outbreak of pneumonic-influenza broke out among her crew in Auckland (New Zealand) which affected practically the whole crew and some controversy was caused between the Government and the Auckland Hospital Board, which was disinclined page 326to allow the infected members of the crew to enter the public hospital, owing to the seriousness of the outbreak and the possibility of the disease spreading amongst the other patients. It was finally decided to isolate them in a separate building in another quarter of the town. When it became known that this vessel was to proceed to Samoa, the Mau made strong protests to the authorities at Apia and to the New Zealand Government in Wellington without avail. The steamer was granted pratique and a disastrous epidemic again broke out, causing the deaths to date of about one thousand of our already aggrieved people, and deaths still continue to date, while the Administration issue most misleading official reports of this unhappy event, denying the ravages of the epidemic which has opened many new wounds in our broken homes.
59.That the New Zealand Government has shown, by the hereinbefore recited facts, gross incompetence in the whole administration of Western Samoa.

And your petitioners most humbly pray:

That Your Majesty may be graciously pleased to accede to the prayer of your petitioners and to allow the government of Western Samoa under the Mandate to be transferred from the Government of New Zealand to the sole and direct control of Your Majesty under Your Majesty's Colonial Office.

And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray:

60.That your petitioners' great aim and hope has been for a reunion of Eastern and Western Samoa.
61.That the Chiefs of Eastern Samoa voluntarily ceded that portion of Samoa to the United States of America and a Commission has been set up to sit shortly to consider the future status of Samoa with a view to survey the question of local autonomy.
62.That your petitioners are heirs in common with your petitioners' brethren in Eastern Samoa over the whole of the Samoan Islands but had not the power then nor now to protest against the cession or division of the Islands.
63.That your petitioners' hopes for a reunion and undivided autonomy should be considered in conference by the two remaining Powers who with Samoa were signatories to the Final Act of 1889 prior to the definition of Samoan status in Eastern Samoa being defined by the coming commission referred to above.
64.That your petitioners express their deep affection for page 327Your Majesty and Your Majesty's Government and sincerely hope Your Majesty will be moved to come to the assistance of our oppressed people who make this appeal from the heart of Samoa with its once true united cultured and happy people.

Dated at Apia, Samoa, this 15th day of November, 1929.

(Here follows the signatures of 23 Samoan Chiefs.)