Samoa Under the Sailing Gods
Appendix vi — Article published in "Foreign Affairs," June 1927 — The Samoan Mandate
Article published in "Foreign Affairs," June 1927
The Samoan Mandate
Were Stevenson living he would find material for a sequel to his Footnote to History.
A sequel is needed. Samoa, whose past Stevenson described, has as strange a present. Western Samoa, an ex-German colony, is now a mandated territory. New Zealand holds the mandate. The islands once provided a stage for adventurers and mountebanks—mountebanks again strut the boards in Apia. History has in part repeated itself, and the interest of the world may once more centre for a brief space on those dots in the Pacific—the Samoan Islands.
The Samoans are a race of rare physical beauty and a highly developed social system; but so far as the outside world is concerned quite inarticulate. They regarded the transfer of authority in Samoa from Germany to Britain without much emotion, being accustomed to political upheaval. Their principal sentiment was disappointment that they were not to be governed directly by Britain, but by a British Dominion. This was a matter of pride. Even so, they probably expected that the change would be one for the better. Their disillusionment may be realized when the present condition of Western Samoa is understood.
1 The European citizens, in self-protection, are now on the point of starting an opposition Press.
In the native Parliament (called a Fono of Faipules) the proper representatives of the natives, by hereditary right, custom and usage, have been ruthlessly deposed, and venal puppets put in their place and endowed with extraordinary powers by the Administrator, in defiance of an Act passed by the New Zealand Legislature, which said: "No native shall be appointed as a Faipule who is not qualified in accordance with existing Samoan usage to occupy the position of Faipule" In New Zealand a Minister of External Affairs will not receive representations from the natives "until he is assured that their views on native matters are endorsed by the Fono of Faipules." And to cap all, an Ordinance1 whereby any native who exercises the "right" of free speech may be banished from his village and district, and deprived of his hereditary rank and title by the Administrator, without trial or right of appeal, is used in upholding the dignity and authority of the upstart new Faipules. Is it surprising that the native population (not merely unrepresented, but misrepresented) is seething with discontent?
Let me give an instance of the selection of a Faipule in these days: Tolova, of the village of Salailua, district of Palauli, Savaii. This man, a chief of small importance, was Native Inspector of Lands (Pulefaatoaga) for his district, under the previous Administrator. He was found to be embezzling fines which he had inflicted on natives in the course of his duties. He was thereupon dismissed from the service and told that he would never again be employed by the Government. General Richardson, the present Administrator, gave Tolova the far more important office of Faipule, to which he had no right, and when last year he was again caught "red-handed" in the embezzlement of fines—took no action. Tolova is a fair specimen of the present Fono of Faipules.
1 A rather similar Ordinance has just been passed for dealing with Europeans who may criticize the Faipules
The Faipules and the Administrator lose no opportunity of publicly praising themselves and one another; and the more sycophantic of the white officials have flooded the local, Fiji, and New Zealand newspapers with eulogies of the Administrator and themselves.
Adverse criticism is "the work of a disgruntled white minority"! The "minority," however, actually represents a large majority of the Europeans in Samoa, despite the fact that the Administrator has the whip-hand over all but those engaged in commerce and mission work.1
As to the "good work" of the Administrator—the Chinese free labour system was framed before he came to Samoa; the coconut-trees in bearing (which largely account for the good trade of Samoa) were planted long before he came to Samoa; his Fetu (Boy Scout) movement shows signs of changing the Samoans from "a race of gentlemen" to a race of hooligans. The Model Village scheme, in practice, is mere vandalism. The old system of land tenure had worked very well from time immemorial. Lack of space forbids me enlarging on these themes and even the mention of many others.
General Richardson's "success" should be attributed entirely to untruthful and shameless, but plausible, newspaper propaganda and misleading reports. Everything which he has done was for effect—not in Samoa, but abroad. Changes were made (or were said to be made) because they were changes, and could be advertised.
With Prohibition, as with other and graver matters affecting the morals of the natives, the attitude of the Administrator is to put a blind eye to the telescope and make reports calculated to mislead the League of Nations.
Before the introduction of Prohibition (imposed by New Zealand ostensibly for the benefit of the natives) the Samoans had no taste for intoxicants, and would rarely have paid the price for them, had they been obtainable. They have found that, under present conditions, intoxicants are easily made and sold at a large profit to visiting Europeans.2 Incidentally, they are fast acquiring the taste for alcohol.
1 The missions, for various reasons, are silent.
2 European residents, including Government officials, make the own intoxicants.
New Zealand appears not to care what happens to Samoa so long as she is furnished with glowing reports, which the Mandates Commission of the League of Nations reads—giving high praise to the Mandatory Power. But the true facts of the position in Samoa must long have been suspected in New Zealand, and it must now definitely be known that all is not well.
One hundred and fifty-nine accredited native representatives of the thirty-three districts comprising Western Samoa have repudiated thirty of the thirty-three Faipules, and are now petitioning the New Zealand Parliament, protesting at the maladministration of General Richardson; he having used his adverse influence to prevent a delegation of Samoan chiefs from proceeding to New Zealand to interview the Minister of External Affairs, even to refusing them passports.
It is said that every instrument of the law which can be used against the chiefs concerned is being applied to the utmost, and that a campaign of coercion and intimidation, with the object of stifling all further utterance, is now in full progress in Samoa.
It is to be hoped that New Zealand will awaken to a sense of decency and duty.