Samoa Under the Sailing Gods
In February 1926, Mr. Nelson went to Australia, and remained there until August of that year.
In a letter written by the Hon. George Westbrook, a member of the Legislative Council, to the Samoa Times in the interim, replying to someone who had dubbed him, as a consequence of his anti-Administration letter-writing, Jeremiah, I find the Hon. George remarking with not a little significance that Jeremiah had foretold the downfall of Israel. Something apparently was in the wind.
Having proceeded in August to New Zealand, on September 1st, Mr. Nelson interviewed the Prime Minister, the Minister for External Affairs, and Sir Maui Pomare, the Minister for the Cook Islands.
"I related [writes Mr. Nelson] in detail the conditions existing in Samoa, and received a very sympathetic hearing from the three Cabinet Ministers, more particularly from the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister requested the Minister of External Affairs to proceed to Samoa to investigate the matter by first opportunity. Mr. Nosworthy stated that he would only be able to leave by the following steamer in October. The Prime Minister also referred to the Administrator, General Richardson, as once his superior military officer, in words which were not complimentary to him in that capacity."
On his return to Apia, Mr. Nelson was accorded a public reception, at which he and the Administrator made speeches highly eulogistic of each other.1page 221
The three elected members of the Legislative Council now—Mr. Nelson, Mr. Westbrook, and Mr. Williams—in view of the Minister's forthcoming visit, decided to convene a public meeting, and inserted an advertisement to that end in the Samoa Times. The meeting was held in the Market Hall, Apia, on October 15, 1926. About three hundred Europeans and Samoans were present, in almost equal numbers. A variety of subjects were discussed, including the Fono of Faipules, Prohibition, the Medical Department, loss of titles, Finance. It was decided that a committee of Europeans and Samoans be formed to draw up reports on these subjects, for submission to the Minister for External Affairs; and, it having been learned that he intended to postpone his visit, a radio message was despatched through the Administrator's Office on October 16th, urging him to reconsider the decision.
"No answer [says Mr. Nelson] being forthcoming by October 27th, another radio was drafted, but not sent, as when it was handed in we were informed that a reply had been received to the first radio some days previous and had been promptly sent to my office close by. To this day I have never received that radio, nor any explanation as to how it was 'lost.' However, we learned that the Hon. Mr. Nosworthy had decided it 'impossible' to visit us till the following May—nine months after we expected him, according to the promise given me in Wellington."
The Citizens' Committee considered the position anew, and decided to convene another public meeting. This was held on November 12th; 663 Europeans and Samoans being present. At the commencement of the meeting the Crown Solicitor and Acting Secretary to the Administration interrupted and read the following pronouncement from General Richardson:
"I regret to inform the people that, owing to the Natives being drawn into the recent political meeting, misunderstandings have occurred, and the Natives are unsettled on certain matters. Being Administrator of these islands and personally responsible for the peace, order, and good government of the country, I consider a serious error has been made in asking the Samoans to discuss politics which affect only the Europeans. Freedom page 222of speech and honest criticism of the Government are not barred in any way; they are British privileges to which no exception can be taken. Unwarranted attacks, however, on the Faipules, the leaders of the Samoan race, cannot be passed over by me without it being misunderstood by the Natives. I wish certain persons to clearly understand that.
"The effect of bringing the Natives into the European political arena is unwise and likely to cause trouble. It is a simple matter to upset a Native race which is composed of many factions, like the Samoan race, and I ask Europeans not to do it. If you persist, you are doing a thing unheard-of in the annals of colonial administration, and are almost certain to discredit the European community in the eyes of the outside world. The inevitable result must be to disturb the peace, order, and good government of the Territory. Every person knows what that means. I ask the Europeans to confine themselves to those matters which concern them, and to leave alone those matters which concern them not.
"To the Natives, I wish to inform them that they have the fullest freedom to bring their complaints before the Government by the proper channels. I cannot, nor can the New Zealand Government, receive complaints from Natives save those coming through their own properly constituted channels, such as the District Councils and the Fono of Faipules.
"Every Native can rest assured of the fullest hearing and the utmost consideration in any matter brought forward in the proper way. Chief and Taulealea are treated alike, and both have the same rights of redress for injuries as Europeans.
"I ask Natives to refrain further from co-operating with the Europeans in their agitation on certain matters which do not concern the Samoans.
"I wish all people here to clearly understand that I do not approve of a political meeting which mixes Native politics with European politics, as its tendency must be to disturb the peace, order, and good government of the Natives."
A motion was now put to the meeting by Mr. Nelson as to whether it should continue, and it was decided, by a show of hands, to carry on. Seven persons left the hall, which proved surrounded by police. It was arranged that a deputation of three Europeans and six Samoan high-chiefs be appointed to convey the reports of the Committee to the Minister in New Zealand, page 223and that he be asked to receive the deputation in January 1927. To this he agreed.
"Commenting [reported the Inspector of Police] upon distinctive features of the meeting, it was noticed that what may be considered to be the O. F. Nelson factor of the audience was placed on both ends of the hall. On one flank was Lago Lago, with his Samoan committee support; on the other flank was Lealofi, Tamaseu, … Atoa. As O. F. Nelson tapped the table with his hand, the walking-stick of Lago Lago rapped the floor at one end, and Atoa at the other, and so the applause was developed."
Many persons against whom banishment orders had been made, we learn, were present, including Tamasese (Lealofi), who had now been permitted to return to Vaimoso.
1 Mr. Nelson, it must be remembered, has Samoan blood in him.