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Samoa Under the Sailing Gods



When the Samoa Report for the year ending March 31, 1929, came up for examination at Geneva in November, the Chairman recalled the observations made by the Mandates Commission at its previous session and the hope expressed that when examining the next annual report it would find that the Administration had regained complete control of the situation and that a normal condition of affairs had been re-established.

"The annual report for the year 1928-29 contained somewhat vague information with regard to the general situation in Samoa, while it appeared from various chapters of that report that a great number of the activities of the Administration were still paralysed by political conditions. The accredited representative would greatly assist the Commission by supplementing the information contained in the annual report by a statement on the general political situation at the present time, in order that the Commission might ascertain whether real progress had been made on the lines which it had indicated as desirable at its thirteenth and fourteenth sessions. It would also be of value for the Commission to have more definite particulars with regard to the policy that the mandatory Power intended to follow in the exercise of the mandate conferred upon it by the League."

Sir James Parr spoke as follows:

"I think it might very safely be said that law and order have been restored. You will remember that, owing to the lack page 256of any kind of efficient force, General Richardson, a year or more ago, was impotent to enforce order. The King's writ, as we say in England, did not run. Law breakers went unpunished, and taxes were not collected. It can now be said that, owing to the arrival of an adequate police force, order is maintained. Only in the case of two arrests during the last year or so was resistance attempted and two small conflicts with the authorities occurred, but in each case there were no ill results. I think I can say, quite safely, that order is maintained throughout the territory. The Government governs to that extent.

"When, however, you ask me about the political situation I am bound to admit that, while there has been some improvement, it is still, in the opinion of the Mandatory, unsatisfactory.

"The new Governor, Colonel Allen, succeeded General Richardson about May 1928. He has been in Samoa for about eighteen months. He went with quite an open mind, anxious to meet the Mau, hear its representatives and ascertain its grievances, which were rather obscure. He was conciliatory and, while firm, he was tactful. What was the result? The result was that the Mau rejected his advances. The Mau is not vicious; it believes that it has a just cause, though if one is able to get close enough to question it one is unable to discover exactly what it wants.

"Colonel Allen made advances with dignity and purpose and with a kindly spirit, and, I repeat, the Mau ignored him. On one occasion he did succeed in coming into close contact with two very important chiefs—two principal men of the Mau movement—Tamasese and Tuimalealiifano, and in having conversations with them which were, as he puts it, entirely inconclusive. He said he was prepared to talk over their troubles with them and see whether he could not find a way out. He asked what it was they wanted. He was a new Administrator and was anxious to know. All he was able to get out of the two chiefs was that they were aggrieved because the Mandates Commission's report was not signed by every nation, under its own seal, of the League of Nations, and because Mr. Nelson—who was their representative—had so far failed to report progress, and they felt they could do nothing without hearing from Mr. Nelson. That was all that Colonel Allen could get out of them. I think it is necessary to give that as an instance of the difficulty New Zealand is up against in dealing with this movement of non-co-operation.

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Cartoon Published In The "Auckland Star"

Cartoon Published In The "Auckland Star"

page 257

"As I have said, there is no active or direct hostility towards the Administrator, but there is no disposition to meet him to discuss the difficulties. Acting under advice, I think the Mau has come to the conclusion that if it persists long enough in its non-co-operative attitude it must ultimately attain its ends."

M. Rappard asked to whose advice Sir James Parr had referred.

Sir James Parr replied as follows:

"I suggest that the old influence is still at work. Mr. Nelson is now living in Auckland, the largest city of New Zealand and nearest to "Samoa, and is still active. Recently a Samoan Defence League was formed in Auckland, the principal figure in it being a rather well-known lawyer who is the lawyer for the Mau and for Mr. Nelson, as well as for the Samoan Defence League. This Defence League is numerically small and I am advised that its influence in New Zealand is somewhat negligible, but there can be no doubt that it is in close touch with the Mau chiefs, and there can be little question that Mr. Nelson is still active.

"The Samoan Defence League, while announcing as its principal object its desire to assist the New Zealand Government (in New Zealand) in bringing to a close the dissension in the territory, took up the attitude that the only way to effect this was to remove the orders of deportation and that the 'accredited representative' of Samoa—Mr. Nelson—and Tamasese should be summoned to Wellington for consultation with the Prime Minister. This course the new Government felt itself unable to consider or adopt. The policy of the previous Government, which was replaced a year ago by a Liberal Government, was one of patience, hoping in this way to win these people round. It believed that the removal of Nelson's influence would do a great deal towards inducing the Mau to give up its policy of non-co-operation. I should mention that Mr. Coates was defeated and the Liberal Party returned to power under Sir Joseph Ward."

M. Rappard asked whether the Samoan issue had played any great part in the campaign.

Sir James Parr replied:

"None or very little. It did not seriously affect the issue. It is true that the Labour leader has said that it did play a page 258part, but neither of the other parties would, I think, agree with that for a moment.

"Such was the position on the assumption of office by the present Government, which was obliged to consider very seriously the course it should take. On the one hand, it was not without sympathy for the Samoans who had attached themselves to the Mau. The new Government believed that the Mau was convinced of the justice of its cause, though, except for the deportation of three Europeans—Nelson, Gurr, and Smyth—the new Government had found it impossible to discover any grievances that might require redress: indeed, the very triviality of those grievances was one of the main difficulties in dealing with them.

"On the other hand, the new Government recognized the necessity of maintaining the proper authority of the Administration, and for this reason felt itself unable, at that late stage of events, to give way, while the Mau still persisted in flouting the law openly and concertedly. After lengthy consideration and consultation with the Administrator, the policy of the new Government took the form of a short announcement made by the Prime Minister, as follows:

"'The Government has considered very carefully the situation in Western Samoa and it has thought it advisable at this juncture to make a public statement of its views.

"'In the first place, the Government wishes to make it plain that it cannot tolerate or negotiate with any movement that is openly subversive of good government in the territory. The Samoans must understand that any failure to obey the law will be punished and that the Government must act rigorously in this direction should future events unhappily render it necessary.

"'His Excellency the Administrator and the New Zealand Government are, however, anxious to bring to an end the dissension in the territory, and immediately those Samoans, who are members of the Mau, have the good sense to cease their attitude of passive resistance and to abandon their refusal to pay taxes, His Excellency and the Government will be prepared to consider any representations in a generous spirit.

"'The Government earnestly trusts that wise counsels will prevail and that all who have the true interest of Western Samoa at heart will assist in pointing out to the Mau the path page 259of wisdom and honour and the disastrous consequences to Samoa of a continuation of its present attitude.'

"This statement was published throughout Samoa both in English and in Samoan, but, as was anticipated, had no marked effect. At this moment the Defence League was created, which did not help matters.

"You may ask what is the economic position and how trade is progressing. It is a fact that there has been a most remarkable increase in trade during the past twelve months. The Mau has not affected production. The output of copra and cocoa has largely increased, and the total trade amounted to £748,000 as against £640,000 for the previous year, an increase of £108,000 in the year. From the economic point of view it has been an excellent year."

There followed criticism from members of the Mandates Commission of which this is typical.

"It seemed that public tranquillity was only due to the policy of abstention followed by the local authorities. A typical example was to be found in events that had occurred in connection with the poll-tax. This tax was levied in Samoa, as in all territories, on the native population. The revenue from native taxes for the financial year 1928 had only produced the sum of £6,343 out of an estimated return of £19,400. Faced by such a financial failure the local authorities had merely cancelled the poll-tax and had substituted other methods of collecting.

"Similarly, owing to the continued absence of children from the schools, the number of schools had been reduced. The meetings of the Faipules had been suspended.

"M. Merlin pointed out that it was the duty of the mandatory Power to ensure not only order in the country but the regular working of the Administration. It was to be feared that if the negative policy were continued the Administration would soon be reduced to what might be described as a state of anaemia which would rapidly have unfortunate results on the economic development of the country as well as on its political condition."

Count De Penha Garcia, however, observed that "the Commission was faced with a delicate situation. The mandatory Power had itself admitted that native affairs were not satisfactory and that errors of policy had been committed. It was difficult to understand how a small people like the page 260Samoans had been able to defeat the efforts of the mandatory Power. He had been especially struck by a speech of the Minister of Native Affairs in the New Zealand Parliament who said that the administrators had not been sufficiently enlightened and had not pursued a right policy towards the natives. The Minister had suggested that a policy similar to that usually adopted by Great Britain in native affairs should have been adopted, namely, that of acting as advisers.

"Results had proved that this criticism was true. The native policy had not been understood and had been badly executed. It seemed obvious that the legislation had not taken into account the conditions and state of mind of the natives. He quoted an extract from The Press, dated September 7, 1929, where, in a debate in the House of Representatives, Sir Apirana Ngata, recognizing the mistakes that had been made, was reported as having said: 'To my humble way of thinking, what is needed is a diplomatist, one of those gentlemen educated at Geneva, to arrive at some formula to save the face of New Zealand.'"

Sir James Parr, continuing the quotation, remarked that Sir Apirana Ngata had said "to save the face of the Government of New Zealand and of the very high-born and difficult chiefs in Samoa."

The conversation continued along former lines, with further veiled advocacy of force, and then Sir James Parr announced "he was very much impressed by the opinion of the Mandates Commission that there was lack of order in Western Samoa, and he wondered how the mandatory Power thought this could be cured. He thought he could not do better than to advise the Commission of the opinion of his Government, which was as follows:

"'There never has been any doubt as to the Government's power to coerce the disaffected Samoans by force of arms should this be unavoidable, and the opinion has indeed been held amongst a section of the Samoans as well as in New Zealand that the matter should be handled by force as the quickest way of concluding the present difficulties. It is plain, however, that once recourse is had to force, bloodshed among the Samoans must almost inevitably follow, and the Government has never considered, and does not now consider, that page 261the circumstances of the case or the attitude of the disaffected natives would either necessitate or justify this extreme step. It refused, at any rate until it is certain that the larger interests of the Samoans demanded it, to take a course that will involve the probable necessity of bloodshed among these misguided people whose opinions, though mistaken and mischievous, would nevertheless appear to be sincere and honest. It cannot lose sight of the fact that throughout this unfortunate agitation the attitude of the Samoans in all its larger aspects has never been threatening and that the movement, unfortunate and mischievous as it undoubtedly is, has been conducted by the Mau with some dignity and restraint. The disaffected Samoans have, generally speaking, been careful to abstain from any wrongful acts either against person or property, their deliberations have always (ostensibly, at any rate) been conducted after appeals for Divine guidance, and the Government does not feel that even the paramount necessity of upholding the prestige of the Administration would justify the adoption of forcible measures in the existing circumstances. Should the Permanent Mandates Commission or individual members take up on this occasion, as in a somewhat guarded manner they did in the past, the attitude that New Zealand should assert its complete authority in the territory by force, the New Zealand representative is instructed:

"'(1) To place the above facts before the Commission.

'"(2) To advise the Commission that after the fullest consideration of the circumstances, including the history of the present position, the possibilities of the future, and the most careful calculation of the interests of the Samoans and of the necessity of preserving the authority of the Administration, the Government have definitely refused to adopt force as the solution at the present juncture.

'"(3) To add that this decision was taken primarily in the interests of the Samoan people, having regard to the future as well as to the present.

"'(4) To exercise the fact that no consideration of New Zealand politics entered into the Government's decision (as was suggested by members of the Commission on a previous occasion) and,

"'(5) To state that, if the Permanent Mandates Commission find themselves unable to agree with the wisdom of the course adopted and consider the application of force essential, the page 262New Zealand Government, while, of course, maintaining their view of the position, would be grateful if the Commission would, in intimating this fact in their report, specify the manner in which, and the degree to which, they consider force should be applied.'

"That was the view of the Government with regard to the use of force to coerce the Samoans to pay taxes, the nonpayment of which was the main complaint of the Mandates Commission."