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Government of Western Samoa Report of the Commission to Inquire into and Report upon the Organization of District and Village Government in Western Samoa

I. Introduction

page 3

I. Introduction

1. The subject of the Commission's inquiry has been one of deep public interest in Western Samoa for many years past. There has been general agreement that some action was called for on the part of the Government, but great lack of certainty as to the manner in which the subject could best be approached. Finally, it was decided by Your Excellency that the present Commission of Inquiry should be appointed. The original terms of reference of the Commission were issued by you on 27th March, 1950.* They instructed the Commission—

  • “1. To inquire into the present structure and mode of operation of village and district fono and of any other traditional authorities which may be exercising legislative, executive or judicial functions in any part of Western Samoa;

  • “2. To inquire into the present structure and mode of operation of district health committees, women's committees and any other non-traditional bodies exercising legislative, executive or judicial functions, or acting in an advisory capacity in relation thereto, in any part of Western Samoa;

  • “3. To inquire into the manner in which Fa‘amasino Samoa Itumalo, Pulefa‘ato‘aga, and Pulenu‘u are at present performing their duties and to consider the adequacy of the status and powers possessed by these officers;

  • “4. To inquire, so far as may be possible in Western Samoa, into the structure and mode of operation of district and village councils, or other similar institutions of local government, in any part of the world where, in the opinion of the Commission, conditions resemble those in Western Samoa;

  • “5. To recommend what types of district and village councils, or other institutions of district or village government, the Government should consider establishing in Western Samoa;

  • “6. To recommend what powers exercised and duties performed at present by the various traditional authorities and non-traditional bodies or by Government officers, might be transferred to any institutions of district or village government constituted in accordance with recommendations under the preceding section;

  • “7. To indicate any other functions which might, now or in future, be performed by such institutions of district or village government;

  • “8. To indicate any functions at present performed by the various traditional authorities and non-traditional bodies which might, now or in future, be transferred to any person or body corporate, other than any institution of district or village government;

  • “9. To indicate, generally, any other matters which should be taken into account by the Government in determining policy in relation to district and village government.”

* For the full text of the original terms of reference of 27th March, 1950, and of the supplementary terms of reference of 9th May, 1950, and 21st July, 1950, see Appendix A.

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2. The Commission was originally composed of the Chairman and six members. On 20th April, 1950, one of the original members, Namulau‘ulu Siaosi, of Fogapoa, died, and Tulilagi Fetu, of Fatausi, was appointed by you to take his place. In explaining the constitution and functions of the Commission to the Fono of Faipule on 3rd April, 1950, you informed the members of that body that additional members would be appointed, as associates, to assist in the preparation of the report. In accordance with that statement, and following discussions between yourself and the Chairman, eleven associate members were appointed on 21st July, 1950. One member was appointed from each of the eleven political districts.

3. Our terms of reference appointed the Hon. Tupua Tamasese, Fautua, Hon. Malietoa Tanumafili, Fautua, Mr. F. J. H. Grattan, Secretary of Samoan Affairs, and Mr. T. Robson, Resident Commissioner of Savai‘i, as consultants to the Commission. The Commission was given authority to appoint any further consultants it might consider desirable. Several appointments have been made in terms of that authority (see Appendix C).

4. The first task of the Commission was the collection of information and opinions, as a necessary preliminary to the framing of recommendations. Most of the evidence received by the Commission has been obtained during malaga, in the course of which members have had discussions with the ali‘i and faipule of every village in the Territory. As these malaga formed the most important single part of the Commission's work, a brief description of the procedure followed should, perhaps, be given. In advance of each visit, a letter was sent to the Faipule for the district and to the pulenu‘u of all villages. These letters proposed a date and a time for the particular meeting, subject to its suitability to the ali‘i and faipule, and asked that arrangements be made as to the place of meeting. When it was possible, the Faipule generally consulted the Chairman and Secretary of the Commission personally regarding arrangements. With the letters to pulenu‘u, a circular letter to the ali‘i and faipule was enclosed. This explained, in general terms, the duties of the Commission and the type of information which should be sought during the projected visit. A short summary of the questions to be asked was also enclosed, and the pulenu‘u was requested to assemble certain facts, as to population and other matters, in advance of our visit. Full details of all visits were also broadcast some days before they were due to take place. This careful preparation, together with the explanation of the Commission's plans which had been given to the Fono of Faipule by the Chairman, helped to ensure the success of our meetings when they finally took place.

5. Meetings with the ali‘i and faipule were spread over a period of four and a half months. The first meeting was held on 24th April, at Lauli‘i, in Vaimauga; the last two were held on Manono on 5th September. During that time visits had to be suspended on a number of occasions page 5 on account of the unusually large number of public functions which have taken place this year. An indication of the time which might have been saved if we had not had these breaks is given by the record of the Commissions' malaga in Savai‘i. The malaga began on 7th August and concluded on 22nd August. During that period twenty-nine meetings were held and discussions were had with the ali‘i and faipule of every village in Savai‘i.

6. The Commission normally divided into two parties of either three or four members each. Notes of evidence were usually taken down by a clerk, although on certain occasions they had to be taken by the members themselves. A questionnaire was drawn up to serve as a basis for discussion (see Appendix B). In a preliminary section of this document, space was provided for the inclusion of basic facts relating to each village to be visited. These were filled in before leaving Apia, so as to give members a frame of reference against which to judge the answers to questions. The main part of the questionnaire covered all the more important aspects of district and village government. Discussion was not, of course, confined to the asking of set questions and the recording of answers. Members followed up any point of special interest in the form of control existing in a place being visited, and the ali‘i and faipule were always invited to raise any additional matters of interest to them. In addition, much informal discussion took place outside the main meeting. By these various means the Commission generally obtained a fairly full account of districts and villages being visited and gained an acquaintance with the point of view of all sections of the community.

7. Evidence has also been received from a number of Government officers regarding the relationship between their Departments and the district and village authorities. In addition, the Commission issued a general invitation to any individual or organization to offer oral or written evidence on any point relating to the subject-matter of our inquiry. No advantage was taken, however, of the invitation. For this there are, it is believed, several reasons. During the course of its malaga the Commission had already seen a great proportion of those who might otherwise have been disposed to offer evidence. Further, it has always been made clear by Your Excellency that a full opportunity will be given for discussion of our report before the Government takes action upon it. Some of those who are most keenly interested in our work are obviously waiting to receive our own proposals before venturing to make their own comments.

8. Meetings for the receipt of evidence have been conducted, mainly, by the Chairman and the original members (including Tulilagi Fetu, who took the place of the late Namulau‘ulu Siaosi shortly after the Commissions' malaga began). A number of the associate members, however, have attended some of the later meetings with the ali‘i and faipule in page 6 the place of members who were absent through illness; and they have been present at some of the meetings with Government officers. Many of them have been present, informally, during meetings in their own districts and have, in many ways, assisted in the carrying-out of the Commission's malaga.

9. The final stage in the work of the Commission was reached on Monday, 2nd October, when a general meeting of all members was held to begin consideration of the scope and content of the report. After deliberating upon the general character of its recommendations, the Commission came to the conclusion that there was one matter which it was desirable to bring to Your Excellency's immediate attention. This was the proposal that a District and Village Government Board should be set up.

10. We accordingly presented our first report to Your Excellency on 11th October setting out fully our proposals on this matter.* It was explained in the first report, and in the Chairman's formal letter of submission accompanying it, that we had in mind the need to initiate a “full and frank discussion” of our proposals among all those concerned without undue delay. We now desire to express our pleasure and satisfaction at the steps taken by Your Excellency towards that end. The presentation of our first report to the Legislative Assembly enabled a debate to take place upon it in the Assembly of great value both to the Commission and to the country.

11. Discussion of the report was taken on a motion proposed by our Chairman, Dr. Davidson, and seconded by another of our members, Hon. Tuala Tulo, in their capacity of members of the Legislative Assembly. As originally introduced the motion read: “That this Assembly expresses its thanks to His Excellency the High Commissioner for releasing the ‘First Report of the Commission to Inquire into and Report upon the Organization of District and Village Government in Western Samoa’ and welcomes the opportunity to discuss the recommendations contained in it.” An amendment was subsequently moved by Hon. Tamasese and seconded by Hon. Tualaulelei to give specific endorsement, in general principle, to the recommendations embodied in the report. The amendment, and the motion as amended, were both carried without division. As finally passed, the motion read: “That this Assembly expresses its thanks to His Excellency the High Commissioner for releasing the ‘First Report of the Commission to Inquire into and Report upon the Organization of District and Village Government in Western Samoa,’ welcomes the opportunity to discuss it, and approves, in general principle, of the recommendations contained in the report.” The debate upon this

* The substance of the recommendations made in the first report is incorporated in paragraphs 29–47 of the present final report. The first report may therefore be considered as having been superseded by this report.

page 7 motion occupied the Assembly for two full days (26th and 27th October), and all members who spoke expressed general agreement with the Commission's recommendations.

12. There has since been further evidence of the sympathetic reception of our proposals and of the continued, and still increasing, conviction among the people of Samoa of the importance of the subjects of our inquiry. In particular, a motion was moved in the Legislative Assembly on 1st November by Hon. Tofa Tomasi and seconded by Hon. Malietoa in the following terms: “That the Samoan Government should request the continuation of the services of Dr. J. W. Davidson on a full-time basis or, failing that, for such a period each year as is possible, to carry on his work relative to the political development of Samoa with particular reference to the progress of local government.” This motion was passed without division. Although it was primarily a tribute to the work of our Chairman, it also clearly reflected the satisfaction of the Assembly with the work of the Commission as a whole. If this final report is received equally favourably we shall, indeed, have reason to feel satisfied with the outcome of our labours.