Government of Western Samoa Report of the Commission to Inquire into and Report upon the Organization of District and Village Government in Western Samoa
136. In this report we have limited ourselves, as far as possible, to a discussion of the matters referred to in our terms of reference. We have not, however, been unaware that our recommendations, if they are adopted, will have effects beyond the field of district and village government; that the success of the recommendations themselves will be, in large degree, dependent upon the policy of the Government in related matters; and that the development of district and village government is, broadly considered, only one aspect of the growth of Samoa towards self-government. We cannot conclude without making some reference to these matters.
137. First and foremost, the implementation of our proposals will involve changes in the administrative structure of the Central Government. Many of the matters which are now brought to the Samoan Affairs Department will be settled by district and village authorities as soon as they gain legal recognition of their powers. Many others will be dealt with by the District and Village Government Board. The establishment of District Courts, or the extension of the jurisdiction of Associate Judges of the High Court, will so expand the work of the Justice Department that it may become most convenient for the Registrar of the Land and Titles Court and his assistants also to be placed under that Department. The existence of the Department of Samoan Affairs as a separate institution will, in other words, have become unnecessary.
138. It must not be taken as criticism of the good work which the Department and its officers have done in the past when we state that the termination of the Department's separate existence at the present stage page 50 would not be a matter for regret. The Department came into existence when “Samoan affairs” were thought of as something apart from the ordinary work of Government, as something which the ordinary Government officer was not expected to understand. For that reason, a special Department of “experts” was created. Under the present political set-up, such a conception can no longer be tolerated. This is a Samoan Government; Samoan affairs are its foremost responsibility. They must be dealt with by the High Commissioner and the central office of the Government—that is, the Secretariat.
139. We have noted with satisfaction that the first steps have already been taken to bring the Secretariat into closer touch with the people and the affairs of Samoa. The Honourable Fautua already have their offices in proximity to your own and to the Secretariat. At the beginning of next year the Resident Commissioner of Savai‘i and his staff will cease to be attached to the Department of Samoan Affairs, and become a part of the Secretariat. Our own Commission of Inquiry—one of the most important developments in Samoan affairs for many years past— has worked under the aegis of the Secretariat and not of the Department of Samoan Affairs. We have not failed to notice that officers of the Secretariat have frequently consulted our Secretary on Samoan matters and asked for his help in regard to translation and interpretation. It clearly cannot be long before Samoan members of the Public Service will be occupying senior positions on the Secretariat staff.
140. We can foresee the steady absorption of the present functions of the Samoan Affairs Department by an enlarged Secretariat with adequate senior Samoan staff. The most important single step in this development will result, of course, from the establishment of the District and Village Government Board. We assume that the Secretary of the Board will be given an office in the Secretariat and that he will use the services of the clerical and other staff of that Department. No other course, in fact, would produce that perfect linkage between the Central Government and the district and village authorities for which the establishment of the Board itself is recommended. When such a step is taken, however, a Secretariat with Samoan staff will be in a position to administer policy in a fuller understanding of the real wishes and intentions of the people that any Government Department has possessed before. The personal offices of the High Commissioner and the Hon. Fautua will be situated in close proximity to it. It will provide the office organization for the proposed Executive Council, for the Legislative Assembly and its Committees, for the Fono of Faipule, and for the District and Village Government Board. The Central Government Library and the necessary committee rooms will be situated there. The Secretariat will be in vigorous and continuing contact with all those who are entitled to speak as representatives of the people.page 51
141. Next, we would make some reference to other aspects of Government policy which will help to decide the success with which our own recommendations can be brought into operation. In some degree, or course, almost all branches of policy may be said to influence district and village affairs. Upon educational policy will depend the level of general knowledge among the people and the supply of trained young men and women for skilled jobs; upon medical policy will depend the people's health; and upon agricultural and economic policy will depend their prosperity. But these are subjects of great scope and complexity, and it would not be helpful to express definite views upon them in the concluding pages of our report. The position is similar with certain other subjects which are more directly related to district and village administration. Land policy is of the very greatest importance in this regard. Many villages are convinced that the lands which they possess are insufficient to support their present population, let alone to support the increased population of the future. On the other hand, there are large areas of good land in parts of Samoa which are not being used. Financial policy, also, may have a profound effect on district and village matters. Not only will the extent of Government revenue determine the quality of the services which can be provided in the districts, but a decision to reduce the present dependence on import and export duties by the imposition of direct taxes on the general population would affect the whole relationship between the Central Government and local authorities. However, as we have already stated, these are subjects which raise so many issues that it is not possible to discuss them briefly. They are matters which demand a separate investigation. We wish only to record our conviction that they require thorough study by the Government at as early a time as possible.
142. There are, on the other hand, certain more limited subjects on which we can usefully express an opinion. They are, incidentally, subjects on which we have heard many expressions of opinion either during our malaga or else in Apia. The views which we ourselves put forward are thus based on considerable knowledge of the point of view of the country.
143. One notable development of recent years is the increasing thought being given by many Samoans to economic matters. It is reflected in the interest shown in improving plantations and in the introduction of better types of plants and live-stock. It is shown, too, in the more important part being taken in trade by Samoans. Most significant of all, from the point of view of the Commission, is the rapid spread of interest in co-operative societies. Not only have co-operative methods been commended by the Hon. Fautua and by members of the Legislative Assembly, but they have been the subject of inquiries at the Commission's office by visitors from distant parts of the Territory. page 52 Co-operative organization is, or course, closely in line with traditional Samoan methods. The establishment of co-operative trading would, in many respects, be the natural complement in the economic field to the adoption of our own recommendations on political and administrative matters. It would represent an important step towards the control of local economic life by the Samoan people in accordance with Samoan tradition. The Commission itself, and its staff, have not been able to answer those who have been seeking information. The subject is outside the scope of our inquiry. But we wish to place our opinion on record that the Government should attempt to provide the desired advice and to pass the necessary legislation in order to permit co-operative societies to enjoy the protection of the law, as they already do in Fiji and most other countries. If co-operative societies should be formed, and should succeed, they would be bound to have the most important influence upon the development of district and village government.
144. Another important field on which we have formed certain conclusions is that which is commonly called “public relations.” Throughout Samoa we have found a keen desire for knowledge on political and economic matters and for advice on the many problems which have to be faced in the course of ordinary life. We have had discussions with a great many people regarding the development of the broadcasting service in this direction. We have also met a number of people who are anxious to pursue their studies, on subjects such as agriculture or co-operative organization, by means of books.
145. With regard to broadcasting, it is clear that much important work has already been done. Where formerly the people were obliged to rely for news and information on the return of occasional visitors from Apia, they are now supplied at first hand with accurate accounts of outside events, with news of the Samoan Government, and with informative talks on many subjects. However, the full benefit is not yet being gained from the broadcasting system. There is a need for a greater variety of news and information and, in some cases, for fuller preparation of programmes than appears at present to be possible. Further, it is not easy or convenient for a whole village to listen regularly to a single village receiver. We believe that the Government should press on boldly with a plan of purchasing inexpensive receivers for sale at cost to individuals. When receivers are available at a price of £6 or £7, many will be anxious to buy them. Really satisfactory listening conditions will be established when families are able to listen to their own radio in their own house; and the benefit gained from the programmes put over will be much greater. From the point of view of district and village government, as from that of education and many other subjects, such a development will be of great importance.page 53
146. The need for a public library system is no less real. At present the supply of books and papers in Samoan is rather limited and the number of those who are able to benefit from literature in English is relatively small. None the less, there is some material available in Samoan, and more can be translated. With regard to writing in English, the number who can benefit is constantly increasing with the development of the educational system. At the present time the main need is to make the knowledge that is contained in books available to the people of the villages. Even if only one matai, or a taule‘ale‘a, reads a book on, let us say, cocoa-growing or the war in Korea, the information that is in it will be spread much further by word of mouth. In New Zealand, books on every subject are available to the people of even the most distant village through the Country Library Service. In this way, people living in villages and on farms can be as up to date in their knowledge as those living in the cities. The same system is necessary here. Otherwise, many of the leaders in district and village affairs will not be able to serve their people to the fullest extent of their ability.
147. Broadcasting and the distribution of books are two of the means by which knowledge can be made available to the people. But there is another means more important than either. That is personal contact. We have written earlier in this report of the need for the Secretary of the District and Village Government Board to keep in touch personally with every district. That example is one of many that we have in mind. Of course, our proposal is not new. The Government has a long tradition of official malaga, and much of the mutual understanding which has been established between the Government and the ali‘i and faipule has resulted from the meetings which have taken place on those occasions. Official malaga are still necessary. Indeed, with the increased participation of the people in their own government, they are more necessary than ever. There is, however, a need for a slightly different type of contact between the Government and district and village authorities. In the past, district representatives would ask the Administrator to provide this or that—a new bridge, a concrete tank, some dynamite for blasting a reef passage—and the answer would be given, Yes or No. Now the Government is the Samoan Government. Samoan representatives in the Council of State, the Legislative Assembly, and the Fono of Faipule are in positions of authority. What is needed at the present time is thorough discussion with district representatives of important issues. Our own malaga are an example of what we mean. With the ali‘i and faipule of every district we discussed thoroughly every aspect of our inquiry. We asked for, and received, suggestions regarding future Government policy. Without such help we should never have been able to prepare this report.page 54
148. The character of Government policy generally will thus help or hinder the development of district and village government on sound lines. Similarly, the existence of an effective and acceptable system of local government will make it much easier for the Central Government to get its policies fully carried out. The Samoan Government, considered as a whole, consists of two parts. On the one hand, there is the central authority in Apia, and on the other, the local control of district and village affairs. For true advancement these two parts must work hand in hand with each other.
149. Co-operation between central and local government demands more, however, than the making of constitutional changes along the lines of our recommendations, and more than the working out of progressive policies. It requires good will, unselfishness, and mutual confidence on the part of all those charged with any form of political or administrative responsibility in both the Central Government and the district and village authorities.
150. On the part of the local authorities there must be a refusal to take unfair advantage of the legal powers which it is proposed they should be given. The ali‘i and faipule must allow the other sections of the community all the rights which are theirs by custom. They must recognize, too, that new times are bringing about gradual changes in many customs, so that the people may enjoy fully the opportunities which are now available to them. On the other hand, the district and village authorities must be willing to recognize the needs of the Central Government and of districts and villages other than their own. The money at the disposal of the Government, for example, is limited in the long-run to what is raised from the people by way of taxation. Discussions on money matters between the Central Government and local authorities must not therefore consist merely of demands for assistance for local schemes. They must include careful consideration of the relative importance of the various schemes for which assistance is needed, so that the best use can be made of whatever money is available. Similarly in other things, co-operation demands reasonableness and a willingness to listen to all points of view.
151. On the Central Government there rests an even heavier responsibility. It must show an understanding of traditional Samoan methods and adopt a sympathetic attitude towards them, in full recognition that true political progress will only be achieved by building upon those institutions and practices which exist and which the people accept. Behind this attitude, justifying it and keeping it alive, there must always be awareness of the final objective towards which all policy is directed— the attainment of self-government, the full control of the affairs of Samoa by the people of the country.page 55
152. In these concluding paragraphs we would return once again to a subject which we have touched upon earlier, the relation of our proposals to the progressive attainment of self-government. This is the deepest wish of the people of Samoa, that they should be able to take complete responsibility for the management of the country's affairs. Our recommendations will finally be judged by the contribution which they make towards the attainment of that objective. We are well content that it should be so, because we believe that the development of local government on a firm basis of Samoan tradition must provide the groundwork of any effective form of self-government. Not only our proposals, however, will be judged in this way. The policy of the Government in carrying them out will be considered in the light of the same desires. It must therefore always be made clear that the final objective is being kept steadily in view.
153. Finally, we wish to refer again to a matter which we discussed in our first report. We asked there that the Government should give some assurance to the people that the work of the Commission was going to be steadily followed up till the desired outcome was reached. Such reassurance was amply provided by the presentation of the first report to the Legislative Assembly, and by the Assembly's motion endorsing the recommendations contained in it. The request made to the Commission by Your Excellency that recommendations should be included in the final report as to the first steps to be taken by the Government after the Commission itself has completed its task show that the need for steady progress without undue delays is fully realized. We are convinced that if the Government continues to act in this spirit, it will do so with the full and enthusiastic support of all sections of the Samoan people.