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An Introduction to Samoan Custom

CHAPTER XIII — Conclusion

page 175


Constitutional changes of great importance have taken place in Western Samoa since the introduction to this book went through the press early in 1947, and it is now necessary to add something to what was stated in the latter part of that chapter in order to record the more significant developments that have succeeded the Mandate.

The draft Trusteeship Agreement for Western Samoa submitted to the United Nations by the New Zealand Government was placed before the General Assembly of that body for consideration and approval in October, 1946. Approval accorded on 13th December, 1946, brought Western Samoa under the International Trusteeship system.

In the meantime, however, the Samoan people, consulted regarding the terms of the draft agreement, had submitted a petition praying for immediate self-government under the protection of New Zealand. This the New Zealand Government duly forwarded to the Trusteeship Council with a request that a United Nations Mission should visit Western Samoa to investigate the petition. The Mission arrived on 4th July and left on 28th August, 1947, its complete report being released in October of the same year.

The Government's proposals relating to constitutional changes in Western Samoa were outlined in the House of Representatives by the Acting Prime Minister on 27th August, 1947, and were later found to differ in very few particulars from the recommendations set out in the report of the Mission.

An Act of the General Assembly of New Zealand giving affect to the Government's proposals was passed in November, 1947, and brought into force on the 10th March, 1948, by Governor-General's Proclamation.

page 176

The significant provisions of that Act are as follows:


The Administrator is in future to be known as the High Commissioner.


A Council of State is established consisting of the High Commissioner and the Samoan leaders for the time being holding office as Fautua.* The High Commissioner is to consult the Council of State on all proposals for legislation, matters closely relating to Samoan custom and any other matters affecting the welfare of Western Samoa which he considers it proper to refer to the Council of State.


The old Legislative Council is abolished and a new legislature termed the Legislative Assembly, over which the High Commissioner or his nominee presides, is constituted consisting of:


The Samoan members for the time being of the Council of State:


Eleven Samoan members nominated by the Fono of Faipule:


Not more than five European elected members:


Not more than six official members, of whom three are nominated by the Governor- General and three by the High Commissioner.

There is thus an effective Samoan majority in the new legislature, whose powers are wide, but do not extend to the making of laws relating to defence (except in regard to the taking of land for defence purposes), external affairs, or affecting the title to Crown lands. The Assembly is not competent to make any Ordinance repugnant to the provisions of any enactments declared in or pursuant to the Samoa Amendment Act, 1947, to be reserved.

On Tuesday, 1st June, 1948, in the course of celebrations that lasted the entire week, the new Samoan Flag and the New Zealand Ensign were raised together on the historic malae at Mulinu'u, and the next morning the Legislative page 177 Assembly was formally opened by the High Commissioner. The Council of State has functioned regularly since its inception.

The establishment of the United Nations Organisation has furnished the occasion for the development of a legal substitute for the Mandates system and in terms of the Trusteeship Agreement the New Zealand Government assumes direct responsibility for the administration of the trust Territory. Pages 7 to 9, in relation to successive modern political stages and the derivation of New Zealand's authority in Western Samoa, must therefore now be read in conjunction with the note of constitutional changes set out in this concluding chapter. The book thus closes with the commencement of a new political era in the lives of the people of Western Samoa.

It has been shown that Samoan society, although tenacious of its own culture in the past, is now subject to stresses that may possibly lead to sweeping social reforms within a comparatively short period. Ignorance can be a country's greatest enemy, and there are many Samoans who recognize that their progress to ultimate self-government is inevitably bound up with education, particularly that of the younger generation. Progress and education will bring changes in their train, but at the moment there is much of beauty and dignity in Samoan custom that links the present with the past. It has been one of the purposes of this book to describe some of the interesting differences that still exist between Samoan society and our own.

The aspirations of an intelligent people for self-government may properly command our respect and earnest assistance. Although a period of preparation is inevitable, it has been stated on behalf of the New Zealand Government that the steps taken recently are only the first in a process that will not end until the people of Western Samoa are able to assume full responsibility for the control of their own affairs.


* The death of the Honourable Mata'afa on 27th March, 1948, is recorded with regret. There are now only two Fautua.

The Samoan Flag is red, the first quarter blue and bearing five white five-pointed stars representing the Southern Cross, the size and disposition of the stars being as gazetted.