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The Revolt of the Samoans

Joint Committee and Royal Commission

page 11

Joint Committee and Royal Commission

Pressure from the Opposition benches forced the hands of the Government up to that point where the Joint Samoa Committee was set up to take evidence and report upon a petition from the chiefs and people of Samoa, presented to Parliament by Mr. H. G. R. Mason, MP. The Hon. O. F. Nelson and Mr. A. G. Smyth had arrived in New Zealand from Samoa, and it was proposed to call both of them as witnesses. Mr. Myers, K.C., was briefed by the Government, and Sir John Findlay, K.C., by the petitioners. Sir John was unable to attend, however, and his partner (Mr. Hoggard) took his place. Mr. Nelson was the only witness heard. Day by day Mr. Myers (one of the ablest cross-examiners in the Dominion) turned his guns on the Samoan Legislative Councillor without in any way shaking his evidence. At the termination of Mr. Nelson's evidence it was discovered that the Government had decided to end the work of the Committee and to set up a Royal Commission to take evidence in Samoa. Despite the protests of Mr. Howard and myself, the Committee resolved not to present any report to the House until the Royal Commission had terminated its labours. It was also decided that copies of the evidence heard by the Committee should be sent to the Royal Commission. At an early stage of the Committee's proceedings Sir James Allen, chairman of the Joint Committee and with its authority, sent a radiograph to Samoa promising that when the Committee's report was presented to Parliament, the evidence would be printed and also tabled. After the Royal Commission had concluded its sittings, the Joint Samoa Committee was called together again, and a formal report to both Houses was agreed upon. Mr. Howard and I both understood that, the Committee would honour its own and Sir James Allen's promise to the Samoan people, and we were exceedingly surprised to find that the evidence was not tabled when Mr. E. P. Lee reported to the House on behalf of the Committee on December 3. No explanation has yet been forthcoming why the Committee's promise was dishonoured.

The Royal Commission's Report was in the Prime Minister's hands prior to the session ending, but it was not presented to Parliament because, according to Mr. Coates, neither he nor Cabinet had had an opportunity of making themselves acquainted with its contents. The Prime Minister promised, however, that copies of the Report would be made available to the Press and to members of Parliament also as Quickly as possible. On December 9 the Report was released to the Press, but up to this date (January 16, 1928) it is still withheld from members, and none of us is in a position to know its contents other than what we have been able to glean from the condensations which have appeared in the newspapers, and no reason has been given to any of us why the Prime Minister's promise has not been kept.