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The Revolt of the Samoans


page 1

Although the Samoan Archipelago is only a group of very small fly-specks on the map of the world, the little islands have written themselves stormily into human history since the eventful day, about a hundred years ago, when that intrepid missionary, the Rev. John Williams, landed there and persuaded the Malietoa of that time to embrace Christianity. In my pamphlet, "Samoa" (written in 1918), I have outlined the various incidents which marked the progress of events from the coming of the whites to our capture of Samoa from the Germans during the World War; and I do not propose to go over that ground again. My purpose, in this pamphlet, is to give publicity to some phases of the disturbed situation which has developed in Western Samoa during the past four or five years-for it is doubtful whether, at any period of its stormy history under white domination, its people have been so wholly dissatisfied with the conditions imposed upon them by foreigners as they are at the present moment with the consequences of the military dictatorship which we are exercising over them. As Sir Joseph Carruthers (ex-Premier and anti-Labour Legislative Councillor of New South Wales) has protested, our Administration is setting aside the fundamental principles of British justice in dealing with its political opponents; it arrests and imprisons those who disagree with its policy; in many cases it deports without the semblance of a trial its opponents against whom it can produce no evidence that would warrant a prosecution in the law courts. It deprives Native chiefs of hereditary titles, and in consequence gravely offends the Samoan people by this foreign interference with the tribal rights of the Natives.

Sir Joseph Carruthers has said that he holds documentary evidence proving that two Native chiefs of Upolu who accepted the invitation of the Minister of External Affairs (during his recent visit) to state their grievances were arrested shortly after the Minister left the island, and, without trial, were deported on the grounds that they were disaffected persons.

The Hon. O. F. Nelson, M.L.C., giving evidence before the Joint Samoa Committee, made revelations concerning the extraordinary experience of the Chief Afamasaga. In the early part of the Administrator's term of office, that official made much of Afamasaga, calling for cheers for him at public gatherings, and so on. Later on, because Afamasaga's activities displeased the Administrator, the chief was ordered to drop the title of Afamasaga and to be known in future as Lago. The deprivation of the chief's title was an affront to the Samoan people, and they refused to recognise the order and continued page 2 to address the chief by his proper title. The legal effect of the Administrator's order was that Afamasaga was no longer a chief and therefore had no authority with the people. Some time back, when a number of Natives were gathered in the vicinity of Afamasaga's village, the Administrator sent for the Samoan whom he had deprived of chiefly power and demanded that he should order the people to return to their homes. The Administrator must have known that, if his own deprivation order held good, Afamasaga (no longer a chief) had not the right to do what the Administrator was now demanding. And yet, because he did not do it, the Administrator punished him. He was punished for not doing what the Administrator had deprived him of the power to do, according to Mr. Nelson's evidence. The additional punishment took the form of deportation (without trial) to the island of Apolima; and the principal effect of the deportation would appear to have been to intensify the resentment of the Western Samoans generally, and to antagonise the residents of Apolima, who up to this time had sided with the Administration.