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The Revolt of the Samoans

Penalising Proclamations and Ordinances

Penalising Proclamations and Ordinances

When Western Samoa was under German control, the Imperial German Governor, by a Proclamation dated September 16, 1901, forbade the Samoan people any longer to exercise the custom of local banishment, and vested the power of banishment in himself. Up to this time the Samoans had been in the habit of banishing chiefs and others who transgressed the tribal law. The Governor was now empowered to order any Samoan to leave his own village and reside in any specified place for whatever term was stipulated. A Native disobeying a banishment order could be arrested without warrant and taken to the place of his banishment; he could also be sentenced to imprisonment for one year.

By a Proclamation made on March 20, 1916, and a Regulation dated February 12, 1918, we delared the German Proclamation of 1901 still to be in force; and in 1922 we promulgated the Samoan Offenders' Ordinance, made in pursuance of the Samoa Act, 1921, but based on the German Proclamation of 1901. This Ordinance vested in the New Zealand Administrator of Samoa the powers of banishment formerly taken by the Imperial German Governor. The penalties for disobeying a banishment order remained the same.

In 1922 the Police Offenders Ordinance was enacted. This provided a penalty of £20, with the alternative of imprisonment, for any one making, repeating, or publishing any false rumour-whether he believed it to be false or not-calculated to create agitation, distress, disaffection, resentment, or dissension among the people of Western Samoa.

The Ordinances of 1922 were followed by the Samoa Immigration Consolidation Order, 1924, which empowered the Administrator to order the deportation of anyone who had not been permanently resident in Samoa for at least a year, or who was alien-born, if he (the Administrator) was satisfied that such person was disaffected, disloyal, or likely to be a source of danger to the peace, order, and good government of Samoa. A fine of £100 and imprisonment for six months were the penalties provided for disobeying a deportation order; and the Administrator could have the deportee arrested and placed on an outward-bound steamer.

The Maintenance of Authority in Native Affairs Ordinance came next. This was put through the Samoa Legislative Council in March last. It provided a fine of £100 or imprisonment for a year for anyone who by speech or act did anything likely to undermine the authority of or to excite disaffection against any Native authority. The same penalties were provided for anyone making any statement likely to undermine the authority of the Government of Samoa among the page 9 Natives. It was set forth that it was to be no defence that the person charged did not know that his statement was false or did not know or intend it to he misleading. This astonishing measure was designed to terrorise into silence the widespread opposition to the Faipules appointed by the Administration and whose status was repudiated by the Samoan people in 30 out of 33 villages. It was not unlike the one-sided law of "seditious tendency" so effectively used against the political opponents of the New Zealand Government in the war years. Whoever should be charged under its provisions could have no hope of acquittal if the prosecution desired a conviction. Ample power was here not only to punish any law-breaker, but even to victimise law-abiding political opponents.