Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

Samoa Under the Sailing Gods



The Royal Commission consisted of the Chief Justice of New Zealand and a Judge of the Native Land Court, who were page 231appointed at the beginning of September and departed for Samoa forthwith. The Citizens' Committee and the Samoan petitioners thereupon announced their intention of boycotting the Commission—on the grounds of its narrow terms of reference, lack of time to prepare their case, or to secure suitable counsel able to proceed to Samoa at such hurried notice, and insufficient guarantee against molestation and intimidation of witnesses. But in response to the general condemnation of New Zealand politicians and newspapers, and against the advice of their counsel in New Zealand, Sir John Findlay, K.C., they later decided to give evidence.

On the one side were arrayed the Samoan Administration, led by the Crown Prosecutor from Auckland, assisted by the Crown Solicitor of Apia and a German legal agent. On the other were the Citizens' Committee, supported by two young local law practitioners (one of them1 a new arrival in Samoa), whose application at the opening session of the Commission for a postponement, as had been promised by the Prime Minister, was rejected by the Chief Justice on the ground of the wilful absence of Mr. Nelson, who had not yet arrived from New Zealand. "My unfortunate position," the more experienced of them had to confess, "is that I do not know what evidence the natives are able to give." The Chief Justice remarked sagely that the less the native evidence was briefed, the better it would be in the interests of truth.

The young lawyer then went on to intimate that he proposed to keep the evidence "as clean as possible," and that no charges would be made against European officials of the Administration. In this way before it was begun the case was lost. The Commissioners stated in their report:

"We think that it is a significant circumstance that with reference to the acts of the present and previous Administrator, both on the European and Native sides of their administrations, no act of malfeasance, misfeasance, or misconduct on their part, or on the part of their European officials, was charged by the complainants. At one time it was suggested that charges of this nature might possibly be made against the present Administration, but absolutely no evidence of such charges page 232was tendered before us…. The absence of such allegations speaks highly for the spirit in which the administration has in the past been conducted."

The alleged comment of Sir John Findlay, K.C., on the way the case was handled in this respect is informative and interesting, but scarcely to be reduced to print.

1 Mr. Slipper.