Other formats

    Adobe Portable Document Format file (facsimile images)   TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

Hilltop: A Literary Paper. Volume 1 Number 3

Pacific Review

page 12

Pacific Review

With this article we commence a series of quarterly discussions of developments in the island countries of the pacific. The article, an outline of the mandate and trusteeship systems, is intended as a general introduction to the series.

If international rivalry has been one of the dominant themes in the history of the political and economic penetration, and even on occasions, of humanitarian endeavour in the Pacific Island, there has also been a growing conviction of the value and necessity of international collaboration among the nations responsible for the administration of the various islands. In the 19th century international agreements played their part in the political partitioning of the Pacific, though largely because the powers concerned were not convinced that the strategic and economic value of a scattered island empire was worth the risk of international complications, or the burden of political responsibility and cost of administration. Hence a general willingness to permit all to share in the spoil, apart from protests of certain Australian and New Zealand premiers whose sense of isolation and insecurity, and whose youthful and self-assertive nationalism would only have been quietened by making the South Pacific a British lake.

In the present century, international collaboration in Pacific affairs has expanded into many fields. Self-interests of the native peoples themselves, and the climate of world opinion have fostered this trend. Economic interests have pointed this way. Western capital invested in backward territories has shown as increasing disregard for political boundaries, commercial, plantation and shipping interests have found that economic nationalism does ot pay, particularly in times of crisis. Western labour is realising the value of international standards as protection against cheap native labour. Colonial rivalry and the growing resentment of imperialist rule among dependent peoples themselves have been and still are potential threats to international peace and security. Governments responsible for the administration of dependent peoples have been faced with common problems of welfare and development calling for the pooling of information and experience, and the working out of common solutions. Small countries, such as New Zealand, have found the sole burden of a dependent territory too much of a strain on their limited resources. The spread of the idea of trusteeship has demanded that all countries responsible for the government of dependent peoples should in some way be made accountable to world opinion.

All these factors then have favoured experiments of different sorts in international collaboration in the Pacific. In government there have been the not very encouraging results of the Anglo-French Condominium (dubbed "Pandemonium") in the New Hebrides, and the more fruitful if informal co-operation of British Commonwealth countries with Pacific dependencies. In the economic field there has been the war-time collaboration in the marketing of island produce. In health services there is the outstanding example of the value of co-operation provided by the Central Medical School at Suva. For the future, there is the prospect of regional collaboration in economic and social welfare through the south Pacific Commission. And twice this century, was has been the architect of systems of international supervision of certain island administrations in the Pacific, the effect of which has by no means been confined to the areas directly concerned. In 1918, when German power in the Pacific ended, her colonial possessions became mandated territories under the league of Nations, and the noble declarations of human rights in President Wilson's "Fourteen Points" were incorporated into Article 22 of the Covenant for people who did not enjoy self-government, and who were unable to stand on their feet in the strenuous conditions of the modern world. In 1945 Japanese dreams of the South Sea Islands as a part of a Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity sphere were dispelled, and the trusteeship system for non-self-governing peoples came into being under the united nations, giving practical effect to the idealism of the Atlantic Charter. A breif review of the mandate page 13 system in the Pacific, and a comparison between it and the trusteeship system may indicate some of the possibilities of international supervision in the administration of theislands and their people.

The former German colonies in the Pacific all became C Class mandates, a compromise devised to meet the promises made to Japan in secret treaties, and the demands of Australia and New Zealand for outright annexation. These demands stemmed from their fear that the original scheme would have sanctioned the open door not only to the trade, but also to the nationals of all countries on equal terms, and thus have prejudiced their stategic and economic interests as well as their "White" immigration policies. The C Class mandate provided for the administration of the islands — by New Zealand in Western Samoa, Australia in New Guinea, Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand in Nauru, and Japan in the Carolines, Marshalls and Marianas—as integral parts of the mandatory's territory. It was alleged to be virtual annexation. Still there were important safeguards. There was the fundamental obligation in the dual mandate itself, the sacred trust to promote the well-being and development of the inhabitants of the territory for their own benefit, as well as for the benefit of the civilised world. There were the specific if negative safeguards for prohibiting the slave trade and forced labour, controlling the liquor and arms traffic, precluding the military training of natives and the erection of military or naval fortifications in the territory, and provisions for freedom of conscience and worship. Direct supervision could be exercised by the League through the obligation of the mandatory power to submit annual reports to a Permanent Mandates Commission comprised of specially appointed individuals, experts in colonial affairs who were to exercise independent judgment and make criticisms and suggestions to the mandatory power. No specific provision was made for tutelage in self-government, though this was implied in the Covenant; no future date was envisaged for the termination of the mandate. In practice, it was the system of annual reports, the work of the Permanent Mandates Commission, the sense of trusteeship of mandatory powers, and publicity, which gave reality to this system of international supervision. The wishes of the natives themselves in the choice of mandatory power were not considered. (In Western Samoa there was a marked lack of enthusiasm for New Zealand, whose war-time military regime, alleged responsibility for the influenza epidemic, and lack of "big power" status, were by no means calculated to win the favour of a traditionally proud and "nationally" conscious people.)

It is difficult to assess the practical results of international supervision in the mandated islands between the wars, because economic progress and social welfare, expressed in the dual aspect of the mandate, were common objectives of all colonial administrations in varying degrees. Its indirect influence on colonial practice generally is even more intangible. New Zealand can claim to have done much for Western Samoa with no thought of exploitation for her own profit. "The economic interests of Samoans have been put first, even at times in the face of strong pressure from non-Samoan interests. A case in point has been the repatriation and exclusion of Asiatic labourers in order to safeguard the integrity of the Samoan people. Alienation of land to Europeans has been prohibited. Public health, education and other welfare services have been greatly advanced. Samoan customs have been respected. Substantial money grants have been given for development and welfare to supplement local revenues."* Vet there has been a lack of cooperation between the population and the authorities.

Samoans can complain of unsuitable personnel in the administration, racial discrimination, tardy political, social and economic development. "We want to be free; we want self-government because it is our birthright"—and, "we want roads, and schools, and health—more than New Zealand has given us" was the trend of feeling encountered by the United Nations Mission in Samoa in 1947.

If welfare and development in New Guinea has been much less impressive-education left mainly in the hands of the missions, medical problems still barely touched, and the indenture system a disruptive influence on community

* "Report to the Trusteeship Council of the United Nations Mission to Western Samoa," Dept of External Affairs, Wellington, 1947, p. 19.

page 14 life—the size and difficulty of the terrain, the primitive state of the native inhabitants, as well as the rich natural resources tempting capitalist exploitation and creating a group trying to influence the administration, are all factors which must be given due consideration. In Nauru the Commonwealth Government's task has been simplified by the smallness of the native population and the development of the phosphate industry which has met the major costs of the administration and provided the means to expand welfare services.

Japan's record as a mandatory power compares favourably with that of Australia and New Zealand in many respects—particularly in the fields of development and welfare. On the other hand the basic objectives of her policy of assimilation, her agricultural colonisation of the islands, and above all her use of the islands as stategic bases were incompatible with the terms of the mandate.

There were then definite weaknesses in the mandate system itself; large gaps between policy and practice, complicated by the difficulty of defining the degree of responsibility of the various authorities concerned. "From the point of view of the native, too, the mandate organisation has failed to provide any tangible and appealing set of symbols, rituals, and ideology which might hold his loyalties; it is hard for native groups to get enthusiastic about some vague super-national entity."*

The system of international trusteeship provided for in the United Nations Charter has potentially greater scope, wider functions and more precise objectives than the mandate system. The basic objectives of trusteeship are more clearly defined. The interests of the inhabitants in territories which have not yet attained a full measure of self-government are paramount. There is a more positive definition of the obligations undertaken by states administering trust territories; there is greater stress on the need to encourage the political aspirations of dependent peoples and to assist them to develop progressively towards self-government or independence. There are assurances of equal treatment in social, economic and commercial matters for all members of the United Nations in trust territories in contrast to the "closed door" in the C Class mandate.

The system is not limited to territories surrendered by enemy powers as a result of war, but may include former mandates, as well as any territories voluntarily placed under it by the states responsible for their administration. So far, however, only the former mandated islands have come under it as far as the Pacific area is concerned.

The means provided for its implementation are more easily adaptable to local conditions than under the mandates system. In place of the three classes of mandates, there are individual trusteeship agreements for each territory, agreed upon by the states directly concerned and submitted to the General Assembly of the United Nations for approval by a two-thirds majority. Such agreements have now been approved for Western Samoa, New Guinea, Nauru and the Japanese mandated islands. New Zealand, Australia, Great Britain and the United States have been designated the administering authorities, although it is possible for this function to be exercised by the United Nations itself.

The terms of the three former agreements illustrate the more precise political aims and the greater elasticity of the system. In Western Samoa recognition has been given to the aspirations of the Samoans for self-government. New Zealand has undertaken to promote "the development of free political institutions" suited to the country, to assure the inhabitants "a progressively increasing share in the administration and other services of the territory," and to develop "the participation of the inhabitants . . . in advisory and legislative bodies and in the government of the territory." To help achieve these aims she has undertaken to "continue and extend a general system of education, including post-primary education and professional training." In framing law for Western Samoa she is to "take into consideration Samoan customs and usages" and to "respect the rights and safe-guard the interests, both present and future, of the Samoan population," particularly in questions relating to land.

* F. M. Keesing, "The South Seas in the Modern World," p. 300.

[See "Trusteeship Agreement for Western Samoa," Dept of External Affairs, Wellington, 1947, pp 6-10.]

page 15

In Nauru, the Commonwealth Government of Australia is to "continue to exercise full powers of legislation, administration and jurisdiction" on behalf of the three joint administering authorities. In accordance with its established policy it will "take into consideration the customs and usages of the inhabitants . . . respect the rights and safeguard the interests, both present and future, of the indigenous inhabitants," and in particular safeguard their rights to the land. Assurances are given to the people of political advancement and a progressively increasing share in their own administration, provisions which are both practicable and desirable because of the past role of Nauruan leaders in advising the administration in matters concerning their own welfare, rights and liberties, and because of the absence of illiteracy in the island except among the aged.

The trusteeship agreement for New Guinea provides for the continuation of the past policy of administering the territory as an integral part of Australia, and for the implementation of the policy of the Commonwealth Government to place New Guinea in an administrative union with the adjoining Australian territory of Papua—a course which had been considered incompatible with the terms of the mandate. The geographical ical unity and the common problems of the two areas seemed to make such a policy advantageous, while the practical benefits had been demonstrated during the military and provisional administrations from 1942. The Government considered that its continuation was in the interests of the people, and would greatly assist in carrying out the objectives of the trusteeship system. On this point there has been a good deal of discussion in the Trusteeship Council. Some members have considered that the plan amounted to virtual annexation and political union, that the separate identity of the trust territory would be extinguished, that the supervision of the Council would be rendered nugatory, and that the political objectives of the Trusteeship system would be defeated. The discussion resulted in specific recommendation by the Council to ensure that the union would not be incompatible with the trusteeship system, and to give added safeguards for the economic and social well-being of the native inhabitants.

Another noteworthy contrast between the mandates and trusteeship systems is the more realistic allowance made for the needs of international peace and security in trust territories. Administering authorities are charged with the duty of providing adequately for their defence and are authorised to make use of local volunteer forces, facilities and assistance. Specific articles in the trusteeship agreements for Western Samoa, Nauru and New Guinea provided for such measures.

There is also a proviso in the Charter for the designation in any trusteeship agreement of a strategic area, where all the functions of the United Nations shall be exercised by the Security Council, though the basic objectives of the trusteeship system still remain, and the Security Council may avail itself of the assistance of the Trusteeship in carrying out its functions. These provisions have been taken advantage of by the United States, who as the power occupying the Japanese mandated islands at the conclusion of the war, was responsible for drawing up a trusteeship agreement for them, but whose strategic interests in the area were opposed to the normal type of supervision.

Another important difference between the mandates and trusteeship systems is the method of supervision. In comparison with the Permanent Mandates Commission, the Trusteeship Council seems to possess a substantial degree of international authority. Membership is equally divided between representatives of those states who administer trust territories and those who do not. Individual delegates act as national representatives of their respective governments, which gives the Council an official status not possessed by the Permanent Mandates Commission. Administering authorities must submit annual reports to the United Nations based on a questionnaire drawn up by the Trusteeship Council, which is responsible for the consideration of the reports, during which proceeding a special representative of the administering authority may be present. The Council may also supplement its information from other sources. In the working out of this procedure Australia played an important role by submitting a report on New Guinea based on the provisional questionnaire.

Then the Council has two new powers that were not fully possessed by the Permanent Mandates Commission. It may accept written or oral petitions, and examine them in consultation page 16 with the administering authority, although such petitions need no longer be submitted through the latter. It may provide for periodic visits to trust territories— a right of inspection not previously allowed.

Both these powers have already been exercised for Western Samoa. In 1946 a petition was submitted to the United Nations from representative Samoan leaders through the New Zealand Government requesting that Samoa be granted self-government, that relations be continued with New Zealand as "Protector and Advisor to Samoa in the same capacity as England is to Tonga," and that consultation between Eastern and Western Samoa be arranged with a view to ending the "unnatural division of the islands of the Samoan group."

A United Nations Mission was sent to Western Samoa in 1947, and it succeeded in bringing about a substantial measure of agreement between its own members, New Zealand officials and Samoan leaders. It helped to win Samoan approval for the system of trusteeship which had hitherto been regarded with suspicion, and to assist the New Zealand Government in implementing plans for the development of self-government in conformity with its own recommendations and the principles of the trusteeship system.

From all this it can be seen that a new beginning has been made in the international supervision of some islands in the Pacific. In Western Samoa the direct, frank and friendly contact with the United Nations bodes well for the future. Fears that the United States might not participate in the trusteeship system have been obviated by special arrangements made for strategic areas. If the position of New Guinea has resulted in irreconcilable points of view among members of the Trusteeship Council, Australia's reassurances as to the sincerity of her intentions are borne out by her general willingness to co-operate fully in the system. It remains to be seen whether the recommendations of the Trusteeship Council will be fully put into practice. Of the many possibilities of the system, one of the widest is the inclusion of all colonial territories and protectorates. At present the likelihood of this seems remote. Still, a limited degree of international accountability exists even here, through the obligation of all members of the United Nations to submit information to the Secretary-General relating to economic, social and educational conditions in the territories for which they are each responsible.