The Petition For Self-Government By Leader J.B. Fonoti in 1944.


The Petition for Self-Government in 1944 by the Fono of Faipule leader Hon Fonoti that presented directly to New Zealand Governor-General Sir Cyral Newall in June, and much more directly to the Prime Minister Rt. Hon Peter Fraser on the 20-26th of December the same year.

While engaged to all Business Activities, J.B. Fonoti was also a Successful Politician. He was the leader of ‘The Fono a Faipule’ of Samoa from 1939 to 1947. And was also a ‘Member of the Legislative Assembly’ from 1948 to 1952 and 1955 to 1957. And a member of the ‘Working Committee of the Constitutional Convention of the Government of Samoa 1954 to 1957. He was the leader of the MAU for Atua also in 1935 to his last year for the MAU Vaimoso 1942. He was the founder and leader of The Samoa Democratic Party in 1951/1953. When the New Zealand Governor-General Sir. Cyril Newall visited Samoa in June 1944, and New Zealand Prime Minister Hon Mr. Peter Fraser on a special fono in December the same year 1944. Leader Hon J.B. Fonoti presented directly the Petition for Self-Government in Samoa to them. While welcoming, leader Faipule Hon J.B. Fonoti and on behalf of the Fono of Faipule, expressed solid criticism of New Zealand policy.

There was, then, in Western Samoa from 1942 onwards a growing and audible demand for self-government, a demand by no means silenced by New Zealand paternalism.

In 1944 that which had long been familiar to experts was made explicit. In June of that year the Governor-General, Sir Cyril Newall, paid his third visit to the territory, and Samoan spokesman, while welcoming him on behalf of the Fono of Faipule, expressed solid criticism of New Zealand policy. “The Samoans, said leader Hon Fonoti, had been denied even that element of self-government which had been established in Tonga and Fiji and in Eastern Samoa. The terms of the mandate have imposed on New Zealand the solemn duty of educating the Samoans to self-government and the terms of the Atlantic Charter express the same aim for the small nations of the world. Thirty years have passed since New Zealand took over Western Samoa and we are appreciably no nearer this goal. We wish to assure your Excellency that the Samoan people are loyal to the Union Jack, His Majesty the King and the British Empire, but after thirty years of New Zealand administration during which our justified aspirations were ignored and our requests for improvements were rejected, we have lost confidence in the trusteeship of New Zealand which has shown a lack of interest in the territory and treated its people as stepchildren. In the Governor’s phrase, – a nettle is appearing”.

In the month that followed, political activity continued, and the Faipule leader Hon Fonoti formed a standing committee to keep in touch with the workings of the administration: move with sinister precedents. In the view of an experienced observer; it was not far removed from the formation of another Mau. By this time, however, it was known that the Prime Minister himself was about to visit the mandated territory. He was known to have a keen personal interest in its administration, of which since 1940 he had been the ministerial head; but the tremendous pressure of war issues during the ensuing years had kept his main attention elsewhere.

In 1944, as the war situation eased and as politics in Western Samoa grew more tense, he carried out a long-deferred intention to discuss the matter on the spot with those most concerned. This visit of the Prime Minister Peter Fraser to Western Samoa and his discussions with a special Fono in December “proved a Crucial Event in New Zealand’s Relations with the Samoans and in the Evolution of New Zealand’s conception of trusteeship”.

In the first place, the Samoans formulated their political demands for themselves, as well as for the New Zealand Government, with unmistakable clarity. The Faipule leader Hon Fonoti presented to the Prime Minister a list of remits, most of which were detailed and aimed at progressive displacement of Europeans by Samoans in administration, but which was headed by a firm request for self-government after the war. The Samoan spokesman leader Hon Fonoti, told Mr. Fraser frankly that he was “quite convinced that the Samoans are able to have their own government at the present time. The only obstacle that we think is in the way is the communication with other countries. We are quite able to run our own affairs in Samoa; but obstacles had always been put in the way of such overseas contacts. ‘As regards the government of the people and preservation of the peace, many years ago the Samoans had their own forms of government before the Europeans set up government in this country, he said. These governments functioned very successfully, except when Europeans interfered. Moreover, at that time the Samoans had no education whatever, nowadays they have a fair amount of education, they have a very good understanding of affairs and they are quite able to control their own government.”

Demands were made in direct by leader Hon J.B. Fonoti with a firm request for Self-Government in Samoa, included: 1. The association with the administration of Samoa representatives to deliberate with Fonoti on ‘All Government Matters, 2. The appointment of Samoans as head of the Native Affairs Department, 3. For a Department of Agriculture to be established, 4. Promotions of Samoans through out the Public Service to more senior posts, 5. For the training overseas of the Ablest Samoan Youths for further Education, 6. And For Limiting the Term of Expatriates to Three Years and No more than Six years. And more.

Several important, though uncomplicated, decisions were made by New Zealand straight away. In particular: 1. A Scholarship Scheme to inaugurated to enable some of the Ablest Samoa Children to go to New Zealand for further Education, 2. A new appointment was made to the Office Of Administration. “This was not an easy position for the New Zealand Government to fill”.

NOTE: The Trusteeship Agreement for Western Samoa was submitted and approved by the General Assembly of the United Nations Organisation on the 13 December 1946!” Its details belong to the history of self-government in Samoa.

“Samoa’s Freedom From New Zealand Approved And Confirmed!”

At the beginning of June two major events gave further evidence of the growing reality of the new political era. On 1st of June 1948 the newly authorized flags of Samoa-the Samoan flag (which had just been adopted) and the New Zealand flag, flown conjointly, were raised ceremonially for the first time. An official anthem, ‘The Banner of Freedom’, had been composed for the occasion. In the wave of sympathetic emotion which the occasion generated the country gained a national flag, a national anthem and a national day, all of which established a hold on the people’s minds and survived as part of the ceremonial superstructure of the nation state that they were engaged in creating. The next day the High Commissioner opened the first session of the Legislative Assembly.

Click on link to view original copies on petition minutes: PetitionDocuments1944

NZETC: Under Subject Heading “Trusteeship in Action” (P.18. Sections: 336 – 337 – 338) Report of United Nations Mission, 1947. Link to subject: TrusteeshipInAction

(“e ufiufi a le tama’imoa i le tanoa, ae ioio lava..”)

NZTEC Text: The New Zealand Electronic Text Centre. Digital library to significant New Zealand and Pacific Island texts and materials.Victoria University Of Wellington.

1. Twenty-second Report of the Administration of the Mandated Territory of Western Samoa, Wellington, N.Z., 1945.
2. Report to the Trusteeship Council by the United Nations Mission to Western Samoa, 1947.

Constitutional changes of great importance have taken place in Western Samoa since the introduction went through the press early in 1947, and it is now necessary to add something to what was stated in the latter part of that chapter in order to record the more significant developments that have succeeded the Mandate.

The draft Trusteeship Agreement for Western Samoa submitted to the United Nations by the New Zealand Government was placed before the General Assembly of that body for consideration and approval in October, 1946. Approval accorded on 13th December, 1946, brought Western Samoa under the International Trusteeship system.

In the meantime, however, the Samoan people, consulted regarding the terms of the draft agreement, had submitted a petition praying for immediate self-government under the protection of New Zealand. This the New Zealand Government duly forwarded to the Trusteeship Council with a request that a United Nations Mission should visit Western Samoa to investigate the petition. The Mission arrived on 4th July and left on 28th August, 1947, its complete report being released in October of the same year.

The Government’s proposals relating to constitutional changes in Western Samoa were outlined in the House of Representatives by the Acting Prime Minister on 27th August, 1947, and were later found to differ in very few particulars from the recommendations set out in the report of the Mission.

An Act of the General Assembly of New Zealand giving affect to the Government’s proposals was passed in November, 1947, and brought into force on the 10th March, 1948, by Governor-General’s Proclamation.

The significant provisions of that Act are as follows:
(1) The Administrator is in future to be known as the High Commissioner.
(2) A Council of State is established consisting of the High Commissioner and the Samoan leaders for the time being holding office as Fautua. The High Commissioner is to consult the Council of State on all proposals for legislation, matters closely relating to Samoan custom and any other matters affecting the welfare of Western Samoa which he considers it proper to refer to the Council of State.
(3) The old Legislative Council is abolished and a new legislature termed the Legislative Assembly, over which the High Commissioner or his nominee presides, is constituted consisting of:
(a) The Samoan members for the time being of the Council of State:
(b) Eleven Samoan members nominated by the Fono of Faipule:
(c) Not more than five European elected members:
(d) Not more than six official members, of whom three are nominated by the Governor- General and three by the High Commissioner.

There is thus an effective Samoan majority in the new legislature, whose powers are wide, but do not extend to the making of laws relating to defence (except in regard to the taking of land for defence purposes), external affairs, or affecting the title to Crown lands. The Assembly is not competent to make any Ordinance repugnant to the provisions of any enactments declared in or pursuant to the Samoa Amendment Act, 1947, to be reserved.

On Tuesday, 1st June, 1948, in the course of celebrations that lasted the entire week, the new Samoan Flag and the New Zealand Ensign were raised together on the historic Malae at Mulinu’u, and the next morning the Legislative Assembly was formally opened by the High Commissioner. The Council of State has functioned regularly since its inception.

The establishment of the United Nations Organisation has furnished the occasion for the development of a legal substitute for the Mandates system and in terms of the Trusteeship Agreement the New Zealand Government assumes direct responsibility for the administration of the trust Territory. In relation to successive modern political stages and the derivation of New Zealand’s authority in Western Samoa, must therefore be read in conjunction with the note of constitutional changes was set out thus closes with the commencement of a new political era in the lives of the people of Western Samoa.

It has been shown that Samoan society, although tenacious of its own culture in the past, is then subject to stresses that may possibly lead to sweeping social reforms within a comparatively short period. Ignorance can be a country’s greatest enemy, and there are many Samoans who recognize that their progress to ultimate self-government is inevitably bound up with education, particularly that of the younger generation. Progress and education will bring changes in their train, but that moment there is much of beauty and dignity in Samoan custom that links the present with the past.

The aspirations of an intelligent people for self-government may properly command respect and earnest assistance. Although a period of preparation is inevitable, it has been stated on behalf of the New Zealand Government that the steps taken recently are only the first in a process that will not end until the people of Western Samoa are able to assume full responsibility for the control of their own affairs. Link to: NZTEC

From Book: The Evolution of International Human Rights; visions seen; by Paul Gordon Lauren. Edition 2. (Page 176: Chapter 6) Peace And A Charter With Human Rights.

Book Intro: Paul Lauren makes clear the truly universal nature of this movement by drawing into his discussion people and cultures in every part of the globe. In this regard, the book offers particularly remarkable revelations and insights when analyzing the impact of wars and revolutions, non-Western nations, struggles against sexism and racism, liberation movements and decolonization, nongovernmental organizations, and the courage and determination of countless numbers of common men and women who have contributed to the evolution of international human rights.

This new edition incorporates the most recent developments of the International Criminal Court, the arrest of Augusto Pinochet and the trial of Slobodan Milosevic, technology and the Internet, the impact of NGOs like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, globalization, terrorism, and the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Leader Hon Fonoti of Western Samoa Global Recognition For World Peace And Freedom 1945

Thus, the Atlantic Charter, the Declaration of the United Nations, the many speeches by Allied leaders, and even the Declaration on Liberated Europe emerging as late as February 1945 from the Yalta Conference between the United States, Britain, and the Soviet Union all fostered this belief. But there was something more as well. The war produced millions of new European victims of aggression at the hands of the Axis powers. As a result, their own first-hand experience made them much more sympathetic than ever to the sufferings of others forced to live under conquest and subjugation, including those indigenous people within their colonial empires, who vowed that there could never be lasting peace as long as they were denied their freedom. Thus, many victims in the west began to join with many others like Gandhi in India, Ho Chi Minh of Indochina, Nkrumah and Kenyatta of Africa, Carlos Romulo of the Philippines, and Fonoti of Western Samoa in regarding the right of self-determination as absolutely necessary for international peace.

Hon Fonoti Mata'utia Ioane Brown 1954-1957.HON FONOTI MATA’UTIA IOANE BROWN 1954-1957.


~ by Christian Brown on July 19, 2008.

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