The year 1959, most assuredly, will ever be remembered in world history for the exchange visits for peace between the leaders of the United States and Russia. But to the nobilities, chiefs and people of Western Samoa, it is when the foundation was laid for them to join the family of independent nations in the world. It was when the United Nations Trusteeship Council exchanged visits with Samoa's royal delegation who visited them in New York.
On May 26, at Tiafau, on the historical Mulinuu Peninsula, the flag of the United Nations floating, for the first time, in the soft island breezes beside the five-starred emblem of Western Samoa, marked the historical event. Future generations of Samoa will learn that on this day the United Nations exchanged visits with their leaders who last year visited them in their headquarters in the United States. Under the swaying palms, on the green lawn beside the government Fono (legislature) house, which faces the reefs and the rolling waves of the great Pacific Ocean, the guests were honoured with a full-scale traditional welcome, which opened with the King's 'Ava Reception.
The attendance as honoured guests were the four members of the United Nations Special Mission - Honourable Arthur S. Lall (Chairman), India's Representative; Sir Andrew Cohen, KCMB, of Great Britain; Mr. Omar Loutfi of United Arab Republic and Mr. Jacques Kosciusko-Morizet of France. The Mission was accompanied by Messrs. J. McEwen (Secretary of Island Territories Department, New Zealand) and Mr. Paul Edmonds (permanent Representative of New Zealand at United Nations headquarters.
The Mission was received by their Royal Highnesses Malietoa, Tamasese and Mataafa and their wives, as well as several members of the Chief Council and thousands of Samoans. The Taalolo (formal presentation of food and gifts for the guest) followed in order, in which Princesses Tutasi Malietoa and Sala Mataafa (wearing headdresses) led the group as premier dancers. During the ceremony, orator Vaitagutu, in behalf of the royalties of Samoa, the chiefs and people, delivered the formal welcome address. He assured the guests of the great importance to the Samoans of the Mission's visit and requested "favourable consideration of the subject uppermost in the minds of the Samoans" - their desire for an independent government. Chairman Lall replied and expressed for the members of the mission, for it is conscious of its duty and responsibility. He assured the large anxious assembly that under the United Nations Charter, it is clear and without ambiguity that their set goal is to grant them an independent government.
For several generations the Samoans watched with great interest several British, Americans and Germans coming and going. The New Zealanders are said to be leaving in 1960. "Will the Samoans be successful in their new Independent Government?" is the most discussed question now. Much has been said pro and con about the future of the new Administration. Although the optimists are in the majority, failure has been predicted by many. The win-or-lose-who-care element now sing in unison - "time will tell." The word "democratic" (although it has no definition in Samoan) is next to the phrase "Matai (chief or family head) System" in popularity in the subjects of the day now heatedly debated by all articulate-thinking Samoans and their friends. Evidently the pessimists think the two systems are far apart from each other and they will never jell. "Democratic System or none," some hastily declare. In such an important topic thorough discussion and individual showing of interest is in order and to be commented. It is the best way to form a public opinion. to be determined, to be resolute, all will agree, is a great virtue. But it is foolish to make a hasty ultimatum that can have but two results: carrying out an unwise threat or losing face by not carrying out the threat at all. Seriously, it is time now for all true sons and daughters of Samoa to face the issue and say with pride: "There is nothing more democratic than the Matai System. Tonga then was prosperous under the leadership of their then Queen, Prince Tungi as Premier, and Chirfs. Whites are employed only when there is no capable Tongan available.
It goes without saying that the royalties and chiefs of Samoa, since time immemorial, thoroughly discussed in council all matters that concerned the people before they are acted upon. The Matai who represents his clan serves wholeheartedly and with no reservation his countrymen, his district, village and family. It never enters into his mind that his family is composed only of "Pop, Mom and the kids," as it is in most parts of the world. In Samoa and most of the islands of Polynesia, the world anthropologists, sociologists and scientists have been greatly surprised when they found not a single orphanage, old-age home, detention home or asylum. There are no p9oor and needy; the families under the Matai system take care of their aged and invalids. A fatherless or motherless child is immediately adopted by his relatives and he grows up naturally and happy, just as if his parents never passed away.
To clarify the qualifications of a Matai before he is elected by the family, or sustained by the village council and the district might acquaint all who have never lived among the Samoans in the islands with the Matai system. First, he should be a lineal member of the family and his ancestors have held the title he is about to receive. He should show interest in the affairs of the family while he is serving his Matai and the village chief council. He should be intelligent, and have a desire to continue to learn. He must be true, tolerant, diligent, humble and kind. He is expected to protect the interest of his family and village, even at the peril of his life. Having no set salary and since he receives no votes bought with his friends' money, he is not bribed or inclined to favoritism. Honour and service to his fellow men is his pride and only goal.
Samoans believe and live the philosophy of Apostle Peter of old - (Second Peter 1:4-7)-"Whereby are given unto us exceeding and precious promises; that by these you might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity." All members of the Chief Council know that "Love" (thy God) is the first commandment; and the second is again -"Love" (thy neighbours). Their practical, real, down-to-earth thinking starts and ends in love. The Matai's most honoured duty is to keep the ties of brotherhood and fellowship ever strengthened among his family, village and people. Is there any more "democratic" system? The Chief Council is to be commended for their approval of election of part-Samoans to become Matais, and to hold positions in the government. They have hereditary rights to be elected as such. Moreover, their contributions to the progress of Samoa in the past - and it will continue to be more so in the future - must be appreciated. It would be injustice and retrogression for the people to do otherwise. Leaders of Samoa should also act now to have all Samoans and part-Samoans receive the same wage scale as the whites if they are equal in capability. This will eventually stop the migration of Samoans to foreign lands to seek employment and be paid as much as others according to what he knows.
Samoans, realizing a real task ahead in rehabilitating, reactivating and cultivating of their many resources in creating more industries, carefully study their gains and losses of the past and look ahead with prayers and faith far into the future. They are mindful that in the past; many of their close friends from foreign lands lived with them under false pretences of friendship, mutual benefits, public services, and even promises of many spiritual blessings in the glorious, happy life hereafter. Most of these so-called "devoted" friends reaped personal material gains at the expense and loss of their true friends - the Samoans. Other branches of Polynesia were likewise treated. As soon as their islands were ceased to a foreign nation and their Matai system abolished, their lands were owned by exploiting industrialists. Not only they have lost heir fertile lands and happy homes but they lost their hereditary rights customs and traditions - their most sacred possessions. Samoa in order to revive must keep their lands and Matai system. The Van Camp Fishing Industries and several world-renowned business firms and agriculturists now operate profitably on long-term leases in the islands.
Division of Samoa between the United States and New Zealand is neither practical nor honourable. Builders of Samoa know that this is true. As they now press on to victory in the performance of their duty and sacred obligation they must be one, just as they are one in heredity. They can build more economically together. Backbiters should be reminded that it is a proven fact that "Grumblers never work and workers never grumble." If the opinion of the people could be mobilized and focus on the same direction and action backs the plans, success will be assured at a very near future. The following excerpt of the historical address of His Royal Highness Tamasese before the United Nations, as he represented the royal mission from Samoa in 1958 expresses in plain terms the true and general feelings of the people:
|In Samoa the Matais are
constantly meeting and discussing public affairs with the members of the
clan and with their Matai brothers in village and district councils and
other gatherings. This gives
adequate opportunity for forming an active and effective public opinion.
In a small country like Samoa the member for the district is known personally to everyone in the district, a thing impossible in other countries.
No one would have the slightest hesitation to approach the member about some problem, or have the slightest difficulty in meeting him.
The Samoan Matai does not lord it over the members of the clan.
As head he is given honour and dignity, but he is also the servant of all. The family or clan is the superior entity to which all over allegiance.
About this the Samoans have a quasi-religious feeling. To them the family is scared and the demands of family loyalty a most sacred obligation.
(Tamasese's statement sought to answer criticism that young educated Samoans were being thwarted and frustrated by the Matai System, their initiative stifled and their voice unheeded by the Matai.)
|In the first place, it
must be pointed out that more and more of these young educated Samoans
were becoming Matais. More of them would be elected to the office if they
would realize that a European-style education was not the sole
qualification for that office. It was also necessary to have a thorough
knowledge of all that pertain to the language, customs, and traditions of
Samoa in general and of one's own clan in particular.
Some preferred not to accept the onerous duties and responsibilities of the Matai. That was their privilege.
But they should not complain when called upon to render service, for by doing so they retain the right to call upon the Matai and family in time of need.
Some of the young people forgot that if they were living overseas they would be taxed heavily for the security they so easily enjoyed at home.
Young people in every country were apt to be impatient with their elders. Revolutionary changed often appeals to the young. These more enlightened realized that social systems changed slowly and that true progress was a painful and slow process of trial and error.
It was asserted with complete confidence that any young, educat4ed Samoan who would have taken the trouble to study the language, particularly the beautiful ceremonial language of the orator, together with the customs and traditions of the people, would have found the he would have drawn closer, so that the European would have helped and not hindered both him and them.
Right of Free Choice
The Samoan people asked no more and no less than the natural God-given right of people everywhere, to have chosen freely for themselves a system of society and Government that was not imposed on them by a group of foreigners, however well-intentioned, for that would have been oppression and tyranny, but one which accorded with their own ancient and hallowed traditions, for in these was enshrined all that was most noble and most honourable in the spirit of their race.
It was wisdom for the leaders of Samoa to have approved the United Nations Mission move for establishment of election by "universal suffrage" and that the 21-year-old might vote. The Chiefs were confident that the public wo9uld vote for the more experienced Samoan for the offices. The people would always consider before voting the value of his being a member of the Chief Council and his knowledge of the customs and traditions of the people. furthermore, he would eventually be selected to take a Matai title by his family, if he was not yet a Matai. Again, universal suffrage had already been established in Western Samoa by appointing to office on November 1958, 41 Samoans, 5 Europeans, an Attorney General and Financial Secretary.
That the New Zealand Government would soon leave Samoa the legislature concentrated on financing, for the beginning of the operation of the new government until they could well afford to operate independently. The closest large nation that could be asked for financial aid was the United States. They were already in American Samoa, only 60 miles east. They have been extending loans to several nations who had then solved successfully their financial problems. Such a move would have been mutually beneficial to Western Samoa and the United States. The vast tillable lands of Samoa and the existing large cocoa, coconut, banana and rubber plantations assured a very promising future. With wisdom, love and determination, Samoa in the heart of the Polynesian Triangle would continue to be the happy Paradise.
THIS AND THAT
The feudal system, with chiefs at the head, has existed in Samoa for centuries and might not be considered as logical by foreigners. However, it can be truthfully said that is very well organized and highly respected by all. Any attempt by any government to nullify the rights of the hereditary chiefs would surely arouse political resentment. History can repeat itself. There is doubt that most of the past disturbances, in both American and British Samoan government could have been easily avoided had the administrators harmonized the Matai (Chief) system with their own policies. Before World War One the Germans made the same mistake. A hurried transfer from old customs and traditions to strict adherence to newly-created laws, though legal, is not only unwise, but would never receive approval by Samoans; at least for the present. To disregard the chiefs, who are appointed representatives of the families, would create many major political problems. It must never be forgotten that devotion and loyalty to the chie4f council has been rooted in the heads and the hearts of the race for hundreds of years, and cannot be eradicated overnight.
The most successful administrations, so far, have been those which seriously took an interest in the local native affairs and their established policies which recognized and gave due consideration to the long cherished ideals, known as beliefs and customs of the people. too often in the islands of Polynesia the foreigners swarmed for exploitation, interested only in receiving a large something for almost a little nothing. Samoan courtesies were rewarded with "love" in personal gain disguise. The people must be prepared now and always to protect their sacred heritage.
Selling of lands to foreigners should never be allowed. Long leases for plantations and industry should be encouraged. Existing laws protecting the lands for the Samoans should never be changed. Some branches of Polynesia which made this mistake have found out that their mistake was very serious and costly. It is vitally important to Samoa's survival as a people to adjust themselves wisely to new circumstances, and uniting under a proven successful system is as vital as the breath they take to sustain life. Colonialism in any form, or anywhere is abhorrent; experience speaks for itself. sons and daughters of Samoa for over a century travelled far abroad, braving the perils of land and sea as well as change of climate and way of life, to study and learn. Their return has marked an era of progress unprecedented in Samoa. Their sincere desire to raise the standards of living for their people and their ceaseless efforts to achieve rapid economic development is to be highly commented.
The world should not take it for granted that the chiefs, because some of them do not speak English, are of a lower mentality and ability. They are men of judgment, intellect, brave, skilful and persevering. They are generous and considerate, but firm. Chiefs and nobilities of Samoa have always been put to severe tests, but their love and devotion for their people never swerved. Deportation, humiliation and even shedding of blood of Samoa's royalties never changed them from their set goal to give their all and the best they have in the service of their people. History reveals that, as in all other countries, all differences of the past were created and motivated by greed and the selfish ambitions of a handful of unscrupulous politicians, who put fame and personal gin ahead of public interest. How often have the kings humiliated themselves, even to submission, in order to prevent war and the useless shedding of blood? How can any Samoan ever forget their leaders' dying wish to keep peace at any price?
Having no choice but to yield to an entirely changed world, Samoa must be one and continue to be one; preserve the best of the past and look forward to a much better future. The spirit, the ritual, sacred ceremonies, customs and traditions as well as the social system have kept Samoa together united, unselfish, and extremely happy. Samoa, if it continues with firm and fixed purpose, justice, love and wisdom, can continue to be the "Polynesian paradise".
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