19 July 1982: Privy Council Rules on Samoan Citizenship Case

Falema'i Lesa having just won her case for citizenship with the Privy Council, 19 July 1982.

19 July 1982:  Today in History. On 19 July 1982 the Privy Council granted New Zealand citizenship to all Western Samoans born after 1924.

After Samoa achieved independence in 1962, the status of Samoans living in New Zealand was uncertain. In a case taken to the Privy Council, Falema’i Lesa, a Samoan woman living in New Zealand, pressed her claim to be a New Zealand citizen. The Privy Council ruled that all Western Samoans born between 1924 and 1948 were British subjects and that in 1949 they and their descendants had automatically become New Zealand citizens under the British Nationality and New Zealand Citizenship Act 1948.

When the Privy Council handed down their ruling granting New Zealand citizenship to (Western) Samoans born since 1924, the Government of NZ did not accept this decision.

Parliament of NZ rushed through an Act granting New Zealand citizenship only to Western Samoans who were living in New Zealand on the 14th of September 1982, or had subsequently obtained permanent residence.

Protesting against the Citizenship (Western Samoa) Act 1982.

Many Samoans felt betrayed by the New Zealand Government’s response. The 1982 act remains a concern for Samoans in New Zealand who desire freedom of movement between the two countries.

As late as March 2003, about 2,000 Samoans protested outside Parliament House in Wellington, and presented a petition with 90,000 signatures calling for the law’s repeal.

Source: nzhistory.gov.nz