Opposition HRPP Leader Submission to New Zealand Parliamentary Select Committee

To many of us who received higher education on Good Governance Principles of Transparency, Accountability and respect for the Rule of Law from our brilliant Kiwi Educators, the experience was mind boggling.

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FILE PHOTO: Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi of Samoa arrives to address the 71st United Nations General Assembly in the Manhattan borough of New York, U.S., September 23, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar/File Photo

On the 31st May 2024 at 11:59pm, all submissions on the Private Members Bill on Restoring Citizenship Removed by the Citizenship (Western Samoa) Act 1982 closed.

This Bill was tabled in the New Zealand Parliament by Green Party List MP, Teanau Tuiono.

The Leader of the Human Rights Protection Party, Hon. Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, has made a submission to the New Zealand Parliament Select Committee in support of the fundamental rights of all citizens of Samoa whose New Zealand citizenships were confirmed by the Privy Council decision of 1982 but stripped by the Muldoon government later in 1982.

Tuilaepa’s submission has been distributed as a Letter to the Editor for publication. It is printed in verbatim below:

Greetings to the Chairperson and the Honourable Members of the Special Parliamentary Committee.

With due respect and humility, I wish to present this submission to the Select Committee established to review the proposed bill on the New Zealand citizenship rights of Samoans born between 1924 -1949 as per Privy Council decision dated 28 July 1982 on an Appeal case submitted by a Samoan lady Ms Lesa who was facing deportation in 1982.

A rushed Legislation to remove the citizenship rights of Samoans as per Privy Council Decision and put in place a Protocol in record time of less than 8 weeks reflected a clear determination not to honour the legally expressed intention of the leaders of New Zealand when Samoa was under their Administration that those born during their Administration were declared New Zealand citizens.

The National Government of Rt. Honourable Robert Muldoon cunningly initiated a protocol and influenced the newly sworn in Prime Minister of Samoa Hon Vaai Kolone to agree to an arrangement where 1100 Samoans would emigrate to New Zealand and be granted their citizenship provided they have jobs secured.

The year 1982 in Samoa meanwhile was the most unstable year politically since our independence where four changes of Prime Ministers and their governments occurred, a situation which on hindsight was taken advantage of by one of the most seasoned politicians of proven skills the Rt. Honourable Muldoon.

The most difficult condition on employment assurance became the most powerful weapon used to strike down this fundamental right of a citizen to claim his/her New Zealand citizen.

What was most unbelievable, was the outright rejection by the New Zealand Parliament of a petition representing the views of an estimated 15% of Samoans to be heard, thereby evading the normal elementary rules of Natural Justice.

Then very strangely those Samoans who were in New Zealand at the time in 1982 could become citizens right away.

To many of us who received higher education on Good Governance Principles of Transparency, Accountability and respect for the Rule of Law from our brilliant Kiwi Educators, the experience was mind boggling.

The Protocol was indeed a one-sided affair in that the sole decision making for the selected 1100 rests solely with New Zealand officials.

It was an ugly sight in Apia to see our people queuing for hours outside in the sun waiting for an opportunity to be interviewed on their appeal for the grant of their human right that was theirs under the Laws passed by the great Parliament of New Zealand Leaders at the time.

When I became Prime Minister in 1998, I tried many times to persuade the New Zealand Ministers and officials in charge of the Protocol during regional meetings the need for the review of the implementation of the Protocol to simplify the qualifications criteria but, still little was done.

Since my Government exited in July 2021, entry conditions have worsen.

Even short visits for important cultural events took months of waiting. Hence the bill comes as a great opportunity to revisit the citizenship rights of Samoans in accordance with the Privy Council decision on the following grounds.

(1)When the New Zealand Parliament passed the law giving the rights of New Zealand citizenship to Samoans born between, 1924 – 1949 at the time New Zealand was administering Samoa, the intention of the leaders of New Zealand was genuinely clear. Samoa then had just emerged from a disastrous catastrophe of close to 25% of our population were killed by the flu pandemic due to the refusal of the Governor of New Zealand at the time in Samoa to seek medical assistance nor informed Wellington of what was happening in Samoa. Even the worst economic disaster in the 1930s that crippled all the economies of the World, with huge unemployed people especially in New Zealand, the citizenship law for Samoans remained. That intention was re-confirmed by the Privy Council decision of 1982. I do not know of any law abiding democratic freedom loving country where its Government was so happily determined to remove the citizenship rights of its own people as proclaimed by its law and upheld by its own Appeal Court of Law, by going to the extent of convincing the International Community and the whole World that the Protocol was written proof of the New Zealand Governments innocence in the whole drama..

(2)Very undoubtedly that clear intention of the leaders of New Zealand was also borne out by the Treaty of Friendship signed in 1961 for implementation in 1962, the only treaty of its kind ever signed by the Government of New Zealand when Samoa became Independent in 1962. That Friendship Treaty between the two Nations also directed that where a citizen of Samoa needs help in any part of the World, where a New Zealand Embassy is located and where the Government of Samoa does not have a diplomatic representation, the New Zealand High Commissioner shall provide all the help necessary as if such help is given to a New Zealand Citizen. I was a recipient of this assistance when I and my family were living and working in Brussels Belgium Europe in 1978 – 1980.

(3)In 1982 following the return of Hon Vaai Kolone after the signing of the Protocol to replace the Privy Council decision, our Party Caucus at our Special Meeting called to discuss the signed Protocol expressed very strong opposition, which I as member of our Caucus also expressed in my strong rejection in Articles published in our Media at the time. The position of the Human Rights Protection Party was for Vaai never to sign any document that would contradict the clear outcome of the Privy Council Decision. As a Human Rights Protection Party we must never, never, never be seen to be Party to any Agreement that would remove any fundamental right of a citizen of Samoa, the very purpose our Party was set up to protect. The protocol indeed caused uncompromised division within our Party and a factor which led to the defeat of Vaai in his subsequent attempts to lead the HRPP again. Tofilau Eti Alesana instead became the preferred leader until he retired in 1998. It was for many affected the saddest moment of a lifetime of what it feels like to be rejected as a human being, and a no body. A denial of this fundamental human right is never forgotten. And for a Country like New Zealand with a World reputation for great initiatives in enacting legislations for major social reforms, the rejection of the Privy Council Decision of 1982, became a huge dent to that World reputation, and respect for the Rule of Law.

(4)There are not many people alive today that were born between 1924 – 1949. And therefore the fear of numbers is unfounded. Our latest census of 2021 registered only 13,373 old age population of 65 years and above. Allowing for the numerous old people that died due to Covid-19, the number that qualified could be well below 4.000.

(5)It may be argued that the grant of citizenships will negatively affect the continuous availability of qualified personnel to serve our Government of Samoa. That should be never an excuse to wrongfully trample on a person’s right to emigrate, Governments have the resources to create employments and other incentives to meet shortages of skilled personnel. This problem of brain drain is an ongoing challenge for every country like New Zealand, Australia and for Samoa as well. Some may emigrate and many others will continue to stay behind. Proof of this is in our Parliament. There are MPs who are Samoans but also hold citizenships of other countries for travel purposes. But they continue to live in Samoa as MPs to serve their districts and take care of their extended family titles and land.

Our Samoan laws permit multiple citizenships to allow for our people to travel freely in and out of Samoa in pursuant of their freedom to seek better opportunities in other countries for their families. For small Islands with small populations, flexibility of its laws is a necessity. It is another unavoidable solution today to prepare for a possible rise in Sea level due to climate change, the worst challenge facing mankind today.

(6)The major component of our Foreign Exchange Reserves come from remittances, sent back to relatives in Samoa from our diaspora which includes our sports people living or playing overseas, in Australia, New Zealand, Niue, Tokelau, Hawaii USA Mainland, UK, Ireland and Europe. Others retire back to Samoa bringing back valuable expertise needed to develop our Nation State. We do not need to belabor the point of the great contribution by sportsmen and sportswomen in New Zealand today from talented players with parental roots in Samoa as well as in other Pacific Islands.

Seen in that perspective, the abrupt rejection of the Privy Council decision in 1982, was an action done more out of fear of a sudden mass migration into New Zealand without proper analyses of the merits and reason behind the Privy Council Interpretation of the Laws passed by the New Zealand Leaders in Parliament.

The impact of the human feeling of fear led also to the President of the United States’ declaration to stamp out fear as the main reason for the US isolation policy when the Second World War broke out and the general feeling was for the US not to help its allies at war.

The vast Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean provide sufficient protection of US people from enemies.

As the President declared “the main thing to fear is fear itself”. And it took the bombing of Pearl Harbour by the Japanese and the subsequent loss of many US Citizens lives that ultimately convinced the Americans that Fear should never be a sole determination of a Nations important decision making.

(7) The Friendship Treaty and Independence

The Samoan People remains forever grateful to the New Zealand Government leaders for their role in preparing Samoa for its Independence in 1962.¹ Despite the many challenges which involved the assassination of our independence leaders, and the death of close to 25% of our population through negligence and administrative oversights we forgave each other for the wrongs done. Our Christian beliefs of forgiving and love and the burning desire of our leaders to continue the friendly relationships between Samoa and New Zealand, led the two Nation States to emerge from those challenges with much stronger ties and cooperation. When Prime Minister Helen Clark came to Samoa in 2012 to apologize for the wrongs done to our people by the New Zealand Administration in the past.

I quoted Pope’s “To err is human, to forgive divine” and then I reminded her there was nothing more to forgive.

We forgave and forgot every wrong always before sunset on the day it happened. What we must focus on was the implementation of our live Treaty of Friendship.

Indeed, the former Governor of New Zealand to Samoa Sir Guy Powles had often reminded our Prime Minister Tofilau that “you must continue to remind our future young leaders in Parliament in Wellington of the exceptionally close relationship between Samoa and New Zealand”.

When Prime Minister Helen Clark initiated the RSE Workers Scheme, we saw this as one major positive move by this distinguished leader of New Zealand in fulfilling the spirit of our Friendship Treaty by the Government of New Zealand in engaging workers from Samoa to work in New Zealand Farms.

This was later extended to other special skills to assist in the reconstruction efforts of Christchurch following the damaging earthquake which struck this beautiful City of New Zealand.

A farmer in Hastings pointed out to me during my follow up visit, “that new 10 acres of apple trees you see there would not have been planted without the workers from Samoa”.

The cap for labour from outside New Zealand was placed at 8000 pa at the time. The cap has since been reviewed upward to what it is today, following my many requests.

To me as the remaining leader in the Parliament of Samoa who participated in the debate in our Party Caucus of 1982, 42 years ago on the unfairness of depriving our people of their rights to citizenship, the bill before New Zealand Parliament provides once again an opportunity to revisit the issue of New Zealand citizenship of Samoans born between 1924 – 1949.

Given the Friendly Treaty between Samoa and New Zealand and the history of the on-going very close relationship between our two Countries and the most successful and peaceful transition of Samoa to Nationhood under the able guidance of the Government of New Zealand, the recognition by the Government and Parliament of New Zealand today of the spirit of the law and the Privy Council Appeal decision of 1982, will indeed be indicative of the New Zealand peoples support for the Rule of Law on the protection of Human Rights.

I thank you for considering this submission.

Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi

MP of Lepā Constituency and

Leader of HRPP Party in Samoa