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The Contemporary Pacific 16.1 (2004) 163-169

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Asofou So'o
National University of Samoa

Events and issues that stirred the Samoan community in the period under review include the petition by Samoans to the New Zealand Parliament to repeal the Citizenship (Western Samoa) Act 1982; rumors surrounding the SinaleiTouristResort; the controversy over theOceaniaUniversity of Medicine; the SARS threat; government structural reforms; and parliamentary by-elections.

In the mid-1970s, New Zealand—under Prime Minister Robert Muldoon and the National government—cracked down on immigrants who had overstayed their entry permits. One such immigrant, Falema'i Lesa, a Samoan woman, fought back through her legal counsels, Dr George Barton, QC, and Mr Rosenberg. Defeated in the New Zealand court, Barton and Rosenberg appealed the decision in the Privy Council in London. On 28 July 1982, the Privy Council upheld the New Zealand-British Nationality and New Zealand Citizenship Act. Barton and Rosenberg argued that their client was a New Zealand citizen by virtue of legislation passed in 1923 and 1928, when New Zealand still administered Western Samoa. The clincher for the Privy Council was the 1928 British Nationality and Status of Aliens (in New Zealand) Act. It held that the Cook Islands and Western Samoa were "in the same manner in all respects . . . [and] for all purposes part of New Zealand." The term "New Zealand" was "to be construed as including the Cook Islands and Western Samoa" (quoted in SO, 29 Mar 2003).

The New Zealand-British Nationality and New Zealand Citizenship Act clearly states that all Samoans born in Western Samoa between 1924 and 1948, and their children, were deemed New Zealand citizens. Clause 16, Part 3 of that act states, "A person who is a British subject immediately before the date of commencement of this Act shall on that date become a New Zealand citizen if he was born in Western Samoa" (quoted in SO, 14 Nov 2002). On 21 August [End Page 163] 1982, then Acting Prime Minister of Western Samoa Tofilau Eti Alesana—in the absence of Prime Minister Va'ai Kolone, who took ill—signed a protocol with New Zealand Prime Minister Sir Robert Muldoon. The New Zealand government of the day used that protocol to pass the Citizenship (Western Samoa) Act 1982 (SO, 14 Nov 2002). While this act meant that Samoans who were born between 1924 and 1948 and their children lost their citizenship rights, it also gave other benefits to Samoans. Samoans who were in New Zealand at the time gained automatic New Zealand citizenship. Samoans were also eligible to apply for citizenship once they gained permanent residence status. Moreover, the number of Samoan citizens who could apply for permanent residence in New Zealand under the yearly immigration quota was increased (SO, 3 Oct 2002).

Former New Zealand National Party MP Arthur Anae was in Samoa in early September 2002 to facilitate a petition seeking a repeal of the New Zealand Citizenship Act 1982 (SO, 1 Sep 2002). Anae believed that the law discriminated against Samoans and breached basic human rights. Anae also argued that nothing in the protocol signed by the governments stated that Samoa had given up rights to New Zealand citizenship. Rather, the purpose of the protocol was to endorse the Treaty of Friendship between the two countries that had been signed on 1 August 1962. Anae further argued that the Privy Council ruling had nothing to do with the protocol. Therefore, he said, the New Zealand Citizenship Act 1982 was a deliberate act on New Zealand's part to restrict Samoan access to New Zealand citizenship. According to Anae, "there is this fear in the New Zealand pakeha [white] community that 170,000 Samoans will rush to New Zealand when they have free access to citizenship" (quoted in SO, 1 Sep 2002). Anae went on to say, "I don't see 17 million Australians going to New Zealand despite free movement between the two countries. ...Honestly, I keep telling my former colleagues in Wellington that most Samoans in the islands do not want to live in New Zealand" (quoted in SO, 1 Sep 2002...