Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Sedition by Example XVII: O F Nelson

(An ongoing attempt to incite the public against our archaic law of sedition)

Samoa mo Samoa (Samoa for Samoans) -- Motto of the Samoan Mau

Other posts in the sedition by example series have focused on the words which resulted in prosecution for sedition. This is difficult to do in the case of Olaf Frederick Nelson. Rather than being prosecuted for specific words alleged to have a seditious meaning or intention, Nelson was prosecuted for his support (and presumed leadership) of a seditious organisation, the League of Samoa, better known as the Mau. The Mau was formed in 1926 to demand "the advancement of Samoa", and specifically a greater voice for Samoans in their own government (Western Samoa then being administered by New Zealand under a League of Nations Mandate). Nelson had been one of the organisers of the public meetings which led to its founding, and was seen by the Administration as being its leader. After the Mau's campaign of boycotts and civil disobedience made the islands effectively ungovernable, Nelson was exiled without trial from the country of his birth for being

the recognised and active head of an organisation called the "Mau" or League of Samoa, the purpose of which is to secure self-government for Samoa and in furtherance of such purpose, by unlawful means to frustrate and render ineffective... the functioning of the Administration of the Territory.

Nelson continued to argue for Samoan independence from Auckland. Meanwhile, the Mau continued without him. In 1932, he returned to Samoa, having served his term of exile - but again became involved in the Mau. He was quickly prosecuted under the Samoan Seditious Organisations Ordinance for "aiding and abetting", convicted, and sentenced to eight months imprisonment (to be served in New Zealand) and a further ten years exile. The election of the First Labour Government in 1935 led to a change in policy towards Samoa, and Nelson's sentence was remitted in 1936. He returned to Samoa to a hero's welcome.

(Source: Mau: Samoa's Struggle Against New Zealand Oppression by Michael Field, A H & A W Reed, 1984).