Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Samoans call to support Restoring Citizenship Bill

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Gladys Hartson | Senior Journalist

Green MPs bill provides opportunity to right a historic wrong, say advocates. 

“Samoa Arise! Samoa Arise”! 

That was the sentiment echoed at a special march held at the Mangere Town Centre last weekend to launch a series of events inviting the Samoan and Pasifika community to make submissions to parliament in support of The Restoring Citizenship Removed By Citizenship (Western Samoa) Act 1982 Bill. 

The bill, which was drafted by Green MP Teanau Tuiono, was drawn from the ballot in 2023. 

As outlined in Tuiono’s policy statement, the bill would provide entitlement to New Zealand citizenship for a group of people born in Western Samoa whose citizenship was removed through the enactment of the Citizenship (Western Samoa) Act 1982.

A major factor considered to have started the process was during one of the darkest periods in New Zealand history of the 1970s, where government sanctioned raids were held at dawn to arrest and deport overstayers, particularly Pacific people. 

Falema’i Lesa was one of those arrested and set for deportation back to Samoa. However she challenged her conviction, and took her case to the Privy Council in London. 

That 1982 Privy Council ruling stated that because earlier NZ Legislation had treated those born in Western Samoa after 13 May 1924 as “natural-born British subjects” for the purposes of NZ law, that cohort of people received NZ citizenship when NZ established its own citizenship in 1948.

Falema’i won her case but her success was limited. The National government at the time led by former Prime Minister Sir Rob Muldoon would overturn the Privy Council ruling and enact the 1982 citizenship Act.

More than 40 years since that ruling, Tuiono’s historic bill passed its first reading in Parliament on April 10 this year.

Former National MP, Anae Lupematasila Arthur Anae who is leading a steering committee called Mau a Samoa i le Sitiseni 2024, to advocate for the bill, says there is hope. 

“We’ve suffered for so long, 42 years and now we’ve finally got a door open for the select committee for the first time to hear the voices of Samoan people … I’m hoping that after the end of this time we’re going to get some results. People have to start understanding the history of Samoan people under the New Zealand administration from 1915 and that’s a long history of a lot of sadness.”

Social media Pacific influencer Christyanna Saufoi joined the march and says it is time for the younger generation to understand their history.

“Well there’s a saying that I’ve come across in my time at Uni and it’s those who don’t know history are bound to repeat it,” she says.

“I think about the contribution our Pacific people have made to the economy, to society, to community, to everything, we’ve made a contribution in every part of the New Zealand Aotearoa society, so think of us when these bills pass through the house, if you want New Zealand to thrive you’re gonna need to bring Pacific people along for the ride.”

Speaking at the march, Mangere MP Lemauga Lydia Sosene, who will sit on the  select committee to hear submissions about the bill, encouraged the community to get behind it and have their say. 

Anae says the group will travel to Samoa later this month to talanoa with members of government and the community on the importance of the bill. He says the momentum is building. 

“You know a lot of people have given up, this is not going to happen, we’re never going to win this battle. But we finally broke through, so we’re all on a high now that we’re gonna get there all the way.”

Submissions to the Parliamentary select committee hearing the bill close on Friday May 31. 



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