Former MP slams National’s stance on Samoa citizenship bill

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Former National Party MP Anae Arthur Anae
Former National Party MP Anae Arthur Anae . . . "Time has changed, we've got to wake up to it." Image: RNZ/Cole Eastham-Farrelly

By Caleb Fotheringham, RNZ Pacific journalist

A former National Party Member of Parliament says his late party looked “like dickheads” not supporting the first reading of a bill that would restore New Zealand citizenship to a group of Samoans and is hoping they will change tune.

Anae Arthur Anae told RNZ Pacific it “was outright racism” that National did not back Green Party Member of Parliament Teanau Tuiono’s Restoring Citizenship Removed by Citizenship (Western Samoa) Act 1982 Bill.

National was the only party to not support it, citing “legal complexity” as the issue.

Minister for Pacific Peoples Dr Shane Reti declined an interview with RNZ Pacific.

In 1982, the Privy Council ruled that because those born in Western Samoa were treated by New Zealand law as “natural-born British subjects”, they were entitled to New Zealand citizenship when it was first created in 1948.

Green Party MP Teanau Tuiono speaks during the First Reading of his Member's Bill, the Restoring Citizenship Removed By Citizenship (Western Samoa) Act 1982 Bill, 10 April 2024.
Green Party MP Teanau Tuiono speaks during the First Reading of his Member’s Bill, the Restoring Citizenship Removed By Citizenship (Western Samoa) Act 1982 Bill. Image: Johnny Blades/RNZ

However, the National Party-led government under Robert Muldoon took that away with the Western Samoa Citizenship Act 1982, effectively overturning the Privy Council ruling.

Tuiono’s bill aims to restore the right of citizenship to those who had it removed.

25,000 submissions
Public submissions have closed and the Governance and Administration Committee received almost 25,000 submissions.

NZ First leader Winston Peters has told Pacific Media Network he intended to continue to back it, if he does, it will likely become law.

Anae said if National continued to “slag it” during the process they would keep making themselves look stupid.

“Not only in New Zealand but internationally and on the human rights issues. They have put themselves in a serious situation here and they really have to get this right.

“I’m hoping and praying that they will see the light and say, ‘look, enough is enough, we’ve got to sort this thing out now’.”

Anae said the world had grown out of the racism he knew as a child and it was time for New Zealand to follow suit.

“Who would have ever imagined the day when the key positions in the UK of Prime Minister, Mayor of London, all senior positions across the Great Britain, would be held by the children of migrants.

“Time has changed, we’ve got to wake up to it.”

Hearings to begin
Hearings will be held in-person and on Zoom in Wellington on Monday, Wednesday and  July 9.

There will also be hearings held in South Auckland on July 1.

Anae said about 10,000 of the submissions came from Samoa and there was a request for a hearing to be held there also.

“Everybody in Parliament right now is under huge pressure with the budget discussions that have been going on, so I do have my sympathies understanding the situation.

“But at the same time this thing is one of the most important thing in the lives of Samoan people and we want it to be treated that way.”

He said almost all the public submissions would be in support of the bill. He said in Samoa, where he was three weeks ago, the support was unanimous.

But he said Samoa’s government was being diplomatic.

‘Sitting on fence’
“They do not want to upset New Zealand in any way by seeing to be siding with this and they’re sitting on the fence.”

Tuiono said it was great to see the commitment from NZ First but because it was politics, he was reluctant to feel too confident his bill would be eventually turned into law.

“There’s always things that will need to be ironed out so the role for us as members participating in the select committee is to find all of those bits and pieces and work across the Parliament with different political parties.”

Tuiono said most of the discussion on the bill was around whether citizenship was extended to the descendants of the group and how many people would be entitled to it.

“That seems to be where most of the questions seem to be coming from but this is what we should be doing as part of the select committee process, get some certainty on that from the officials.”

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

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