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From left; Professor Toeolesulusulu Damon Salesa, Prime Minister Christopher Luxon and former Samoan Prime Minister Susuga Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi.

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Politics

PM won't support bill to restore NZ citizenship for Samoans

A member's bill to reinstate citizenship for a group of people born in Western Samoa has garnered mixed reactions from politicians.

Alakihihifo Vailala
Published
22 February 2024, 11:13am
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The Prime Minister has given a firm "no" on Teanau Tuiono's recently introduced bill to reinstate New Zealand citizenship for a section of the Samoan community.

The Green Party MP's member's bill, Restoring Citizenship Removed by Citizenship (Western Samoa) Act 1982 was picked from the Biscuit Tin in August last year.

The Bill aims at providing entitlement to New Zealand citizenship for a group of people born in Western Samoa whose citizenship was removed by the Citizenship (Western Samoa) Act (the 1982 Act) passed in 1982.

The Bill is due to have its first reading next month, but Luxon has made it clear his party won’t be supporting it, despite members of his own party asking him to take a more considered approach.

Speaking on 531pi Pacific Mornings, Luxon says “the reality is the position’s been long held since 1982 across successive governments whether they were Labour or National.

“I also think to be honest, it wouldn’t be a great idea because I can tell you what's going to happen in the Pacific Islands. There’ll be mass migration out of the Pacific. I’m not sure it's what the Pacific Islands would want anyway.”

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Watch the full interview with Christopher Luxon:

Despite not supporting the Bill, Luxon says he’s planning multiple trips to the Pacific this year.

“It’s really important, we want to have deeper and even stronger relationships with the Pacific. I’ve already spoken and met with the Prime Ministers of Tonga and Samoa.”

Former Prime Minister of Samoa, Susuga Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi was the Minister of Economic Affairs when the 1982 Act was passed and says the Act caused division within the Samoan government.

He says the Prime Minister at the time, Va’ai Kolone returned to Samoa from New Zealand after the Act was passed after being strongly advised to not accept the agreement to enable the Act to pass.

Watch the full interview with Former Prime Minister of Samoa, Susuga Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi below:

Speaking on 531pi Pacific Mornings, Tuilaepa says “we were on the verge of passing a resolution for no more trust in our Prime Minister and Cabinet. It was only through the intervention of our older members that we decided to accept what our Prime Minister did. But not with joy.”

Tuilaepa says following the 1982 Act, there has been much mistreatment towards Samoans trying to enter New Zealand.

“I hope that the leader of the National Party should reconsider what its leader Muldoon had done, to destroy the citizenship of people that were New Zealanders.”

Vice-Chancellor of the Auckland University of Technology, Professor Toeolesulusulu Damon Salesa says his father lost his citizenship due to the 1982 Act.

He says it’s a significant piece of law but without the governing coalition’s support, the Bill will have a difficult time in Parliament.

Speaking on 531pi Pacific Mornings, he says “I think it’s a real interesting thing to put before the New Zealand public to remind them of that colonial history we have in Samoa.”

“The consequences and also New Zealand’s behaviour far more recently towards Samoan which was not a shining moment in New Zealand’s history.”

“I think most of us here would like to see a strong alignment between what we say and what we do in the Pacific when we’re in New Zealand.”

“Not many governments have a history of doing as it says because doing the right thing is often very hard and it would be in this situation, it would have significant consequences including for Samoa.”

Watch the full interview with Damon Salesa below: