HC Deb 25 March 1895 vol 32 cc39-40

I beg to ask the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will cause inquiry to be made into the correctness or otherwise of the late Robert Louis Stevenson's allegations that Captain Bickford promised Mataafa safety and the protection of the British flag, and that this promise was violated by the transfer of Mataafa from the Katoomba to a German war vessel, which bore him away to exile in the Marshall Islands; whether the British, German, and American Consuls were unanimous in their decision to deport Mataafa to the Marshall Islands; whether Mataafa is permitted to receive letters from friends and sympathisers, and what is the nature of the strict control exercised over his communications with the outer world; and whether he can give any detailed information with respect to the full facilities that are said to be allowed Mataafa for the exercise of his religion?


Mataafa surrendered to the three Treaty Powers under a promise that his life should be safe. This promise has been kept, and there is no need to inquire whether it was given to him by Captain Bickford personally or not. The three Consuls acted together under instructions from their respective Governments. The control over Mataafa is exercised by the German authorities, to whom he has been entrusted, and by whom he is being humanely and considerately treated. In February, 1894, the German Government stated that they did not entertain any fears that Mataafa would not be sufficiently provided with means for exercising the Roman Catholic religion. A considerable number of European Catholics reside in the Marshall Islands, who know the Samoan language, and in whose services Mataafa could take part. Roman Catholic priests from the Caroline Islands also visit the Marshall Islands, and a German Roman Catholic teacher was expected shortly, and it would be his special duty to take charge of Mataafa's spiritual welfare. The German Governor at Jaluit, Marshall Islands, reported, a few months ago, that Mataafa has a service for his Samoans, besides Sunday celebrations, early every morning and evening, in the small Catholic Church which has been acquired from the Catholic Mission.