24 September 2016

Chileans Demand British Museum Return Four-Ton Easter Island Statue

View of Moais Ahu Tongariki. Photo Gregory Boissy/AFP/Getty Images.

A campaign to return one of the famous Easter Island statues to its native Chile has been launched by a group of Chilean filmmakers, who believe that it should be returned by the UK.

Hoa Haka Nana’ia or Hidden or Stolen Friend is currently on view at the British Museum as one of its main attractions. The moai, believed by the Rapa Nui culture to be inhabited by spirits or mana that protected local tribes, was made in the 13th century. It stands at around eight feet tall and weighs around four tons.

The makers of a new documentary on the statues, called Te Kuhane o the Tupuna: El espíritu de los ancestros, claim that returning the moai to Easter Island could go some way to improve things there.

“One way to recover the mana to restore wellbeing to the island is to bring the spirit of the Moai Hoa Kaka Nana’ia back to its native land,” the new film says, according to AFP.

Photo: courtesy the Easter Island Statue Project.

The producer of the film, Paula Rossetti, told AFP that she has a petition of over 500 signatures asking the Chilean government to demand the return of the statue and other valuable artifacts to its shores, but admits: “It will be difficult to get them back.”

Countries from around the world are asking Britain to return items found, collected, or looted by British explorers that now sit in the some of the countries most famous institutions. The most famous example is that of the infamous Elgin marbles, which the Greek government has been campaigning to have returned for many years to no avail.

Related: Greece Puts International Pressure on British Museum to Return Parthenon Sculptures

Hoa Haka Nana’ia is one of an estimated 4,000 artifacts taken from Easter Island that are currently in collections around the world.

There are an estimated 887 of the largest moai on Easter Island, most of which were carved from volcanic rock between the years 1100 and 1680.

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23 September 2016

Curacao inks deal with China firm to run Isla refinery

By Sailu Urribarri  
The government of Curacao has signed a preliminary agreement with China's Guangdong Zhenrong Energy to operate the aging Isla refinery and invest some $10 billion in upgrading the facility, according to an agreement made public on Monday.
Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA [PDVSA.UL] has for decades operated the refinery, which opened in 1918, under a lease agreement. But the cash-poor PDVSA has been reluctant to invest some $1.5 billion that Curacao authorities requested several years back to modernize the 335,000-barrels-per-day facility.
"Unfortunately, all the government's efforts to reach a new contract with Venezuela did not yield positive results," Curacao Prime Minister Bernard Whiteman said in a video posted on the government's website on Monday. "Curacao could not wait any longer; we had to look at other alternatives."
He added that Guangdong Zhenrong would "finance, modernize and operate the refinery, the storage terminal and dock."
Guangdong Zhenrong, a state-controlled commodities trader, will also assist in modernizing the water and electricity plants as well as aid in the construction of a new gas terminal, he said.
The memorandum of understanding between the two parties lays out a two-month timeframe for negotiations with the possibility for a two-month extension.
PDVSA and Guangdong Zhenrong did not respond to emails seeking comment.
Located just 50 kilometers (31 miles) northwest of Venezuela, the Isla refinery is a strategic facility for PDVSA to store and ship Venezuelan oil destined for the Asian market. China in the last decade has become one of the top buyers of Venezuelan crude and fuel through an oil-for-loans financing agreement.
Unlike many facilities in Venezuela, terminals at Isla and neighboring Bullenbaai can receive large tankers, such as Very Large Crude Carriers that can transport up to 2 million barrels of oil to China.
The current lease agreement with PDVSA stipulates that if neither party ends the agreement two years before its expiration, it is automatically renewed for another 10 years. The current lease expires on Dec. 31, 2019.
Residents of Curacao, an autonomous country within the kingdom of the Netherlands, have for years complained that Isla's emissions cause health problems and insist the facility needs investment to reduce its environmental impact.
Guangdong Zhenrong is 44.3 percent owned by Zhuhai Zhenrong Corp, one of China's top four state petroleum traders.

22 September 2016

El rol del MNOAL en los avances por la descolonización de Puerto Rico ante la ONU

Delegación del MINH a XVII Cumbre MNOAL.
José Santos Valderrama, Wilma E. Reverón Collazo (centro) y Olga Sanabria.

Wilma E. Reverón Collazo
Copresidenta del MINH

Desde la aprobación de la Resolución 1514 (XV) el 1ro. de diciembre de 1960 pasaron doce (12) años para que el caso de Puerto Rico fuera atendido por el Comité Especial de Descolonización. Juan Mari Brás, entonces líder del Movimiento Pro Independencia (MPI), explica que la aprobación de la Resolución 1514 (XV) fue celebrada con gran euforia por el movimiento independentista porque pensaban que garantizaría la apertura del caso de Puerto Rico. Pero no fue así. 

Fueron múltiples los esfuerzos realizados por varias delegaciones, año tras año, que comparecían a reclamar que nuestro caso fuera incluido en la agenda del Comité Especial de Descolonización. ¨Tuvimos que acudir a múltiples foros auxiliares en busca de apoyo a nuestro reclamo. Así, el de las cumbres de los Países No Alineados en Belgrado (1961) al que asistió Gabriel Vicente Maura luego de ser arrestado en el aeropuerto; El Cairo (1964) al que fue una delegación compuesta por Maura, Norman Pietri y la Dra. Ana Livia Cordero, quien a la sazón vivía en Ghana y por sus múltiples contactos africanos fue la principal consideración para que se aceptara por primera vez una delegación puertorriqueña como ¨invitada¨.i 

Mari Brás, considera la aprobación de la Resolución 1514 (XV) con el logro de la inserción de la frase ¨y cualquier otro territorio que no haya alcanzado su independencia¨, como el primero de cinco triunfos en las gestiones internacionales ante la ONU. ¨El segundo gran triunfo fue el apoyo recibido del Movimiento de los Países No Alineados, a partir de la cumbre celebrada en El Cairo en 1964. Esto produjo la primera mención de Puerto Rico, en 1965, en el seno del Comité Especial de Descolonización, cuando el gobierno cubano solicitó la inclusión de nuestro caso en la agenda de dicho comité, basándose en el pedido de la Cumbre de El Cairo y, subsiguientemente, la convocatoria a un plebiscito en Puerto Rico, que dicho sea de paso, cambió aquí el curso de la política interna. Como consecuencia de la maniobra plebiscitaria de Estados Unidos, el Comité de Descolonización de la ONU inició su primer debate en torno al caso de Puerto Rico en ese mismo año de 1967.¨ ii

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Bonaire Foundation head on mission to Sint Eustatius, Saba and Sint Maarten


Autonomy activist visits Statia, Saba

The Foundation seeks more autonomy from the Netherlands, as it feels that Bonaire is overwhelmed by an increased influx of Dutch residents and civil servants.
Finies’ visit to Statia was hosted by Brighter Path Foundation, which also seeks more autonomy for the “Historical Gem.”
On Statia, Finies met with several government officials, including Commissioner Derrick Simmons, Island Secretary Louis van Ameijden, independent Island Councilman Reuben Merkman and Charles Woodley. He also spoke on the local radio station.
During his visit to Saba, the NKBB Chairman had meetings with Island Governor Jonathan Johnson, Commissioner Rolando Wilson, Island Councilman for Saba Labour Party (SLP) Ishmael Levenston, and with Chairman of Saba Business Association Wolfgang Tooten.
Finies rounded off his visit to the Windward Islands on Anguilla. He also made appearances on radio stations in Dutch St. Maarten and French St. Martin.
“We met people from all the islands in search for solidarity and their support. People are surprised when they hear about what happened on Bonaire since it obtained its status as special entity of the Netherlands on October 10, 2010. Since then we have witnessed a large influx of Dutch people. The new status has had a bad outcome for our islands, such as the closure of the Medical School on Bonaire, similar to the one on Statia,” Finies said.
“We feel overwhelmed and overpowered by the Dutch on our small islands. We feel that we cannot exert our democratic and fundamental human rights, because we have become a minority on our own island and have no voice in The Hague,” the activist explained, adding that NKBB is not fighting for independence.
“We need more attention for our island and our people,” Finies said in stating that his organization has hired a specialist with the UN in pursuit of efforts to include Bonaire, Saba and Statia on the list of non-self governing territories.

21 September 2016

British 'colonial conservation' project restricts fishing in large areas of the waters off its Pacific, South Atlantic dependencies


British control of far flung islands of Pitcairn, St. Helena, now being used as "conservation" areas bans commercial fishing; Similar restrictions in Asension and Tristan da Cunha to be put in place  in coming years. 

UK to ban fishing from a million square kilometres of ocean

The UK is to ban commercial fishing from a million square kilometres of ocean around British overseas territories, the government said on Thursday.

In total, the government is creating marine protected areas around four islands in the Pacific and Atlantic, including the designation this week of one of the world’s biggest around the Pitcairn Islands.

A 840,000 sq km (320,000 sq mile) area around Pitcairn, where the mutineers of the Bounty settled, becomes a no-take zone for any fishing from this week. St Helena, around 445,000 sq km of the south Atlantic ocean and home to whale sharks and humpbacks, is now also designated as a protected area.

The foreign office said it would designate two further marine protection zones, one each around two south Altantic islands – Ascension by 2019 and Tristan da Cunha by 2020.

Sir Alan Duncan, minister of state for Europe and the Americas, said: “Protecting 4m sq km of ocean is a fantastic achievement, converting our historic legacy into modern environmental success.”

Commercial fishing will be banned in all of Pitcairn’s zone – excepting ‘sustainable’ local fishing – and half of the 445,390 sq km Ascension protected area. Fishing will be allowed in the other areas, but activities such as oil drilling will be prohibited.

Conservationists welcomed the new protections. “By protecting the vast array of marine life within these rich waters, the United Kingdom has solidified its position as a leader in ocean conservation,” said Joshua S Reichert, of the Pew Charitable Trusts, which is working with the UK on technology to monitor the Pitcairn area.

Jonathan Hall, the RSPB’s head of UK Overseas Territories, said: “This is simply enormous and shows world-leading vision.”

The UK announcement, at the Our Oceans summit in Washington, came as the White House said the US would ban fishing in a 5,000 sq km area in the Altantic, known as the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts marine national monument. That followed Barack Obama’s expansion last month of the Papahānaumokuākea monument off Hawaii.

In his speech at the Washington conference, Duncan quipped: “this was going to have been my big moment, because until last week the Pitcairn MPA would have been the largest in the world. But President Obama sort of rather blew that out of the water by announcing an even bigger MPA in Hawaii – trust the Yanks to indulge in a bit of one-upmanship over us poor Brits.

“But we’re happy as our loss is the world’s gain and we congratulate the United States.”

This week, scientists warned that humanity is driving an unprecedented extinction of the largest marine creatures that could affect ocean ecology for millions of years. Experts said the large range required for such creatures meant large-scale marine protected areas would be a key part of addressing the problem.

St Maarten government MPs support call for a referendum on independence

GREAT BAY, St Martin -- A majority of St Maarten 
parliamentarians present at the reconvened meeting of the Central Committee of Parliament held on Friday, September 2, 2016, with a delegation of the Independence for St Martin Foundation (ISMF), expressed support for the foundation’s call for a referendum to be held so that the people of the territory could have their say on the issue of independence. 

Joseph H. Lake, Jr, president, Independence for St Martin Foundation (ISMF)

President of the ISMF, Jose Lake, Jr., made the case for a referendum to be called on the issue of independence and urged the Members of Parliament to act swiftly to make this happen within the next year.

Dr Rhoda Arrindell, secretary of the foundation, addressed the issue of placing St Maarten back on the United Nations (UN) list of non-self-governing territories. She said when the territory was removed from the list by the Netherlands in 1954 the people of the island were not consulted.

Arrindell further elaborated on why such reinstatement would not be a step backwards as some had argued, pointing out that the “autonomy of St Maarten” is a myth as the territory is still a colony that does not have control over the appointment of the governor, nor over constitutional matters, which still require the approval of the Dutch Kingdom government.

Arrindell added that in both judicial and financial matters, the last word remained with the Kingdom government.

“What autonomy are we talking about?” she asked rhetorically.

She then proceeded to answer the questions posed by the MPs during the May 18 meeting.

Placing the territory back on the United Nations (UN) list would secure international support for the island’s quest, Arrindell said. She added that St Eustatius and Bonaire are also seeking the same thing, having taken their case to the Association of Caribbean States (ACS) heads of state meeting and to the UN.

Independence, continued Arrindell, is a right of all colonized people, and not a privilege.

“If a right is not a priority for politicians, what else would be?” she asked.

Friday’s meeting was adjourned briefly to allow the ISMF to answer additional questions from the MPs.

President of Parliament, Sarah Wescott-Williams, brought the meeting to a close after she indicated that the next step would be for the foundation to present a formal petition to Parliament and/or for the individual MPs to make use of their right to present a motion to a plenary session of the legislative body.

“We are very satisfied with the outcome of the meeting,” said Lake. The ISMF president noted that during the first meeting, ten of the MPs present expressed support for independence.

“That’s a two-thirds majority,” he stated.

He reiterated that the quest for independence is not a partisan issue and urged the politicians to take the lead in working with the people. A referendum does not mean that the territory would obtain independence the next day, but it would signal the beginning of the march towards sovereignty, Lake said.

The meeting was a continuation of the first one held on May 18, 2016, which was adjourned after the MPs listened to the presentation of the foundation, made some remarks and posed a series of questions, which the ISMF had the opportunity to answer on Friday.

20 September 2016

Virgin Islands Rastafarians propose ‘commercial marijuana’ as third economic pillar

Virgin Islands News Online

- Said commercial use of the ‘herb’ may be the answer to VI’s economic challenges

ROAD TOWN, Tortola, VI- The Rastafarian community in the Virgin Islands has proposed the use of marijuana on a commercial level as a possible solution to the current fiscal challenges facing the territory.

Using their time of an hour and a half on the 3D show on ZBVI 780 AM with host Doug Wheatley on Friday August 26, 2016, Halstead L. Lima, also known as Cool Lion, said on a regular basis more and more countries are coming to recognise the value of the herb both as a medicine and on a commercial level. He suggested that the Virgin Islands should do the same.

“We have been at this thing a while now. It’s not a marijuana concern; it is just about the economy. I’m just using some alternate survival techniques for the economy,” he stated.

He likened the territory’s economy as standing on a stool with two legs- offshore banking and Tourism- and in his view, commercial marijuana should be the third leg.

‘Legalise it’

“It’s time to free up the people and it’s time to free up the herb, so yes, I would like to have one of them islands to grow some herbs and to export it,” he continued.

In addition, he pointed to so many things that can be derived from this one plant, but said the people have a mental “block. They cannot see beyond what is in front of their nose.”

Another member of the Rastafarian community, Educator Shaniqua F. Vanterpool, also known as Empress Ruth, said in her view enough is not being done to educate the masses.

“I think when the public hears of marijuana they only think about the smoking. So I think as a community of people I don’t think we have done enough. We have to do more to free our people to educate the youths,” she remarked.

According to her, the herb has garnered a bad reputation among youth who use it as a fashion trend and noted that a lot of work has to be done to change that image.

In terms of decriminalisation of the herb, Empress Ruth would like to see it on all levels medically, since she believes there are many people in society that would benefit if the government was to legalise it, particularly for cancer and asthma patients.

The other guest on the show was Robert D. Penn also known as Acutui.

In 2014, Premier Dr The Hon D. Orlando Smith, when pressed on whether the Virgin Islands would join the move to legalise marijuana for medicinal purposes, noted that further studies would have to be conducted prior to any decision.

19 September 2016



The member States of the (Pacific Islands) Forum (PIF) may have made a tactical misstep by granting full membership to the French colonies in apparent exchange for promises of closer economic cooperation and other favourable measures. Given the obvious dominance of Australia and New Zealand in the PIF, the admission of France through its colonies serves to further dilute the political power of the Pacific Small Island States (P-SIDS) within the organisation. This could not have been an intended goal of the P-SIDS. 

It was no secret that both (current French) President Francois Hollande and his predecessor (former French President) Nicolas Sarkozy had repeatedly stated openly that membership of the French colonies in international organizations is "on behalf of the French State," so it is clear that these colonies do not have the requisite international personality to make sovereign decisions in their own right as a full member of such an international, political organization. 

The associate membership status in the Forum, which was already enjoyed by these French colonies, as well as by the U.S. dependencies in the Pacific, was created precisely to permit participation by non-self-governing territories, but limit their influence on Forum decisionmaking. The associate membership category of participation is standard in many regional and international organisations for non sovereign territories, and was the appropriate level of participation for a colony whose foreign policy is dictated by the French State. That is, until now. 

Whatever benefits to be derived from this extraordinary decision may pale by comparison to the leverage gained by the French in their geo-strategic plans for the Pacific, and the unintended consequence of the PIF being used as a vehicle in the global chess match of blocking the expansion of Chinese influence in the region. A security analyst expanded on this theme in an interview with Radio New Zealand (below).


New Forum members about reining in Fiji

14 September 2016 
A security analyst says one of the key motives for France's effective addition to the Pacific Islands Forum is to stem the impact of Fiji's Frank Bainimarama. After years of lobbying, France has effectively become a member with the admission of its territories, New Caledonia and French Polynesia.Don Wiseman asked Paul Buchanan of 36th Parallel Assessments why the Forum has moved this way.


PAUL BUCHANAN: The immediate game is the power struggle between Frank Bainimarama and the Pacific Islands Forum. There have traditionally been divisions between Melanesians and Polynesians within the PIF and within the South Pacific council as well. And Bainimarama has been trying to capitalise on this by developing alternative groups to the PIF which he thinks are dominated by the colonial powers, Australia and New Zealand in particular. And he has lobbied for their expulsion from the PIF.
The counter-ploy, which has been building for over a year now, is to bring the French in because the French represent New Caledonia and French Polynesia diplomatically and militarily even though both those territories have a considerable degree of autonomy in their internal affairs. What that means is that we now have three, if you would, western powers, dominant powers, now sitting at PIF as full members. And we have to remember that the French Pacific Army is based in New Caledonia.
There are 8000 French troops based in New Caledonia and the French Pacific Navy is based in French Polynesia. This is not coincidental that the French have tried to get into what some would argue  is the premier inter-governmental organisation in the South Pacific. Because Fiji is the tip of a spear of Chinese influence projected into the South Pacific through Commodore Bainimarama the Chinese have a defacto, if indirect diplomatic representative and it is their interest as much as his own interest that come into play in these sorts of manoeuvrings. So the second game, is a game by proxy between the Chinese and Australia and New Zealand and now the French. And that is where things get interesting because why would the French want to reassert themselves as full members. And it seems to me that that is because there is an increasingly assertive Chinese presence. Not only diplomatically, not only economically, but increasingly militarily in the region that is facilitated in part by the close association of Fiji with China in the wake of the coup of 2006, the sanctions that were imposed on Fiji as a result of that and the declining influence of its traditional partners of Australia and New Zealand in particular but the United States as well and the rise of China as its foremost interlocutor on all three dimensions of strategic power. And it remains to be seen whether the entrance of the French will harden the divisions between Polynesians and Melanesians, or at least harden the divisions between the Pacific Island Forum and Fiji.
DON WISEMAN: Well what do you think?
PB: I think it will. I think that contrary to Australia and New Zealand the French play hard ball. The French can be very diplomatic. They can use very subtle mechanisms of statecraft but I have a feeling that dealing with the likes of Bainimarama they will not be subtle and their approach to him and his attempts to usurp traditional prerogatives not so much of the French, New Zealanders and Australians in the South Pacific.
 But the established inter-governmental forms that such as the PIF and the SPC. That I think is seen as a threat and perhaps it is because those organisations are seen to be more western friendly although the voting record of the PIF in the UN would indicate otherwise. But also because of the preoccupation with this growing Chinese presence and the concern is, is that if they don't push back in some measure, then much like the China Sea, the South Pacific is increasingly going to become a Chinese lake. And the French among others are very alarmed by that prospect. And I think that this diplomatic ploy, if you will, is part and parcel of their response.
DW: Yet the likes of Mr Bainimarama he could continue down his merry way with the various other organisations that he has been building up with some success over these last four or five years. Meantime the Pacific Islands Forum seems to have almost waned somewhat. It would appear to be a lesser of an organisation than it once was. And now this move here is really undermining its basic tenet for existing, which was to keep the older colonial powers out of the Pacific.
PB: That is a very good point, but that tells you why any international agreement or treaty is never written in stone. Times are fluid and with fluid times comes changes in the orientation of players and I think that what we are seeing here, and I absolutely agree that it was a moribund organisation which allowed Bainimarama to exploit its weakness and the squabbling between the smaller members. That has now elicited a a response where the French inclusion clearly signals that there will be a renewed emphasis on the activities of the PIF and perhaps people will start to get very serious about giving it things such as enforcement power for the treaties and agreements that it enacts.
And we may even see it begin to adopt a policy of providing some degree of security muscle it does not have at this point and I say that only because one of the objectives of the Commodore within the MSG was to create a regional peace keeping force that in his vision would intervene in the domestic politics of island states in the event of civil war or even more minor cases of unrest.
That didn't go over well at all with many of the island states but particularly Australia and New Zealand and the French. There is a lot harder edge to French diplomacy in the South Pacific and that edge has a military component to it. And I think that with the French inclusion we may actually see a sort of wake up and take notice within the PIF that its days are numbered unless it starts to act, not only as an effective organisation on its own but also as an effective counterbalance to the initiatives being proposed by Fiji.

SEE ALSO:  France in Forum to counter China influence

18 September 2016

Pacific Forum reveals regional geo-strategic tensions

By John Braddock 

The Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) summit at Pohnpei in Micronesia last weekend agreed to admit the French colonies of New Caledonia and French Polynesia as members of the organisation. Wallis and Futuna, another French territory, retains observer status. French Polynesian President Edouard Fritch called the decision “historic,” declaring it would see greater involvement of the territories in regional affairs.
In reality, the move is another sign of deepening geo-strategic tensions as the imperialist powers seek to counter Beijing’s growing influence in the southwest Pacific. France, a major imperialist power, is being brought forward to buttress the position of the US and its local allies, Australia and New Zealand.
The French territories are strategically significant. New Caledonia has a key military base and is one of the world’s largest suppliers of nickel, an essential element in armaments manufacture. French Polynesia was the site of France’s nuclear testing program at Mururoa Atoll from 1966-1996.
Since the forum’s founding in 1971, Canberra and Wellington have used the 16-member body as a vehicle for their own neo-colonial interests. Their dominance began to break up after they imposed sanctions on Fiji following its 2006 military coup. Fiji’s regime turned elsewhere, primarily to China and Russia, for trade, aid and military equipment.
Frank Bainimarama, Fiji’s military leader, who was elected prime minster in 2014, has encouraged other Pacific nations to take a more “independent” stance. In 2012, Fiji set up the Pacific Islands Development Forum (PIDF) as an alternative to the PIF. While Fiji was readmitted to the PIF two years ago, Bainimarama boycotted the summit, sending his foreign minister in his place.
Last weekend, as the forum was sitting, Bainimarama reshuffled his cabinet, relieving Foreign Minister Ratu Inoke Kubuabola of his job and taking it on himself. Australia’s ABC political editor Chris Uhlmann described the sacking as “a calculated slap down of the forum, aimed at showing Australia and New Zealand that Fiji does not need them to make its way in the world.” Noting that the summit was being held in a sports centre financed by China, Uhlmann warned that while China had been “making friends in the Pacific,” Australia had been “making enemies.”
Fiji’s trade minister Faiyaz Koya last week announced Fiji was withdrawing from talks on a Pacific-wide trade deal, the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (Pacer Plus), citing backtracks on key commitments by Australia and New Zealand. Papua New Guinea has also withdrawn from the agreement.
At last year’s PIF meeting, Tony Abbott, then Australian prime minister, and New Zealand’s John Key tried to strong-arm the Pacific states, prior to the ecological summit in Paris, into accepting lower carbon emission targets even though rising sea levels threaten their survival. Bainimarama led a rebellion by the Pacific countries in Paris, declaring the Pacific was “bearing the brunt” of climate change.
This year, after lobbying by France, New Zealand and Australia, the vote to admit New Caledonia and French Polynesia to the PIF was unanimous. France has been pushing for membership for its territories since 2003. Their inclusion was resisted by the other island states because the forum is meant to be for “independent” countries, even though their own “independence” has always been extremely limited, largely because of the ongoing domination of the former colonial powers, Australia and New Zealand.
The legacy of France’s nuclear testing has long fuelled opposition to the encroachment of France into regional policy. Canberra and Wellington have always viewed France as an imperialist competitor. New Zealand’s “anti-nuclear” stance in the 1970s and 1980s sought to diminish French influence. Mutual antagonism reached fever pitch in 1985 when the French secret service bombed the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior in Auckland harbour.
Opening the door to wider French influence in Pacific affairs is therefore a significant shift. According to Radio NZ, France had been able to “defy the forum for decades and now [it] gets to sit—indirectly—at the Forum table.”
The decision coincided with an anti-China witch-hunting campaign by the Australian media and political establishment aimed at ramping up an atmosphere for war preparations with China. On August 29, analyst Hugh White told the ABC’s “Pacific Beat” program that China was seeking to become “perhaps the leading power” in the western Pacific. It was cultivating closer relationships with “even the smallest and most remote” countries. Any improvement in China’s position, he declared, would be a “negative for Washington.”
In fact, China’s expansion into the Pacific has been primarily in response to the Obama administration’s aggressive “pivot” to the Asia-Pacific. Within the next five years, 60 percent of the US Navy’s warships will be operating in the Pacific. Military facilities in South Korea, Japan, the Philippines and Singapore are being upgraded, along with the expanded use of Australian ports and bases. In a break with New Zealand’s longstanding “anti-nuclear” policy, a US warship is to visit the country in November.
According to the Sydney-based Lowy Institute, China has overtaken Australia as the biggest source of aid to Fiji, and will soon surpass Canberra’s aid to Samoa and Tonga. Beijing’s aid exceeds that from New Zealand and Japan and, at $US1.8 billion, is on the verge of overtaking the US in terms of total aid delivered to the Pacific islands since 2006.
Trade between China and the Pacific doubled last year. The ABC reported that in 2015 total trade reached $US7.5 billion, up from $4.5 billion in 2014. Most of the growth has come from China’s exports to the region, but the Pacific’s exports to China are also expanding, led by the Papua New Guinea’s liquefied natural gas projects. Fish products and timber are the other major exports. More than half of Solomon Islands’ total export income comes from logs sent to China.
The Chinese technology giant Huawei has a major regional presence, working with Pacific telecommunications providers, governments, and businesses to develop subsea cables, networks and datacentres. In 2013, the Australian government stopped Huawei being awarded contracts for a major fibre-optic Internet infrastructure project. The ban was imposed, on bogus “security” grounds, at the behest of Washington. Documents released by whistleblower Edward Snowden confirmed that the US engaged for years in a campaign of industrial espionage against Huawei.
The expansion of France, a European imperialist power, into the Pacific is a sharp warning of the deepening tensions and march to war. In his ABC interview last month, White warned that the growing pattern of rivalry in the Pacific is “what you would expect to see in the lead-up to conflict.”

16 September 2016

Vanuatu Prime Minister Reaffirms support for self-determination of French Polynesia and New Caledonia

By Len Garae 

PM: “Our support won’t compromise our position”

While the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) accepted New Caledonia and French Polynesia to full membership of PIF during its 47th Forum at Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia last week (September 8-10) Prime Minister Charlot Salwai says full membership comes with benefits as well as obligations, and Vanuatu’s support won’t compromise the country’s stand on self determination for New Caledonia and French Polynesia.

He says the French Government specifically requested during COP 21 in Paris in December of last year, and the same request was made by the President of New Caledonia for Vanuatu to support New Caledonia to become a full member of PIF.

The Prime Minister says on his official trip to New Caledonia, he was asked to support New Caledonia and French Polynesia to become full members of PIF.

“Also the French High Commissioner in New Caledonia requested the same favour for the two Associate Members to become full members of PIF and MSG as part of regional integration,” the Prime Minister continues.

“Vanuatu supports both Territories since both have their own Governments which are elected by their peoples. Now that they are full members particularly nearby New Caledonia, there are obligations that they are expected to comply with. New Caledonia must now open up.

“I told the President of New Caledonia that when you came to Vanuatu, you promised visa-free access to New Caledonia and it has not happened yet. Now you are a full member of PIF, when are you going to comply with your promise? Now you have an obligation and it is not restricted to Vanuatu but to the member countries of the PIF which allow visa free travel to each other’s countries apart from New Zealand and Australia, but on the other hand, they are providing employment opportunities for our people.

“I also reminded the President of New Caledonia of reports that there are people from Vanuatu who are employed on the black market in New Caledonia and that it has to cease when the process is legalised”.

The Prime Minister says there are areas in the social sector including education and health that have to be formalised bilaterally, now that they are members of PIF”.

In terms of trade, he says, “Vanuatu wants to be able to export its yam, taro and meat to New Caledonia which means the Territory’s traditional stand on protectionism has to be relaxed”.

The Prime Minister says the truth is that it is not Paris that is restricting such trade to protect New Caledonia’s own products but the Territory’s own leaders who are imposing the ban. “Now it is the leaders in New Caledonia who must open their doors to regionalism to materialise so this is why we support them to become full members”, the Prime Minister says.

“But I also made it clear to the Presidents of New Caledonia and French Polynesia that Vanuatu’s support for them to become full members of PIF does not in any way comprise our stand for self-determination for New Caledonia and Tahiti.

“We have common issues in health, education and climate change and trade which we have to deal with, which are the reasons why we support you to become full members of PIF”.

On the issue of West Papua, PIF reached a consensus on reports of alleged human rights violations committed by Indonesia, for the Forum to bring the allegations to the table with Indonesia, and to take the case to the United Nations Human Rights Committee.

“Very few PIF members support the call for self-determination for West Papua, with the Solomons and Vanuatu in Melanesia and Tonga and Tuvalu (and Kiribati) in Polynesia. Those countries who support self-determination for West Papua believe that if there are human rights violations, it is because of their political aspirations”.

PIF resolved for the five countries to take up the case to the UN Decolonisation Committee.

The Prime minister says he is going to raise the issue of alleged human rights abuse (against West Papuans by Indonesian) at the UN General Assembly in New York next week.

15 September 2016

In Defense of Colin Kaepernick’s “Stand”

Institute of the Black World 

Essay by Dr. Ron Daniels

The uproar continues over San Francisco 49ner quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s decision to sit-down, rather than stand, during the playing of the National Anthem. Kaepernick said his decision was intended to protest the continued injustices being inflicted on Black people, including police brutality and killings.  Though the negative tide has turned somewhat, his protest was initially met with a torrent of criticism from various quarters. He was called everything but a child of God for refusing to “honor America” and our men and women in the armed forces. The “love it or leave it” sentiment was very strong.
Frankly, I was infuriated by these reactions. It made my blood boil.  I was already upset and had spoken about the fact that social media exploded with criticism of African American gymnast Gabby Douglas when she inadvertently forgot to put her hand over her heart when the National Anthem was played during the Medal Ceremony at the Olympic Games in Rio.  So, when I took to the airways for my weekly radio show Vantage Point on WBAI, 99.5 FM on the Pacifica Network in New York. I unleashed a commentary which made the following points (listen to the commentary at www.ibw21.org):
There is no law which states that anyone must stand during the playing of the National Anthem or the Pledge of Alliance to the Flag. It is a strongly held “custom” and societal expectation that one stand, but no law which compels it. On the contrary, Colin Kaepernick has a Constitutional Right to express his views through protest. Freedom of speech is one of the most important cornerstones of this imperfect union. It is one of the avenues through which change can be galvanized. And, Colin Kaepernick has courageously chosen to exercise his First Amendment Right to point out longstanding, persistent injustices, “intolerable acts” that are being heaped upon African Americans who are supposed to be full citizens of this nation.
Most importantly, generations of African Americans have paid the price for Colin Kaepernick and any Black person to sit during the playing of a flawed Anthem replete with hypocrisy. Every time I hear the words “that our Flag was still there” in the Anthem, I’m filled with anger/outrage. When the War of 1812 was fought some 3.5 million Africans were still enslaved and the 500,000 or so “free” Blacks could not vote and were subject to racial discrimination and violence. “Our Flag?” We didn’t have a Flag.  For Black folks, singing that line and most of the Anthem is ludicrous!
That notwithstanding, Blacks have spilled blood to protect and defend America even when America refused to protect and defend Black people. From Crispus Attucks, who died in the initial skirmish of the American Revolution, to the hundreds of “freedmen” whom George Washington reluctantly armed to fight in the battles of Bunkers Hill and Breed Hill, to the thousands who took up arms to fight for our own freedom in the Civil War, Black people have fought, bled and died aspiring to be free in a nation which repeatedly rewarded our military service with a failure to protect and defend us as citizens. We have been among America’s most patient patriots.
Thousands of Black troops went off to fight Kaiser Wilhelm during the First World War to save democracy, only to return to the United States to be gunned down in the streets in their military uniforms in the “bloody red summer of 1919.” We fought against Hitler and Tojo in the Second World War to once again return to an America where we were not free. Soldiers fresh off the battlefields faced humiliation, intimidation, lynching/murders and police violence in the segregated South and “dark ghettos” in the North.  Indeed, the hypocrisy of fighting for freedom and democracy abroad while being denied “freedom and justice for all” at home helped to fuel the civil rights, human rights, Black Power and Nationalists/Pan Africanists movements which have painstakingly pushed a reluctant nation toward a more perfect union.  Up through the Korean Conflict, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, Black soldiers have bled and died in every America war.
We have paid the price for Colin Kaepernick to stand or sit, kneel, recognize or ignore a flawed Anthem and Pledge, particularly as his protest continues to illuminate the killing of Black men and women by the police in the streets of this country.  Indeed, Frederick Douglas might well have whispered into the ear of Colin Kaepernick, “Right on Brother. What to Black people is your Anthem and your Flag!”  Or Kapernick may have been inspired by an “American icon,” Jackie Robinson who reflected in his autobiography on standing for the Flag as he carried the weight of the race on his shoulders as the first African American to play Major League Baseball: “As I write this twenty years later, I cannot stand and sing the anthem. I cannot salute the flag; I know that I am a black man in a white world.”
In many respects Jackie Robinson, a World War II veteran, was/is symbolic of all the men and women, the patient patriots, who paid the price for Colin Kaepernick to sit or kneel during the playing of the National Anthem and the salute to the Flag. Africans in America and people of conscience and goodwill should resolve to stand with and defend him in his righteous pursuit to end the oppression and injustice of Africans in America.  No struggle, no progress!
Dr. Ron Daniels is President of the Institute of the Black World 21st Century and Distinguished Lecturer at York College City University of New York. His articles and essays also appear on the IBW website www.ibw21.org and www.northstarnews.com. His weekly radio show, Vantage Point can be heard Mondays 10:00 AM – 12:00 Noon on WBAI, 99.5 FM, Pacifica in New York or streaming live via WBAI.org.  To send a message, arrange media interviews or speaking engagements, Dr. Daniels can be reached via email at info@ibw21.org

14 September 2016

Univ. of Guam conducts forum on colonialism in the Pacific

The quest for self-determination and voting rights, as well as the legacies of colonialism bound some nations in the Pacific, as mentioned in the Community Forum Series: “From New Caledonia to Guahan: Status Updates on the Decolonization Process,” which was recently held at the University of Guam.

Nic Maclellan, a journalist and researcher who has written widely on issues pertaining to the decolonization process said the situation of Guam’s quest for self-determination is replicated across the Pacific Ocean, citing the case of West Papua and New Caledonia.

Maclellan described West Papua’s continued bid for self-determination, where a violent conflict resulted in the death of thousands of people during the 1990s, and a determination of the nation’s political status in the future.

West Papua is a province in the far east of Indonesia, which shares borders with Papua New Guinea to the east. It was previously a Dutch colony and continued to be under its control until the mid-20th century.

He also focused on New Caledonia, a French territory described as a multi-ethnic society with an indigenous population of around 44 percent. According to Maclellan, the South Pacific nation will move into a referendum on its political status in two years' time.

Maclellan also described the events leading to the referendum in 2018, such as the signing of the Noumea Accord in May 1998, which maps out the transition of the nation within a 20-year time frame. The accord promises to grant political power to New Caledonia and its indigenous population - the Kanaks.

According to Maclellan, New Caledonia’s experience could be used by Guam.

Guam experience

Attorney Leevin Camacho also spoke during the forum on voting rights, highlighting the current Davis plebiscite case which was recently in the District Court.

Camacho is an advocate for the preservation of Guam lands, the environment and Chamorro culture and successfully assisted We Are Guåhan and the Guam Preservation Trust in their lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Defense over the proposed buildup and use of Pågat as a live-round training and firing range by the U.S. military.

According to Camacho, the argument in the case focused on the definition of native inhabitants of Guam, which is defined “as a person who became a U.S. citizen by virtue of the 1950 Organic Act and a descendant of such person.”

In District Court, Special Assistant Attorney General Julian Aguon and attorney J. Christian Adams debated the legality of limiting the plebiscite to the native inhabitants of Guam and their descendants. Adams represented Arnold "Dave" Davis, who has been involved in the strenuous legal battle since 2011 over his inability to register and take part in the plebiscite.

The attorneys argued aspects of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment as well as the 15th Amendment, which prohibits discrimination based on race or color with regard to voting by U.S. citizens. They also argued how the Voting Rights Act applied to Guam and whether the plebiscite definition violated provisions in the Organic Act of Guam.

Past forums

UOG has organized several decolonization forums in the past, including a joint series organized with the Guam Community College and the Festival of Pacific Arts Workshops Committee. Topics covered by the series included exercising the right to self-determination; a deeper look into statehood’s realities, advantages, struggles, and lessons learned; and the critical question of statehood’s impact on cultural survival and indigenous nation building.

The forum, which was sponsored by the UOG Division of Social Work and Chamorro Studies Program, was organized to facilitate an in-depth understanding of the topic among the youth.   

Puerto Rican Religious Leaders Demand Release of Oscar Lopez Rivera

SAN JUAN – The local religious movement known as the Coalition for the Release of Oscar Lopez Rivera on Thursday called on authorities to free the Puerto Rican independence activist and sought support for the Oct. 9 event in Washington lobbying for his release.

“That a group of leaders of different religious sectors is uniting for the release ... of my dad give me a lot of hope,” Clarisa Lopez Ramos, the daughter of Lopez Rivera, told EFE.

Lopez Rivera has been behind bars for 35 years after being convicted of seditious conspiracy and is currently being held in a prison in Terre Haute, Indiana.

His daughter was referring to the support provided for his release by San Juan Archbishop Roberto Gonzalez Nieves, Methodist Bishop Juan Vera, Lutheran Bishop Felipe Lozada Montañez and the secretary of the Pueto Rico Bible Society, Rev. Heriberto Martinez, who participated on Thursday in a press conference to demand Lopez Rivera’s release.

“The support of these people confirms that Oscar Lopez is not only a political prisoner, but also an example of the violation of human rights,” said Lopez Ramos about her father, a Vietnam veteran and former member of the Armed Forces of National Liberation, or FALN.

“We have to take advantage of the opportunity in the last few months that remain to (Barack) Obama (in the White House) for him to make a decision. This is not a local request, but an international one. My father has always said: ‘The struggle will always be our reward,’” she said.

After a decade of active struggle for Puerto Rico’s independence from the United States, on May 29, 1981, Lopez Rivera – 38 at the time – was arrested by U.S. authorities.

He was covicted and sentenced later that year to 55 years in prison for seditious conspiracy to overthrow the U.S. government on the island and in 1991 he was handed another 15 years behind bars for an escape attempt.

He was imprisoned with other like-minded individuals who actively fought from Chicago during the 1980s for the island’s independence. In 1999, then-President Bill Clinton commuted the sentences of 11 of them.

Clinton also offered a pardon to Lopez Rivera, but he – who had never been accused of any violent crimes – refused to accept it if it did not apply to all his companions.

The Coalition for the Release of Oscar Lopez Rivera on Tuesday expressed its support for the “Obama Free Oscar Now” event to be held on Oct. 9 in Washington.

“Oscar has spent too much time in prison. Both because of his age and the conditions in which he is being held, it’s time for him to go free,” Bishop Lozada Montañez, the president of the Puerto Rico Council of Churches, told EFE.

Expected to take part in the Oct. 9 event are African American intellectual and civil rights activist Cornel West, Illinois Congressman Luis Gutierrez – who is Puerto Rican descent – and Puerto Rican artists Rene Perez, Danny Rivera, Roy Brown and the Jovenes del 98 group.

12 September 2016

Guam as staging ground for U.S. bomber 'operations' in S. China Sea

"The use of non self-governing territories for military activities violates longstanding U.N. decolonization doctrine." - a Pacific scholar 

The (U.S.) Air Force said history was made Wednesday when all three “power projection bombers” — the B-52 Stratofortress, the B-1 Lancer and the B-2 Spirit — took off from Guam for their first operation together in the Asia-Pacific.
Though the aircraft have deployed independently to the region in the past, “this was the first time all three bombers flew a formation pass over Andersen Air Force Base, dispersed and then simultaneously conducted operations in the South China Sea and Northeast Asia,” a 36th Wing statement said.
“This mission demonstrated the U.S. commitment to supporting global security and our ability to launch a credible strategic defense force,” said Brig. Gen. Douglas Cox, the wing’s commander.
Three B-2 Spirit stealth aircraft — America’s most advanced bomber, capable of delivering both conventional and nuclear munitions — arrived last week from Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., for a short Pacific deployment that’s part of U.S. Strategic Command’s bomber operations.