11 July 2019

"SHAM FRENCH NUCLEAR COMPENSATION SCHEME" LIMITING COMPENSATION FOR POLYNESIANS EXPOSED AT U.N. HEARING



Statement to Special Committee on Decolonization (C-24)
Mr. Philippe NEUFFER Attorney at Law in Tahiti 
United Nations 
New York, N.Y. 
27th June 2019



Madam Chair, 
Distinguished Members of the Special Committee, 

One of the most egregious acts perpetuated on mankind has been the testing of nuclear weapons in spite of the known human cost, and the challenges to just compensation and reparation for the veterans and for their widows and children.

 The aftermath of 30 years of French nuclear testing in our homeland continues to plague our people, victims of 193 atmospheric and underground nuclear tests from 1966 to 1997. This was equivalent to 720 Hiroshima bombs in our atmosphere, and 210 underground. 

It has been 20 years since the final nuclear testing came to an end in 1996, and the moral and practical recognition of the health and social consequences of the testing which have been confirmed as inter-generational, remain a major challenge to the health and well being of our people. 

The current mishandling of the nuclear waste generated by these tests is a lingering danger of monumental proportions for Maohi Nui/French Polynesia and the entire Pacific region.

 The General Assembly has adopted a series of resolutions since 2013 "recognizing the significant health and environmental impacts of this nuclear testing” conducted by the administering Power in my country over this period. The resolutions further recognized the consequences of those activities on the lives and health of the people, especially children and vulnerable groups, as well as the environment of the entire Pacific region. The General Assembly resolutions have also made the natural linkage between the aftermath of the French nuclear testing in our region and the work of the U.N. Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation. 

The resolutions also take note of the two reports of the Secretary-General on the environmental, ecological, health and other impacts of the testing, and have requested the Secretary-General to provide continuous updates on the impacts of the testing. 

Interestingly, the French had devised a compensation scheme in 2010 containing a clause suggesting that the nuclear tests were of "negligible risk." This resulted in only a handful of approvals for compensation from hundreds of claims made by our people - despite disproportionate rates of thyroid cancer and leukemia with overall cancer rates over 30 per cent higher than average. 

Because of extensive public outrage in our community over this sham compensation scheme, the French National Assembly voted in February 2017 to remove the element of "negligible risk" but by the end of 2018, "negligible exposure" was re-inserted in the programme by way of an amendment to a budgetary rider in the 2019 French Finance Act establishing a "criterion of non-accountability" - "negligible risk" by different form.

 It is highly disappointing for us that such important developments are not referenced in the U.N. resolution on French Polynesia, and important conclusions from existing U.N. research were omitted from the two previous Secretary-General reports. And it is highly deceiving for the people of Maohi Nui that the wives and the children of veterans of French nuclear tests still are not recognized as direct victims, and don’t have the compensation they deserve. 

Thank You, Madam Chair.

08 July 2019

FRANCE HAS VIOLATED THE U.N. CHARTER FOR SIX YEARS SINCE THE RE-INSCRIPTION OF POLYNESIA ON THE U.N. COLONIES LIST


Statement to Special Committee on Decolonization (C-24)

Mr. Richard Ariihau TUHEIAVA
Elected Member of the Assembly of French Polynesia
United Nations, New York, N.Y.
27th June 2019


Madam Chair,

Distinguished Members of the Special Committee,

I have the honour to address you in my capacity as an elected member of the House of Assembly of Ma’ohi-Nui/French Polynesia from the Tavini Huiraatira party.

Since the adoption of Resolution 67/265 of 17 March 2013, the General Assembly has adopted seven resolutions on Ma’ohi-Nui/French Polynesia calling for specific actions to be undertaken in furtherance of our decolonization process. These resolutions have recognized the inalienable right of our people to self-determination and independence, and have reaffirmed that Ma’ohi-Nui/French Polynesia remains a non self-governing territory within the meaning of the United Nations Charter.

The General Assembly also adopts its annual resolution on the implementation of this Decolonization Declaration which is applicable to all territories, including Ma’ohi-Nui/French Polynesia, which have not achieved a full measure of self-government. The Assembly adopted these resolutions on the self-determination and independence of our territory on the basis of careful review and assessment of the actual dependency relationship which existed in 2012, and which informed its consensus adoption of its resolution 67/265 of 17 March 2013. 

The political status of Ma’ohi-Nui/French Polynesia has not changed since 2013 despite cosmetic adjustments to the so-called Autonomy Statute made unilaterally by France in 2019 as an attempt to avoid a true self-determination process.

Madam Chair,

Accordingly, the General Assembly is consistently clear that Ma’ohi-Nui/French Polynesia “remains a non self-governing territory within the meaning of the (U.N.) Charter” and this should remain our point of departure. What must follow now are the ways and means to implement this General Assembly decolonization mandate through the actions adopted in its resolutions.

Continued violation by the administering Power of Article 73 of the U.N. Charter in withholding its cooperation with the U.N. on our territory can no longer be used as an excuse or rationalization for not implementing this mandate. On this point, this Committee may wish to consider strengthening its repeated language in resolutions which only politely expresses "regret that the administering Power has not responded to the request to submit information on French Polynesia under Article 73(e) of the U.N. Charter."

In fact, it is not a mere request. It is an international legal obligation that is being violated. The resolution on the question of Ma’ohi Nui/French Polynesia should reflect this noncompliance for what it is - a violation of the Charter which should be condemned, as in the
same language of General Resolution 1699(XVI) of 19 December 1961 on similar violations.

Since the re-inscription in 2013, a work programme for Ma’ohi-Nui/French Polynesia has been requested repeatedly, and included in the resolution on such territory. I wish to state again that this is the recognized approach to initiate the self-determination process. The outline of a work programme for Ma’ohi-Nui/French Polynesia has been drafted to update the procedure adopted by the General Assembly in its Resolution 57/91 of 6 December 1999, and
can be provided at the appropriate time.

This updated outline is divided into five phases beginning with
1) an in-depth examination of the intricacies of the dependency relationship between the territory and the administering Power, proceeding with 2) an extensive public education programme in the
territory with 3) a subsequent C-24 visiting mission, followed by 4) an act of self-determination to select a choice from the legitimate political status options. The 5th step phase concludes with the
transition to the full measure of self-government. 

The entire process would involve the participation of the relevant U.N. institutions.

Madam Chair,

This committee in its 2018 resolution on Ma’ohi-Nui/French Polynesia inexplicably recommended to the Fourth Committee the deletion of the entire operative paragraph that would have requested the Secretary-General to “provide continuous updates to his report on the environmental, ecological, health and other impacts of the 30-year period of nuclear testing in French Polynesia”. Our pleas to the C-24 and Fourth Committee that the language be restored could not be honored in 2018, but promises were made that the issue would be addressed this year.

We are very pleased that these promises were honoured and the language has been restored in this year’s draft resolution. We strongly request that the Committee ensures that the “continuous updates” requested of the Secretary-General in the resolution are far more extensive than the two previous reports. 

In this connection, I would humbly urge the researchers for the Secretary-General’s report to avail themselves of a broader range of information available in the public domain to include such documents as the 2014 Independent Report on “The French Nuclear Testing in French Polynesia” prepared by renowned scientists, or the compliant of the Tavini Huiraatira Party that was submitted to the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) last 2 October 2018. 

Thank You, Madam Chair.

BRITISH DEPENDENCIES RESIST U.K. POLICY OF UNILATERAL POWER




St. Kitts & Nevis Observer


Britain’s Overseas Territories say they will “stand together” to defend their right to self-government amid increasing concerns over “constitutional overreach” from the UK.

Any attempts to enforce legislation from Westminster on issues ranging from same-sex marriage to ‘belongership’ and financial services regulation will be strongly resisted, according to leaders of several territories, following talks in Grand Cayman this week.

Despite the disparate concerns of the various territories, leaders from the Falklands to Bermuda were united in their opposition to the UK dictating policy from thousands of miles away.

A UK law seeking to impose public registers of beneficial ownership on Britain’s territories – seen as a threat to the financial services industry – is a key concern for several islands.

“Modern-day colonialism is what is being attempted by those persons is Westminster, and I am certain that all Overseas Territories will resist it vociferously,” Bermuda Premier David Burt said at a press conference following the summit at the Kimpton Seafire Hotel on Wednesday.

Several other leaders expressed similar concerns, and insisted the pressure from the UK on various issues is helping them to forge closer bonds as they seek to resist what they see as constitutional overreach from the mother country.

“I see a beacon of hope with our team here, because we all realise that divided we fall, united we stand,” said Andrew Fahie, premier of the British Virgin Islands.

A recent report from a Foreign Affairs Select Committee, which included a number of suggestions including recommendations that the UK government force its territories to adopt same-sex marriage legislation and open discussions on allowing resident UK citizens to vote and stand for election, is also stoking controversy.

Though the current British government says it has no plans to follow through on the report’s recommendations, the uncertainty and instability in UK politics amid a Conservative party leadership battle, division over Brexit and the possibility of a general election, is fuelling concern.

Burt said it was possible that the report’s recommendations could gain traction in a new government, and highlighted the possibility that some of its authors could be part of a future government.

“It is sad to see persons who don’t have a familiarity [with the various islands] reverting to a position we thought was long gone, where Westminster feels able to dictate to the Overseas Territories,” he added.

Albert Isola, Gibraltar’s minister for commerce, said the specifics of the issues at stake were largely irrelevant. He said it was “anti-democratic” of the UK to attempt to make laws for its territories on issues that were the responsibility of the elected governments.

“There is no way today we can accept modern colonialism through the back door by allowing these things to happen. On that, as has been demonstrated today, we are all 100 percent on the same page,” he said.

The report caused ripples as far away as the Falklands. Teslyn Barkman, a legislator from the islands, off the coast of Argentina, said it was omitted entirely from the report, but could be faced with the impact of its findings.

She said the recommendation that UK citizens be given the right to vote and run for office in the territories was the most controversial.

“You are talking about giving UK citizens the right to vote in a population of 3,000. You could very quickly have a population of UK citizens who don’t know the territory’s needs or priorities, or care about the long-term viability of the economy.”

Sharlene Cartwright-Robinson, of the Turks and Caicos, said she expected pressure from the UK, particularly over voting rights and same-sex marriage, would continue.

“It is a matter of constitutional overreach, and respecting territories rights to choose how they want to govern, how they want to grow their countries, who they want to run in their elections and certainly their culture and religious beliefs,” she said.

Montserrat Premier Donaldson Romeo said the UK clearly understood the democratic values at stake, because they were fighting for autonomy from the European Union on the basis of the same principles.

“We have just the same right as they have and we need to insist on our right to self determination, and our people need to support us in this regard.”

He urged the leaders around the table to remain united on issues, even when they only affected a handful of islands, and vowed to offer Montserrat’s support to others on issues, like financial services, which do not directly affect the island.

“We have a saying in Montserrat, ‘today for you, tomorrow for me’. I am counting on us to stand together,” he said.

02 July 2019

FRENCH POLYNESIA CHURCH PRESIDENT TELLS U.N. OF IMPACTS OF "FRENCH COLONIAL NUCLEAR PROGRAMME" ON THE PEOPLE


Reverend Taaroarii Maraea 
President of the Ma’ohi Protestant Church
Statement to Special Committee on Decolonization
United Nations, New York, N.Y. 
28th June 2019

Madam Chair,

Distinguished Members of the Special Committee,

I have the honour to address you in my capacity as President of the Ma’ohi Protestant Church. I wish to express my deepest gratitude for allowing myself to speak before this
Committee on the question of Ma’ohi-Nui/French Polynesia.

I wish to draw the attention of the Committee to the communication submitted in early October 2018 to the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in
The Hague, Netherlands, and a second communication submitted on 30 October 2018 to the Special Rapporteur on the Implications for Human Rights of the Environmentally Sound Management and Disposal of Hazardous Substances and Wastes, in Geneva, Switzerland, both in relation to the 30 years of French nuclear testing in our territory.

In this regard, the International Law Commission is to be commended for its ongoing work on the draft articles on crimes against humanity. This work is especially important in
giving further clarity to what constitutes such a crime and the requisite recompense.

I take note that the 2019 Working Paper on Ma’ohi-Nui/French Polynesia makes only a short reference to both ICC and Human Rights Committee complaints while the draft resolution on Ma’ohi-Nui/French Polynesia omits any reference to it altogether.

We continue to pose the question as to why these developments are not worthy of U.N. consideration, or whether there is undue pressure exerted by the administering Power behind the scenes to censor such references. Nevertheless, our people will continue to monitor how the U.N. deals with these stealth diplomacy tactics in future.

To this end, I recall that as a presidential candidate, Emmanuel Macron stated that:

“Colonization is a crime. It’s a crime against humanity. It’s truly barbarous and it’s part of a past that we need to confront by apologizing to those against whom we committed these acts... At the same time, we must not sweep this past under the rug…"


We hold the now-French President to this commitment. However, the actions of a U.N. member State and P-5 member - is that of a contemporary colonial power utterly dismissive of Article 73 of the U.N. Charter, reflecting the opposite of his earlier lofty words. It is, in fact, doing its best to "sweep the issue under the rug" by seeking to persecute those who have stood bravely in the face of the colonial power.

This was one of the motives of the Ma’ohi Protestant Church for submitting an official communication to the relevant U.N. Special Rapporteur to the Human Rights Committee.

Recently, the Administering Power monitored a revision process of the bilateral Organic Law regarding Ma’ohi-Nui/French Polynesia within its Parliament in Paris. As a matter of fact, the new preambular paragraph of such Organic Law now reflects a so-called “positive contribution” provided by the territory of Ma’ohi-Nui/French Polynesia in favour of the colonial nuclear programme implemented by France.

This provocative language currently being adopted by the French Parliament is an outrageous “mis-interpretation” of the painful history and the sufferings that the Ma’ohi People
went through without its consent.

The Ma’ohi Protestant Church is nevertheless extremely pleased that the Committee resolution this year has restored an amended version of the paragraph in its 2019 resolution on our territory, and we strongly request that the committee ensures that the "continuous updates" requested of the Secretary-General in the resolution are far more extensive than the two previous reports.

Thank You, Madam Chair.

25 June 2019

OVER 50 SPEAKERS DISCUSS PUERTO RICO DECOLONISATION AT U.N.

GA/COL/3337
24 JUNE 2019
2019 SESSION, 5TH & 6TH MEETINGS (AM & PM)

Speakers Voice Concern about Environmental, Fiscal Challenges of Puerto Rico as Special Decolonization Committee Approves Annual Self-determination Text

Panel Hears Petitioners Describe Health-care Woes, Increased School Closures, Sell-off of Assets to Foreign Interests

Noting with concern the way in which political insubordination impedes Puerto Rico’s ability to tackle its serious economic and social problems, the Special Committee on Decolonization approved a draft resolution today that calls once again upon the United States to shoulder its responsibility to facilitate the realization of the right of Puerto Ricans to self‑determination.
More than 50 petitioners from Puerto Rican advocacy groups and international allies addressed the Special Committee, with many denouncing the colonial occupation of the Territory by the United States.  Several called for Puerto Rico to be reinstated on the United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories; others suggested that it be admitted to the United Nations as the Sovereign State of Borinken.  Speakers also called attention to the Territory’s environmental challenges, including climate change and the devastating aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017.
Approving its annual draft resolution on Puerto Rico without a vote, the Special Committee — formally known as the Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples — called on the Government of the United States to promote a process that enables Puerto Ricans to fully exercise their right to self-determination and independence, and to take decisions in a sovereign manner to address their challenges.  It also noted with concern that, by virtue of the decision by the United States Congress under the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act — known as PROMESA — the already weakened area in which the prevailing regime of political and economic subordination in Puerto Rico operates is reduced any further.
The Special Committee further expressed serious concern about actions carried out against Puerto Rican independence activists and encouraged investigations into those actions, while also requesting that the General Assembly comprehensively consider the question of Puerto Rico and decide on the issue as soon as possible.
Oscar López Rivera of Fundación OLR Libertá — a Puerto Rican political prisoner held in the United States for more than 35 years and released in 2017 by former President Barack Obama — said that the only way Puerto Rico can only exist as a Latin American and Caribbean nation is by becoming an independent and sovereign nation.  Otherwise, it will lose its national identity, culture, language and way of life.  “What’s happening in Puerto Rico is the culmination of colonialism,” he said, emphasizing that it is time for the General Assembly to rectify the mistake it made in 1953 when it took Puerto Rico off the list of NHon-Self-Governing Territories.
Agreeing, Edgardo Roman-Espada of the Colegio de Abogados y Abogadas de Puerto Rico added that the Special Committee should recommend to the General Assembly that it ask the International Court of Justice for an advisory opinion on the international status of Puerto Rico and the fiduciary responsibility of the United States.  Trilce Torres Lopez of the Gran Oriente Nacional de Puerto Rico said that Puerto Rico’s absence from the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories means it cannot access support and services from the United Nations.
Many speakers drew attention to the impact the Financial Oversight and Management Board of Puerto Rico is having on the social, economic and political life of Puerto Rico and its estimated 3.2 million inhabitants.  Established through the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA), adopted by the United States Congress in 2016, that entity oversees the payment of Puerto Rico’s $70 billion debt.
Julio Ortiz-Luquis of the Boricuas Unidos en la Diaspora said the Board is imposing austerity measures while robbing the pockets of the people.  Millions of Puerto Ricans are going elsewhere while the island’s assets are being sold off to foreign interests. 
“We need to revise our relationship with the United States,” said Maria de Lourdes Santiago of the Puerto Rican Independence Party, who emphasized that Puerto Rico has yet to recover from the devastating impact of fatal hurricanes in 2017.  The United States has a moral imperative to give Puerto Ricans the right to decide their own future, she added. 
Walter Alomar of the Organization for Culture of Hispanic Origins said hundreds of schools in Puerto Rico are closed and rotting due to fiscal austerity measures.  Also underlining the challenges faced by health‑care workers, he said Puerto Ricans have become a permanent underclass.  “If I didn’t know any better, I would say this systemic sociocultural process of dismantling the education system is intentional,” he said.
Puerto Rico cannot participate in the global economy, nor can it care for its own needs, he said, emphasizing also its vulnerability to climate change.  He said the Assembly should address the situation in Puerto Rico, adding that the Special Committee should call for a free Puerto Rico, which should have the opportunity for independence and self-determination.
“The legacy of United States colonialism in Puerto Rico has been, is now and will always be one of racism, exploitation, forced relocation, repression, assassination and incarceration,” said Benjamin Ramos Rosado of the ProLibertad Freedom Campaign.
READ FULL REPORT HERE .

20 June 2019

UNITED KINGDOM FLAUNTS INTERNATIONAL RULE OF LAW AFTER INTERNATIONAL COURT OF JUSTICE DECISION ON CHAGOS



Elena Katselli, Senior Lecturer in Law
 Newcastle University


A nation’s military and geo-strategic interests cannot, under international law, prevail over the sovereign rights of other states. State sovereignty, self-determination and decolonisation are fundamental legal principles the UK should honour as it refuses, despite widespread international condemnation, to hand back control of the Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean.
Indeed, Britain’s expressed policy that it will protect its interests at any cost, even at the expense of international law and fundamental human rights, has unwelcome echoes of colonialism and discrimination that should have no place in the 21st century.
On May 22, a UN General Assembly resolution calling for the complete decolonisation of Mauritius by ending the UK’s administration over the islands was voted for by 116 nations. Only six – the US, Hungary, Israel, Australia, the Maldives and the UK – voted against it, with 56 abstaining.

31 May 2019

Wamytan elected as New Caledonia Congress president



RNZ PACIFIC/PACNEWS


The pro-independence politician Roch Wamytan has been elected as the president of New Caledonia's Congress.

Wamytan of the Caledonian Union secured 29 of the 54 votes after getting the backing of the three members of the new Pacific Awakening party.

He defeated Magali Manuhoalalo of the anti-independence Caledonia Together party who won 25 votes.

Pacific Awakening was tallied as being part of the anti-independence bloc after the provincial elections 12 days ago.

However, the party, which represents mainly ethnic Wallisians and Futunians, decided to endorse Wamytan over Manuhoalalo, who is also an ethnic Wallisian.

The Congress vote has gone against this week's deal struck within the anti-independence camp which had earmarked the Congress presidency for Philippe Michel.

This was agreed after the big winner of the provincial election, Sonia Backes of the Future with Confidence, assumed the presidency of the southern province.

The deal also provides for the presidency of the collegial government to go to Future with Confidence.


United Nations chief concerned nuclear 'coffin' leaking in Pacific


Suva (Fiji) (AFP)
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres raised concerns Thursday that a concrete dome built last century to contain waste from atomic bomb tests is leaking radioactive material into the Pacific.
Speaking to students in Fiji, Guterres described the structure on Enewetak atoll in the Marshall Islands as "a kind of coffin" and said it was a legacy of Cold War-era nuclear tests in the Pacific
"The Pacific was victimised in the past as we all know," he said, referring to nuclear explosions carried out by the United States and France in the region.
In the Marshalls, numerous islanders were forcibly evacuated from ancestral lands and resettled, while thousands more were exposed to radioactive fallout.
The island nation was ground zero for 67 American nuclear weapons tests from 1946-58 at Bikini and Enewetak atolls, when it was under US administration.
The tests included the 1954 "Bravo" hydrogen bomb, the most powerful ever detonated by the United States, about 1,000 times bigger than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
Guterres, who is touring the South Pacific to raise awareness of climate change issues, said Pacific islanders still needed help to deal with the fallout of the nuclear testing.
"The consequences of these have been quite dramatic, in relation to health, in relation to the poisoning of waters in some areas," he said.
"I've just been with the President of the Marshall Islands (Hilda Heine), who is very worried because there is a risk of leaking of radioactive materials that are contained in a kind of coffin in the area."
The "coffin" is a concrete dome, built in the late 1970s on Runit island, part of Enewetak atoll, as a dumping ground for waste from the nuclear tests.
Radioactive soil and ash from the explosions was tipped into a crater and capped with a concrete dome 45 centimetres (18 inches) thick.
However, it was only envisaged as a temporary fix and the bottom of the crater was never lined leading to fears the waste is leaching into the Pacific.
Cracks have also developed in the concrete after decades of exposure and there are concerns it could break apart if hit by a tropical cyclone.
Guterres did not directly address what should be done with the dome but said the Pacific's nuclear history still needed to be addressed.
"A lot needs to be done in relation to the explosions that took place in French Polynesia and the Marshall Islands," he said.
"This is in relation to the health consequences, the impact on communities and other aspects.
"Of course there are questions of compensation and mechanisms to allow these impacts to be minimised."



29 May 2019

AMER. SAMOA, NORTHERN MARIANAS CONGRESSIONAL DELEGATES CO-SPONSOR COLLEGE TUITION RELIEF FOR TERRITORIAL STUDENTS

Amata Cosponsors College Access Act

Press Release
Washington, DC – Thursday, Congresswoman Aumua Amata announced she has teamed up with Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (CNMI) for the introduction of the bipartisan Northern Mariana Islands and American Samoa College Access Act to provide tuition assistance to students in the islands.

The Northern Mariana Islands and American Samoa College Access Act would authorize tuition assistance grants to cover the difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition costs for Northern Marianas and American Samoa community college graduates wanting to go on and attend a four-year public university, or seek to complete a four-year degree program.

“We have many good students that study at our accredited community college. That’s a great start, but our students deserve the same access from that point to a four-year University degree that students in the 50 States have because of in-State tuition opportunities,” said Aumua Amata. “This bill would help correct that major financial disadvantage, and give our students better opportunities to pursue goals for higher education.”



Congresswoman Amata with Congressman Sablan
Congresswoman Amata with Congressman Sablan during Committee work this week

This bill, introduced by Rep. Sablan this week with Rep. Amata as the original cosponsor, emphasizes the importance of education for the future of both Territories, the local economies, and our students, and their ability to compete in the modern, interconnected job market throughout the country.

“Thank you to Congressman Sablan for introducing this important effort for our students,” continued Congresswoman Amata. “In-State tuition ensures many students in every State have a chance to complete a four-year college education that they might otherwise not be able to afford. That’s a wonderful concept, and this bill would extend an equivalent possibility to our students from American Samoa and the Northern Marianas.”

The need is clear. Household incomes in the Northern Marianas are less than half the national median, while American Samoa is geographically and economically isolated, causing poverty concerns and the need for more jobs and better jobs.

According to the College Board, nonresident students end up spending $14,480 more on average just to cover out-of-state tuition and fees. Currently, that’s a cost our students can’t avoid. Students in the Marianas and American Samoa also face the significant added expenses of flight tickets to even the nearest State, Hawaii.

The bill is based on the precedent of Public Law 106-98, the DC College Access Act, which allows students residing in the District of Columbia to apply for grants to help pay the cost of attending colleges outside DC, however, this bill does not cost nearly as much as the DC Act that it’s modeled after.

28 May 2019

A New UN Permanent Forum on People of African Descent Advances



May 24, 2019



A multi-stakeholder consultation on the modalities, format and substantive and procedural aspects of the new United Nations Permanent Forum on People of African Descent took place at Palais des Nations in Geneva, Switzerland on May 10, 2019. The meeting provided an opportunity for civil society organizations and other interested stakeholders from around the world to present their views on the new Forum.

Prior to the consultation, an International Coalition of PAD leaders and organizations developed a Consensus Proposal on the Permanent Forum which was presented to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The proposal was signed by 118 NGOs from across Europe, Latin America, the Caribbean, the Indian Ocean, and North America. The US Human Rights Network was among the lead organizations that contributed to the development of the proposal and supported its submission.

During the consultation, USHRN Board Member and co-founder of Black Voters Matter LaTosha Brown took the floor to support the submission of the proposal and comment on the process. A number of civil society statements made during the consultation highlighted the need for the new forum to be democratic and empowering to people of African descent. Additionally, several interventions focused on the critical issue of inclusivity of all interested stakeholders, whether or not they hold NGO consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) or not. A vote on the Permanent Forum for People of African Descent will take place in June 2019.




20 May 2019

GUAM DECOLONIZATION DIRECTOR ADDRESSES U.N. SEMINAR



Testimony of Melvin Won Pat Borja (Guam)
Executive Director - Commission on Decolonization
2019 United Nations Regional Seminar
St. George, Grenada
May 2-4, 2019

"We look forward to building strong relationships with both the United Nations and our Administering Power to forge ahead on our path to restorative justice and the true liberation of Guåhan and her people."
__________________________

Håfa Adai Your Excellency Chairman of the committee, distinguished delegates, and representatives from our fellow non-self governing territories. Guåhu si Melvin Won Pat-Borja.  I am the Executive Director of the Guam Commission on Decolonization, I represent the Honorable Lou Leon Guerrero, i Maga’hågan Guåhan.

Today I will be providing updates on decolonization efforts in Guam and I will discuss some critical issues that impact our ability to move forward efficiently in this process.

In 2011, a retired U.S. Military captain sued the Government of Guam after his unsuccessful attempt to register as a voter in Guam’s decolonization plebiscite as he did not meet the “native inhabitant” requirement. The Chief United States District Judge ruled that Guam’s Plebiscite Law was unconstitutional and discriminated against the plaintiff and his civil rights as a U.S. citizen.  My colleague, Dr. Michael Lujan Bevaqua, eloquently elaborated in his discussion paper for the 2017 Regional Seminar, “a process of decolonization that must follow the rules of the colonizer is not decolonization: it is an extension of colonization.”

Although the voter eligibility case is being appealed to the 9th Circuit Court, the implications of this case are divisive and counterproductive to the nature and essence of the UN Charter and Resolution 1514.  Regardless of the outcome, the case can be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court - a scenario that exhibits the reality in which the United States Judicial system is utilized to influence the terms of our decolonization and ultimately dictate the outcome.

In September of 2017, the U.S. Federal Government sued the Government of Guam for implementing a local law which created the CHamoru Land Trust Commission (CLTC).  The Federal Government contends that the local program is racially discriminatory and therefore violates the Federal Fair Housing Act.  Similar to the voter eligibility case, this suit against the CLTC is yet another example of our Administering Power’s use of its federal system to impede our progress toward native inhabitant recognition and decolonization.
In December of 2018, a federal judge ruled that at this time, the US Government failed to prove that the CLTC amounts to a racially discriminatory policy. This ruling was a victory - but how many more hoops must we jump through for the U.S. to honor its commitment under the Treaty of Paris to help advance the civil rights and political status of the people of Guam?  Why must we constantly justify and defend the validity of this fundamental human right?

The  aforementioned cases serve as reminders that Guam is a spoil of war, its people remain colonized, and that their self-determination is not prioritized by the U.S..   Worse is that laws passed by a legislative body, elected at large, are cast as racial with no recognition or critical examination of the racism inherent in our continued colonization.  In fact, many indigenous and native inhabitants  on Guam have a strong sense of patriotism and loyalty to the U.S. despite this history. No amount of patriotism, however, should warrant a blind eye to the inequity of our current unincorporated territory status.

Guam believes that self-determination must reflect the international community’s recognition that decolonization is realized through a choice for; 1) Independence, 2) Integration, or 3) Free Association.  Further, we believe upholding the Treaty of Paris means to respect the local law defining native inhabitant as an individual and their descendants who gained U.S. citizenship resulting from the enactment of the 1950 Organic Act of Guam, which is ironically a federal law.

Guam is eager and willing to pursue decolonization and to proclaim our political desires to the international community.  We believe, like the majority of you here, that a decolonization process which adheres to the norms and expectations of the international community is the road that should be traveled.

With the election of Guam’s first woman Governor, along with her commitment to Guam’s decolonization, we believe that our journey has been reinvigorated.  Add to this, that each branch of our republican form of government; the executive, legislative, and judicial, are led by women. This is not only a historical achievement for Guam, but a first for any State or Territory in the history of the United States.  We are actively engaging our government, and our political leadership is a manifestation of our desire to address the inequities of our current situation and political status.



Given the theme of this year’s Regional Seminar, the United Nations and Guam’s Administering Power can assist in this endeavor by supporting our efforts to educate all members of our community.  We are not blind that choices made for our island’s future will have an effect on anyone who has made Guam their home. Thus, all should understand the opportunities and challenges that lay ahead of us.  Because of this, Guam is making a concerted effort to launch a sustained political status education campaign.

This year, the Commission on Decolonization will reignite its plans to conduct a Self-Determination Study, host a Regional Self-Determination Conference, and launch a Media Education Campaign. The Commission is able to fund these projects through the generosity of the Department of the Interior; they are the principal advocates and champions for U.S. territories in our relations with the federal government and we are committed to building deeper understanding between us in order to see this through.

The Self-Determination Study will be compiled in collaboration with the University of Guam and will assess Guam’s current political status and paint an accurate political portrait of the level of self-governance on Guam under the Status Quo.  Further, it will analyze the three recognized political statuses to predict how each would impact various aspects of life on Guam to include the economy, trade, social services, education, defense, international relations, and others. The Self-Determination Study stands to be one of our most powerful tools to educate our community because it will answer many of the common questions and concerns of our people.  

The Self-Determination Regional Conference will welcome regional leaders and decolonization experts to promote community conversation around the topic of decolonization.  It will draw on the experiences and knowledge of other communities who have embarked on similar quests for decolonization. The conference will be open to the public and will be televised.

The Media Education Campaign will focus on developing educational content for mass media and social media distribution.  We are working with the Public Broadcasting Station and the University of Guam to create a marketing plan that will leverage the educational content and allow us to engage with a large audience.  These materials will also be repurposed for traditional educational texts.

There is a clear need for more resources if we are to conduct a sustained comprehensive and effective educational campaign on Guam.  Our challenges are vast and we are working against over 450 years of colonial conditioning. However, we are a resilient and determined people.  We will continue to be unrelenting to achieve our fundamental and basic human right to make a choice.  

We urge the United Nations to uphold its annual commitment to support our cause and extend assistance to our efforts to educate our island and we invite and welcome a visiting mission to Guam to bear witness to 454 years of uninterrupted colonization by both Spain and the United States.  We also invite our Administering Power to join us in reaffirming the principle that governments derive their just powers only from the consent of the governed.

We look forward to building strong relationships with both the United Nations and our Administering Power to forge ahead on our path to restorative justice and the true liberation of Guåhan and her people.

Saina ma’åse for your time and the opportunity to speak before the committee.


14 May 2019

BONAIRE CIVIC LEADER CHALLENGES NETHERLANDS DENIAL OF SELF-DETERMINATION TO THE DUTCH COLONIES IN THE CARIBBEAN


"Both islands (Sint Eustatius and Bonaire) in their respective referendum of 2014 and 2015 rejected this illegally imposed colonial status, and both island parliaments as representation of their peoples ratified these as legal democratic decisions of the peoples."  
  
- James Finies, President of  Foundation We Want Bonaire Back 




________________________________________________________

Letter  

To:                       State-Secretary of Kingdom Relations Mr. Raymond Knops
                            2500 EA The Hague, The Netherlands

       
From:                 
James Finies, President of  Foundation We Want Bonaire Back

Date:                   May 14, 2019



Subject: autonomy or self-governance is not a choice- it is the most fundamental inalienable right of the peoples 


Honorable Mr Knops,

We took note of your recent press media communications that you don't see the BES-islands, Bonaire, Saba and Sint Eustatius in the future as autonomous self-governing islands. Reason given that they are too small. I would like to remind you that Bonaire is a nation and according to UN General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV) of December 14, 1960; - “that inadequacy of political, economic, social or educational preparedness should never serve as pretext for delaying our fundamental inalienable right to self-governance”

Further on, you declared that your undemocratic intervention, coup d'etat, overthrowing the legitimate democratic elected government in Sint Eustatius in February 2018, had a disciplinary effect on the Bonaire government, as your recent visit to Bonaire, the government spoke much more friendly. This is evident as the leaders of government of Bonaire, both commissioners Mr Tjin-Asjoe and Mrs Den Heijer, with their subservient vision, publicly voiced, that “we cannot eat bread with autonomy”. 

Firstly we recognize and respect your right of expression so you may have a personal opinion on our current illegal state-structure. However we herewith want to bring to your attention that neither you nor your government and your Bonaire friendly local government possess any legal rights nor power to deny the peoples of Bonaire and the other BES-islands, principally Sint Eustatius,  the right to self-determination and self-governance. Both islands in their respective referendum of 2014 and 2015 rejected this illegally imposed colonial status and both island parliaments as representation of their peoples ratified these as legal democratic decisions of the peoples. 


Instead of assisting our islands in enhancing their autonomy, your government, a member of the UN Security Council, has limited the development towards more autonomy and now declares that we will never regain back our autonomy. This constitutes a grave violation of the Charter of the Kingdom based on the agreements signed with the United Nations Organization in 1954. Your government continued irresponsible and undemocratic decisions and actions have caused a setback in the governing of the islands which has led to a re-colonization that violates the Charter of the United Nations especially Article 73 Chapter XI, Article 103 Chapter XVI, and resolutions 742, 747, 945, 1514 and 1541, all of which address the sacred rights of the Peoples of Bonaire and Sint Eustatius. 

Our mutual colonial history, which you voiced to me personally that you don't know and don't care of, is a very dark one, with your government legalizing crimes and inhumanity, your laws to piracy, smuggling (drugs), slave-trading, making you the worlds history cruelest colonizers. We may have expected you with time to have grown out of this horrific barbaric culture, to civilize, but your recent declarations exposed your truth again, that nothing changed throughout the centuries, and you have put a suit over the plunderer of the defenseless Bonaire peoples. 

Our response is by quoting Ghandi: “ that throughout history the way of truth has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they seem invincible, but in the end , they always fall”.

We the peoples of Bonaire maintain our hopes high that “we shall overcome” and you shall respect, protect and comply with our inherited and acquired rights. We possess the same rights as you, to be as free and as equal and as human as yourself and all European-Dutch citizens of the Kingdom. We urge the international community to be aware of this illegal colonial status where our peoples find themselves in.

Respectfully yours, James Finies 
President 
Foundation We Want Bonaire Back

VIRGIN ISLANDS PREMIER ADDRESSES U.N. DECOLONISATION SEMINAR



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Premier Andrew Fahie traveled to Georgetown, Grenada from May 2-4 to meet with other regional leaders about the political status of the Virgin Islands and 16 other “non-independent countries” at a United Nations Caribbean regional seminar on decolonisation.

Mr. Fahie was the first VI head of government to attend the annual seminar, which examines issues of self-determination in the remaining period of the UN’s Third International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism (2011-2020), according to Government Information Services. In his remarks, he called for the VI to look beyond its relationship with the United Kingdom.


“Our relationship requires the international accountability that is provided for by the UN decolonisation framework,” he said. “This Caribbean regional seminar is an integral part of that process.”


READ THE FULL REPORT IN The BVI Beacon|.

IMG Academy Caribbean Cup Tennis Series to be held in St. Croix



Press Release

United States Virgin Islands Department of Tourism

Under-18 Tournament Starts May 13 at the Landmark Buccaneer Hotel

ST. CROIX, U.S. Virgin Islands (May 11, 2019) - Hundreds of junior tennis players, coaches and tournament officials begin arriving on the island of St.. Croix this weekend for the first-ever USVI Cup, an International Tennis Federation (ITF)-sanctioned tournament.

Organizers estimate more than 200 tennis players will participate in both boys and girls (under-18) back-to-back tournaments, taking place May 13 to 18 and May 20 to 25 at the landmark Buccaneer hotel.

"St. Croix will be brimming with parents, players and coaches, hailing from international destinations like Mexico, Spain, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Brazil, China and The Netherlands," said award-winning Canadian tennis coach Nima Naderi, who is acting as the IMG Academy Caribbean Cup Tennis Series tournament director.

Naderi has more than 20 years of coaching experience and, as an industry expert, is the co-host of the Tennis Connected podcast and frequent contributor to tennis-related outlets such as TennisPro magazine and Tennis View Magazine. Joining Naderi as president of the IMG Academy Caribbean Cup Tennis Series is Jamaican Karl Hale. Hale is an international tennis player and coach and is the tournament director of Rogers Cup in Canada.

"The main purpose for the event is to develop a cadre of local players and provide an opportunity to play a professional junior event," said Naderi. "Our aim is to develop the infrastructure of Caribbean tennis and help build a brand and grow the game."

Joseph Boschulte, Commissioner nominee in the USVI Department of Tourism, noted the importance of such events and sports tourism to the Territory. "We are getting back into the game as we share with the world that we are open for business, and look forward to welcoming these talented athletes to our Territory," he said.

The IMG Academy Caribbean Cup Tennis Series kicked off recently in Jamaica and continues on St. Croix, the Cayman Islands and then later in the year in Barbados, Curaçao, Anguilla, Antigua and the Bahamas.

"The tournament will help to expose travelers to the beauty of the Caribbean ... and visitors traveling to St. Croix will help boost the local economy. Hopefully they will enjoy their experience, spread the word and make this a bigger and better series next year," commented Naderi.

The Buccaneer has partnered with the event as the official tournament hotel.. Naderi reported that close to 450 room nights have been booked on St. Croix, at the host hotel as well as at surrounding accommodation facilities.