20 December 2010

New Zealand Government Urges Peace On Rapa Nui (Easter Island)


Voxy News Engine Wednesday,
Wellington,  NZPA

The New Zealand Government has urged those involved in violent clashes over a land dispute on Easter Island in the South Pacific to find a peaceful resolution.

Dozens of people were wounded on the island earlier this month when Chilean police tried to evict the indigenous Polynesian residents of Rapa Nui from the buildings they had been squatting in for several months.

"The New Zealand Government urges the parties to find a peaceful resolution to this matter, and will convey that view to the parties as appropriate," Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully said in Parliament today. About 2200 of the island's 5000 residents are Rapa Nui, and many fear a recent tourism boom on the island will force them out.

Fearing that the Chilean government, which annexed the island in 1888, wanted to turn the land into a sort of tourist attraction, a number of Rapa Nui seized properties in August, saying they were illegally taken from their families generations ago.

Mr McCully, replying to questions from Maori Party MP Hone Harawira, said the Government of Chile took the view that it had acted to try to maintain law and order. "I was delighted to see the statement of President [Sebastian] Pinera in recent days that he hoped the land claim could be settled in a peaceful and harmonious manner, through dialogue," Mr McCully said.

"I understand that sentiment has been reciprocated by some of the protestors, and that some progress, accordingly, is being made."

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