Amer. Samoa Delegate Calls for Peaceful Solution to Rapa Nui Crisis in Adress to US Congress
On February 3rd Senator Daniel Akaka of Hawaii and Congressman Eni H. Falemavenga of Samoa, wrote strong letters in support of Rapa Nui to Hillary Clinton and to President Pinera. Congressman Falemavenga put his concerns about Chile’s abuses against Rapa Nui on the Congressional record.
Last Sunday morning February 6th, Chilean police forcibly and illegally removed the Hitorangi clan from Hotel Hanga Roa. During the 6 months the Hitorangi Clan was in possession of the property there was no physical damage to the site. On Feb. 6th three women were locked into the hotel lobby waiting for their attorney to arrive from the airport when the police smashed the window and window frame, and violently evicted the women. They also arrested and beat anyone who tried to take pictures.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has granted precautionary measures to immediately stop the violent use of armed forces against the Rapa Nui clans and to begin an investigation on recent events. The precautionary measures were requested by the Indian Law Resource Center on behalf of the Rapa Nui Nation. The IACHR will more than likely moderate negotiations between the Rapa Nui and the Chilean government to seek peaceful solutions.
On Feb, 8th, the newly assigned judge ruled that the police acted improperly in removing the Clan, and did not criminally charge the Hitorangi clan. She held that neither the Scheiss’ nor the Hitorangi’s can remain on the property until it is judicially determined who are the rightful owners. The next court date is scheduled for early April. We are very grateful for the individual contributions and for the emergency grant we received from Frontline to retain a legal counsel.
In the meantime, we are concerned and watchful that the Schiess are prevented from using financial pressures to get access to hotel from the Chilean police force.
We thank all our friends throughout the world who have been amazingly supportive through this difficult time.
We are hopeful that there will be a peaceful resolution and that the rights of Rapa Nui will be restore
Also see Rapanui Seek U.N. Intervention
Statement of American Samoa Congressional Delegate Eni Faleomavaega
112th Congress (2011-2012)
CALLING FOR A PEACEFUL SOLUTION TO THE EASTER ISLAND CRISIS
(House of Representatives - February 16, 2011)
The SPEAKER pro tempore. The Chair recognizes the gentleman from American Samoa (Mr. Faleomavaega) for 5 minutes.
Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. Mr. Speaker, I'm not wanting to detract from today's spirited discussion or debate on H.R. 1, which I will discuss at a later point of time in the day, but I want to discuss with my colleagues and the American people the current crisis now happening between the government of Chile and the people of Easter Island, also known as Rapa Nui among its native people.
Easter Island was settled by Polynesian voyagers about 700 AD. The island is famous for some 887 monumental statues carved out of stones weighing tens of tons. These statues are known throughout the world for their archeological wonder and mystery in terms of how these ancient Polynesians were able to carve and move these tremendous statues to different locations on the island. Less well-known is that Easter Island is home to roughly 2,500 indigenous people, known as the Rapa Nui Nation. The people of Easter Island carry a vibrant culture dating back centuries before the arrival of Europeans.
Like many other islands in the Pacific, Easter Island has had its sovereignty determined by more powerful outside influences. In 1888, the Rapa Nui Nation entered into a disputed treaty with the government of Chile. The Chilean government used the treaty as a license to treat the island and the indigenous people as property of the State. Chile confined the people to a small area, about 1 square mile, believe this, Mr. Speaker, today known as Hanga Roa. To this day, the validity of the 1888 agreement is contested by most of the Rapa Nui people.
Chile then annexed Easter Island in 1933 without the consent of or even consultation with the Rapa Nui people. The government of Chile unilaterally leased the majority of the island to private sheepherding enterprises, without the Rapa Nui Nation's consent.
The lands that were wrongfully taken from the Rapa Nui people have not been restored. Instead of returning the lands to their rightful owners, the Chilean government continues to favor private enterprises interested in exploiting the Rapa Nui culture for private gain.
In addition, Mr. Speaker, to the serious land rights disputes, several other issues threaten the livelihood of the people of Rapa Nui. For example, roughly 50,000 tourists each year flock to Easter Island to view these huge Moai statues. Yet the Chilean policies prevent the Rapa Nui people from benefiting from the tourism industry. Non-indigenous individuals and corporations possess most of the land, while jobs related to tourism often go to continental Chileans. Uncontrolled migration to the island has caused widespread unemployment among the native people, exploitation of natural resources and increased pollution.
Within this context, Mr. Speaker, the Rapa Nui Nation began taking a stand. In July and August of last year, the Rapa Nui people wrote several letters to the President of Chile, Sebastian Pinera, to negotiate a peaceful solution to the underlying problems of Chile's relationship with the people of Easter Island. The Rapa Nui people also began to peacefully reoccupy their ancestral lands, including the Hotel Hanga Roa, a five-star hotel supposedly being built by the Schiess family, a non-indigenous family, on ancestral Rapa Nui lands.
Mr. Speaker, while the Government of Chile attempted to initiate a dialogue with Rapa Nui individuals, the problem is that the Chilean Government also sent military police to this little island which is 2,300 miles from Chile. I can't believe, Mr. Speaker--we have 17 million people, good people, living in Chile--sending police forces to take control of this little island with some 2,500 Rapa Nuians and they have not even been given any consultation or even an opportunity to conduct consultations, serious consultations, with the Government of Chile.
Mr. Speaker, I sincerely hope that the Government of Chile can begin a dialogue for ways to help the Rapa Nui people achieve a greater sense of self-determination and self-governance in their lands. I ask President Pinera to advocate for a more positive approach for partnership and dialogue with the indigenous people of Easter Island. It is my honest belief that the indigenous people of Easter Island do not wish any harm to the good people of Chile. Nor is there a possibility that the people of Easter Island will ever pose a threat to the military and strategic or national security interests of the people and the Government of Chile.
Mr. Speaker, I also hope that the White House and the State Department and Assistant Secretary Valenzuela will take a stand against these violent
evictions and express solidarity with the Rapa Nui nation, especially in light of President Obama's planned visit to Chile next month and Assistant Secretary Valenzuela's recent testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee yesterday. I sincerely hope that even our international community will build pressure on President Pinera and the Government of Chile. Let's treat these poor people with justice and give them an opportunity to live in peace in this area. I ask that the good people of America make this appeal and that the Government of Chile be responsive to this request.
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