26 October 2011

Guam Legislature to conduct Forum on Decolonization

Pacific Islands Report 
By Therese Hart
Marianas Variety

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Marianas Variety, Oct. 26, 2011) – The Legislature, in collaboration with the University of Guam (UOG), will host a forum on Guam’s quest for decolonization on Friday, Oct. 28 in the Legislature’s session hall from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Speaker Judi Won Pat yesterday said she looks forward to the dialogue, and her hope is that the forum will further solidify the determination of Guam’s people to realize a dream that has been kept alive, generation to generation.

The forum will feature speakers Dr. Carlyle Corbin, an international advisor on governance and self-determination, and Dr. Robert Underwood, former congressman and current president of UOG.

Included in the program are perspectives from the legal community presented by a panel that includes former Chief Justice and current Vice Speaker Benjamin J.F. Cruz, in addition to Attorneys Julian Aguon, Leevin Camacho, and Therese Terlaje.

"As we move forward, we realize that there are those who do not wish us to achieve self-determination. As a person who comes from a unique indigenous people, I believe that as we move forward, we will encounter more resistance, but we must prevail; failure is not, and never was, an option. Believe me, we will prevail," said Won Pat.

Counteractive dialogue, which could be misconstrued, does promote lively debate, but even those who have fought for Guam’s political self-determination know this is part of the process, said Won Pat.

[Pacific Islands Report editor’s note: As the Westernmost U.S. soil in the Pacific, Guam today remains a strategic outpost for the U.S. military. In 1949, U.S. President Harry S. Truman signed the Organic Act making Guam an unincorporated territory of the United States with limited self-governing authority and granting American Citizenship to the people of Guam.]

The Speaker and her colleagues are encouraging and inviting the island community to participate in the forum. "This is the opportunity for our community to hear from a world-renowned speaker of the challenges we on Guam and other colonized indigenous natives experience, and the tools we need to move forward."

During the "Second International Decade For The Eradication Of Colonialism" held in Nouméa, New Caledonia in May 2010, Dr. Corbin spoke about the United Nations’ responsibility in recognizing the existence of the international mandate of the integration of the non-self-governing territories in the work of these organizations, and devising ways and means of implementing that mandate.

"The extent of participation of the territories in these UN bodies is not as extensive as it could be, owing mainly to insufficient awareness on the part of the territories regarding their eligibility to join such UN bodies," said Corbin in his speech.

Corbin also said many of the agencies do not consider the participation of the territories a priority, despite annual resolutions of the General Assembly 13 and the Economic and Social Council requesting that the issue be taken up in the governing councils of these agencies.
"Thus, when the Secretary-General makes his annual request for information from the specialized agencies on their assistance programs to the territories, only a few agencies reply. Even a number of agencies which include territories in their programs do not reply," said Corbin.
The international advisor said a better approach needs to be found for the UN system "to acquire this important and relevant information."

He said: "The direct participation of the territories in the UN system provides the territories with access to the dialogue on some of the major economic and social issues facing the sustainable development of small island countries. Equally as important, it provides them with essential exposure to the international dialogue, and the developmental space to enhance their capacity building."

Corbin said the support for principles of self-determination and decolonization by the General Assembly is useful, "but it is the support for such tangible assistance, such as the participation in the technical work of the UN system, that is equally important to the development process of the territories in a globalized world. Flexibility must be shown by member states if these territories are to be adequately prepared to assume increasing levels of self-government."

Marianas Variety: www.mvarietynews.com

Legacy of Frantz Fanon honoured at Casa de las Americas

Havana’s Casa de las Americas to Honor Legacy of Martinican Frantz Fanon

Thursday, 20 October 2011 06:34
Havana, Cuba, Oct 20.- The life and work of Martinican intellectual Franz Fanon
(Black Skin, White Masks) will be the focus of a colloquium to be held
at Havana’s Casa de las Americas cultural institution, on the occasion of
the 50th anniversary of his death.

The meeting, entitled "Topicality of Frantz Fanon: towards renewed humanism," 
is part of the cycle Caribbean Social Thinking, and will take place from October
 24th through the 28th, highlighting the humanism of the author and his proposal
 to decolonize knowledge, the Prensa Latina news agency reported.

Participating in the event will be renowned researchers and academicians 
from Latin America and Europe, among them Professor Jacky Dahomay 
(Guadeloupe-France); Emeritus Professor Denis Diderot, from the University 
of Paris; Algerian Tassadit Yacine Titouh, director for studies of the School
 of Social Sciences and a researcher with the Social Anthropology Laboratory; 
and the president of the Frantz Fanon Foundation, Mireille Fanon-Mendes 

Cuba will be represented, among others, by Yolanda Wood, director of Casa’s 
Center for Caribbean Studies; Roberto Fernandez Retamar, writer, University 
of Havana professor and president of Casa de las Americas; sociologist Aurelio 
Alonso, philosopher, professor and essayist Rafael Rodriguez; Felix Valdes
a researcher with the Institute of Philosophy of Cuba’s Academy of Sciences; 
and historian Digna Castañeda.

Organized by Casa de las Americas in cooperation with the Frantz Fanon 
Foundation, the colloquium has the support of the UNESCO, the Alliance
 Française, the French Institute, and the embassy of that European nation. (ACN).

22 October 2011

A Review of “Defrosting the Self-Determination Imagination: The Trajectory of Right Under International Law.”

The Drowning Mermaid

This past Wednesday, attorney Julian Aguon gave a presentation regarding Guam’s self-determination. He titled it, “Defrosting the Self-Determination Imagination: The Trajectory of Right Under International Law.” 

Aguon is an internationally trained lawyer, who has long advocated for this island, even when many of the people who are from here have turned their noses up at him, assuming he is too young to understand the issues he has dedicated his every waking moment to understanding. His list of accomplishments is overwhelming; and it’s apparent that he has put the time and work into developing a well-informed, credible position regarding Guam and the right of self-determination. His perspective is sought after both nationally and internationally. 

He is flown all over the world to enlighten people on this issue. Ironically, our island rarely provides him with a space in which he can share his knowledge with the people who need it most, us, the people of Guam. For too long, the island has been afraid of anything that deviated from the truly limited understanding we currently have of our inalienable right to determine our own futures.

Please read the comprehensive analysis and observations of the presentation here.  

View Attorney Julian Aguon's full presentation here.

21 October 2011

Saba protests conditions of new political status


Daily Herald
Sint Maarten

Silent protesters strike thoughtful tone with Dutch parliamentarians

page13a129SABA--Some forty Sabans of all social backgrounds and ages turned out at Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport early Saturday morning to greet in silent protest the visiting president and parliamentary group leaders of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament.
Participating parliamentary group leaders Stef Blok (VVD), Job Cohen (PvdA), Sybrand van Haersma Buma (CDA), Alexander Pechtold (D66), Jolande Sap (GroenLinks) and Kees van der Staaij (SGP) hold varied levels of local knowledge, with some visiting the islands for the first time and others having been closely involved in Kingdom relations over the years.

The silent protest, with a large number of placards carrying messages of frustration, was an unprecedented first action of its kind from the small island community known for its stoicism.
If Sabans had acknowledged themselves shy in representing their views and rights publicly in the past. Saturday's protest proved their ability to stand up.

Many European Dutch residents joined the silent protest, which sidelined thoughts of this being a clash of cultures. It reaffirmed the problems as being pressing, basic, tangible frustrations compounded by broken communication and perception of lacking trust or care.

Tense moments passed until the delegation, greeted by Governor Jonathan Johnson and Kingdom Representative Wilbert Stolte, entered the crowd of gathered protesters. President of Parliament and delegation leader Gerdi Verbeet led the way with parliamentary group leaders following on cue.

Instead of whizzing away from the unscheduled welcoming party, each member of the delegation approached the protestors and held conversations about their grievances, the very purpose of their visit achieved in a most direct interaction.

The delegates took the time to speak directly, in what appeared most natural and genuine concern for what people had to say.
The protesters' placards read "Show us that you really care" and "We demand respect," messages taken seriously by the visiting politicians. Many of them stopped to talk to locals about what they meant by their signs asking, "We do belong to Holland, right?" or "Sabans, second class citizens."

The politicians paid attention to the many protest signs related to healthcare problems, the issue of putting a price on the lives of Sabans, and playing cost-efficiency games endangering the lives of locals. The unscheduled moment was described on all sides as a thoughtful interaction.

PvdA leader Cohen said the current situation in which Sabans had to refer to various ministries in The Hague was "absurd."
Several ministers are keeping Sabans at an arm's length. D66 leader Pechtold said it was a "disgrace" that the Executive Council's efforts for consultations with the Health Minister had been in vain.

The visiting parliamentarians were confronted with emotional appeals during a meeting with some 200 Sabans later in the afternoon.

Kingdom Representative Wilbert Stolte also was criticised. He had been mainly in Bonaire and hardly ever had been seen in Saba, which was "worrisome," according to VVD fraction leader Blok.

19 October 2011

Guam Public Forum on Decolonization

Paramount Chief of American Samoa joins the ancestors


 Secretary of Samoan Affairs, Paramount Chief Tufele Li'amatua dies in Honolulu at 71

Samoa News 

Secretary of Samoan Affairs Tufele Li'amatua, the first elected lieutenant governor of the territory and a Manu'a Paramount Chief, passed away yesterday morning in Honolulu at the age of 71. The cause of death is unknown. Rep. Pulele'iite Tufele confirmed to Samoa News the death of his father and it came after Samoa News received word about the passing of this great traditional and government leader, who had left the territory several weeks ago with his wife to attend the world summit of "Christian Government Leaders" from around the world hosted by All Nations Convocation Jerusalem, held Sept. 28-Oct. 12 in Jerusalem. Pulele'iite said this is a very difficult situation faced by the family... Fili Sagapolutele [+]

18 October 2011

University of Guam public forum for discussions on self-determination with international experts


Click to go to UOG Homepage

A Public Forum examining Political Decolonization will be held at the University of Guam Lecture Hall on October 19th, 2011 from 5:30 to 8:30 PM.

Papers will be presented by  Dr. Carlyle Corbin, United Nations Advisor and Internationally Recognized Expert on Decolonization, on "The Role of the United Nations in the Self-Determination Process" and Attorney Julian Aguon, Guahan Coalition for Peace and Justice, on "Defrosting the Self-determination Imagination: The Trajectory of Right Under International Law."

17 October 2011

"No Effort Should Be Spared to Fulfil Dream of All Peoples to Self-Determination" - Lesotho tells U.N. Fourth Cmt.

General Assembly

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York
Sixty-sixth General Assembly
Fourth Committee
2nd Meeting (PM)
Calling Decolonization ‘One of Most Defining Issues’ of Twentieth Century,
Committee Chair Urges End to Colonialism for Non-Self-Governing Territories

Decolonization was one of the most defining issues of the latter part of the twentieth century, and the untiring efforts of United Nations had ensured that nearly all of the world’s population no longer lived under colonial rule, the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) was told as it began its annual general debate on that issue.

However, that task was not yet complete, the Committee’s Chair, Simona Mirela Miculescu (Romania), told delegations as Member States were urged to continue their common endeavour to bring an end to colonialism for the remaining 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories on the United Nations list.

No effort should be spared in ensuring that the numerous United Nations resolutions on decolonization were implemented and that the dream of all peoples to self-determination was fulfilled, Lesotho’s representative said.  Regarding one such Non-Self-Governing Territory, Western Sahara, he supported the mediation efforts of the Secretary-General and his Personal Envoy and urged the parties to commence formal negotiations without delay, saying that the time for concluding that issue was long overdue. 

He also called for allocation of adequate financial resources for the Special Committee on Decolonization within the regular budget, and appealed to that Committee to craft tailored solutions that took into account the varied circumstances involved.  Administering Powers must evince renewed political will to end colonialism and to show good faith in negotiations, and adequate funding should be provided to the Department of Public Information to disseminate information to local populations on the available political options.

Chile’s representative, on behalf of the Rio Group, urged resumption of negotiations regarding the Malvinas islands to find a peaceful and definitive solution as soon as possible to that dispute, as well as to the questions of sovereignty over South Georgias and South Sandwich islands, and the surrounding maritime areas.

He further said that the actions of the United Kingdom in exploring and exploiting hydrocarbons in areas of the Argentine continental shelf ran counter to General Assembly resolution 31/49, which called on the parties to avoid unilateral modifications to the Territory before a resolution could be reached.

Also on that issue, Argentina’s representative said that further delay of the application of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples was a continuing source of a lack of harmony, created “a dangerous situation” in various parts of the world, and posed a threat to international peace and security.  The sovereignty dispute in the Malvinas islands was an impediment to the promotion of world peace and cooperation.

It was a “peculiar and particular colonial situation”, he said, since there was not a subjugated population in the South Atlantic, but rather British subjects whose situation had not changed since the United Kingdom had put them there.  Thus, there existed a colonial situation, but not a colonized people.

Countering that claim, the United Kingdom’s representative said his country’s relationship with the Territories it administered was based on the choices of the people, and that it would not force populations into independence.  Where they wished to keep the link, the British Government would assist the Territories with development and good governance, according to the specific conditions of each Territory.

He stressed that good governance was the central theme in the United Kingdom’s engagement with Territories.  Where Territories were felt to fail in that area, the issue would be addressed and occasionally intervention would take place, such as had been the case with the Turks and Caicos Islands.  Milestones had been identified that must be attained before the Islands were able to return to elected Government, and a new Constitution that would underpin good governance had been completed.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Egypt, Uruguay, Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire, Nicaragua, China, Comoros, Brazil and Benin. Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were the representatives of the United Kingdom and Argentina.

The full press release is available here.

Guam Governor Advises President Obama on self-determination process

Pacific News Center

Guam Governor Eddie Calvo has written a letter to President Barak Obama detailing Guam's intentions to seek political self determination. The Commission on Decolonization met last Friday for the first time in 8 years. In his letter, the Governor declares that Guam's Commission on Self Determination "is embarking on a quest for political destiny."

He points out that Guam is one of 16 non self-governing territories identified by the United Nations and he asks the President for his administration's continued support during this "significant endeavor."

Members of the Commission on Decolonization voted to schedule regular meetings every first and third Friday of the month.

15 October 2011

March in defense of indigenous Chileans

Digital Granma International
SANTIAGO DE CHILE, Oct. 10.—Around 12,000 people took part in a peaceful march in defense of indigenous Chileans on Hispanic or Columbus Day, a festivity scheduled for October 12, the date of Columbus’ arrival in the Americas, this year moved to October 10 in Chile, EFE reports.
Protestors demand the liberation of all Mapuche political prisoners. Photo: AFP
Protestors demand the liberation of all Mapuche
 political prisoners. Photo: AFP
Manuel Díaz, spokesperson for the Meli Witran Mapu (From the Four Corners of the Earth) organization, stated that the indigenous peoples are demanding "freedom for all the Mapuche political prisoners and the restoration of their ancestral lands," currently the property of agricultural and forestry companies.

It is a mobilization repudiating the invasion of more than 500 years ago, but also a mobilization which criticizes the role of the state and the economic model in relation to the indigenous peoples, the march communiqué notes.

Close to half a million people voted in an Internet referendum on education in Chile, whose results, with a 57% count, showed 95% of participants in favor of public and free education, PL reports.
According to the Social Table for Education, organizers of the referendum, more than 422,000 Chileans resident in the country and in 25 other nations managed to cast their vote online, despite the saturation of the web pages and accusations of intentional blocks of the network.

13 October 2011

U.N. Fourth Committee Discusses Decolonisation Issues

General Assembly

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-sixth General Assembly
Fourth Committee
3rd Meeting (PM)

Questions of Western Sahara, Turks and Caicos, Guam, Gibraltar Central to Fourth Committee Debate as United Nations Urged Not to ‘Turn a Blind Eye’ to Hardships


The United Nations could no longer “turn a blind eye” to the risks posed by a failed State in the Western Sahara, as that would jeopardize global security, the Fourth Committee heard today, as petitioners for Western Sahara, New Caledonia, Guam, Turks and Caicos, and the United States Virgin Islands took the floor in the decolonization debate.

Petitioners on the question of Western Sahara told the Committee that the people of that territory were suffering in refugee camps in the Sahara desert, where they had been forgotten for decades.  One speaker said that the failure to protect the Saharan people was a violation of international law.  Other countries had calculated their own economic and political interests in the region, but continued to ignore the terrible human costs.  Morocco had been allowed to delay the referendum, and the United States had also decided that the situation could be ignored.

Drawing attention to human rights abuses by both sides to the conflict, one petitioner said the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro (Polisario Front) needed the conflict to go on, ensuring that some of its leaders “continue on as millionaires”.  Meanwhile, the ongoing time frame of the conflict opened more doors to jihadists and international drug traffickers, and the speaker stressed that the international community would be making a “serious irresponsible mistake” by ignoring the Front’s ties to terrorist groups.

Another petitioner said that the whole of Western Sahara was subjected to a military siege and a media blackout, as the Moroccan authorities had made it very difficult to grant access to non-governmental organizations, international media and observers.  Torture was not just limited to the period of investigation, but was a daily practice in most cases throughout the period of disappearance, which ranged from a few weeks to several years.

It was difficult to imagine what it would be like to have been denied contact to one’s extended family and loved ones for more than 30 years, as had been done to many Saharans, the Committee was also told.  In that light, one speaker urged the Committee to intervene on behalf of women and children in the Western Sahara, whose human rights were systematically violated.  For anyone concerned with the plight of the Saharans, a concrete written agreement needed to be reached, aimed at providing educational opportunities for Saharans, as well as immigration status as soon as education was completed.

Still more speakers made a connection between events in Western Sahara and the recent democratic movements elsewhere, saying that North Africa’s Maghreb was “living a new reality”.  The Arab Spring was opening a new future for people in the region.  Such events elsewhere in the Arab world had carried a clear message that the people must speak:  Western Saharans had been promised the right by the United Nations for self-determination, and the time had come for that right to be fulfilled, a petitioner declared.

Speaking on the question of Guam, one petitioner said the Chamorro people had a long history of independence prior to the arrival of colonizers in the sixteenth century.  However, over the last 500 years, they had endured ethnic and cultural genocide at the hands of three sovereign nations.  She appealed for United Nations assistance in the political evolution of Guam to enable the people there to assemble their social, political, economic, and cultural future peaceably.

Turning to the question of the Turks and Caicos Islands, a speaker called attention to the fact that those islanders were not allowed the privilege of absentee balloting, as was accorded to United Kingdom citizens.  He asked if that inequality was due to the fact that the Islands’ residents were of African descent.

On the issue of Gibraltar, that territory’s Chief Minister Peter Caruana said it was incomprehensible that Spain, itself an important democracy, continued to believe and assert that the people of Gibraltar did not enjoy the right to self-determination.  He said that Spain’s historical obsession with the recovery of the sovereignty of Gibraltar, which was lost 307 years prior, could not excuse or justify the undemocratic willingness to do so against the wishes of the territory’s people.

He expressed frustration that as much as Gibraltar wished to be de-listed as a Non-Self-Governing Territory, and as much as it was necessary to modify the criteria to permit it, its continued listing in the meantime did not alter the fact that Gibraltar was no longer in a colonial relationship with its ex-administering Power.

Also speaking to that issue in a right of reply, the representative of the United Kingdom said that, while the people of Gibraltar enjoyed all collective and individual rights ensured by the United Nations Charter and relevant international treaties, independence would only be an option with Spanish consent.

Nonetheless, the referendum organized and carried out by the people of Gibraltar constituted a democratic and entirely lawful act, he said.  The United Kingdom, according to the expressed wishes of the people of Gibraltar, retained responsibility for the territory, including for its defence, and he called on the United Nations to take that relationship into account.

The representative of Spain spoke on the question of Gibraltar.

The Vice-President of the government of New Caledonia, Gilbert Tyuienon, spoke on the question of New Caledonia.

Also participating was the representative of Papua New Guinea.

The Committee also heard additional petitioners on the question of Gibraltar, Guam, Turks and Caicos, the United States Virgin Islands, Western Sahara and agenda item 60.

The Fourth Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. Wednesday, 5 October, to hear remaining petitioners regarding decolonization issues.

Full press release available here.

See full set of press releases on deliberations of the U.N. Fourth Committee here.

11 October 2011

Sint Maarten Prime Minister's Address on first anniversary of constitution


St. Martin News Network
Madam Chair, your excellency Governor Holiday, honorable members of Parliament, ministers of Government, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, people of St. Maarten;

Today we celebrate one year of "Country Status", our own "constitution" day.

I don't know for any-one else, but any time doubt creeps into my mind regarding the wisdom of our collective choice back in 2000, I remember with extreme pride that evening of October 9th, 2010 and the dawning of the morning of 10-10-10.

I remember the faces and the expectations of our whole community; the satisfaction of accomplishment, of fulfillment of long held aspirations.

The 10th of October 2010 came amidst times of global economic uncertainties, as well as during the time that these uncertainties and global economic tumults were casting shadows on St. Maarten's path.

Nevertheless, we braced ourselves and heralded the long awaited status with much confidence in our country and ourselves.

The first Government of St. Maarten started its work on that day of October 10, 2010.

At face value during the first months not much changed. Our Parliament could not immediately occupy its new chambers;

some civil servants were still in limbo as far as their position with the new Country St. Maarten was concerned; there were quite some uncertainties relative to the workings of the new systems of government.

Recall that firstly the government's structure had changed dramatically, as our familiar island council had become parliament and our executive council, our council of Ministers.

Gone was the familiar position of the Lt. Governor.

The governor is no longer part of the daily governing of the country, yet his signature is affixed to the decrees of government. The governor also receives the decision lists of the Council of Ministers.

I am proud to note that we have insisted on and built the institutions worthy of country St. Maarten. But they too needed to get their feet wet and their bearings going.

Not only the Parliament and the Government, the Justice organization, completing the Trias Politica, but also the institutions for the checks and balances of these very three, to mention the Council of Advice, the General Audit Chamber, the Ombudsman and the SER.

Has everything gotten off to a smooth start? No, definitely not. But who is defining what we are becoming with all the bumps and hurdles in the roads? We are!

Slowly but surely, our country is taking shape, definite shape. However, we must also be prepared and assertive, ready to face new challenges that might come our way. And ready to adjust our sails to the wind.

All actors are understanding their role better and as we look at the coming 12 months, our focus should be on crafting a vision for St. Maarten that has the input of every-one and takes into account every-one.

This is no less of an undertaking that our first undertakings as a new country, and it requires a new collective mindset, that begins with each individual realizing his/her "debt" to St. Maarten.

This debt is one of gratitude. Gratitude for what this country, our country has allowed us to be and to become.

Looking back over the last 12 months, many things stand out. On the inside of government, the placement of civil servants is practically complete. This process continued even as other personnel matters had to be organized, such as the salary indexations and training of civil servants.

The government continues to seek a durable solution for the myriad of plans to be executed and the financial constrains facing government at this time.

The Cabinet of the Minister Plenipotentiary in the Hague is also up and running, representing us in the Kingdom Council of Ministers.

As St. Maarten achieved its country status, efforts to solidify regional collaboration, started immediately. St. Maarten has become a player in international and regional fora. With that however, comes the responsibility to live up to and meet reporting obligations in many areas, to mention a few: international standards and obligations relating to labor, finances, human rights and human development.

The legacy left behind by the Netherlands Antilles has had many pitfalls, but also some left us some strengths.

When I look at how, because of our former constitutional constellation, we have on St. Maarten a pool of resources, not in terms of money, but persons who have remained with us on St. Maarten, this is definitely a plus.

Government remains committed to use this legacy and seek with former Antillean islands and Aruba ways to strengthen relationships that are mutually beneficial.

Other matters that might not have gotten the attention they deserve, but are an important part of this nation and state building that we are engaged in, are e.g. the works towards our national archive, securing our historic documents, digitalizing our historic records.

In looking back over the past year, we can therefore safely conclude that we have met the challenges head-on, that a few challenges still elude us, but that we have built the foundation of country St. Maarten, and now should continue with the shaping and unifying of what is to be "the country St. Maarten".

On this day, I wish to again congratulate all who worked so hard to make our status happen, I commend those who were involved during the past year in further building our country and I call on the community at large to join in shaping the nation St. Maarten.

A nation is more than a state. A state demarcates the political lines and borders, but a nation is determined primarily what takes place within those borders. What distinguishes us from every-one else?

How do we live and work and treat one another?

I used the term "getting in gear" some days ago. And I wish to close with the expression of the hope that in the coming year and years, what we do and the preparations we have made will manifest themselves in tangible results for the people of our nation St. Maarten.

Madame Chair, I am one of those who always see the glass as being half full. Why? Because half full is not enough. It drives all women and men of good will to strive for better, ever better, always critical of ourselves firstly.

Those who see the glass as half empty, if not of a strong character and good will, will throw their hands in the air and constantly look for those who caused the glass to be half empty in the first place and knock any achievement, regardless how great or meaningful.

When I look back, sacrifices told and untold by so many persons, time lost in the process, never to be regained, still I say, if I had to do it all again, I would.

I will never stop hoping and...... working for a better St. Maarten. Never stop believing in St. Maarten and it's people. Never stop saying, we can do it ourselves.

Never stop believing, that in the words of the Rev. Father Bob Johnson earlier, we can accept the pains of change and soar like the Eagle. We can rise from the proverbial ashes, however these are brought upon us. Why?

After all, we are St. Maarten.


10 October 2011

British Manipulating Turks and Caicos Judiciary to Ensure Mass Convictions; Targets Island lawyers

by AnselLoya
Ground Report  

The UK government has officially confirmed its intervention of legal rights in Turks and Caicos. Following a two year corruption investigation led by UK’s Special Investigation Prosecution Team (SIPT) in Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI), Helen Garlick (SIPT lead prosector) and Turks and Caicos’s Attorney General Huw Shepheard announced officially that local TCI lawyers are “probably suspects” and therefore will bring in London lawyers assisting SIPT to represent those accused of corruption in TCI. SIPT has been installed in TCI, along with the British regime, taking back TCI government from the TCI people since August 2009. The UK had insisted in August 2009 that the former Premier and several of his cabinet members were corrupt. The SIPT investigation has yet to bring any results.

However, the TCI people soon learned that SIPT and the British regime are not just investigating corruption and they are not in TCI merely to prosecute corruption. The UK had announced that they are implicating all TCIslanders for corruption. Therefore, the UK has dissolved TCI government, written a new constitution and have recolonized TCI. The UK originally stated that it would “help” TCI get back on track. However, the UK planned evolved and TCI is now unrecognizable to TCIslanders. British new faces take up government official jobs, islanders are shut out of all decisions because they are all “suspects” according to the UK. Only local staunch UK supporters are allowed on any government board but even they have no vote.

There have been insider warnings for two years that TCI lawyers would be eventually sidelined by UK in an effort to limit legal rights to those accused of corruption by SIPT. This attack on TCI lawyers apparently has been in the works since the start of the UK occupation in August 2009. Our sources tell us that the British government through the Foreign Commonwealth Office (FCO) had made a plan to dismantle TCI’s judiciary (accomplished), dissolve TCIslanders’ rights to trial by jury (accomplished), and then finally to remove or conflict local TCI lawyers (in the final stages). Everything predicted came true even while most TCI people doubted it could be possible.

Why is the UK government doing this in TCI? The British regime in TCI had been telling parliament and warning the TCI people over two years that many TCIslanders will be implemented in criminal charges because of close family relations, which is also the excuse as to why the (SIPT) investigation has taken over two years while TCIslanders have gone without democracy. The plan all along has seemingly been to withhold TCI peoples’ democracy and capacity for fair trials so that recolonization could go unchallenged.

The biggest concern with the latest development of removing TCI lawyers is that the accused would not have the right to a fair trial for several different reasons, but in this matter they would be prejudiced in their restriction in hiring a lawyer of their choice.

Furthermore, it has been feared that not only would local TCI lawyers be sidelined but that UK lawyers would be imported as the peoples’ options for legal representation, UK lawyers who could be biased in favour of the UK agenda and the ones with the true conflict of interest. In this case, the SIPT has brought in and decided which lawyers will represent the accused. The glaring conflict of interest is that SIPT made the selection of lawyers to represent those accused by SIPT, it is a clear conflict of interest since SIPT will be prosecuting. The new UK lawyers, obliged to SIPT, will be working to defend the accused from the same group that enlisted them (SIPT).

Exactly as feared, an announcement was just made that UK’s SIPT is bringing in law firms from London to help the SIPT with upcoming criminal charges to represent Turks and Caicos people accused of corruption because “Turks and Caicos Islands law firms might face conflicts in representing their clients” because they are “probably suspects”. The law firms are from London, Pinsent Masons LLP and London barristers Richard Kovalevsky QC and Sean Hammond from 2 Bedford Row.

TCI’s political parties also have warned of the draconian changes made to the legal system in TCI, worrying that the UK changes are meant to guaranty convictions instead of uphold justice.

The PNP party saw this judicial degrade occur early on when UK’s Colin Roberts celebrated the UK’s judicial power over TCI, the PNP said, “For [Mr. Collins] to proclaim and predict the outcome of a pending court case, could severely undermine the integrity, credibility and fairness of the judicial process; ... Indeed, Mr. Robert's comments implies a dismissive attitude to the judicial process; [...] on grounds that suspending the House of Assembly is unconstitutional and infringes the human rights of the people of the Turks and Caicos Islands.”

The PDM party said in March 2010 on the dissolution of the TCI peoples’ right to trial by jury, “the temptation will be there for the judiciary to have absolute power over the lives of our people.”

Local lawyers, including TCI Bar President George Missick opposes the degradation of legal rights by UK's attack on TCI lawyers and calls SIPT a fishing expedition. One local lawyer said about the UK’s actions, “There is clearly no separation of powers … in particular the administration of justice in the Turks and Caicos Islands... The Judges are selected and appointed by the Governor; the Special Investigator Helen Garlick was selected and appointed by and answers to the governor, the Attorney General of the Turks and Caicos Islands are appointed by and answers to the governor, the top brass of the police force appointed by and answers to the governor.”

TCIslanders are in need of human rights relief. The UK’s abuse of the judicial system in Turks and Caicos is prejudicing and harming the TCI people. Now that the UK is importing legal representation for TCIslanders accused under SIPT, it will violate legal rights and set an international precedent for this kind of legal prejudice and degradation of the rule of law.

07 October 2011

A Permanent Memorial to Honour Victims of Slavery

Inter Press Service

UNITED NATIONS  (IPS) - As a follow-up to a General Assembly resolution adopted recently. the United Nations last week announced an international competition for the creation of a Permanent Memorial to honour victims of Slavery and Transatlantic Slave Trade.

Over five centuries ago, more than 18 million people were forcefully removed from Africa and enslaved in the Americas and Europe in "one of the most devastative chapters of our history", Ambassador Joseph Goddard, Permanent representative of Barbados told reporters Friday. It’s a chapter the Permanent Memorial Committee and the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) decided to highlight at a U.N. press conference. The theme of the Permanent Memorial initiative is: " Acknowledging the Tragedy; Considering the Legacy; Lest We Forget".

"This monument must be a strong symbol to say ‘never again’," Ambassador Raymond O. Wolfe, Permanent Representative of Jamaica and chair of the Permanent Memorial Committee said.

With this permanent memorial, the international community wants to ensure that the world will never again endure another tragedy of such immense proportions, which today is commonly referred to as a crime against humanity. The memorial is aimed at honouring the victims of this crime, Tete Antonio, Permanent Observer of the African Union said. Philippe Kridelka, Director of UNESCO’s New York Office said "this monument is not only a symbol, but it is part of the educational process around the memory of slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade".

The memorial represents an effort to acknowledge the tragedy of slavery but also to provide future generations with an understanding of the history and consequences of slavery. It will serve as an educational tool to raise awareness about the current dangers of racism, prejudice and the consequences that continue to impact the descendants of the victims today.

Wolfe pointed out "there are still contemporary forms of slavery, but a lot of resolutions have been adopted…the monument represents a source of reflexion not just in terms of what happened in the past, but also for what is taking place today." And he added, "We are here not to judge but to educate and encourage a total participation from all the countries because it is a United Nations’ project."

According to the press release, UNESCO invites artists, designers, sculptors, architects and other visual arts professionals worldwide to take part in this global effort to commemorate history. The deadline for the submission of design proposals to UNESCO is December 19, 2011. The design of the memorial will be selected through an internationally acceptable, credible and transparent global competition. The actual monument is expected to be unveiled at the United Nations Headquarters in New York in 2013.

06 October 2011

Puerto Rico Governor proposes 2012 political status referendum, Independence Party supports initiative

Island electorate to vote up or down on territory’s current status, and constitutional amendment to reduce bloated Legislature

Press Release
La Fortaleza

SAN JUAN, PR – Puerto Rico Governor Luis G. Fortuño today announced legislation that will enable the people of Puerto Rico to determine whether or not they want to change the island’s current status as a U.S. territory. 

“We must enable our citizens to resolve the most important and transcendental issue in Puerto Rico’s history, the island’s political status,” said the Governor.  “The island’s status is an issue that affects every aspect of our daily lives, including employment opportunities, health services, public safety, our children’s education and our very rights as citizens.”

The status referendum bill Gov. Fortuño will file tomorrow in the Puerto Rico legislature will provide for a two-step process, starting with an initial up or down vote on Aug., 12, 2012, on whether or not voters want to change the island’s current territorial status.  If a majority votes in favor of maintaining the current status, there will be no further action.

If a majority votes for a change, however, on Election Day 2012 (Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012), people will vote on their preference among Puerto Rico’s three non-territorial status options: statehood, independence or sovereign free association, Fortuño said.

As promised in Fortuño’s 2008 electoral platform, the Governor and the island’s sole elected representative in the U.S. Congress, Pedro Pierluisi, initially pushed in 2009 and 2010 for Congress to set into motion a fair process for resolving the island’s political status.  The Puerto Rico Democracy Act of 2009, introduced by Pierluisi, was passed in 2010 by a strong majority of the U.S. House of Representatives, but was not voted upon by the U.S. Senate.

“Every day, it becomes more and more evident that the lack of resolution to the status issue is the primary obstacle we face in order for Puerto Rico to make further progress,” the Governor said.  “The current status provides us with neither the means nor the powers that are needed to achieve the growth we need in the years ahead.  That’s one thing we all agree on,” said the Governor.

Gov. Fortuño emphasized that the President’s Task Force on Puerto Rico’s Status outlined three political status alternatives – statehood, independence or sovereign free association – that are recognized as Puerto Rico’s non-colonial, non-territorial status options, and which will be presented to voters if the referendum proceeds to the second stage. 

“This process is equitable, fair and transparent; and will give all our voters the opportunity to vote for the status option they prefer,” said Fortuño. 

The Aug. 12 up or down vote on Puerto Rico’s political status will take place the same day Puerto Rico voters will also cast their ballots on a constitutional  amendment to shrink the size of the island’s Legislature by more than 25 percent.  Fortuño promised action on both status and legislative reform in his 2008 campaign platform, and the measures enjoy the support of the majority of lawmakers in the Puerto Rico Senate and House of Representatives.

“We are fulfilling our pledge to cut down to size one of the costliest Legislative Assemblies in the entire United States,” Fortuño said.  The Governor indicated that the final version of the island’s legislative reform has already been approved by the Puerto Rico House of Representatives, and is expected to be approved by the Senate within the next week.

Puerto Rico’s legislative reform reduces the overall size of the territory’s legislature from 78 seats to 56 seats, a more than 25 percent reduction.  If voters approve the proposed constitutional amendment to reduce the Legislature, the Puerto Rico Senate would shrink from 27 to 17 members, while the size of the House would be reduced from 51 to 39 members.     

“From the beginning, our administration has had the courage to take on Puerto Rico’s toughest issues, and do what’s right by our people,” said Fortuño. 

“In less than two and a half years, we’ve gone from having the worst fiscal situation of any state or territory in the Nation, to one of the best,” he pointed out.  “We’ve also delivered on our promise to provide the people of Puerto Rico with the biggest reductions in individual and corporate income taxes in history,” he added.

“Puerto Rico can wait no longer. The moment has arrived for our people to decide on amending the Constitution in order to have a smaller, more efficient and less costly Legislature, as well as to act decisively to resolve Puerto Rico’s status issue once and for all,” the Governor said.

Puerto Rico Independence Party: fix status to cure social ills
October 6, 2011
Of the Daily Sun Staff
The heart of the infection that has caused many ills could very well be that the island’s status dilemma has yet to be resolved, Puerto Rican Independence Party President (PIP by its Spanish acronym) Rubén Berríos said Wednesday.
“Without a doubt, Puerto Rico’s fundamental problem that affects everything else, is the [island’s] colonial [status]. It has to be resolved because it’s the focus of the infection of many of our ills,” Berríos said at a news conference at PIP headquarters in Hato Rey.
Berríos said that he was satisfied with the ratification of the status project before the legislature indicating that “such an initiative in essence picks up the proposal that has been pushed by the PIP since 2005 and it’s the antidote that will initiate the cure for the terrible colonial disease that our country has been suffering from for the past 113 years,” Berríos said.
Berríos, who is also the honorary president of the international socialist movement, said that Puerto Ricans can’t continue being condemned to colonialism forever or to mere change, as has occurred during the past four decades — from Popular Democratic Party or New Progressive Party leaders and vice-versa — because on the contrary everyday problems will continue to be aggravated.
“Months ago the governor and I — after a number of substantive discussions — announced at La Fortaleza that a principal of understanding existed on how to face Puerto Rico’s colonial problem. That is where the legislative measure is headed … If approved, in its fundamental aspects, as it has been ratified, we will be heading towards decolonization,” Berríos said.  
Berríos insisted that resolving the colonial issue is indispensable to face all other immediate problems.
“Those who are opposed to the holding of this consultation, arguing that it’s of priority to deal with everyday problems, what they are really doing is using every problem as an excuse to keep us as a colony, which is what generates these problems. As if it was not as necessary to resolve the colonial problem as to solve every day problems. For the first time in 113 years the people of Puerto Rico will be able to express themselves as a majority against the colonial and territorial condition that exists at this time, opening the doors to decolonization,” Berríos added.
Meanwhile, PIP Vice President María de Lourdes Santiago said that the pro-independence political party will be challenging in court the legislative reform project as soon as lawmakers approve it.
Santiago said that the bill, as is, needs at least three amendments to be made to the Constitution. In addition, the way the measure was designed makes it quite difficult for PIP contenders to become lawmakers.
“Once the legislative reform is approved we will have the opportunity to refute it in court. We had already talked about this when the project was announced because we understand the proposal represents over three amendments being made to the Constitution, as you would have to alter the way in which the Senate and representative districts are composed and the number of lawmakers would also change,” Santiago said.