28 March 2011

British Ban Island Journalists in Turks and Caicos Islands

 Press freedom under attack by British 'interim' government which instituted direct one-man rule from London in 2009, abolished democratic institutions, and recolonised the colony.


Two journalists banned from (interim) government press conferences

Written by Richard Green
FP Turks and Caicos

Turks and Caicos Islands Attorney General Huw Shepheard has banned outspoken radio talk show hosts Robert Hall and Devon Williams from attending government press conferences and will do the same to any other journalists who “behave unprofessionally or who associate themselves too closely with illegal activity.”

Hall, who hosts the “Expressions” talk show on government-run Radio Turks and Caicos (RTC), and Devon Williams, CEO of privately owned Blaze 97.5 FM, were both banned because of their actions in the March 8-12 protest that included an illegal blockade of Airport Road on Providenciales, Shepheard said.

Williams, who is also spokesman for Turks and Caicos Islanders United for Justice and Equality (TCIUJE) which planned the blockade, was one of the leaders of the protest and was arrested with several others for obstruction. Hall covered the event as an RTC journalist, but he also took the microphone during the protest and spoke in support of protesters’ demand for the interim government to set a date for elections. However, he urged them not to block the main road to the airport but to conduct peaceful demonstrations.

The blockade caused two American Airlines flights to be canceled, but traffic was quickly routed to another airport entrance to get travelers to and from their flights to this British Overseas Territory. His Excellency the Gov. Gordon Wetherell supports the attorney general’s actions.

“There is an ordinance today, particularly in the case of public broadcasting, which has actually been infringed in this case,” Wetherell said at a press conference March 23 with Foreign and Commonwealth Office officials. “As custodian of the law, the attorney general wrote to the RTC in pursuance of that.”

Asked if other journalists had to fear similar action, the governor said, “I don’t see why that should affect anyone in this room. I don’t think you have anything to worry about.” On March 11, Hall hosted a special afternoon edition of “Expressions” with protest leaders and others. Hall said the program was “brought to you by” the TCIUJE. That program caught the attention of the attorney general, who spoke with RTC station manager Chris Jarrett that day and followed the conversation with a letter to Jarrett, which Hall read on his show March 21.

“I expressed the concern that Mr. Hall had departed from the requirements in the broadcasting ordinance that impartiality is preserved as respects issues of political controversy or current public policy, Section 5.2(c) of the ordinance, and I have heard further that the overall coverage of the protest may also have fallen short of the statutory requirement of impartiality,” Shepheard said.

The attorney general said he was awaiting recordings of the broadcasts from Jarrett.

“In the meantime, I think it is important that I reemphasize the government’s policy in relation to journalistic activity,” Shepheard said. “The government clearly recognizes that TCI’s media have a key role to play in reporting and critically assessing government policies on behalf of the TCI public, and the government welcomes the full engagement of TCI’s many journalists and their robust questions.

“Although the standards set out in the broadcasting ordinance only apply directly to public broadcasters, those of decency, accuracy and responsibility at least are hallmarks of professional journalism, whether in public service broadcasting or elsewhere. Accordingly, journalists who either behave unprofessionally or who associate themselves too closely with illegal activity such as by blocking the Airport Road will not be invited to government press conferences. However, they will continue to receive all government press releases.”

As to what Hall said shortly after 2 p.m. on the radio, “I’m yet to see or hear what that concern is,” Hall said.

Hall said he thought the interim government “would have at least said or wrote to me citing what infractions I may have committed, if indeed I did commit any infraction, and give me an opportunity to respond to them. I’m still waiting. But nevertheless, they have made their decisions. I’m not angry about it.”

Hall’s program is still on the air.

Hall said he didn’t associate with those who illegally blocked the road, pointing out that he encouraged protesters to remove the blockade because of the inconvenience to tourists and the chance of slowing medical emergency responses.

On March 22, Williams received a letter from Shepheard saying Williams too was banned from government press conferences.

“The government has decided that, while it is perfectly content to receive other journalists at its press briefings, you will no longer be permitted to attend,” Shepheard told Williams.

In a press release early March 24, Williams said, "While I am deeply and profoundly offended by the tone and content of the AG’s correspondence, my significant concern is about the danger which it embodies and signifies and the rather serious implications which it has for the wider Turks and Caicos Islands in general and this country’s media in particular."

While both Hall and Williams have regularly attended government press conferences as journalists, they vigorously voice their opinions during press conferences and on their radio shows.

A Commission of Inquiry in early 2009 revealed allegations of corruption in the Progressive National Party’s (PNP) elected government that had plunged the country deep into debt. The elected government and parts of the Constitution were suspended, and the governor took over what was initially envisioned as a two-year direct U.K. rule to right the country’s finances and weed out corruption.

But when the government's financial troubles were worse than expected, and criminal and civil investigations into corruption were not complete, the U.K. decided that elections would not be held as scheduled in July 2011. The U.K. then extended its control indefinitely, but the governor says the U.K. hopes to restore local government with elections sometime in 2012.

However, the U.K.’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office insists that elections won’t happen until the TCI revises and strengthens the country’s Constitution, addresses past government mismanagement and gets the country’s finances in order.

Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee has expressed concern that allegedly corrupt former government officials might seek office if elections were held before completion of criminal investigations.

A number of former PNP officials under investigation, including former Premier Michael Misick, participated in and supported the protest and demand for elections, while the opposition People’s Democratic Movement has spoken out against the demonstration.

Maritime Boundaries Commission Set in St. Kitts & Nevis over borders with French/Dutch overseas entities


The governance of the maritime area within the OECS is characterised by unresolved maritime boundaries and related disputes.

By Erasmus Williams, CUOPM

BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS, FEBRUARY 24TH 2011 (CUOPM) – St. Kitts and Nevis has set up a Committee to settle disputes and uncertainties regarding the twin-island Federation’s maritime boundaries.

Minister of Tourism and International Transport, Sen. the Hon. Richard Skerrit has informed the Cabinet that St. Kitts and Nevis has overlapping or disputed maritime boundaries with the Netherlands Antilles (St. Eustatius), Venezuela, The French Antilles (St. Barthelemy), Antigua and Barbuda, and Montserrat (effectively, the United Kingdom).

(Editor's Note: The five-island 'Netherlands Antilles' ceased to exist on 10th October 2010, with St. Eustatius, nearby Saba and more distant Bonaire becoming partially integrated 'public entities' of the Dutch Kingdom. Future border disputes involving St. Eustatius or the other new integrated parts of the European Union are now to be discussed with the Dutch Kingdom which has initiated direct ties with the three islands. This power was formerly exercised by the previous central government of the Netherlands Antilles in Curacao. That central govenrment has now been now dismantled, and Curacao and Sint Maarten have become two new autonomous countries associated with the Dutch Kingdom. See also http://www.normangirvan.info/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/corbin-caribbean-self-determination.pdf ).

“The Cabinet of Ministers was asked to support a proposal to engage the relevant countries to begin a process of resolution of our maritime boundaries,” Minister of Information, Sen. the Hon. Nigel Carty said following the weekly Cabinet Meeting. He said that Government believes that there are clear benefits to the resolution of the country's maritime boundaries.

“Firstly, it will definitively establish the maritime space over which St. Kitts and Nevis will be able to exercise various rights as a matter of international law. For example, a stable basis will be provided for the better management of fisheries and other marine resources. Secondly, the settlement of the maritime boundaries will give rise to better control and monitoring of shipping of dangerous and illicit commodities through our waters. There are of course other benefits,” said Minister Carty.

He said that the Cabinet approved a committee consisting of a wide range of skilled persons that will spearhead the negotiation process for the settlement of our maritime boundaries. Cabinet Secretary, Mr. Joseph Edmeade said the names of the Committee members will be made public once the individuals have agreed to serve.

Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Heads of Government in recent years have been giving consistent focus to the subject of the delimitations of our countries’ maritime boundaries. The governance of the maritime area within the OECS is characterized by unresolved maritime boundaries and related disputes.

West Papua: Theological Declaration of Churches in Papua



INDONESIA: Theological Declaration of Churches in Papua


Dear brothers and sisters

We, Papuan Church leaders send you as our partners, our theological statement issued recently as reflection of our faith over the worsening Human Rights situation in Papua.

The recent document issued by ministry of Home Affairs in Jakarta on January 13, 2011 which support election process of Papua People's Assembly (Majelis Rakyat Papua) heavily guarded by TNI (Indonesian Army) and Red & whites militias (which gave no room and freedom to Papua communities) as Kairos, moment of truth to issue this theological statement.

We thank you for your continued support and participation in our pastoral ministry here.

May God continue to bless us and our work.

Elly D. Doirebo M.Si
Deputy Chairperson of Synod of Evangelical Christian Church of Papua

Rev.Dr. Benny Giay
Chairperson of Synod of Papuan Christian Church

Rev. Socrates Sofyan Yoman MA
Chairperson of Fellowship Papuan Baptist Churches


Today on January 26th, 2011 we, Leaders of churches in the Land of Papua, along with Christian congregations, gather to declare our stance and position with regard to the state of government and its development policies pursued in the Land of Papua since annexation of Papua by the Unitary Republic of Indonesia, specifically with the introduction of the Law No. 21/2001 regarding the Special Autonomy for Papua.

As Churches, we are deeply concerned over the condition of our peoples, especially the indigenous Papuans, owners of this land, whose fate has been cornered to uncertainty amid development policies staged by the Indonesian Government in the Land of Papua. Such development policy is more characterized by physical structures/infrastructural development and to promote the interests of Indonesia in the Land of Papua.

The implementation of Special Autonomy for Papua has been inconsistent and inconsequent is a strong indication of insincerity of the Indonesian Government which led Papuans to view that OTSUS has FAILED. MRP, as a manifestation of the Special Autonomy with its members hastily selected and further exacerbated with the government's ignorance of Ii point recommendations produced by the grand meeting of MRP (Papuan Peoples' Assembly) itself, is therefore considered as an insult to the people of Papua, as people created in the image of God. The Churches also question the letter issued recently by the Minister of Home Affairs No, 188.341/1 l0/SJ regarding clarification pertaining to Special Regulation for Papua Province dated 13 January 2011 which further annihilate the right and existence of indigenous Papuans in their own motherland.

We see such situation as Kairos, a momentum for Churches to speak and express our stance and deep concerns in the form of the following Theological Declaration.

First, we are convinced that these processes repeat the same old process of annexation of Papua into Indonesia which is legally and culturally a flaw. The process of the Act of Free Choice (Pepera) in 1969 has been the root of problem on democracy and legality for the people of Papua. Ever since its integration into Indonesia, Papua has become a troubled territory under the authority of the Indonesian government.

Second, Papuans have undergone a 'Silence history of suffering' or memmoria passsionis leading to Genocide. The discourse of genocide has long been voiced by so many observers who are deeply concerned over the very existence of Papuans. The term genocide perhaps does not meet the criteria set forth by the UN, or other nations, or by Indonesia. But from our own view as victims, genocide is indeed taking place through the conditioning staged by Jakarta in the forms of ideology and development policies that are against the indigenous Papuans. Transmigration policy and unrelenting military operations are, in our view well-planned programs to eventually annihilate indigenous Papuans. Papuans are positioned as "the other" and as such warrant surveillance, control, and civilization. Papuans are not equal citizens of Indonesia. Some observers in Jakarta view this as an internal colonialism or disguised slavery against Papuans.

Third, we, churches of Papua acknowledge our own failures and sins for being silent for too long over demonic and destructive nature of the development policy and modernization on indigenous Papuans, which according to observers in Jakarta as internal colonialism and disguised slavery. Papuan churches have misarticulated the Scripture which states: "the government is the Lord's representative on earth, worthy of respect." Up until now, this has caused us incapable of playing our prophetic role.

Fourth, to respond to the challenges faced by Papuans, we, the churches are determined to return to our roots, to our Christian traditions, namely to the Scripture and church history. Thus, we view the sufferings of our Papuan people from the biblical perspective (Matthew 16:3b) "signs of times" and see it as theological and missiological challenges. This implies that the Lord is sending us, Papuan churches to His people who are traversing a dark history of suffering and oppression. It is therefore, as churches in Papua we want to hear to regularly raise questions and communicate with the Lord "what do you have in mind with regard to the behavior of those who indulge in disguised slavery against our people? Do you agree and applaud them?"

Fifth, consequently we want to view this critical position of churches in Papua in expressing the grievances of Papuans in the land of Papua is an integral part of our calling to spread the good News commanded by the Holy Scripture. The Scripture and church history are our basis for action. In this mission, the church is sent to shepherd the Lord's people, keep the image of the Lord to be free from abuse (John 10:11; 21:12, 16, 19). As shepherds, we are obliged to listen to the voices of our sheep (congregation); in this light we raise our voice because "our life boat is drowning; the candle of our people is being put off in the name of development and territorial sovereignty."

Sixth, with regard to development policy and current government administration, we hereby declare: (a) that the Indonesian government has FAILED to promote the welfare of indigenous Papuans especially since the Special Autonomy was passed. Therefore we urge the government to immediately halt the whole process of election of members of the MRP (Papuan People's Assembly) taking place currently and respond to the 11 point recommendation made by the MRP grand meeting; (b) and as a solution, we urge the Indonesian government to open itself and hold a dialogue with indigenous Papuans to be mediated by a neutral third party; (c) we are appalled by the attitude exhibited by indigenous Papuan state officers who are ignorant of the rights of their own people.

Seventh, we urge our Papuan communities to stand up, to work on your own salvation, and express the truth before the present tyrant state authorities, who is on a rampage of internal colonialism, ethnic cleansing (genocide), and disguised slavery against your own Nation.

Eight, to our Papuan communities, in Indonesia, and anywhere else, do pray for us in solidarity to make us stand firm in embracing today's challenges in Papua that are full of pain and tears.

End of this declaration.

Leaders of Churches in Papua
Elly D. Doirebo M.Si
Deputy Chairperson of Synod of Evangelical Christian Church of Papua

Rev. Dr. Benny Giay
Chairperson of Synod of Papuan Christian Church

Rev. Socrates Sofyan Yoman MA
Chairperson of Fellowship Papuan Baptist Churches

About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation that monitors human rights in Asia, documents violations and advocates for justice and institutional reform to ensure the protection and promotion of these rights. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.