29 February 2012

Indigenous Focus: Chile’s Indigenous Peoples Seek Government Protection of Languages


Tuesday, February 21st, was the “International Mother Language Day,” although in Chile it is sometimes referred to as “International Day of Indigenous Languages.” International Mother Language Day is a creation of UNESCO and has been celebrated each year since 2000 and, as its name implies, the purpose is to promote native languages around the globe. In Chile, Indigenous peoples took time during the day to promote their own languages and cultures in a variety of ways, including celebrations, marches and public statements.

In Santiago, one of the largest organizations dedicated to Indigenous languages—Red por los Derechos Educativos y Lingüísticos de los Pueblos Indígenas de Chile (Red EIB)—released a public statement summarizing the current state of  Indigenous languages in the country and calling on the government to take concrete steps to preserve those same languages. Red EIB indicated that Chile originally had eight spoken Indigenous languages, but now that number has dropped to four, and none of those four languages are spoken by more than one-third of their respective populations. The statement went on to say that action was required to reverse this trend.
conadi langauges 270x141 Indigenous Focus: Chile’s Indigenous Peoples Seek Government Protection of Languages
CONADI meets with speakers of endangered Indigenous languages in Chile. Photo credit: Gobierno de Chile

Specifically, Red EIB made three policy suggestions. First, Red EIB asked that the national curriculum reinstate the Indigenous education units that used to be found in history, geography and social science classes, but that were cut out earlier this year. Second, Red EIB called for strengthening Indigenous language rights under Chilean law, which might include the creation of a “National Institute on Indigenous Languages.” And finally, the organization submitted a proposal to include intercultural education—including bilingual education—throughout the country.

Elsewhere, in the Araucanía Region of Chile, there was a march and several public statements requesting that the government make Mapuzungun—the language of the Mapuche people, and the most-spoken language in Chile outside of Spanish—an official language (along with Spanish) of the Region. For instance, members of the Mapuche organization Kolectivo We Newen, sent letters to local government leaders requesting that the change occur and that names of certain landmarks be expressed in Mapuzungun as well.  In Temuco—the largest city in the Araucanía Region—a peaceful march was organized in support of the Mapuche language being made official in that region of the country.

In other parts of Chile large celebrations were organized for International Mother Language Day. In Osorno, the main plaza held a two hour celebration during the afternoon which included singing and poetry readings in Indigenous languages. The celebrations were also a time to educate community memebers about Indigenous languages and provided an opportunity for Indigenous youth to hear the tongue of their ancestors. Similar celebrations took place in other Mapuche communities as well as Aymara, Quechua and Rapa Nui communities throughout the country.


Spokesperson for Rapa Nui family upset that hotel has opened on dispute site

Radio New Zealand International

A New York-based Rapa Nui man says he is saddened and disappointed by the opening of a luxury hotel on his ancestral land in Easter Island.

The Hangaroa Eco Village opened this month, a year after Chile sent police units from the mainland to end protests by Rapa Nui on several sites including the former Hangaroa Hotel.

Santi Hitorangi’s family staged a protest at the hotel over several months until being forcibly dispersed.

Their legal challenge against the use of their land by the Chilean/German consortium which owns the hotel is still in the courts.

However Mr Hitorangi says the government has done little to help resolve the issue:
“The government has been in bed with the owners of the Hangaroa Hotel and they’re in fact using their police, their local justice system, to criminalise my people, my family, and use the local police as the private guards to keep out any protest and any attempt to re-take the Hangaroa Hotel.”

Guam, American Samoa Governors Cooperate on Capacity Building

Press Release

Governors Calvo and Tulafono build regional workforce training partnership 

Guam will welcome 30 participants from American Samoa who will be the first workers to benefit from a regional workforce center created because of the support provided by the Governor of American Samoa to Governor Calvo’s vision for a center where Guamanians and residents of Micronesia can obtain short term training that results in employment. 

Governor Eddie Baza Calvo has been working with American Samoa Governor Togiola Tulafono to establish a workforce training program that will be made available for both the local community as well as communities throughout the region to prepare for the military realignment and the reconstruction of American Samoa still struggling to recover from the devastating Tsunami it experienced in 2009.

 “We really are stronger when we work together and I’m proud to work with Governor Tulafono,” Governor Calvo said.  “We’re both committed to strengthening our workforce and making sure that through a shared vision of utilizing scarce resources together we can both create a workforce center for Guamanians and train workers from American Samoa to return to rebuild their island’s economy.”  

Governor Calvo went on to add, “This collaborative partnership provides a model for training programs in a variety of different industries that we plan to make available for the people of Guam and our island neighbors.”  The Governor explained that because of the trust that Governor Tulafono placed in Guam a new regional workforce center has been created for our people. 
Investment for the program is made possible through a $665,000 National Emergency Grant given to American Samoa after a tsunami that devastated the territory in 2009.  The program is public/private partnership between the Government of American Samoa, the Ukudu Workforce Housing and Training Village and the Center for Micronesian Empowerment.  

The project is a true collaboration between industry and the government to provide assistance to the people of American Samoa while at the same time creating a lasting workforce development opportunity for the people of Guam and Micronesia. 

28 February 2012

Saharawi Republic President calls for implementation of U.N. mandate on Western Sahara

In search of justice for the Saharawi people

Speech of Mohamed Abdelaziz

President of the Saharawi Republic

37th European Conference of Coordination and Support to the Sahrawi People (EUCOCO)

Seville, Spain

As we start the proceedings of this 37th international conference of solidarity with the Sahrawi people in Seville, I would like, on behalf of the Government and people of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, to extend our most sincere thanks and gratitude to the solidarity movement in Spain in general and in Andalusia and Seville in particular for the energetic efforts that they have made to organise this remarkable solidarity meeting in this ancient city.

Whilst we celebrate with the European Coordination its 37th conference, we remember with respect and awe the pioneers of the solidarity movement in Europe and in the world, and we bow to the memory of those that have departed us leaving behind a glorious history of friendship and solidarity between peoples, which is embodied by the international character, which has marked this conference over the years, whose demonstration today is the broad and diverse participation of representatives coming from all continents of the world.

Read the full statement at Pambazuka News.

24 February 2012

U.N. Special Committee on Decolonisation begins 2012 session to examine remaining sixteen non self-governing territories

23 February 2012
General Assembly

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York
Special Committee on Decolonization
1st Meeting (AM)


In a message to the first meeting of the 2012 substantive session of the Special Committee on Decolonization, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called today for “constructive involvement” between the Committee, the administering Powers and the Non-Self-Governing Territories.

“The Special Committee is in a position to develop innovative approaches and generate new dynamics,” said Oscar Fernandez-Taranco, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, on Mr. Ban’s behalf.  In that, emphasizing the importance of sustained and improved official and informal communication between the Committee and administering Powers.

The Special Committee then went on to elect its officers for the year:  Diego Morejón Pazmino ( Ecuador), Chair; Pedro Núñez Mosquera ( Cuba) and Shekou M. Touray ( Sierra Leone), Vice-Chairs; and Bashar Ja’afari ( Syria), Rapporteur.

Speaking after the elections, Mr. Morejón Pazmino said that it was necessary to develop new strategies to ensure the “final disappearance of the archaic concept of colonialism”.  Frank and sincere dialogue was necessary, as was a focus by the Special Committee on economic and environmental considerations.  The populations of the 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories on the United Nations list had suffered and continued to suffer from the financial crisis and climate change.  A prime aspect of the Committee’s work was the gathering of information, he added, and that would take place during the annual seminar, to be held this year in the Pacific region, and at various round tables, as well as informal dialogues in New York.

Taking the floor in support of the Special Committee’s work, various delegations pledged their commitment to its success.  The representative of Papua New Guinea called on the administering Powers to work with the Committee to facilitate “concrete results”.  He also suggested that the annual seminar, set to take place in the Pacific region this year, could be held in Papua New Guinea.

The representative of Cuba stated that the election of his delegation to the Bureau was a symbol of his nation’s ongoing commitment to combating colonialism.

The Special Committee also heard brief statements by the representatives of Sierra Leone and Mali.

After inviting the delegations of Argentina, Azerbaijan, Liberia, and Spain to participate in the Committee’s opening session as observers, the Committee went on to approve, by consensus, as orally amended, resolutions and decisions relevant to its work, as contained in a note by the Secretary-General (document A/AC.109/2012/L.1); and the organization of its work, programme of work and timetable (document A/AC.109/2012/L.2).  The Chair indicated that on 14 June, the Committee would hold hearings on the question of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) with the participation of the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Worship of Argentina and his delegation.

Remaining on the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories are Western Sahara, Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands (Malvinas), Montserrat, Saint Helena, Turks and Caicos, United States Virgin Islands, Gibraltar, American Samoa, Guam, New Caledonia, Pitcairn and Tokelau.

The Special Committee will reconvene at a date and time to be announced.

Secretary-General's message to opening of the 2012 session of the Special Committee on Decolonization [Delivered by Mr. Oscar Fernandez-Taranco, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs]

New York, 23 February 2012 

I am pleased to greet the Special Committee as it begins its work for 2012.

The creation of new sovereign nations was once described as one of the great liberating movements of history.

Yet the process of decolonization is not complete.

Sixteen Non-Self-Governing Territories across the globe -- home to nearly 2 million people -- remain to be decolonized.

In keeping with the principles of the Charter and subsequent mandating resolutions, the international community continues it efforts to make tangible progress in assisting those territories to achieve self-determination.

To do so, we will need the constructive involvement of all concerned – notably this Committee, the administering Powers and the Non-Self-Governing Territories themselves.

The Special Committee is in a position to develop innovative approaches and generate new dynamics among all concerned.

Together with the administering Powers and the Territories, suitable pragmatic partnerships leading to the full implementation of the decolonization process should be elaborated on a case-by-case-basis.

Sustained and improved official and informal communication between the Special Committee and the administering Powers will be essential.

The Secretariat, for its part, will continue to assist the Committee in implementing its annual programme of work. 

I wish you every success.  

Also see: 

UN Releases Report on Territories

23 February 2012

Maohi Nui/Fr. Polynesia Veterans say compensation for victims of French nuclear testing inadequate

Moruroa e tatou veterans critical of French decree

Radio Australia

The Moruroa e tatou veterans group in French Polynesia says a decree, which the French government says loosens the compensation criteria for victims of nuclear weapons testing is inadequate. It says the changes are minimal and are merely election related. The group says the legislation extends the eligible fall out zone to include Tahiti, but claims are restricted to effects measured during five months in 1974. However, France carried nuclear testing on the Mururoa and Fangataufa atolls between 1966 and 1996. In February last year the French Defence Ministry admitted it's possible the Mururoa Atoll could cave in because it has been sapped by the underground tests.

Presenter: Geraldine Coutts 

Speaker:Roland Oldham, leader of the Moruroa e tatou veterans

OLDHAM: Because we have been waiting for more than 45 years for justice and I would like to be recognised by the French government and until today, it's still not kind of drop by drop sort of thing and especially before the elections, so that's why to us it's not the solution. I mean the French government have to be honest with us, had to recognise what had been done in this country, had to carry on the responsibility about the health program of the people and about the environment problem. Because this is just some kind of a job, one you're saying that these fatalities taken into account about the zone. I mean the document that we have from the French Ministry, every island of French Polynesia had had fall out from the atmospheric test, so why is it only Tahiti, and then that's the first point. So we are not moving forward. This is only some kind of it is some kind of common action to the manipulation of the mass people, you know. They made it last year, France make a big declaration to the world that compensation will be paid to every victim. I mean one year later, just about nobody had compensation, nobody mentioned had compensation. The fine we'd submit to this committee all have been turned down for some reason. So we are not happy with what the announcements Sarkozy is making, because to us it's not moving forward. They have to be honest about do they want to compensate or not the people of French Polynesia.

COUTTS: Well, Sarkozy has thrown his hat in the ring, he has announced his intention to run in the upcoming elections in France. So do you think that this is tokenism because of that, including Tahiti, but restricting it to five months in 1974, but the tests were 1966 and 1996?

OLDHAM: Pardon, what was the question?

COUTTS: Is it tokenism with the elections coming up?

OLDHAM: Oh, I mean that's for sure. I mean he had made promises. He had five years presidency and he has promised to come to Tahiti, but he had postponed all the time and he'd been trying to escape about the real problem here in Tahiti. There's probably some problem about the inscription of Polynesia on the list of countries to be decolonised, it is probably the problem a big issue on nuclear and in avoiding all this sort of issues. And strangely, two months before or two or three months before election and he's promised us things, but no we are not down about that, but he's for sure, because of the election, probably trying to get some voices in the election the president from the Polynesian people.

COUTTS: How many people, victims does Mururoa e tatou claim have been affected by the French nuclear testing programs on Mururoa and Fangataufa?

OLDHAM: Well, it's of people, it's really hard to know, because through many years to 66 to now, a lot of people have died and a lot of dead of the people in those days are not we don't have clear diagnostics of what they died of and.

COUTTS: Well, what's the best guesstimate then?

OLDHAM: What's the best what?

COUTTS: Guess as to how many people are still alive and affected?

OLDHAM: This is also is mostly a kind of cancer, sort often. In some of those islands, there was no doctors and once one died it just died, but most of those people that have died are also islands just next to Mururoa and about 100 kilometres from Mururoa. Today we can tell that some of those people that dying today, they have leukaemia maybe or they had thyroid, but that's today. But 20 years ago or more than that in these island there was no doctor and the real doctor that they have in this island was a doctor from military doctor and the difficulty that we have all these files have been hidden, because considered by the Ministry of Defence and Secretary of Defence and until today, we cannot we don't have access to these files for the victims, so it's very hard for the victims to prove in front of tribunal or court that there is a scientific link between this cancer and the nuclear test. So one of the solutions is to completely free the defence archives, the military archives and then so and then giving access to the victim to consult with these archives, because all the evidence are in those archives.

COUTTS: What I was really driving at is if we know how many people have been affected, then we know how many people aren't getting the compensation that they require?

OLDHAM: Well right now, about a few hundred files have been sent to the Ministry of Defence and none of them have and these people have died, some of them have died or some are still alive. They have two or three kind of cancer and there is a lot of how do you call it. There's a lot of little things we find and there's a lot of very intelligent calculation that made then we cannot tell you or your cancer is not due to the nuclear test. I mean it's very frustrating for the people here and the worst thing of all that is that people are dying, dying of more cancer and dying especially in the islands. I've been visiting one of the islands through the year and in one family you can get seven cases of cancer onto three generations, the grandfather and the parent and the children and that's a lot in one family, but nothing is being done. It seems to me that the strategy of the French government is to delay, delay as much as they can and then because the amount of ten years goes like this. I mean we'll be much survivor, I mean people that have worked on Mururoa will survive. I mean they will all be dead and that's what makes me feel very bad about the strategy of the French government.

COUTTS: Well just very quickly Mr Oldham, because we're just about out of time. A study of the pollution caused is expected to be released in June this year. Have you got any forward thinking or has any of it been leaked as to what the results are and I guess what I'm asking is will that give you more clout to push your compensation claim?

OLDHAM: Yeah, it all depends who is doing this study. If this study needs doing under the control of the French military, we won't have access to all the files. I mean Mururoa, for example, is impossible to go there unless you get a special authorisation by the Ministry of Defence and you can only go to the place that they tell you you can go and not other places. But the fact is that Mururoa is in a very bad state at the moment, because even one of the military have announced two years ago or one year ago that Mururoa is about to collapse and there is fears of tsunami to happen after this collapse if Mururoa collapse and it's hard for us to imagine all the leaking of radioactive material that is in the soil of Mururoa. But that will be a real catastrophe that will affect the food chain and fish and all this sort of thing. So it's very serious matter.

22 February 2012

American Samoa Delegate to U.S. Congress wants repeal of U.S. veto over amendments to territory's constitution

[United States Congress]
Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that he has sent a letter to Governor Togiola dated 10 February 2012, seeking his input on a draft bill to repeal the 1983 law requiring Congressional approval of amendments to the constitution of American Samoa.  Faleomavaega also expressed his intent to discuss the draft bill with leaders and members of the Fono. 

The full text of the Congressman’s letter to Governor Togiola is included below, and posted at www.house.gov/faleomavaega .

Dear Governor Togiola:

I am writing to inform you that I have prepared a draft bill to repeal the law that requires congressional approval of amendments to the Revised Constitution of American Samoa.  (Section 12 of Public Law 98-213 (December 8, 1983).   

The law that the draft bill will repeal, came about in 1983 after a dispute between the Assistant Secretary of Interior and the American Samoa Government (ASG).   For whatever reason, Mr. Pedro San Juan, the Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Territorial and International Affairs, attempted at that time to remove the Attorney General of American Samoa.  At the request of Governor Peter Tali Coleman, Congressman Fofo Sunia introduced a bill to amend 48 U.S.C. 1662, as a way to “… prevent the Assistant Secretary of Interior from removing the attorney general who was, appointed by the popularly elected Governor and confirmed by the legislature...”  The removal of the Attorney General would have undermined the authority of the elected governor of American Samoa, and thereby contradicted the concept of a elected governor to appoint members of his cabinet, which included the Attorney General.   

Addressing Rep. Fofo’s concerns, Congress enacted under Title 48 U.S.C. 1662a, the new law which now states:

“Amendments of, or modifications to, the constitution of American Samoa, as approved by the Secretary of the Interior pursuant to Executive Order 10264 as in effect January 1, 1983, may be made only by Act of Congress.”(emphasis added)

In the opinion of officials of the Department of Justice at the time, Rep. Fofo’s amendment was unnecessary, since Congress could have addressed the problem without requiring Congressional approval of an amendment to the American Samoan Constitution.  The actions by former Assistant Secretary San Juan were rare and unlikely to occur again.  

An indication of the possibility of an event occurring again was reaffirmed by San Juan’s successor, Assistant Secretary of Interior Robert Montoya who at a congressional hearing held May 8, 1984 stated that “if things would revert back to the way it was in the past (before the Sunia amendment passed), any changes would have to be something where there was complete agreement with the elected leadership of American Samoa.” 

Currently, the Department of Interior has allowed ASG to operate under an elected governor and a legislature to administer the affairs of the territory.  

The Territorial Clause of the U.S. Constitution (Article IV, Section 3, Clause 2) gives Congress plenary or absolute authority over all U.S. territories which includes American Samoa.  Congress officially ratified the two Deeds of Cession on February 20, 1929 (48 USC 1661).  In this Act of 1929, Congress then delegated its authority over Tutuila, Manu’a and Aunu’u to the President or his designee.  Under Title 48 U.S.C. Section 1661 (c): it specifically states: 

“Until Congress shall provide for the government of such islands, all civil, judicial, and military powers shall be vested in such person or persons and shall be exercised in such manner as the President of the United States shall direct; and the President shall have power to remove said officers and fill the vacancies so occasioned.” (emphasis added)

It should be noted that for some unknown reason it took Congress some 29 years before finally approving or ratifying these two Deeds of Cession.  Added to this delay in approving the Deeds was the fact that Congress by an Act in 1925, annexed Swains Islands (Olohenga) and declared it “part” of American Samoa, when in fact American Samoa’s Deeds were not ratified or accepted by the Congress until 1929. 

Congress, while delegating its authority over “all” civil, judicial and military powers to the President concerning the administration of these islands, the President by Executive Order then assigned the authority to the Secretary of the Navy.  In 1951, President Harry S. Truman issued Executive Order 10264 which transferred administrative responsibility for the islands to the Secretary of the Interior.  The transfer of all administrative, judicial, and military authority to the President from Congress has not been amended since 1929.

As of now, before any changes can be made to amend any provision of the 1969 Revised Constitution of American Samoa requires, first the approval of the majority of the voters, then the approval of the Secretary of Interior, and finally approval of the Congress.  It should be noted there is no guarantee that such amendments will be approved by the Congress. 

Another area of concern is that Congress has never taken the opportunity to carefully review the provisions of American Samoa’s Constitution.  For example, the selection process of our local Senators.  There will likely be questions raised why our Senators are not elected.  While we can argue that it was a way to strike a balance between our culture and democracy, I am certain some Members will insist on the election of our Senators and that the Senators should be represented not just by our Matai or Chiefs, but all the people living in their districts.

As you are aware, Section 3, Article I of American Samoa’s Constitution clearly states as a written policy:

“It shall be the policy of the Government of American Samoa to protect persons of Samoan ancestry against alienation of their lands and the destruction of the Samoan way of life and language, contrary to their best interests. Such legislation as may be necessary may be enacted to protect the lands, customs, culture, and traditional Samoan family organization of persons of Samoan ancestry…” (emphasis added)

Members of Congress could find the provision providing for “persons of Samoan ancestry” in violation of the Equal Protection Clause and Due Process Clause of the U.S. Constitution.   These members of Congress who object to racial restrictions in the American Samoa constitution could propose legislation to eliminate racially restrictive laws in America Samoa.  

For example, there are laws that require a 50% Samoan blood quantum to own land, or to receive a Matai title.  Since Congress has plenary authority over the territories under the Territorial Clause, any action by Congress eliminating racial restrictions in American Samoa can be challenged, but the results of a federal court decision may not be in our favor.  

The proposed legislation will allow the people and leaders of American Samoa to work closely with the Secretary of the Interior.  If there are needed changes to be made to the Constitution, it will be a lot easier to make the changes without Congressional involvement.

As a reminder, it took Congress 29 years to approve our two Deeds of Cession that were approved by our traditional leaders in 1900 and 1904.  There are no assurances that the Congress will act immediately on any proposed change to our territorial constitution.  

Faleomavaega concluded his letter by stating, 

“I look forward to hearing from you as I welcome your advice on this important matter.”

20 February 2012

Freedom Rider: Aboriginal Righteous Anger in Australia

 Margaret Kimberley
 Editor and senior columnist
Black Agenda Report

“The encounter between aboriginals and the invading British resulted in extermination and an oppression which continues until this very day.”

On January 26th, a holiday known as Australia Day is celebrated in what is colloquially known as the land down under. On that date in 1788, the first British settlers arrived on the island continent we now know as Australia.

Of course, there were already human beings in Australia when the British went looking for new lands to conquer. These people had been there for at least 40,000 years and probably arrived by boat in a series of migrations from Africa and what is now New Guinea. Like the indigenous peoples of North and South America, they were very nearly wiped off the face of the earth by the migration of Europeans to their home land.

Australia’s history is no different in this regard. The encounter between aboriginals and the invading British resulted in extermination and an oppression which continues until this very day. Their lands were stolen, they were killed by new diseases, and even their children were taken from them as late as the 20th century. Today these people are the poorest of all Australians, are the most likely to be incarcerated, and die at younger ages than other groups in their country.

There is one simple word that describes the treatment of the original Australians by the invading people, and that word is genocide. To their credit, the aboriginal people have never stopped expressing their righteous indignation about the near total destruction of their race. No people so treated should ever cease protesting, demanding an end to their oppression, or petitioning for a redress of their grievances. Righteous anger is not only appropriate but necessary for all the peoples of the world whose lives and rights are so cruelly taken from them.

Read the complete article here.

17 February 2012

British Virgin Islands London Office Director gives update

Director of the BVI London Office Mr. Kedrick Malone is currently in the Territory to present Government officials with a report on the BVI London Office’s planned activities for 2012.

Mr. Malone will also update the wider public on developments taking place in the United Kingdom (UK) and European Union (EU) that will impact the Territory over the course of the year.

Speaking with the Department of Information and Public Relations, Mr. Malone said, “2012 is a pivotal year as the UK and EU each plan to adopt important policy decisions that will determine their future relationships with the BVI and other Overseas Territories.”

The director also noted the BVI London Office’s attention to other important international events in which the Territory will participate; namely the 2012 Olympics and Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations, both scheduled to take place in London.

“My goal is to update the public on all these matters as well as on the progress being made in strengthening the Territory’s relationship with the UK through our partnership with Hertfordshire County Council and closer engagement with UK Government agencies and non-governmental organisations,” said Mr. Malone.

During his visit, the director will meet with His Excellency the Governor Mr. Boyd McCleary, CMG, CVO, Premier and Minister for Finance Dr. The Honourable D. Orlando Smith, OBE and Deputy Governor Mrs. Inez V. Archibald, among others.

In addition, the director will present the London Office’s initiatives at a press briefing on February 20 at 9am at the Central Administration Building Conference Room #3, to which all members of the media are invited. Mr. Malone has also scheduled appearances on several television and radio programmes, one of which is a GIS special television programme which will air this month. He is also a guest on the ZBVI 780AM radio talk show “A Look at the Community” on February 18.

The BVI London Office was established in 2002 and represents the interests of the BVI in Europe and the UK.

16 February 2012

ALBA reiterates support for Puerto Rican self-determination



Caracas, February 2012

The Heads of State and Government of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), gathered in Caracas, Venezuela, on February 4 - 5, 2012, expressed their most firm support to the inalienable right of the people of Puerto Rico to self-determination and full independence.

They recalled that Puerto Rico is a Latin-American and Caribbean nation with own and unmistakable identity and history, which right to sovereignty has been violated by the colonial tutelage imposed for over one century.

They emphasized that the cause of independence of Puerto Rico is a matter that concerns the Latin America and the Caribbean region and their political agreement and cooperation bodies, in particular the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CLACS).

They demanded the freedom of political prisoners in jail for fighting in favor of the independence and self-determination of Puerto Rico, among them comrade Oscar López, who has been inhumanly held in jail for over thirty one years.

15 February 2012

Who should support the decolonization of Puerto Rico?

Someone who would support Puerto Rico’s decolonization is one who believes that it is wrong for any nation to own another nation, and believes in democracy.

All those who favor for Puerto Rico (PR) the political status of either independence, statehood, or a free association with any country that PR chooses ought to support decolonization.

With a United Nations’ (UN) controlled decolonization process, the political status that PR would have will be what Puerto Ricans decide among themselves.  For the first time in our history, there will be neither Spain nor the United States to put pressure on our decision.  That’s why we have had a long history of not being able to decide.  All those who fear democracy, get nervous with the idea of allowing Puerto Ricans to decide on their own.  Those are usually the ones who talk about democracy the most!  But, it is hard for them to walk the talk!

Even if 100% of the Puerto Rican at home and abroad were to favor colonialism for PR, that would not be an argument to justify maintaining the status quo.  The fact of the matter is that it is a crime against humanity for any nation to own another nation (United Nation Resolution 1514(XV) of 1960).

The only reason to maintain the status quo is for the benefit of continuing the exploitation of Puerto Rico by all those who benefit from it.  But this group represents only a handful.

Please join us this June 2012 at the United Nation’s hearing on Puerto Rico decolonization.  Puerto Rico has always been a colony.  Don’t you think it’s time for her to join the family of free sovereign nations?

¿Quién debe apoyar la descolonización 

de Puerto Rico?

La persona que apoya la descolonización de Puerto Rico (PR) es alguien que cree que es malo que una nación sea dueña de otra nación, y cree en la democracia.

Toda persona que favorece para Puerto Rico la independencia, la estadidad, o la libre asociación con cualquier nación debe apoyar la descolonización.

Con un proceso de descolonización controlado por la Organización de Naciones Unidas (ONU), PR no tendrá, ni España ni Estados Unidos, para presionarla a una decisión que no sea la que quiera para si misma.  Por eso es que tenemos una larga historia de no poder ponernos de acuerdo sobre nuestro futuro.  A los que les tienen miedo a la democracia son los que se preocupan que sean los mismos puertorriqueños que decidan su futuro.  ¡Estos son los mismos que más hablan de la democracia, pero se le hace muy difícil vivirla!

Aún si el 100% de los puertorriqueños aquí y afuera  apoyarían la relación colonial actual de Puerto Rico, esto no justificaría mantener el estatus quo.  El hecho es que el colonialismo es un crimen en contra la humanidad (Resolución 1514(XV) de la ONU de 1960). 

La única razón para mantener el estatus quo es para seguir la explotación de PR para los que se benefician.  Pero este grupo es muy pequeño.

Únete a los que vamos estar presente en la vista de la ONU este junio sobre la descolonización de PR.   PR nunca ha sido libre.  ¿No crees que ya sea tiempo que PR se una al grupo de países libres y soberanos?

14 February 2012

France urged to clean up deadly waste from its nuclear tests in (French) Polynesia (Maohi Nui)

193 nuclear tests carried out on the Mururoa and Fangataufa atolls between 1966 and 1996 have left a dangerous legacy.

France nuclear tests
A sheltered bunker for the nuclear fire control point on Mururoa atoll. Photograph: Eric Feferberg/AFP
Seen from the air, the coral ring that separates the deep blue of the ocean from the lighter water of the lagoon lends Mururoa and Fangataufa atolls a sense of normality. But the picture changes dramatically as you come closer. Parts of the islands are covered in concrete and the vegetation usually found in the Tuamoto archipelago has given way to aito trees, a form of she-oak. "At home on Tuamoto we depend on the island for our livelihood but here it is dead," says an indignant Tuamotuan.
France carried out 193 nuclear tests on these two atolls from 1966 to 1996: 41 atmospheric and 137 underground tests, with a further 15 "safety trials". In 2006, the French ministry of defence acknowledged that 22 underground tests had given rise to the release of radioactive gases. Radioactive waste has been collected and buried in 27 pits on Mururoa.
Despite the repeated demands of the Polynesian authorities, a bill passed by the French parliament in 2010 disregarded the environmental consequences of the nuclear tests. It did, however, acknowledge their impact on public health and provide for compensation.
In January, the territorial assembly of French Polynesia voted in favour of a bill to rectify this omission. The next day France's upper chamber approved a motion that provides for Mururoa and Fangataufa, currently under the control of the defence ministry, to be restored to the Polynesian public domain, though the bill stands little chance of becoming law. "We realise that they are the two largest nuclear dumps in an ocean environment. But in Oceania you cannot separate human beings from their ecosystem," says the author of the bill, Senator Richard Tuheiva. "Restitution [of the atolls] is a way of soothing the psychological wounds [caused by the nuclear era]."
The bill provides for lasting "environmental remediation and constant monitoring of radiation and geological movement on the two atolls".
Every year the nuclear test centre monitoring department (DSCEN), a branch of France's arms procurement agency (DGA), takes samples from the land and lagoon of both atolls, and the surrounding ocean, publishing the results within two years. The most recent report, for 2009, notes "a low level of artificial radioactivity". But about 5kg of plutonium is trapped in the sediment at the bottom of the Mururoa and Fangataufa lagoons, according to the spokesman for the bill, the Socialist senator Roland Courteau. There is no question of them returning to "normal" use.
The test cavities still contain fission products and various radioactive substances. Two pits have been dug specially for the storage of nuclear waste.
The total activity of the waste that has accumulated in the Mururoa subsoil amounts to 13,279 terabecquerels (TBqs), according to a June 1998 assessment by the International Atomic Energy Authority. "That's 371 times the threshold for the classification of basic nuclear installations," says Bruno Chareyon, head of the committee for independent research and information on radioactivity (Criirad), a French non-profit laboratory. More than 3,200 tonnes of various types of radioactive waste was tipped into the Pacific, sinking to depths exceeding 1,000 metres off the coast of Mururoa and Hao island. In February last year, the defence ministry admitted that it was possible that part of Mururoa atoll might cave in, sapped by the underground tests. A landslide could lead to radioactive matter currently enclosed in rock being released into the sea.
"Mururoa is a real nuclear tip," says Maina Sage, a representative of the pro-autonomy Ia Ora te Fenua party in the Polynesian territorial assembly. She is demanding an independent study to assess the scope for consolidating the storage facilities and criticises the bill's failure to provide for declassification of the atolls. If the same rules for the treatment of nuclear waste applied here, as elsewhere, it would prevent the persistence "double standards".
For a long time the Polynesian authorities were fooled by the official story of clean tests and the prospects of economic development. Government secrecy neutralised their efforts too. But now they distrust what they are told. In July 2010, the former leader of the territorial council, Gaston Tong Sang, wrote to the then environment minister, Jean-Louis Borloo, and dared to suggest that the environment ministry – which would enjoy "greater independence and legitimacy" – should take charge of environmental monitoring.
To guarantee the transparency of information available to Polynesian residents, the bill requires the military authorities to task the Nuclear Radiation and Safety Institute (ISRN) with a specific mission for Mururoa and Fangataufa. Courteau thinks that the rules on military secrecy should be adapted to suit "the reality of the risks incurred", in which case a national commission would be set up "to monitor the impacts and effects of climate change on geomechanical stability and emissions of hazardous radioactive nuclides".
In his letter, Sang also asked for clarification of the radiation status of Hao, which was used as a forward base for the Pacific Experimentation Centre (CEP) and France's Atomic Energy Commission (CEA). This request was repeated in June 2011 by the DSCEN delegate from French Polynesia. A month later, on 11 July, the high commissioner, Richard Didier, refused to initiate further observations. He said that "all the results obtained show the absence of radioactive contamination". Contacted by Le Monde, the government representative in French Polynesia refused to answer questions.
Some 1,500 people live on Hao island. In 2009, the defence ministry started a huge environmental remediation scheme. A study of the extent of pollution, in particular by hydrocarbons and heavy metals, is due to be published by June.
This article originally appeared in Le Monde.

13 February 2012

Sustaining Economic Growth in the British Virgin Islands?

Benito Wheatley

February  2012

Since the end of the global recession in 2009, the British Virgin Islands (BVI) has encountered difficulties in consolidating its economic recovery. Initiatives to stimulate the economy have achieved only modest success as growth remains constrained by unfavourable global economic conditions. In particular, the United States (US) and European economies to which the territory’s own economy is linked continue to experience financial and economic turmoil and are forecast by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to grow at anemic rates of 1.8 percent and 1.1 percent respectively in 2012. 

In addition, the gradual weakening of the world economy and the adoption of unfriendly regulatory policies and tax measures (e.g. Air Passenger Duty) by a number of developed countries aimed at offshore financial centres (OFCs) and the airline industry, have contributed to a global economic environment of declining growth in which the territory must operate. These factors are dampening the BVI’s economic outlook for 2012 and beyond. 

Against this backdrop, the question must be asked: how can the territory achieve economic recovery under the stifling global economic conditions of today? The answer to this question is not simple. On the one hand, the BVI’s economic recovery will depend on external factors over which it has no control. On the other, it will depend on the territory’s own efforts to enhance the global competitiveness of its tourism and financial services industries. 

Links to the US, Europe and World Economy 

Externally, the BVI is highly dependent upon the US and Europe for economic growth. The US is the territory’s main source market for tourists. In 2010, 842,497 tourists visited the BVI, the large majority of whom were American. A similar, but unconfirmed, number visited in 2011. Europe is also an important tourist market, but exports a much smaller number of visitors to the territory. In the financial services industry, Asia drives the incorporation sector, but trust and estate business is driven by Europe and funds business by the US. 

The ongoing economic and financial turmoil in these countries and their governments’ reactionary responses has weakened their economies internal demand for offshore financial services and international tourism. As a result, the territory’s economy remains constrained, having recorded economic growth of just 2 percent in 2010 after seeing an 11.6 percent drop in gross domestic product (GDP) in 2009. End of year figures for 2011 are expected to be little better and an appreciable acceleration of growth in 2012 is unlikely. 

The IMF in its September 2011 World Economic Outlook report (Slowing growth, rising risks) indicated that the economic recoveries of the US and Europe are losing momentum and a resumption of growth will depend on their governments’ actions to stimulate economic growth and address the chronic debt and deficit problems facing their economies. What these developments suggest is that the BVI must prepare for the eventuality of an extended period of low growth in the US and Europe and lower demand for its tourism product and offshore financial services. Already respected economists have begun describing the years ahead as the US’ and Europe’s “lost decade.” 

In light of the difficulties being experienced by these economies to which the BVI is economically linked, the territory must take action to boost its own economic growth and security. 

Tourism Development 

In the tourism sector, this can be achieved by improving the quality of the BVI’s tourism product. A number of important measures are needed in this regard. 

First, the territory needs to raise the standard of customer service delivered to visitors, which would help to encourage return visits and boost the BVI’s image as an elite tourist destination. 

Second, the territory needs a 5 star hotel and the complimentary international convention and wedding facilities that are standard in leading tourism destinations. The continued absence of these accommodations and facilities only undermine the BVI’s global competitiveness and endangers the future of the tourism industry. Their development in the near-term would also generate much needed economic development in the construction sector and give a much needed boost to related retail businesses. 

Third, the territory needs additional land-based tourist attractions to compensate for its modest historical sites and museums, limited luxury shopping and underdeveloped art and craft market. The natural choice is the hosting of cultural festivals surrounding food, art, crafts, music and dance. These types of activities would add much needed flavour to the mix of available land-based entertainment and differentiate the BVI from its competitors who boast many of the same natural attractions (i.e. sand, sea and sun) and have superior historical sites and shopping. 

Fourth, the territory needs direct flights from the US, UK and Brazil to the Terrence B. Lettsome International Airport. When traveling to the BVI from or through these countries, the layover and transfer bottlenecks encountered in Puerto Rico and Antigua and ferry bottlenecks in the United States Virgin Islands (USVI), make the territory a less attractive tourist destination relative to other Caribbean or Central American countries that offer the convenience of direct flights. The Terrence B. Lettsome International Airport’s runway must be extended to accommodate wide-body jetliners that can make the long-haul flight from North America, South America and Europe, which would ease the travel burden on tourists originating from these regions. 

Fifth and last, the territory needs a robust marketing campaign to sell the BVI as a destination to the rest of the world. In response to the recent downturn in international travel in North America and Europe, other Caribbean and Central American countries have aggressively marketed themselves in North America and Europe using television, radio and print media. The BVI must employ similar marketing strategies to make up lost ground in the global marketplace. 

Financial Services Promotion 

Like the tourism industry, the financial services sector requires a number of measures to improve its global competitiveness that is driven by both marketing and actual services. 

On the marketing side, the BVI needs a targeted global marketing campaign and a sustained presence in both mature financial markets, such as those in the US and Europe, and fast-growing emerging markets like Brazil, India and China. In particular, the rapid economic expansion of emerging markets presents real opportunities for the BVI to drive trust and estate, fund administration, and company incorporation business to its shores. 

In the area of shipping registration, aggressive marketing is also needed to promote the territory as a jurisdiction. As a member of the British Red Ensign Group holding Category One status, the BVI must seek to build up its shipping registry by taking advantage of the current surplus of cargo ships and other freight vessels in the global shipping market that require registration. To realise this goal the Virgin Islands Shipping Registry’s (VISR’s) local operations must be ramped up and an international presence established in major shipping markets in the US, Europe, Japan, South Korea and leading emerging economies that include China, India and Brazil. 

More generally, the BVI’s overall attractiveness as a financial jurisdiction can be enhanced by widening the range of corporate and professional services offered to clients in an effort to begin moving the territory toward becoming a one-stop shop financial services centre. In doing so, special emphasis should be placed on building up capacity in the Accounting sector, which naturally complements other sectors of the industry. 

Toward Sustained Economic Growth 

The measures described above would go a long way in boosting the economy’s growth in the short- and medium-term. However, over the long-run additional measures will be needed to achieve sustained economic growth. This will mean expanding and diversifying the tourism and financial services sectors and developing new economic sectors from which economic growth can be generated. By broadening the BVI’s economic base, the economy’s resilience will be strengthened and its vulnerability to external shocks (i.e. financial crisis and global recession) reduced. 

In order to realise this goal, the territory will need an economic plan that sets out a policy framework for developing the economy, whose components would include, among other things, sectoral strategies for economic growth and a bona fide investment policy. 

Consolidating Economic Recovery 

In the final analysis, the BVI cannot change the dynamics of declining growth that have beset the world economy. Its main economic sectors are linked to the floundering economies of the US and Europe whose economic and financial problems have contributed to a stifling global economic environment. Despite these challenges, the BVI’s economic recovery continues, led by financial services, and a return to respectable growth remains attainable. The key to achieving this goal lies in improving the global competitiveness of the tourism and financial services industries and investing in new sectors over the longer term. By strengthening these areas, the BVI will eventually see a return to the strong economic growth that has characterised its economy for the last three decades. 

Responses can be sent to: ceo@wheatleyconsultinggroup.com