30 January 2013


"The colonial power continues to tell the democratically-elected government how to spend its own money by controlling the territory's budget. I guess that why they call us a non self-governing territory. "  -  an Anguillian student

Published by Anguillian  

British Governor Harrison

The 2013 budget of the Government of Anguilla was passed in the House of Assembly on December 18, 2012 but, to date, there is no word about approval from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London.

Governor Alistair Harrison told reporters up to Friday, January 18,that he had not received any instructions from London “as to whether to assent to it.”

He further said: “I know a lot of work is being done in London. The Chief Minister has signed a provisional warrant which allows the [2012] budget to be rolled over… and I am hoping to get instructions as soon as possible to take the matter forward.”

Asked whether the Government’s delay in signing the Framework for Fiscal Responsibility had any bearing on the approval of the budget, the Governor replied: “I think the aim of the FFR is more long-term than the budget. The idea is to put the finances of a given Overseas Territory onto a sustainable long-term footing…That has already been done in a number of Overseas Territories such as the Caymans – the most recent. That very much addresses the longer term. The budget just addresses one year.”

Pressed as to whether he would sign the budget if the Chief Minister doesn’t sign the FFR, the Governor responded: “I haven’t received any instructions as to whether to sign the budget and therefore I can’t comment on what the circumstances would be…”

He said that the FFR agreement had been under discussion for the past eighteen months. A draft was sent to the Government of Anguilla in April 2011. The Government responded in September 2012 and officials in Anguilla and London were still having discussions on the matter.

“I think it is important to recognise that the FFR,which may very well be renamed, is a much broader document than simply replacing the Borrowing Guidelines,” Governor Harrison added. “It covers borrowing, but it also covers the overall approach to finances and other matters that the Chief Minister and the UK Government have been working on and talking about. The Chief Minister told Mark Simmonds when he was here that he wanted to sign the FFR but there are some issues that still need to be resolved…”

29 January 2013

Cayman Islands, a British dependency, hit by U.S. withholding tax

By Michael Klein 

A number of Cayman Islands merchants who accept American Express credit cards have fallen foul of new United States tax regulations, which require them to submit their US tax status to credit card providers and other payment processors.

Section 6050W of the US Internal Revenue Code requires merchant acquiring entities in the US like American Express to document the status of any US or foreign business they settle transactions with.
Photo by worldatlas.com
The merchant businesses that failed to provide the information before 31 December, 2012, are subject to a 28 per cent US federal backup withholding tax on their payments. Under the law, payment processors have to withhold the tax and transfer it to the US Internal Revenue Service.

Ristorante Papagallo in West Bay is one of the businesses that have already seen a withholding tax deduction on transactions using American Express. Vico Testori, Papagallo’s manager, said in January American Express had deducted 28 per cent of the gross amount paid with its credit cards but he had never received any communication from the credit card provider.

“They never sent the forms. We were not aware of the issue at all. It just came up when we did the reconciliations, we noted that there was money missing.”

Mr. Testori said he had also not received anything from his bank, Cayman National Bank. “They were told by American Express, that American Express would deal with it,” he said.

Although section 6050W the US tax code is aimed at American taxpayers, who have to provide their taxpayer identification number, foreign merchants using the payment services are subject to the regulation if their establishment has a physical address or bank account in the US, or if it processes transactions in US dollars, as it is the case with credit cards.

To comply with the regulation, Cayman businesses that accept US credit cards have to complete US tax form W-8BEN to certify their status as a non-US merchant and submit it to their payment processing provider.

Not all merchants have determined yet whether any withholding tax has been deducted from the American Express payments. Giuseppe Gatta, manager of the Lighthouse Restaurant, said the business’s accountant is double checking the financials but he is aware that colleagues in the industry have been affected.

He said the first time he was made aware of the issue was on 18 January, nearly three weeks after the deadline, when his bank Butterfield forwarded an e-mail from American Express to him. “Butterfield said this is an Amex notification which they have provided directly. Directly to whom? Not to me,” Mr. Gatta said.

Another local business that has seen taxes withheld from transactions using American Express is Avis, even though the company had disclosed its tax status. Lee Foster, manager of Avis, said his company had submitted the form in October 2012, two months ahead of the deadline, after American Express had contacted the merchant.

He said in his case American Express was very vigilant about the issue because a regional manager for the payment card provider came to Grand Cayman to collect the required documentation.

“We were well within the time frame to submit the W-8BEN form. I believe it’s a glitch,” he said.

Asked whether he expects to get the money back from the IRS, Mr. Foster said, “I certainly expect to get this money back from American Express.”

Bruce Sigsworth, senior supervisor, merchant services with Butterfield Bank, said it appears the issue is limited to American Express customers, because other US payment card processors like VISA, MasterCard or Discover have requested the needed information from merchants upon registration.

Mr. Sigsworth confirmed that, to his knowledge, none of Butterfield’s customer merchants have seen any withholding tax deductions so far.

“We have got a call from Cayman National and they told us that they had seen deductions. They do their own processing, so I don’t know if they were not in the loop with Amex and got notified. We did get notified,” he said.

Cayman National Bank declined to comment on the issue and the number of its customers affected by US withholding tax deductions on American Express transactions.

Cayman banks such as Butterfield and Cayman National are only intermediaries in the payment process, Mr. Sigsworth explained, saying the relationship is between American Express and the merchant who accepts the credit card.

The bank noted that American Express went out directly to Butterfield client merchants “some time last year”, because most merchants called the bank “for security reasons to find out that the information was legit”, Mr. Sigsworth said.

The e-mail sent out by Butterfield on 18 January had been passed on to the bank by one of its clients who had received it from another merchant.

“We decided to send it to all our customers just in case because it included a contact number for American Express, which Amex has directed us to tell our merchants to call to see whether they are compliant or not.”

He added, “We have been in contact with Amex to find out which of our merchants will have to fill out the form, but they were not able to [say].”

Both Papagallo and the Lighthouse have stopped accepting American Express credit cards for the time being.

Avis will make a decision by Wednesday evening whether it will continue to use American Express. “We want to give our partners an opportunity to come to the table,” Mr. Foster said.

American Express had not responded to an invitation for comment by press time.

27 January 2013

(United States) State of Hawai‘i Government is a "war crime under international law" - Hawaiian Kingdom Acting Government

After two failed attempts to acquire the Hawaiian Islands by a treaty of cession as required by international law, the U.S. Congress “unilaterally” enacted a Joint Resolution purporting to annex the Hawaiian Islands, which was signed into law by President McKinley on July 7, 1898 during the Spanish-American War as a war measure.
State of HI Seal-Follow Hawaiian Kingdom news and updates on Twitter: @HKSpokesperson
On June 15, 1898, during debates over the joint resolution annexing Hawai‘i in the House of Representatives, Congressman Thomas H. Ball (D-Texas) stated, “The annexation of Hawai‘i by joint resolution is unconstitutional, unnecessary, and unwise. 

If the first proposition be true, sworn to support the Constitution, we should inquire no further. I challenge not the advocates of Hawaiian annexation, but those who advocate annexation in the form now presented, to show warrant or authority in our organic law for such acquisition of territory. To do so will be not only to subvert the supreme law of the land but to strike down every precedent in our history. …Why, sir, the very presence of this measure here is the result of a deliberate attempt to do unlawfully that which can not be done lawfully.”

And on June 20, 1898, during Senate debates over the joint resolution annexing Hawai‘i, Senator Augustus Bacon (D-Georgia) stated, “That a joint resolution for the annexation of foreign territory was necessarily and essentially the subject matter of a treaty, and that it could not be accomplished legally and constitutionally by a statute or joint resolution. 

If Hawaii was to be annexed, it ought certainly to be annexed by a constitutional method; and if by a constitutional method it can not be annexed, no Senator ought to desire its annexation sufficiently to induce him to give his support to an unconstitutional measure.” Senator Bacon further explained, “Now, a statute is this: A Statute is a rule of conduct laid down by the legislative department, which has its effect upon all of those within the jurisdiction. In other words, a statute passed by the Congress of the United States is obligatory upon every person who is a citizen of the United States or a resident therein. 

A statute can not go outside the jurisdiction of the United States and be binding upon the subjects of another power. It takes the consent of the subjects of the other power, speaking or giving their consent through their duly authorized government, to be bound by a certain thing which is enacted in this country; and therein comes the necessity for a treaty. ”

The United States Congress was fully aware that a joint resolution is not a cession of territory by treaty, but only an opinion or will of the U.S. Congress limited in authority to territory of the United States. The Hawaiian Kingdom was not annexed to the United States and remained an independent, but occupied State.

Usurping Hawaiian sovereignty, U.S. President McKinley signed into United States law An Act To provide a government for the Territory of Hawai’i on April 30, 1900; and on March 18, 1959, U.S. President Eisenhower signed into United States law An Act To provide for the admission of the State of Hawai’i into the Union.
According to the United States Supreme Court, in United States v. Curtiss-Wright Export Corp., (1936), “Neither the Constitution nor the laws passed in pursuance of it have any force in foreign territory unless in respect of our own citizens; and operations of the nation in such territory must be governed by treaties, international understandings and compacts, and the principles of international law…. [T]he court recognized, and in each of the cases cited [involving the exercise of the sovereign power of the United States] found, the warrant for its conclusions not in the provisions of the Constitution, but in the law of nations”.

United States laws are not only limited to United States territory, but the 1898 joint resolution of annexation, the 1900 Territorial Act, and the 1959 Hawai‘i Statehood Act stand in direct violation of the 1893 Lili`uokalani assignment and the Restoration Agreement, being international compacts, the 1907 Hague Convention, IV, and the 1949 Geneva Convention, IV.

According to the United Nations War Crimes Commission “war crimes” include:
  • Usurpation of sovereignty during occupation;
  • Deportation of civilians;
  • Compulsory enlistment of soldiers among the inhabitants of occupied territory;
  • Denationalizing the inhabitants of occupied territory;
  • Confiscation of property;
  • Exaction of illegitimate or of exorbitant contributions and requisitions;
  • Wanton devastation and destruction of religious, charitable, educational and historical buildings and monuments.
Usurpation of sovereignty is to illegally take by force the sovereignty of another country. International tribunals and national tribunals prosecuted both military and civilians after World War I and World War II for these war crimes. The State of Hawai’i government, established by an Act of Congress in 1959, is a usurpation of sovereignty during occupation and therefore not only illegal but also constitutes a war crime.

21 January 2013

Intergovernmental Agreement between British Virgin Islands and United States governments on movement of horses

Deputy Premier and Minister for Natural Resources and Labour Dr. The Hon. Kedrick D. Pickering (left) signs the Memorandum of Understanding alongside Mr. Fred V. Soltero, DVM, Area Veterinarian-in-Charge Puerto Rico & U.S. Virgin Islands, USDA/APHIS. Photo:VINO

ROAD TOWN, Tortola, VI – Deputy Premier and Minister for Natural Resources and Labour Dr. The Hon. Kedrick D. Pickering declared that history was created on January 14, 2013 with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to formalise the Territory’s commitment to the development of horse racing while facilitating the effective movement of horses between the United States Virgin Islands (USVI) and the Virgin Islands (VI).

The MoU covers a period of five years and was signed by representatives of the United States Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA/APHIS) and the Department of Agriculture, Ministry of Natural Resources and Labour with a view to enhancing the relationship between the USVI and VI, while also establishing procedures that would allow the entry of horses from either territory for the purpose of racing.

Read the full article at Virgin Islands news online.

17 January 2013

French Polynesia/Ma'ohi Nui President Addresses Non Aligned Movement on territory's U.N. re-inscription as dependency

Mr Oscar Manutahi TEMARU

President of Tahiti Nui

New-York, Non Aligned Movement Coordinating Bureau meeting

Mr Chairman,

Honorable representatives of the Non Aligned Movement,

Ia orana ,

First of all I would like to express my best wishes to all of you for 2013 and to thank you for this opportunity to address this honorable Assembly. Let me also thank our fellow countries, our brothers from the Pacific region, who have been instrumental and relentless in their support to move our case forward within the United Nations.

The final communiqué of the 16th Non-Aligned Movement Summit of 26 to 31 August 2012, held in Tehran affirmed the inalienable right of the Ma’ohi people to self-determination by virtue of the UN Charter and Resolution 1514.

Today it is my duty and honor to give you some background for a better understanding and implementation of that statement made in Tehran. Our country Mao’hi nui used to be free, and our People used to be in charge of their destiny. That changed in the 19th century, after the Europeans so-called “discoverers” reached our shores. Then, our great Pacific Ocean ended up divided in parts that they would rule, as colonies.

92% of you, honorable members of the NAM have gone through that colonization process, and came out of it to claim your freedom. 27 of you became independent from the same colonial power that is still ruling what is today French Polynesia and defining the boundaries of my People’s freedom.

Arm twisting our late queen Pomare IV into a protectorate, then into annexation, our country was eventually seized after an unfair war, maohi warriors opposing wooden sticks and spears to firearms and canons. The colonizers overpowered those whom they called “rebels”, and whom we call heroes.

Breaking their own annexation act of june 29th 1880 the French replaced our traditional community based land sharing system by the Napoleon civil code; a way to legally seize the land of the Maohi People, and to establish the colons.

This caused a major disruption which effects still ripple nowadays with many native Maohi people struggling to get ahold of the lands once cherished by our ancestors.

From 1908 to 1966 one of our islands, Makatea, has been pillaged for its phosphates, generating huge wealth for the colons who were granted mining rights.

The Compagnie Française des Phosphates de l’Océanie left Makatea almost overnight, leaving behind her an ecological disaster and a ghost island.

Around the same period with Algeria’s raise to independence, France’s was planning to relocate its nuclear testing in our country, on the atolls of Moruroa and Fangataufa.

In 1958, one man stood up against the might of the colonial administration. Pouvanaa a Oopa, the father of Tahitian nationalism. His ideas of a Maohi country governed by Maohi People were gaining momentum and starting to threaten France’s plans. The enemy of the State had to go.

Pouvanaa was setup, accused of trying to burn the capital down. With a parody of a trial, Pouvanaa was sentenced, banned, and sent into exile in France.

The path was now free for France for its next move : nuclear testing.

What sin had we done to deserve this ?

30 years of nuclear testing, with 193 bombs exploding upon, or inside the atolls of Moruroa and Fangataufa, now open nuclear dump fills and doomed man lands.

30 years of lying to the Ma’ohi People, using us as lab rats, pretending that these testing were safe and clean.

30 years of turning our Economy and Society upside down. As they dropped their nuclear bombs, France also dropped huge amounts of cash to create an artificial and tethered economy.

By doing so, the ensured a system that would primarily benefit the colons. Our traditional way of life was destroyed. Fishermen would not fish anymore. Native fruits and roots would not be cultivated anymore. Shops, with imported goods, and easy money from the nuclear testing facilities rapidly dismantled the basis of what used to make us virtually self-sufficient.

Now, children are born with birth defects and people dying of several nuclear related illnesses that are bound to be passed to many generations to come.

Meanwhile, the French had to loosen the dog’s leash occasionally. Luring us with the illusion of freedom… It smells like freedom, tastes like freedom, but make no mistake: French version of “autonomy” is not freedom. We are no more than a French collectivity, governed in reality from Paris.

From 1977 to 2011, we have been imposed six updates of our statute. In fact a small “political sandbox”. Our whole so called “Statute of autonomy” is no more than one tiny organic law within France’s own body of laws. One that they can change at their own will, without consulting the Ma’ohi People.

But let us be clear: neither our forefathers, nor our children have or will ever alienate our universal right to self-determination.

So, why is France so eager to keep us under her stronghold now that nuclear testing is over? Simply put, Ma’ohi Nui, with 5 million square kilometers accounts for half of France marine waters, making it the third largest oceanic nation in the world. Rather than a small islands country, we are a big ocean one, as large as western Europe.

France is now lurking to exploit our ocean. From the fishes to the newly found phosphates of our country, and the huge rare earth mineral reserves found on our seabed.

This is yet another case of David against Goliath, and the reason why we want our country back on UN’s list of non-autonomous territories.

Without the UN as a referee between France and us, this is once again an unfair and uphill battle.

Don’t get mistaken this is not a request from us to get independence without our People’s vote. What we seek is a fair evolution of our relations with France, with the oversight of the UN.

Time will come when this evolution is mature, and the question of independence shall then be asked. But this will need to go through a referendum.

But who shall be allowed to take part in such a decisive vote ? Should the six thousand French “expatriates” staying for 3 years in our country vote on our future? Should any non-native with less than 15 years of residency vote on our future?

French law allows Europeans to take part in votes in French Polynesia only three months after they arrive. The law that defines who, when and how we vote in all our elections is neither defined nor voted in Tahiti, but indeed in Paris by the French Parliament, without any real consultation the Ma’ohi People.

Without the international framework of being under UN scrutiny, any such referendum would be a farce and a disgrace for democracy.

35 years ago, in 1978, as a simple petitioner I first came to the UN in New-York to oppose French nuclear testing in our country. At that time I was told that the UN could not help us on that issue, because we had been unilaterally withdrawn from the UN list of non-autonomous territories by France in 1947.

In 1986 I came back with my brothers from New Caledonia Kanaky, another French colony also withdrawn from that list. With the support of NAM and many others was relisted by vote at the UN General Assembly. It took bloodshed in Kanaky, and the determination of my late soul-brother Jean-Marie Tjibaou to do it.

Peace, economic and social development has followed, and a fair process towards an auto-determination referendum is set.

How could anyone say that What has been done for New Caledonia cannot be done for French Polynesia – Ma’ohi nui ?

Today with the guidance of the Almighty, I am stating my People’s case before you.

This time, as the President of the country, and with the backing of the parliament, the local,regional, and world council of churches, and more important, the support from the Melanesian Spearhead Group and Pacific Leaders group.

Our case is very specific. We are not seeking inscription, but reinscription on the UN list from which we were unilaterally removed without consultation of our People or any resolution from the United Nations General Assembly.

Our quest is peaceful but our resolve is strong. It has always been.
Decolonization and self-determination should not be seen as threats to colonial powers but as a way to fulfill the sacred mission to which they have committed themselves before the United Nations since 1946.

Recently France supported Palestine and so did NAM standing strong and united. Today you have the opportunity to make another statement to the World.

An opportunity to remind the United Nations of its fundamental engagement towards decolonization.

An opportunity to give hope to the Ma’ohi People, a small Nation with big dreams, crying and calling upon the international community to give us the choice of Freedom and Peace.

36 years ago, I could have chosen a quiet path. But my soul and faith could not bend and align themselves to accept colonialism.
Instead of aligning myself to the French “clean nuclear testing fraud”, I opposed it. For that my family, my friends, suffered. I have been threatened, thrown in jail, treated as a terrorist and risked my life on many occasions.

Today, some are still trying to lure our People in believing that there is no future outside of dependence. But I know that Ma’ohi nui has the assets and potential to build a Nation by and for ourselves.

That conviction will never bend and align for the right to self-determination is the most precious legacy to our children.

And as Dag Hammarskjöld once said : Never, "for the sake of peace and quiet," deny your own experience or convictions.”

Mauruuru, Te aroha ia rahi.

Read about the United Nations re-inscription process of Ma'ohi Nui at http://maohinui.org/.

16 January 2013

Defend former Premier Michael Misick's fundamental human rights

By Oswald O Skippings

I am probably the voice that is least expected to champion the cause of Michael Misick, but his "ought to be" champions are conspicuous by their front line absence in defending his cause and their silence is nothing short of deafening. 

Oswald O Skippings, former Chief Minister
 and former leader of the People's Democratic Movement
Let me be clear! The sole issue that I'm dealing with here is the blatant violation of Michael Misick's human rights and the abuse of those rights by the powers that be, by holding him in that prison in Brazil and preventing his return home to face justice.

But I, as his most sought after political rival, am highly disappointed at the lack of concern and effort that is being generated by his own camp, so I can imagine how Mike must feel at this time considering what he is going through and who benefitted most from his reign. 

My questions include: Where are the thousands of supporters and sympathizers? Even more important, where are the leaders among them to lead this justifiable charge? Where are the voices of authority who are now duly and democratically elected who were babbling before they had such governmental authority? Has Michael Misick been thrown to the dogs now that elections are over and they have become the government and there is now no more need to take his advice and ride on his sympathy and popularity?

Then again, where are the human rights activists and those in authority who are being paid to look after our human rights? Many of us may be convinced that Mike is a criminal who has done this country and its people much wrong, but even so he is still a human being and he still has fundamental human rights, both locally and internationally, and someone needs to represent those rights on his behalf because he can't do it for himself in the situation that he's in.

He is now incarcerated in a strange country with no lawyers, no family, no friends and no sympathizers. It seems that the powers that be have ulterior motives in keeping him away from home based on the fact that he is not resisting coming home to face his fate. In fact, from the offset he has volunteered to come home and therefore there is no need for any extradition proceeding to delay his return.

His attorneys were not allowed to see him; his brother was denied the same privilege. That is a violation of his basic human rights and so is his detention in a maximum security prison, especially in a country like Brazil where he has committed no crimes and has not refused to voluntarily leave the country and be brought to justice at home.

How do we know that he is okay? If he is now, how do we know that he will continue to be okay? Why is he being kept over there and prevented from coming home to face justice? Who is afraid of his coming and why? 

Parliament met at least twice since Mike's arrest and I am yet to hear of the debate on the violation of Mike’s human rights and a resolution to effectively deal with the situation at a level where it really matters and where something will have to be done as a result of such a resolution.

Even though I'm one who suffered as a victim from a violation of my human rights by Michael Misick's regime and he is the person that singlehandedly persecuted me and viciously besmirched my character the most over the years, I am still compelled to speak out against the injustice that I see going on concerning holding him in that prison and preventing him from coming home to face his criminal charges. The truth of the matter is that I fear for his safety. 

Mike, in his hand scribbled letter, did request that representations be made on his behalf to the Latin American countries, the UN and the UK. Has that been done, has any such human rights requests been made to the USA and our English-speaking neighbours in the region? 

I would like to know because there is absolutely no momentum to accompany it. CARICOM, and the English-speaking countries in this hemisphere and even the EU, would not shirk their responsibility to deal with this human rights issue if they are officially informed of the circumstances and even more so if they are requested to do so. The absence of PNP government and party's momentum in this justifiable issue for their former leader is shameful to say the least.

It must be understood that Mike is more of a threat to the same status quo while incarcerated and particularly if he's in the TCI, than while on the loose. That is why there were no efforts made to keep him here in the first place. That is also why there are no efforts being made to bring him back home now. How long are they going to wait? Until we hear of some prison incident of which he was an innocent bystander who became a victim, or some other concocted story?

Why keep him in one of the worst prisons in Brazil, locked down for 23 out of 24 hours each day? The longer he is there in a state of limbo, the greater his chances are of being a victim of inexplicable fatal circumstances. There are those of us who understand that the stakes are high and that there are high rollers in this game who Mike could expose.

Considering the possible damage he can do to the high and the mighty, don't you think that there should be some justifiable fear for his safety? After all he was neither the master nor the mind behind the skillfully executed en masse corruption or, as Sir Robin called it, systemic corruption that shook this country at its very foundations.

All you so called Michael Misick supporters and human rights gurus, now is the time to stand up and be counted if you really care anything at all about Michael Misick as a human being and as a Turks and Caicos Islander and if you would like to see him return here safe and sound. Or equally important, if you seriously care about the protection of one's human rights.

Will the elected government show some concern, show some testicular fortitude, some grit and some inkling of diplomatic authority in dealing with this matter. This is a very serious matter. You now have power, use it! Be wise and demonstrate that you know how; and instead of taking on some of the other foolish issues that you take on regarding him, stand up for the fundamental human rights of Michael Misick and get him home safely ASAP before it’s too late!


Extradition not needed, says former premier
TCI News Now

According to a recent series of emails, a scanned handwritten and later typed press release, it appears that former TCI premier Michael Misick has tired of his fate in a Brazilian prison cell since his arrest last month.

In the original handwritten release, which was purportedly approved for release by the former premier, Misick said that formal extradition from Brazil is not required and he will return voluntarily to the TCI. This, he claimed, was his position when he was arrested. 

He also said that he told a TCI police officer Tony Noble, who he claimed was present at his arrest, that he would prefer to return to the TCI and that extradition proceedings were not required.

The document repeated claims by Misick that he was legally residing in Brazil. It also attacked the leader of the special investigation and prosecution team (SIPT), Helen Garlick, because she would not make arrangements to return Misick to the TCI. However, Britain had reportedly begun extradition proceedings.

The press release repeated the claim by Misick that he is being politically punished contrary to his human rights for having successfully developed the TCI and moving it a step towards independence.

In his release, apparently written on December 24, Misick claims he has not seen the sun in three weeks. 

According to the Brazilian Federal Police, Misick had been residing in Rio de Janeiro since October 2011 in an upscale neighbourhood, where he was described as living comfortably. He reportedly had a work permit but it was not revealed how he was employed. 

It appears he was living with a woman and, while police were aware of his presence and were watching the residence, they could not access the apartment without a warrant apparently because it belonged to the female in question. However, when they learned Misick was alone at Rio de Janeiro's Santos Dumont airport on December 7, they arrested him as he attempted to board a domestic flight to Sao Paolo. He was reportedly surprised but cooperated with police. 

Misick had reportedly applied for political asylum in Brazil some months back but this was refused by the Brazilian authorities. On the day of his arrest, he was apparently en route to Sao Paulo to seek advisers and lawyers in order to stay legally in Brazil.

Following his arrest, Orlando Moreira Nunes, federal deputy head of Interpol in Rio, requested that Misick be remanded into custody because of his importance.

“We wish to discredit the idea that big criminals can come to Rio and live peacefully,” he said.

Nunes said that Misick would be interrogated, and then be taken to the Ary Franco prison, which has been described as one of the worst prisons in the world. In June, a UN panel recommended the immediate closure of the Ary Franco prison, citing detailed cases of torture and other inmate abuse and characterizing the cells as filthy and bug-infested.

15 January 2013

Call Made To Declassify French Polynesia Nuclear Test Papers

Veterans’ groups requests for access denied since 2003

Radio New Zealand International

French Polynesia’s nuclear test veterans organization says the French commission in charge of the defense secret has recommended that 58 documents about the impact of the weapons tests be declassified.

The organization and its French sister body, AVEN, want the full reports of the agencies in charge of radiological safety and biological control during the tests in the South Pacific from 1966 to 1996.
Moruroa e tatou says the request for access to the documents dates back to 2003 but after it had been rejected in 2010, it appealed its case in the French Supreme Court, which it says is the last stop before reaching the European Human Rights Court.

The organization says this could have shaken up the defense ministry which is keen to prevent an internationalization of France’s nuclear weapons test file as was the case in 1972 when Australia and New Zealand took the practice of atmospheric testing to the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

Three years ago, a bid by French Polynesia’s territorial assembly to get access to classified material was rejected by the then defense minister, Herve Morin.

He explained his rejection by saying detailed descriptions contained in the files could be of use to countries which are trying to develop nuclear weapons.

13 January 2013

State of the Commonwealth Address - Northern Marianas

Governor Benigno R. Fitial

OFFICERS of the government, and citizens of our Commonwealth, I come before you to report on where we have been over the past year and where I see us going over the course of the next year.

But before I do that, I want to speak to you directly about what I know is troubling many of you. You are disappointed in your Governor, and you think I should have done better. I too am disappointed. I have made mistakes. I acknowledge that.

I did not see soon enough how devastating the economic forces blowing down on us would be. I was too optimistic that we would get enough help from the federal government to dig out of this economic black hole we are in.

I made errors of judgment and made decisions that turned out poorly because they were not based on enough reliable information. I trusted people who could not perform what they promised. I also have, at times, blamed people for things they could not have avoided.

I want you to know that I have thought deeply and carefully about my own mistakes, and I am determined that I will not repeat them. Very bad economic times cause heavy pressures. But there are no easy ways out. We have to fall back on our strength as a people and gradually, steadily work toward better times.


I want to share with you a few promising signs of the beginning of economic recovery.

Just last month, the Hotel Association of the Northern Mariana Islands reported a hotel occupancy rate of 74.53 percent; a 9 percent increase over the previous year.

The E-Land Group has presented a development plan to revitalize the Coral Ocean Point Hotel and the Palms Hotel in 2013. The plan by E-Land is to focus on high value tourists, and they plan to upgrade the facilities at both locations to target this sector of the tourist market. This renovation will add significant construction jobs in 2013 and increase the number of high quality accommodations. Because of our economic situation, developers proceed slowly and cautiously. We have other developers who are considering similar activities in 2013 which would further increase the available construction jobs and tourist facilities. It takes a great deal of time and effort to arrive at development plans that are realistic and that we can support. I think we will see some progress on this front this year.

Our very important tourism market in Japan is still burdened by the after-effects of the tsunami and the long-lasting economic slowdown. I do not expect recovery in this market next year. But we have long-standing friendships in Japan, and there are reliable indications we will see a very modest improvement in the number of Japanese tourists in 2013 and better numbers a few years out.

However, we have reaped economic benefits from our Korean tourists. I am truly grateful to the Kumho Asiana Group for making major investments in our islands since acquiring the LaoLao Bay Golf Resort in 2007, investing more than $50 Million and adding much appreciated passenger air service flights to the CNMI. They expect to fly to the CNMI with 18 flights during the summer of 2013 and 18 flights during the winter season.

When I saw a promising future for our tourism industry to expand in the Korean market, I made several trips to Korea to work closely with Kumho and other Korean executives to strongly encourage them to take the chance of investing in the CNMI. Surely enough, Kumho Asiana saw opportunity where other airline carrier saw crisis, and they strategically invested when the market was down, in anticipation of the eventual turnaround that we expected to realize, in due course, by staying the course. Our annual Korean arrivals have even surpassed those of Guam and this has brought more Korean hotel investment when we needed it most.

The Marianas Visitors Authority has worked hard to gain a steady growth in Chinese tourists in the past year. The projected long-term growth of the Chinese economy bodes well for the Commonwealth. China now has the largest outbound market in the world. It is said that the Chinese economy will surpass that of the U.S. in the next decade or two and as the benefits of this economy filters into the population; we expect tourism to continue growing significantly. Our ability to offer the visa waiver program places us in a very advantageous position.

From the beginning, I saw that the Chinese tourism market was emerging exponentially. That is why I exerted all efforts to travel to key cities in China and to work closely with the owners of the Tinian Dynasty, Century Tours and Tan Holdings to make a strong push to steer Chinese tourists to the Northern Marianas.

Saipan is now second only to Australia and Phuket, Thailand in terms of popularity and increased visitor rates for Chinese travelers. Bali and the Maldives trail behind Saipan.

Today, as a result of these efforts, we have just added three wide body charter flights, with a maximum of 300 passengers per flight, for our Chinese tourism market. And as result of this anticipated growth from the China market, DFS Saipan is poised to undertake renovations at the main Galleria shopping center.

For that reason, the role of independent carriers and charters is crucial in the development of new markets. Establishment of new air services is expensive and entails significant risks so investors proceed cautiously. We will not experience growth in tourism unless we have available flights and seats at competitive prices. This will serve as our engine for growth and development of the Chinese markets. Our goal for 2013 is to establish two new daily flights to China that would provide us with the opportunity of a quarter of a million new tourists per year in coming years. Chinese tourists have the ability to travel anywhere in the world. The fact that CNMI ranks high on their list of preferred destination is certainly welcomed news and we must not lose sight of this opportunity for economic growth.

The Russian market remains small for us, and it is relatively expensive to develop. However, we have continued to make prudent investments in expanding our presence there. We had a small increase in Russian tourists this past year, and we expect this increase to be matched in the coming year.

Although I am very pleased about the growth in the number of tourists, I am reminded that we need to do more at home to clean our house and improve our tourism product. Last year, the Marianas Visitors Authority, with support from the Office of Insular Affairs took on a major survey of more than 2,300 tourists. The feedback from tourists of more than five nationalities told us that we need to find ways to ensure visitor safety, care for our environment and care for our existing tourist sites. They also told us that they want to see our destination refreshed from time to time and for this, we need to re-invest in new ways to share our ecotourism sites and our cultural heritage sites, such as our beloved, but under-interpreted latte stones. Yes, I want to do more to meet the expectations of our visitors and this is something we must partner in with the private sector. We cannot simply wait for tourists to arrive and not make continued efforts to improve what we share with them.

At the forefront, I will work closely with hotel owners to address the need of upgrading and renovating the hotels. This needs to be done in order for us to increase the quality and rates of rooms so that in turn, we can realize increased revenues.

I am delighted to report that just this holiday season, we experienced a major lack of hotel rooms for our tourists. At the peak of the season, our major hotels reported a shortage of more than 100 hotel rooms. To address this problem, we will work with interested investors to revive defunct hotels like Plumeria Resort and Riviera Resort to add more rooms to our inventory. If we can achieve these efforts, I believe we can return to the level of 650,000 visitor arrivals between 2014 and 2015.

Priorities for 2013

Now let me turn to what I would like to do in 2013 in other areas. One of the mistakes I have made in the past was not to pay enough attention to transparency in government. I tried to consult widely, but sometimes I thought I had to act quickly in order to secure a benefit for the Commonwealth. Acting without transparency decreases confidence in the government. I want you to know what I am planning, and I invite input from any and all of our citizens.

Government jobs

First, I want to report that we are not going to eliminate government jobs or require reductions in hours in 2013. I know that some of you view our government as too big and having unnecessary employees. I do not see it that way. We need to provide our citizens with the core government services, even in hard times, and we have made our operations much more efficient. That is not to say everything is perfect; but we have made steady progress.

I will also evaluate the members of my Cabinet in an effort to ensure that each department is adequately delivering quality services to the people. I believe that when the government is being run effectively and efficiently, this will be a key component in our efforts to turn our economy around.

Since I came to office in 2006, we have gone from an operational budget of $213 million down to $112 million today. We have cut where we had to, but in the past year, the central government has returned to a forty-hour work week. We exercised sound financial management to avoid implementing mass layoffs within our government workforce. Yes, we successfully achieved this in the face of $100 million in reduced operational expenses. Certainly, that is a feat unprecedented elsewhere and within our government.

We expect that finances will continue to be restricted in 2013, so we must continue to be vigilant in our expenditures. However, at this point in time, we do not see a need for a reduction in hours or layoffs in 2013.

Local transportation

Next I want to report on two transportation projects we have identified for 2013. Our objective is to expand the transportation connections within our economy and to expand the transportation connections between the economies of the Commonwealth and Guam. Economic analysis indicates that we can achieve additional economic activity this way.

There is significant federal support available for efficient local public transportation, and many states in the U.S. have capitalized on this to improve their economies. During 2013 we will do an initial feasibility analysis for the establishment of a government-sponsored local bus system. The establishment of a regularly scheduled bus system would provide an inexpensive transportation system that would provide regular transportation to meet everyday needs of going to work, school, shopping, and tourism. The development of a simple cost-effective government bus system would supplement car ownership and provide an alternative for those who do not own their own vehicle. It could be easily implemented on the island of Saipan where most areas can be served by a simple routing system.

We have also identified an inter-island ferry service with Guam as a way to lower the costs of goods and expand secondary tourism from Guam. We are exploring a viable ferry system that can provide a low-cost sustainable passenger and cargo system. If we could expand the transportation system connecting these two economies, we would provide a significant economic stimulus. This is a complex undertaking which must be planned carefully, but federal funds are available that could subsidize this operation. In 2013, we are taking the first step in this endeavor by carefully identifying costs, revenues and available federal resources that form the economic foundation of this system.

Health care

Now let me turn to the very important subject of our health care. The Commonwealth healthcare system will continue to face challenges in 2013, but I think we are headed in the right direction. The HealthTech study that was completed in 2012 identified important shortcomings in the current structure of our health care system. These inefficiencies have developed over a long period and have resulted in a system that is unaffordable and ineffective. Efforts are well under way for CHC to structure itself correctly to achieve maximum efficiency.

Our goal is to provide United States mainland quality care that fits within our budgetary limits, or as we refer to it – a "Long-term Sustainable Healthcare Model." This will require us to consider carefully the services to be provided and then ensure that they are provided in the most cost-effective manner. This will not be an easy task as medical care is expensive and we have limitations on the amount of available revenue.

The current arrangement with the United States Department of Health and Human Services is providing short-term assistance and is sincerely appreciated. In 2013 we need to move quickly to develop our long-term model. It is our objective to work with federal government experts to develop this model and begin to implement it during 2013.

Retirement system

I will talk next about the problems with the retirement system that continue to harm the well-being of our Commonwealth. One of the main issues confronting us is the unfunded liabilities associated with the retirement system, and this problem will continue in 2013. The Retirement Fund problem is the result of years of legislation that created unfunded liabilities, and this problem has reached a point of crisis.

There is no one solution to this problem. Resolution of this matter can be achieved in steps that narrow and clarify the liabilities. I believe that adoption of P.L. 17-82 is an important step in this process because it allows current employees to withdraw their contributed portion while at the same time reducing the overall liability of the fund. This process will allow us to reduce the total liability and clarify the amount of the unfunded liability.

For this reason, I do not accept the position of the trustee ad litem, Mr. Razzano, and I do not think that his process protects the interests of either the retirees or current employees.

We need to bring resolution to the retirement fund issue this year, and I believe that the first step is to allow for voluntary withdrawal by current employees as a means of reducing and clarifying the liability at issue.

I want to be clear that no one has proposed abandoning our commitment to the existing retirees. Instead, what is proposed is a reduction in the overall liability, quantification of the exact amount of the remaining liability and then development of a financial plan to meet our obligations to these retirees.

I realize that retirement benefits are a serious issue to the families in our community that are dependent on these benefits. However, we also must realize that the prior structure could not be sustained, and we need to develop a plan that balances the obligations, needs, and resources of our small economy. I want to reiterate that I understand the importance of these issues to the current retirees, and we will minimize the adverse effects on them in everything we do with the retirement system.

I also think it is important to press our cause in the U.S. Congress for long-term unemployment benefits and full social security benefits without requiring additional financial sacrifices by the Commonwealth. The rate and extent of our economic decline is far greater than that experienced anywhere else under the U.S. flag, and these measures would be effective in helping us recover.

Commonwealth Utilities Corporation

Next I will talk about the Commonwealth Utilities Corporation. CUC has been a continuing point of frustration over the last decade. But there have been some significant improvements. It wasn't long ago that the island of Saipan was crippled with a complete breakdown in power generation with power limited to a few hours a day. This had a devastating effect on business and households. It was only by placing CUC under emergency authority were we able to bring in temporary generators that enabled us time to rebuild the aging electrical system. Through this effort we have restored a reliable power system although it is still an antiquated structure based on outdated technologies.

One of the largest impediments to expansion of our economy is the high utility rates. Every resident is expressing frustration with the high cost of power and every single business that has closed cites utility costs as one of the principal reasons. These high power rates are reflective of the inefficiencies of the current power generation system and the high cost of diesel fuel. We do not have any ready way out of either of these limitations.

In 2013, we will continue to invest in CUC as our resources will allow, and we will continue to consider alternatives to diesel power. A recent study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory identifies that the Commonwealth has signs of the availability of geothermal energy. If we can develop geothermal energy we could achieve significant reduction in our utility costs and this would directly benefit both households and businesses. In order clarify this potential we will complete our examination of the development of geothermal energy in 2013, and we are hopeful for positive results.

One would think that I, as Governor, can easily move resources to address Commonwealth problems. But that is not the case. My experience is that often legal restrictions, cross currents in the legislature where there are legitimate differences of opinion, and federal government considerations prevent quick action. An example of this is the effort to bring in alternative energy sources, a subject close to my heart, where we have been stymied by political and economic forces.

I readily admit that I am not without faults, and when I took this position as your Governor, I resolved myself to deal with the toughest issues of the day. The key issues all involve matters where we were striving to address long-standing problems of our community. An example of this is the power plant agreement, which I entered into in order to entice the construction of a shipyard rebuilding facility. If constructed, this facility would provide at least 1,000 highly paid jobs that would revive and expand our economy. I will admit that the realization of this opportunity to significantly expand our employment base while simultaneously providing a more efficient replacement of our aged power plant inspired me to act in an expeditious manner. In retrospect there should have been more public involvement, and for this I do sincerely apologize.

After further examination by the new Attorney General, Joey San Nicolas, it has been found that the prior position of his office that this contract was proper was in error. Therefore, the agreement is void and unenforceable. I apologize for the turmoil that this endeavor caused, but Attorney General San Nicolas’ latest position will allow for a full examination of the merits of this proposal and the need to address the long-term power needs of our community.

There are no arguments that the current power generation system is costly and reaching the end of its life expectancy. This is why we must find alternatives to this system if we wish to lower costs and attract new industries to the CNMI. These were the two objectives I was seeking to address in this endeavor.

Before leaving this area of my report, I want to point out a significant achievement of the Commonwealth Utilities Corporation over the past year in the continued expansion of water service. Through the efforts of the Water Task Force there has been a great expansion of water service and quality in the past year, and in 2013 I believe that we will achieve the goal of 24 hour service throughout the island of Saipan.

To sum up, we made some progress in 2012. Important economic factors improved a bit. We are not out of this economic recession by any means, but in 2013 we will see our economy notch up another rung. We are very focused on the basics: tourism, jobs, clarification of retirement obligations, and continued improvement in health care and utility services. The tasks we have established for 2013 are significant, and this approach contributes to the foundation for long-term sustainable growth.

Serious economic stress always causes disagreements and discord because people are hurting and discouraged. We have suffered the most serious economic harm of any place under the U.S. flag, largely due to economic forces in Japan, the U.S., and world trade conditions we had no part in shaping. As a result, our stresses have been very high. These stresses are reflected in our politics, in our connections with the federal government, and even in our dealings with one another.

The outlook for 2013 is better. Our economy can make progress in getting past this deep, deep recession. I will improve my own methods including more consultation and transparency. I know this is important to all of you, and I am determined to do better in these regards. I think we all have to realize that very divisive politics and litigation holds us back. I need to do more to accommodate my political colleagues and to make sure I communicate with our citizens. I believe we can work together very productively in 2013 despite our past differences. We live in beautiful islands, and we have a strong, generous cultural heritage. We can steady our economy and achieve progress that will benefit us all.

Thank you.

11 January 2013

St. Thomas, Virgin Islands Celebrates Taino Heritage

The Voice of the Taino People Online

St. Thomas, USVI (UCTP Taino News) - St. Thomas, Virgin Islands residents recently experienced an exciting, full day of Taino-related activities organized by local indigenous organization Opia Taíno International, Inc. 

Activities took place adjacent to the well-known historic building, Fort Christian, and at the nearby Emancipation Garden from 10am – 5pm, Saturday, December 1, 2012. The program featured an impressive list of speakers as well as an interactive, educational exhibition entitled “A Walk in My Moccasins.” The daylong program was free to the public and supported by the Virgin Islands Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

"We are here to dispel the myth of Taino extinction in the Caribbean" stated Maekiaphan Phillips, President of Opia Taino

Some of the interactive features of the program included a Taino-inspired village with a batey (ceremonial plaza), Taíno artifacts and crafts, photographs, native foods, and results from Maekiaphan Phillips’s family genealogical exploration. 

Members of Opia Taino and other special guests were on hand throughout the day to answer questions concerning Taino and Carib heritage. Featured speakers included Phillips, Roberto Mukaro Borrero of the United Confederation of Taino People, and Senator-elect, the honorable Myron Jackson. Discussion topics ranged from family genealogy to DNA testing; Taino history past and present; the United Confederation of Taino PeoplesInter-Tribal Registry; and the importance of honoring the Indigenous legacies of the Virgin Islands.