27 February 2013

‘The State (France) failed to prepare St. Martin for new status’

MARIGOT--Senator Louis-Constant Fleming plans to take France's Minister of Overseas Territories Victorin Lurel to task over the State's failure to properly establish the Collectivité of St. Martin, whereas it has fulfilled its obligations towards New Caledonia and Mayotte and is about do so again for Martinique and French Guiana, two territories that will become Collectivités in 2015.

On February 13, the Minister submitted to the Council of Ministers two ordinances, organizing and preparing the institutional change of Martinique and French Guiana that will become Collectivités in 2015.

One ordinance determines budgetary rules, financial and accounting that will be applicable to both Collectivités, and the other deals with the transfer of civil servants of the department and the region to each new Collectivité without changing their status, and also the transfer of assets and liabilities of the department and region to each new Collectivité.

According to the terms of the Daily Bulletin of Thursday, February 14, "these orders give the new Collectivités human and material resources, as well as budgetary tools and financial matters necessary for their proper functioning."

"We can rejoice for Martinique and French Guiana to have the preparation of their new Collectivité status in place and taken care of, since this high skills transfer cannot take place without the prior transfer of financial means and human resources," commented Fleming.

"Provision is also required for the time needed to make the transition, by knowledgeable staff assisting in the implementation of the new administration.

"But we cannot help thinking that St. Martin has been paying the price of a municipality's total unpreparedness and a total non-interest of the State, even though the procedures were done previously with Mayotte and New-Caledonia.

"In the case of St. Martin, it was to move from a municipal administration to a real territorial administration with municipal, departmental, regional and some state responsibilities. It is obvious that such a transition should have been prepared, and a single municipal administration is by definition very limited. The State should have provided the new Collectivité employees the necessary tools and time for a serious and successful launch under the new status."

Fleming emphasises the State has not fulfilled its obligations towards St. Martin, but met them towards New Caledonia and Mayotte in their institutional transitions and is about to respect them for Martinique and French Guiana.

"Yet France had enough time to implement the changes for St Martin, given the time that elapsed between the referendum of December 2003 and the Organic Law of February 21, 2007, establishing the new Collectivité," he argued. "It seems to me therefore necessary and appropriate to question the Minister of Overseas, previously Member of Parliament (MP) for St. Martin until June 2012, and to remind him of the State's failure to establish the Collectivité of St. Martin.

"It is also his moral obligation to repair the damages done. The best thing the State could do to start repairing the damages done is to obtain the annulment of the decree of April 22, 2011, fixing an overall budget of negative compensation of 634,126 euros. The Collectivité has made a request to the Council of State on July 2011 for cancellation and has, to this date, not received an answer."

25 February 2013

Support grows for U.N. to resume consideration of French Polynesia

Pacific Church Leaders Support Self-Determination For TahitiPacific Conference of Churches calls on Forum Leaders to do the same.

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, Feb. 25, 2013) –Pacific church leaders say it's time for the region to support moves towards independence by the indigenous people of Tahiti, or Maohi Nui. 

A proposal to endorse the re-inscription of Tahiti on the United Nations Decolonization Committee's list will be on the agenda at the Pacific Conference of Churches' annual General Assembly in Solomon Islands this week, despite opposition from France, New Zealand and Australia. 

PCC Acting General Secretary and Tahiti native, Reverend Francois Pihaate, told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat program that it was time Pacific Island Forum Leaders showed their support for the move. "They should not try to 'play it safe' by dodging the real issue and trying to cover up by inscribing words of encouragement - this brushes aside the human rights struggles of the people of Maohi Nui," Reverend Pihaatae said. 

"For too long Maohi Nui has been fighting for her freedom and it's time we, as a Pacific family, stand up with a united voice to offer our support." 

A delegation from the World Council of Churches will visit the French-held territory in April for talks with authorities, churches and the people to listen to views on self-determination. The council will also send a delegation to the PCC General Assembly.

U.N. Decolonisation Committee opens 2013 session

21 February 2013
General Assembly

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



Members Elect Bureau, Approve Holding Regional Seminar in Ecuador, 25-31 May

Opening the 2013 substantive session of the Special Committee on Decolonization, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today called on that body to devise “fresh and creative” approaches in mobilizing the political will needed to eradicate colonialism, saying it had no place in the modern world.

“It is time for a new kind of fully inclusive dialogue about decolonization,” he said, adding:  “We no longer have the luxury of indulging in rhetoric and rituals.”  The risk of movement, while sometimes frightening, was preferable to the stagnation of the status quo.

Urging the Special Committee to review its practices so as to “maximize its effectiveness”, the Secretary-General said the common endeavour of eradicating colonialism required its “constructive involvement” with the Non-Self Governing Territories under its purview and with their respective administering Powers.

The Special Committee reviews the political, social and economic conditions in the 16 United Nations-listed Non-Self Governing Territories, organizes regional seminars to discuss the challenges of decolonization and works to ensure that the United Nations aids their development.

Echoing the Secretary-General, Special Committee Chair Diego Morejón (Ecuador) said that, well into the Third International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism, the body must create a “new momentum” and review each Territory to determine which should remain on its list and which should be removed.

Direct, constructive contact must be maintained with New Caledonia, which would enter a critical phase of self-determination in 2014, Mr. Morejón said.  He noted that the General Assembly had commended the positive steps taken by New Caledonian and French authorities since their signing of the 1998 Nouméa Accord giving the Territory transitional status until the holding of a referendum between 2014 and 2018.

Similarly, Papua New Guinea’s representative praised the active involvement of the Melanesian Spearhead Group and all parties under the Nouméa Accord.  Urging the Special Committee to break from “business as usual”, he called for concrete ways to help the remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories achieve their respective aspirations, and for the Special Committee to liaise closely with each of the administering Powers in a holistic manner.  In that regard, he applauded the cooperation between Tokelau and New Zealand.

Mr. Morejón spoke after having been elected by acclamation as Chair for the current session.  Also elected were Rodolfo Reyes Rodríguez (Cuba) and Shekou M. Touray (Sierra Leone) as Vice-Chairs, and Bashar Ja’afari (Syria) as Rapporteur.

The Chair proposed that the Special Committee’s annual seminar, scheduled for Latin America this year, be held in Ecuador during the last week of May, to coincide with the Week of Solidarity with the Peoples of Non-Self Governing Territories (25-31 May).

Cuba’s representative thanked Ecuador for its commitment to the Special Committee’s work.

The Special Committee approved the Chair’s proposal, as well as its proposed organization of work for 2013 (document A/AC.109/2013/L.2).  It invited Argentina, Costa Rica, Spain, Cyprus, Ghana, Mauritania, Namibia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates to participate in the session as observers.

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

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

21 February 2013

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



Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks at the opening of the 2013 session of the Special Committee on Decolonization in New York on 21 February:

Thank you for this opportunity to address the Special Committee at the start of its annual programme of work.  We are now well into the third International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism.

Against the backdrop of ongoing financial crises and growing budgetary pressures, we must all strive to work with a results-oriented approach.  I have recently invited the General Assembly to consider reviewing mandated activities.  I would also appeal to this Committee to review its practices to maximize its effectiveness.

The international community is more convinced than ever that colonialism has no place in the modern world.  The eradication of colonialism, in keeping with the principles of the Charter and the relevant United Nations resolutions, is our common endeavour.  This requires the constructive involvement of all concerned — the Special Committee, the administering Powers and the Non-Self-Governing Territories — working on a case-by-case basis.

The Special Committee should be at the forefront in identifying possibilities for change and in promoting priorities in the decolonization process for the benefit of all.  As the intergovernmental body exclusively devoted to decolonization, the Special Committee is expected to devise fresh and creative approaches to mobilize the political will to advance its agenda.

As we know, the world is in a great transition.  Many old structures are breaking down.  New arrangements are taking shape.  In the area of decolonization, 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories require our attention.  As we look ahead, the narrative cannot again be portrayed as “decolonization deferred”.

We no longer have the luxury of indulging in rhetoric and rituals.  Concrete action and tangible results are essential.  It is time for a new kind of fully inclusive dialogue about decolonization.  The risk of movement, while sometimes frightening, is far more preferable to the stagnation of the status quo. (emphasis added - OTR)

As you begin your work, I assure you that the Secretariat will continue to provide the necessary assistance to the Special Committee.

I wish you every possible success in your efforts.

* *** *

See:  A Conversation on the Challenges to Contemporary Decolonisation

See also: Innovative Plan for International Decolonisation Proposed to UN

British Governor, Attorney General and CFO must go, says Turks & Caicos Islands Premier

In a new letter to Britain’s Foreign Secretary, William Hague, Premier Rufus Ewing has said that Governor Ric Todd, Attorney General Huw Shepheard and Chief Financial Officer Hugh McGarel-Groves must be recalled and replaced by persons who will better accommodate Ewing’s government.

Premier Rufus Ewing
It is unclear what caused the letter of February 10 to be written, while Ewing was at the same time conducting press conferences, not mentioning the strong messages in the letter.

One of the principal complaints of Ewing’s letter was that the prosecution of the former PNP cabinet members was “a farce”. This, Ewing said, was because British and other expatriates who took part in corrupt dealings had opted to pay millions in fines to escape prosecution by the special investigation and prosecution team (SIPT). 

Ewing did not explain in his letter why he felt the prosecution of former ministers Floyd Hall, McAllister Hanchell, Lillian Boyce and Jeffrey Hall was not justified.

Ewing seemed to associate Governor Todd with the interim government, saying that, when Todd arrived to run the direct rule government, he acted as a dictator. However, the interim government came into being in August 2009 under then Governor Gordon Wetherell. Todd arrived two years later in mid 2011 and within little over a year called for elections to return local rule. 

Ewing did say in his letter that Todd had promised that actions by the House of Assembly would be respected. It appears this portion of the letter anticipates the governor’s veto of the VAT repeal bill, which was brought by opposition leader Sharlene Cartwright-Robinson and which received overwhelming support. Only the two parliamentary members appointed by the governor, Lillian Misick and John Phillips, voted against the bill.

This also has raised questions about the letter because, at a press conference held the day after the letter is dated, Ewing acknowledged that it was the governor’s constitutional right to veto the legislation.

21 February 2013

West Papua Coalition Applies For Melanesian Spearhead Group Membership

Delegation hopeful move will encourage Indonesia to resolve issues

By Ricky Binihi
Vanuatu Daily Post

PORT VILA, Vanuatu  The Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) Secretariat has received the application from the West Papua Coalition for Liberation for West Papua to become full member of the MSG.

Director General of MSG Peter Forau will now send the application to the Chairman of the MSG, Fiji's Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, and he along with other Melanesian Leaders will make a decision on the request.

Daily Post contacted the office of the Director General of the MSG to ask when that decision will be made but Mr. Forau could not be contacted as he was at a meeting Friday morning.

A press statement from the West Papua office in Port Vila said Mr. Forau’s role is only facilitating the process, but he has no decision on the issue but still wished the WPNCL well in its pursuit of membership.

WPNCL submitted the application for membership at the MSG headquarters on Wednesday.

The Delegation consisted of Vice Chairman, Secretary General, Head of the Vanuatu Mission, a Women Representative and Students and Youth Representative.

They were accompanied by former Prime Minister and staunch advocate for West Papuan independence, Barak Sope and a Representative from the FLNKS of Kanaky/New Caledonia.

Vice Chairman of WPNCL Dr. John Ondawame said that this was a historic occasion that also marks the beginning of our concerted efforts this year to advance the cause.

"We hope this will encourage Indonesia to take necessary steps to resolve the issue. Being a member is also natural because we are an inseparable part of the Melanesian family. For years our efforts to take the issue back to the UN was hindered by lack of official support by the Independent States in Melanesia," Dr. Ondawame said.

Head of the Vanuatu Mission of WPNCL, Mr. Andy Ayamiseba added that being a member is a confirmation of our identity as Melanesian people.

"We cannot deny this fact to our future generations," Mr. Ayamiseba said in the statement.

Women Representative, Bernarda Edoway Douw made a compassionate plea for West Papuan women, mothers and children who she said had suffered in silence year after year.

"The Papuan women are discriminated against in the market place in the employment sector and in education opportunities. Being a member will raise the profile of West Papua especially for the women," the Papuan women representative who was here too for the MSG Silver Jubilee celebrations.

Mr. Amatus Douw speaking on behalf of the West Papua students and youths highlighted the real life experience of marginalization in West Papua. He stated that population decline is caused by a deliberate policy of the Indonesian government.

Mr. Sope elaborated on the historical facts of the creation of the MSG.

He said it was created at the time when there was bloody resistance in Kanaky and our efforts to address the issue did not receive a desired resolve by many governments. For the Melanesian countries it is a serious issue and the only way to find a solution is by members discussing it together and decide on the best way forward. He reiterated that the former New Hebrides had to seek help from another independent Melanesia country in this case Fiji to facilitate our efforts at the UN Decolonization Committee.

"Now we have more independent Melanesian countries that can do more for West Papua" Mr. Sope said.

Mr. Sope added that even the UN Decolonization Committee was specifically established for the independency struggles.

"Countries who are members in the Committee are there because they support self-determination for colonized peoples. If a member is against these objectives they must be in the wrong Committee," the former Vanuatu PM Sope said.

The Secretary General, Mr. Rex Rumakiek stated that being a member of this sub regional institution carries heavy responsibilities which WPNCL fully understands.

"Even though not on the same level as governments, given the opportunity WPNCL will do its best to shoulder the same responsibilities with the other members to protect Melanesia against harmful external threats such as terrorism, illegal trade, distortion of social ecology and bio diversity, economic domination and unfair trade practices," the WPNCL Secretary said.

Bermuda elected as Chair of the UK Overseas Territories Association

Premier Cannonier takes over 
UK Overseas Territories Association presidency

Royal Gazette

Bermuda has for the first time been elected to lead the United Kingdom Overseas Territories Association (UKOTA) in the UK.

During a meeting on Thursday, Bermuda, through representative Kimberly Durrant, was elected to the role of Chairman in the organisation which was created to promote cooperation among the overseas territories.

In accordance with the UKOTA Constitution Premier Craig Cannonier will assume the position as President of the Political Council.

The Political Council is the highest body of the Association which consists of Leaders or Representatives of each Member Government.

Revealing the news in a statement yesterday, the Premier said: “I am delighted with the regard in which Bermuda is held within UKOTA.

“There are many areas of mutual interest in which we can share knowledge and experience to our collective benefit.

“I look forward to my tenure as President of the Political Council and in particular how it seeks to shape the nature of engagement with the United Kingdom Government in matters of importance to the OTs.”

Ms Durrant, the Director of the Island’s London Office, said the organisation has always taken pride in giving all participating nation equal representation, regardless of size.

“I am honoured to have been elected to the position of Chairman and to have gained the respect and confidence of my fellow colleagues and Governments of the Overseas Territories,” she said.

20 February 2013

Governor of Northern Marianas Islands resigns amid impeachment process

UPDATE (3): Governor Fitial resigns, effective today; (Lieutenant Governor) Inos will be sworn in at 1:30 p.m., at the multi-purpose center

The (Northern Marianas) Senate will hold a session at 12:30 noon. Senate President Jude U. Hofschneider will be sworn in as the new lt. governor at the multi-purpose center at 1:30 p.m. with the new governor, Eloy S. Inos. Ralph DLG. Torres will be the new Senate president.

U.S. Congressman (Non-voting delegate - OTR) Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan issued the following statement: 

"I want to thank Governor Fitial for deciding to save all of us the trouble from what would have been a lengthy trial at the Senate. I know this was not an easy decision for him to make but he decided that stepping down was the right thing to do. And for that, I am grateful.

"I wish Governor Inos and Lieutenant Governor Hofschneider the best as they take on their new positions. And I give them my personal assurance that I will help where I can."

19 February 2013

Marshall Islands draws attention of climate change as threat to international peace and security

RMI To UN, Climate Change Is ‘Security Issue’

Minister deBrum hopes appeal to Security Council is convincing

MAJURO, Marshall Islands (Yokwe, Feb. 15, 2013) – The Security Council should consider climate change as a threat to international peace and security, particularly for such low-lying nations as the Marshall Islands whose "very existence" was at risk, a Government minister from that country said at a Headquarters press conference today. "This organization [the Council] that we put faith in to provide the security of our country is saying that that is not a security matter," said Tony deBrum, Minister in Assistance to the President of the Marshall Islands, as he briefed journalists on today’s so-called "Arria Formula" meeting on security implications of climate change.

Initiated in 1992 by Ambassador Diego Arria, the representative of Venezuela on the Security Council, such informal gatherings do not constitute an activity of the Council and are convened at the initiative of a member or members of the Council.

Mr. deBrum said he had participated as a panelist and reminded the Council that 35 years ago, he had come to the United Nations to petition for the independence of the Marshall Islands. Between 1976 and 1986, his delegation had annually visited the United Nations. In 1986, the Security Council finally approved the termination of the trusteeship and the establishment of an independent Government for the Marshall Islands, he added.

"We are very grateful for that, but it is hard to be excited about the independent Government seeking prosperity, progress and good life for its people to be faced with the situation where its very existence is threatened through climate change," he said.

"It seems ironic that the very same agency whose approval was needed for my country to become a country again would consider my coming back to ask for help […] is not relevant to their work," he said. There was no outcome document or a running record from that meeting, but he expected that his appeal had convinced some or more of the participants that climate change "is in fact a security issue, not just an economic/social/political issue".

When asked which countries opposed treating climate change as the Council’s prerogative, he said China, Russian Federation and Guatemala were among them. "Surprisingly", the "Group of 77" developing countries and China, of which the Marshall Islands was a member, had taken a position that the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was the appropriate venue for deliberations on that issue. That revealed that "many of our own friends throughout the world do not realize the urgency of the problem," he said.

Describing the situation, he said rising tides had started severely impacting the islands, with roads inundated every 14 days in keeping with the moon cycle. In southern parts of the nation, where there used to be a military base in the Second World War, ordnances were being exposed by the tides, presenting a clear danger to the life and welfare of people there. Even the nation’s capital was required to ration water. In the northern part, emergency kits for making drinking water were being distributed as well water was inundated with salt.

"It became unsuitable for human consumption, and dangerous even to our staple food and citrus," he said. He said he was not predicting a looming crisis — it was already happening, affecting not just his own country but also Kiribati, Tuvalu and some of the other low-lying islands of the Pacific. He hoped that "logic will prevail and people see it as a just cause".

In September, there will be a Pacific Islands Forum meeting to be held in his country, he said. He wished to invite the most significant players in the politics of climate change to visit the Marshall Islands to see the situation first hand. "We are not just sitting under coconut trees and waiting for coconuts to fall," he said, stressing the need for proactive measures.

To an inquiry about Palau’s bid to bring the climate change issue before the International Court of Justice as a security and human rights violation, he said it was an interesting effort, but was not moving anywhere.

18 February 2013

Statia civil society organisations petition for political status referendum on options of full political equality

Present partially integrated status of 'public entity' is seen as insufficient for the island's future evolution.

Daily Herald
ST. EUSTATIUS--Brighter Path Foundation, Statia Roots Foundation and St. Eustatius Awareness and Development Movement have joined forces to petition the Island Government of St. Eustatius to organize a constitutional referendum before the evaluation of the island's public-entity status in 2015.
In the early 1990s, there were discussions within the former Netherlands Antilles regarding the constitutional future of the country. Referendums were then held on all five islands of the former Netherlands Antilles. The people of St. Eustatius opted to remain in the Netherlands Antilles.

However, discussions among the islands flared up once again, as the intended restructuring of the Netherlands Antilles did not take place. St. Maarten was the first to have its referendum in June 2000, which sparked the other islands to also have their referendum in 2005.
Voters in Statia again chose to maintain in The Netherlands Antilles. However, due to the fact that Statia was the only island that opted to remain within the Netherlands Antilles -a choice viewed by many as impossible- it was decided that Statia also would have direct constitutional ties with The Netherlands, as Saba and Bonaire had opted for.
The people of Statia did not have the opportunity to freely decide if they were in favour of direct constitutional ties with the Netherlands, the petitioners for a referendum stated in a press release.
To substantiate the need for a constitutional referendum, at least 1.5 per cent of the local population was recently interviewed regarding the status change. According to the preliminary results, two per cent of those surveyed indicated they would opt for the current status of public entity. Five per cent of those surveyed indicated that they would opt for full integration, while 29 per cent of those surveyed would opt for a country within the Dutch Kingdom. Eight per cent of those surveyed would opt for independence; 28 per cent of those surveyed indicated that they do not have enough information to make a conscious choice and 11 per cent of those surveyed would opt for another status, which was not defined in the survey, it was stated.
"In light of the abovementioned results, we have decided to petition the local government of St. Eustatius to organize a constitutional referendum. In addition to this, various constitutional experts have indicated that, due to the planned anchoring of the public-entity status within the Dutch constitution, the possibility exists that during the evaluation of the island's public-entity status in 2015, there might be but two constitutional options to choose from, namely to maintain the current status or become fully integrated within The Netherlands. We therefore believe that the time for action is now," stated Brighter Path Foundation President Xiomara Balentina.
Integration with full political rights, independence and free association are the three legitimate alternatives which constitute the internationally-recognized options of political equality under the United Nations' General Assembly Resolution 1541 (XV). These options should be among the choices for the people of Statia to vote upon during a constitutional referendum, the proponents of a referendum stated.
Statians who want to support the call for a referendum can sign an online petition to be found at www.change.org/organizations/the_statian_community. The online petition can also be accessed via the How do you know you are a Statian Facebook page. The petition can also be signed at Lyn's Dream bakery and Peso's Supermarket.

 Also see: http://www.change.org

17 February 2013

New Caledonia FLNKS opens office at Melanesian Spearhead Group Office Headquarters

Vanuatu Daily Post
FLNKS delegation members grateful for realization of goal

PORT VILA, Vanuatu – Members of the Front de Liberation Nationale Kanak Socialiste (FLNKS) Political Bureau of New Caledonia, the Kanak Community from Vanuatu and New Caledonia and the staff of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) Secretariat witnessed the official Opening of the FLNKS Unit at the MSG Secretariat headquarters in Port Vila, Vanuatu by the Spokesperson of the FLNKS to the MSG, Mr. Victor Tutugoro and the Director General of the MSG Secretariat, Mr. Peter Forau last Tuesday.

Mr. Forau explained among other functions this Unit will allow the MSG Secretariat to provide policy advice on political developments in Kanaky/New Caledonia; monitor the implementation of the Noumea Accord; liaise with the FLNKS Political Bureau on MSG issues; coordinate and manage MSG constituent body meetings on FLNKS matters; manage high level technical and Ministerial Missions to New Caledonia; and network with member governments in developing work programs and other activities requiring participation by FLNKS officials.

It will also pave the way for some Kanaks to participate in the secondment program at the Secretariat and in member countries.

In response, the FLNKS representatives with great emotion expressed joy and happiness over the realization of the having a unit within the MSG Secretariat specifically to further work towards the full emancipation of the Kanak people.

Mr. Roch Wamytan, 1st Vice President of the Congress of New Caledonia who witnessed the unveiling of the new office at the MSG Secretariat stated that this gesture by the Leaders and the MSG Secretariat demonstrates the support by our MSG member countries and Secretariat.

"This is a test of our historical link and solidarity of our Melanesia and we thank the Leaders of the MSG and the Secretariat on behalf of the Kanak people," said Mr. Wamytan.

MSG DG Forau hailed the opening of the FLNKS unit a proud moment for Leaders and the membership of the MSG as the grouping continues to show its continuous partnership with the FLNKS.

He said the history of FLNKS joining MSG began with the formation of the organization which was established for the sole purpose of helping the Kanaks in their quest for political emancipation.

Consequently, the FLNKS joined the MSG. The second major development for FLNKS was when the MSG Secretariat recruited two Kanaks to work at the Secretariat, Mr. Jimmy Naouna and Ms. Rose Wete.

The Unit is manned by the FLNKS Political Officer, Mr. Naouna and located within the Governance and Sustainable Development Division of the Secretariat.

The MSG DG said the third major development for the MSG membership and FLNKS was through the raising of the FLNKS flags at all MSG Capitals at all MSG Leaders’ Summit, Foreign Ministers Meetings (FMM) and Senior Officials Meetings (SOM).

He said this visibility by the members of the MSG reflects the determination and support the members have for the full emancipation of the Kanak people, adding the formal opening of the Unit follows a decision by the MSG Special Leaders’ Summit in August 2012 to formally establish the Unit which was set up immediately in September 2012.

The FLNKS Unit is fully funded by contributions from member countries including additional assistance by the Government of the Independent State of Papua New Guinea (PNG) through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) currently being finalized by the Secretariat and the PNG Government. The assistance will include AU$300,000 [US$312,300] for the Unit as well as provision of scholarships for young Kanaks to study in PNG; job attachments for Kanaks in the PNG Public Service and training for Kanaks in the PNG Public Service and Mining Sector.

The immediate priority for the Unit is to organize a joint United Nations/MSG Officials Mission to New Caledonia in 2013 and through the Government of New Caledonia, facilitating a meeting with UN Regional agencies based in the region.

15 February 2013

Caribbean Rum Wars: Brewing Tax Battle Stirs Frustration With U.S.

By Larry Luxner

Photo: Lawrence Ruggeri
Caribbean ambassadors to the United States sat down with The Washington Diplomat at the Embassy of Trinidad and Tobago to discuss an ongoing row with Washington over rum. Pictured from top row left are Duly Brutus, permanent representative of Haiti to the Organization of American States; Ambassadors Deborah Mae Lovell of Antigua and Barbuda, Paul Altidor of Haiti, Sonia M. Johnny of St. Lucia, Hubert Charles of Dominica, Jacinth Lorna Henry-Martin of St. Kitts and Nevis, Nestor Mendez of Belize, La Celia A. Prince of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and from bottom row left, Bayney Karran of Guyana, Stephen Vasciannie of Jamaica, Neil Parsan of Trinidad and Tobago, Anibal de Castro of the Dominican Republic, and John Beale of Barbados.

Arguing about who bottles the best rum in the Caribbean is sort of like debating which country produces the tastiest gourmet coffee, or who exports the finest cigars.
Ever since the 17th century, when slaves on West Indies sugar plantations began fermenting molasses into rum, connoisseurs have pondered that question — with modern contenders for the "best rum" title ranging from Jamaica's award-winning Appleton Estate and Haiti's legendary Rhum Barbancourt to pricey Mount Gay Rum from Barbados and the three Bs of the Dominican Republic: Bermudez, Brugal and Barceló.
Within the 15-member Caribbean Community (CARICOM), however, few would dispute the biggest threat facing the rum industry today: Washington's generous excise-tax rebates that are used to subsidize rum production in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Read full article here.


14 February 2013

French Polynesia re-inscription on United Nations agenda

United Nations General Assembly
 Sixty-seventh session
Agenda item 60

Implementation of the Declaration
 on the
Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries
and Peoples

United Nations A/67/L.56
General Assembly Distr.: Limited
7 February 2013
Original: English

The General Assembly,

Recalling the Charter of the United Nations, its resolution 1514 (XV) of 14 December 1960 containing the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples and its resolution 1541 (XV) of 15 December 1960,

Taking into account articles 3 and 4 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples[1] regarding the right of self-determination and the recommendation of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues at its eleventh session on the implementation of basic fundamental human rights articulated in the Declaration, particularly the right to self-determination,[2]

Taking note of the resolution of the Assembly of French Polynesia, adopted in Papeete, Tahiti, on 18 August 2011, in which it expressed its will that French Polynesia be reinscribed on the United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories, and the decision taken by the Council of Ministers of the Government of French Polynesia on 15 June 2011 to call for the reinscription,

Welcoming the decision of the Heads of State or Government of Pacific States taken at the second “Engaging with the Pacific” regional meeting, held in Nadi, Fiji, on 1 and 2 September 2011, to support the reinscription of French Polynesia on the United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories,

Taking note of the communiqué of the second Polynesian Leaders Group meeting, held in Rarotonga, Cook Islands, on 25 August 2012, in which the Group affirmed its support for the reinscription of French Polynesia on the United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories,

Welcoming the decisions of the Pacific Islands Forum, taken at its meetings held in Apia, Samoa, from 5 to 7 August 2004, Auckland, New Zealand, on 7 and 8 September 2011, and Rarotonga, Cook Islands, from 28 to 30 August 2012, to support the principle of the right to self-determination of the people of French Polynesia,

Welcoming also the Final Document of the sixteenth Conference of Heads of State or Government of Non-Aligned countries, held in Tehran from 26 to 31 August 2012,[3] affirming the inalienable right of the people of French Polynesia to self‑determination in accordance with Chapter XI of the Charter of the United Nations and General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV),

Noting that since 1977, successive unilateral changes made by the administering Power to the political status of the territory of French Polynesia have failed to provide for a full measure of self-government in accordance with the Charter and have been inconsistent with sustainable social and economic development,

Recalling that French Polynesia, as the former French Establishments in Oceania, was originally considered a Non-Self-Governing Territory in General Assembly resolution 66 (I) of 14 December 1946 but was unilaterally withdrawn from the list without regard for the resolution or consultation with the indigenous Ma’ohi people,

1. Affirms the inalienable right of the people of French Polynesia to self‑determination, including independence, in accordance with Chapter XI of the Charter of the United Nations and General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV), recognizes that French Polynesia remains a Non-Self-Governing Territory within the meaning of the Charter, and declares that an obligation exists under Article 73 e of the Charter on the part of the Government of France, as the administering Power of the Territory, to transmit information on French Polynesia;

2. Decides to reinscribe French Polynesia on the United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories;

3. Requests the Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples to consider the question of French Polynesia at its next session and to report thereon to the General Assembly at its sixty-eighth session;

4. Calls upon the Government of France to intensify its dialogue with French Polynesia in order to finalize an accord of cooperation and to include, inter alia, a fair and effective self-determination process, under which the terms and timelines for an act of self-determination will be established, followed by the establishment of a cooperation framework in order to achieve sustainable social and economic development consistent with Article 73 d of the Charter;

5. Requests the Secretary-General to seek the views of Member States, regional organizations and other relevant entities and to report to the General Assembly on the implementation of the present resolution at its sixty-eighth session.

[1] Resolution 61/295, annex.
[2] E/2012/43, para. 39.
[3] A/67/506-S/2012/752, annex I.

State of the Island Address - Governor Eddie Baza Calvo of Guam


Madam Speaker, Mr. Chief Justice, Archbishop Apuron, senators and mayors, distinguished guests, and most importantly, my fellow Guamanians,

The halfway mark: Our promises, and where we are today.

Tonight is a halfway mark where you get to grade me… not on what I say tonight, but on what we’ve done as a team. This is a midterm review of the promises Ray and I made to you, and where we are today.

The state of the island is in a new era of ascendancy
The state of the island is in a new era of ascendancy… finally making the long climb out of the valley and toward the heights. The stir within Guamanians is building, and requires our continued commitment to excellence.

Excellence v. mediocrity

 This drive toward excellence is perhaps what distinguishes the last two years. In the midst of everything that is happening… it can be very easy to forget the dismal state of our beginnings.

In the last two decades, how commonplace has it been to accept that our roads wouldn’t be paved? Or that tax refunds wouldn’t be paid for years? Or that corruption was just part of the game? Or that growing poverty was simply our lot in life?

When I look into the eyes of your children, I see 4,000 years of greatness… abandoned only for the past two decades by an immoral mediocrity that we could not accept. We are committed to making commonplace what was once considered extraordinary. It’s funny that we’ve celebrated the payment of refunds, transparency in your government, building of infrastructure. This is what you pay for! This is what you hired us to do! Yet, this has not been the story until recently.

Read full State of the Island Address here.

13 February 2013

Cook Islands Negotiating Extension To Marine Boundaries

Radio New Zealand International

Expansion could lead to huge revenues 
from seabed mining rights

The Cook Islands has sent a delegation to the United Nations in New York to negotiate an extension of the country’s continental shelf, which would give it seabed mining rights potentially worth millions. The delegation headed by Foreign Affairs secretary Jim Gosselin will present the application to the UN authority on seabed exploration.

The Foreign Minister, Tom Marsters, says the Cook Islands first presented its case in 2009 and this will be the third visit to the authority.

If successful, it will add over 400,000 square kilometers of continental shelf, which could eventually be mined.

"Basically what we’re looking at is the future possibility of prospecting for deep sea minerals where at the moment we are basically asking for an extension of the continental shelf which extends beyond our exclusive economic zone (EEZ)."

Tom Marsters says they don’t expect any challenges to their application and is hopeful it will be the last time they have to present their case to the authority.

12 February 2013

Value added tax not suitable for Turks & Caicos Islands - expert

House of Assembly votes to repeal VAT.

 British Governor hints he may ignore the decision of elected government and enact VAT anyway.

by Nanessa Narine

VAT Not Suited For Turks and Caicos Islands - Expert Warns Against New Tax Regime

THE initial report on the effects of Value Added Tax (VAT), a study commissioned by the Turks and Caicos Independent Business Council (TCIBC) was leaked this week. Author, Richard Teather, warned that VAT is a "notoriously complex tax” and one that is not well suited to small island economies such as the TCI.

The report titled ‘VAT and the TCI an independent appraisal’ looks at the suitability of a VAT for the TCI and examines whether it would be better or worse than the range of current taxes that it is proposed to replace. It notes clearly that VAT is not expected to raise significant extra revenue, but merely to replace the revenue from those other taxes.

The report found that because VAT is charged on all (or nearly all) business transactions, but then is refunded to business customers, it is expected to be more administratively complex and expensive to operate than the simple, targeted taxes that it will replace.

In addition it will not tax any significant sectors of the TCI economy that are not already being taxed under import duties or other existing taxes (primarily the Accommodation Tax, the Communications Tax and the new Energy and Water Taxes).

Those sectors that are not currently taxed are either unsuited to VAT (financial services, government services) or are largely business services, so any VAT collected from the sector would be largely refunded to its business customers.

Teather maintained that VAT would be expected to increase administrative costs without spreading tax across any significant sectors that are currently untaxed.

He said, "VAT is a notoriously complex tax, and although some VATs are more complex than others a certain degree of complexity is unavoidable because tax is collected from every business and also refunded to every business within the system.

"To put this in perspective, the cost for the UK government of administering VAT is (for each pound collected) similar to the cost of corporation tax, and over twice the cost of collecting social security contributions.

"The costs of VAT administration for businesses are more difficult to measure, although one study by the UK Parliament found estimates that for small businesses the cost of VAT compliance was almost 1.5 per cent of turnover (that is merely the administrative costs, not the costs of the VAT itself), and that small businesses spent an average of 1.8 hours per week dealing with VAT administration.”


The report has debunked the reasoning pedalled by the Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Hugh McGarel Groves, in favour of implementing the new tax regime.

Last October, the CFO noted that the overall position is that VAT is a replacement tax intended to be revenue neutral with any cost rises kept to a minimum – hence the extensive list of exempt and zero-rated items. 

McGarel-Groves said VAT’s purpose is to provide the Government with a more stable and predictable income stream with which to better support spending priorities.

Earlier in June, he stressed that TCIG is not aiming to raise more revenue overall from VAT.

He said, "This is all about widening the tax base, creating more stability in government revenues and a fairer tax system, with no concessions offered on VAT and reduced import duty concessions (by reducing import duty rates).

"TCIG’s forward financial projections are showing an increase in TCIG's annual revenues post VAT implementation of $10m due to improved compliance and reduced tax leakage. Existing honest taxpayers would not be contributing to this extra $10m.”

McGarel-Groves maintained that there are benefits of VAT to a renewed TCI economy.

 According to Teather, no small island country had VAT until 1989, and it was long thought that they were unsuited to it. He stated that this is because of a combination of two reasons.

Firstly in a small country, the costs of implementing a VAT system can be disproportionately high.

And in a small island economy, a high proportion of the economy is based on imports, which can be taxed by means of much simpler import duties, and with proportionately very little domestic value-added business that needs to be taxed by way of a VAT.

The tax expert said, "The natural and logical way to tax consumption in such economies would therefore be by way of import duties; they are easy to operate and relatively cheap to collect, and in a typical small island economy with relatively little domestic production a well-designed import duty combined with a few specific taxes will tax almost all consumption.”

The report noted that the biggest effect on consumers will be felt in the retail sector, as prices are increased by VAT.

It said, "It has been said that the effect will be minimal, because import duties will be reduced by a similar amount to the VAT rate.

"However this misses the crucial distinction between import duties and VAT; import duties are charged on the import value, whereas VAT is charged on the resale value. It is that difference that will make the cost to the consumer of VAT much higher than import duties.

"Retailers need to add an uplift to cover the costs of distribution and the various costs of operating, heating, lighting and staffing their stores, and so retail costs are typically a multiple of the raw cost of goods.

"There will also be VAT on locally produced goods, and on services. Although the overall effect on the economy and VAT revenues from these will not be great (see below), the impact on individual businesses and consumers will be greater.

"However the impact on locally produced goods and services will depend on which producers are large enough to be over the VAT threshold and so liable to charge VAT.

"Without that information, modelling the effect of VAT on different groups of consumers will be impossible.”


Teather addressed the efficiency of the proposed new model, pointing out that it is not that a VAT cannot be implemented in a small island economy, but whether or not it would be efficient.

He said, "The main reason for the adoption of VAT by small island nations is external pressure to reduce import duties, rather than because VAT has advantages in itself for such islands.

"The growing trend in international trade is for compulsory reduction in import duties, whether via global trading groups such as the World Trade Organisation or regional bodies such as the European Union.

"In the case of small island countries, many have adopted or are considering adopting VAT because of regional international trade agreements such as the Pacific Islands Countries Trade Agreement (PICTA) and the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER).

"In other cases, the small island’s proximity to an international trading bloc has forced it to adopt their import duty reduction programmes.”

However, the report noted too that even though some international agencies, like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) are wholly supportive of VAT, it is not necessarily in favour of VAT for small island nations.

Teather quoted the Deputy Director of the Fiscal Affairs Department of the IMF, Michael Keen, as saying, "The suitability of the VAT for small countries, and for small islands in particular, is an issue that arises with increasing frequency.”

The tax expert pointed out that whilst some Caribbean jurisdictions have indeed adopted a VAT, notably Grenada and Belize, have tried a VAT only to later abandon it.

Teather said, "Overall the expectation is that a VAT is likely to increase administrative costs for both government and business, because a few simple taxes will be replaced by a more complex one. On the revenue side, the analysis of the TCI economy suggests that additional revenues will be small.”

He made it clear that the existing taxes are few and simple.
The tax expert’s final report is expected to be made public soon.

TCI News Now

Assembly votes to repeal VAT

(L-R) Premier Rufus Ewing and opposition leader
Sharlene Cartwright Robinson

In a rare display of bi-partisanship, the TCI House of Assembly voted on Friday to repeal the controversial value added tax (VAT) legislation, due to take effect on April 1. The final vote was 16 in support of VAT repeal and 2 opposed.

The news of the vote prompted an immediate and pointed repsonse by Governor Ric Todd emphasising the constitutional requirement that the governor must assent to a bill for it to become law in the TCI.

“I have been informed about the decision of the House of Assembly today on the Turks and Caicos Islands Value Added Tax (Repeal) Bill 2013. Section 73 of the Turks and Caicos Islands Constitution Order 2011 sets out the procedure under which a bill becomes law. I intend to discuss this matter with my colleagues in Cabinet on Wednesday, 6 February 2013,” Todd said.

The repeal of VAT was introduced as a private member’s motion by leader of the opposition Sharlene Cartwright Robinson, who gave what nearly every member acknowledged was a stirring speech in support.

Premier Rufus Ewing seconded the motion and spoke primarily about his government’s inability to do what he called the will of the people. “This is not democracy,” he said.

This was the approach taken by elected and appointed members of the ruling Progressive National Party (PNP) who rose to support the repeal. Their argument was that VAT would increase the cost of living and was not appropriate for the TCI. 

Mentioned only by one member was the ostensible reason for the tax -- the pay down of the $260 million loan guaranteed by Britain. This was later picked up by the member from South Caicos Norman Saunders, who said in his opinion the loan only needed to be $130 million. 

The governor’s appointed member Lillian Misick spoke out strongly, saying that the premier’s arguments that democracy was not in force were flawed. 

In responding to an assertion by Ewing that VAT was not legitimately enacted, in part, because it did not pass in the Consultative Forum with a majority vote, Misick, the former Forum chair, said, "He is wrong. VAT was in fact passed with a majority vote, which means that the premier is also wrong in saying that the governor ignored the advice of the members of the Forum."

Misick also reminded the premier and the opposition leader that the new TCI constitution vests in the governor a prerogative to ignore not just the advice of his government, but any law enacted by it. 

"Tthroughout the entire three years of the interim administration our local political leaders did little more than mislead our people with promises to do things they knew they had no authority or power to do," she said.

After the lunch break, the members of opposition expressed their support of the repeal. One member asked why he had not heard from the government members what alternatives they were proposing to VAT. The members spoke of the numerous studies and reports, some from high level persons from the UK, all of which had recommended against the new tax.

Late in the debate, the government’s minister of finance Washington Misick spoke at length against the tax on the basis that the tax had been imposed by Britain. He spoke out against the interim government and then listed his alternatives to the VAT tax, which basically were a one percent increase in the accommodation tax and a tax imposed on tourists involved in water-sports activities. This was a repeat of what Misick had announced earlier. In fact, he repeated his warning that the repeal of VAT will not be readily accepted by Britain and he was ready to submit to firing or prosecutions. 

“We may have to engage in civil disobedience,” he said.

No one from either side of the house spoke of cutting spending to create a budget surplus. However, the cost of the National Health Insurance Plan was mentioned by three opposition members.

One of the last members to speak was former chief minister Derek Taylor, who reminded Washington Misick that when Misick was chief minister he had to engage in redundancies to balance his budget. 

“This resulted in our leadership of the government in 1995 until 2003 a period when we expanded the economy,” said Taylor.

VAT was approved by the then Consultative Forum and signed into law in July last year.

Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has rejected all attempts by the recently elected PNP government to defer its implementation for at least six months, unless or until a viable alternative to VAT is proposed.

VAT has been embraced by the FCO as the way out of the financial difficulties facing the TCI. Massive malfeasance in office and systemic corruption on the part of the former PNP government, coupled with debts and liabilities associated with the National Health Insurance Plan and two new hospital buildings, left the TCI some half billion dollars in debt, requiring Britain to guarantee a $260 million loan to prevent default and bankruptcy.

Chief financial officer Hugh McGarel-Groves believes that VAT is the only way to bring the government from yearly deficits or break even to a surplus, which will not only cover the health costs but also service the remainder of the debts.

However, McGarel-Groves has admitted VAT may raise the prices of taxable items by 3 to 4 percent. The politicians believe the costs to islanders will be much higher.

Brianca Johnson

The House of Assembly vote places the people of the TCI head to head with the FCO.



The House of Assembly vote places the people of the TCI head to head with the powers of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (“FCO”) and brute force.

There is more than sufficient evidence to conclude that VAT is designed to destroy the TCI’s economy. The recent resolve of the parliament of the TCI to unanimously vote across party lines to denounce VAT is to be encouraged and has made the elected chamber more relevant in the TCI that it has ever been in recent times. This powerful vote cannot be regarded as ‘symbolic’ because it places the people of the TCI head to head with the powers of the FCO and toe to toe with those ‘powers’ behind the throne that seek to exploit our wealth and taxes.


The intellectual debate forming against VAT is a valid reaction to the invasion of constitutional force from the Governor’s office. Yet through this all a valid debate is forming. It is like we have been invaded and conquered “again” by the Romans, our country under siege and the conquerors for no valid reason have decided that we will pay for this conquest through higher taxes.

It is suggested that this conquest began well before the commission of enquiry, when the FCO tacitly and openly supported waste, theft and corruption while stating there was no evidence otherwise. Their support of the hospital deal and the $260 million aspect of this siege and taking of our taxes to pay for “this debt” mounted through the FCO condoning what was wrong. The new constitution gives them brute force in taking our monies to pay for these past and present misdeeds.

In all of this a pretext has been created for what they call a “steady and consistent supply of revenue” to pay for debt created by condoning and the blessing of all that was corrupt. The debate that has formed is valid and must continue. Yet there is no clearer clarion call for commonsense than the letter written by Jerzy Kolodziej in making the case that the planning for VAT and the disclosure of documents was half hearted and weak on the part of the chief financial officer (CFO).

“…. I would like to refer to the recent request for documents from the Appropriations Committee. The CFO refused to provide the documents in support of VAT. His claim was that they are confidential! Only after being informed that he could not lawfully conceal them, did he make a half hearted attempt and produced just two documents. These documents did not provide anything further than the reasoning that I have already mentioned. 

Those documents did state reliance on another report, the Roe Report 2010. However, the Roe report does not recommend VAT as the only option. It also suggests that the existing taxation system might be the best option. 

Hardly a definitive case. The Roe report did not evaluate the performance of VAT in the TCI. Clearly, no-one has! What is becoming certain is the arbitrary nature of the decision. A reckless and irrational decision that was taken by unelected officials on flimsy or non-existent evidence.” Courtesy of the tcijournal.com
VAT will only destroy the TCI and further impair our ability to grow out of debt. It will discourage foreign investment and make the possibility of economic expansion far less. Ironically it is only through expanding our economy through greater investment incentives that will lead us out of this debt. Whilst no one wants to debate how we got into this debt and the causes such as the hospital deal, the only way we can get out of it is through seeking legal remedies to remove the hospital deal and resulting debt.

Today the government and opposition elected officials are to be congratulated but the CFO, the Governor and the FCO cannot be let off scot free. Their careers and ability to destroy small island developing countries through ill thought out schemes must end. The bungling of TCI tax reform should follow them wherever they go. They cannot be allowed to rely on introducing VAT and using that as a stepping stone to career advancement.

More than anything else, we are being lied to by the Governor, CFO and FCO. The only evidence they have on VAT is that it will surely kill TCI’s economy. Yet why do they insist and persist?
Mr Kolodziej states that: “Throughout this sorry affair the Governor and the CFO had been claiming that the justification for the decision were contained in these secret documents. Therefore the case for VAT has been predicated the most vulgar mistruths and dishonesty. To call this lie, this manipulation, this perversion of good governance, is wrong in your opinion. But if this matter were allowed to pass without contest what future is there? “


Mr CFO and Governor, you have taken it onto yourselves in the Constitution to do as you like. But is this a valid and legitimate exercise of these powers and as such simply to use them in brute force? I say no. In sum the vote by the TCI people, through their elected representatives, is a valid expression of “how we all feel” and it must be used as a tool to undermine the improper and invalid use of brute force in the TCI Constitution to make us all pay higher and for no valid reason.

The debate from the private sector, the Providenciales Chamber of Commerce, the TCI Business Council and the community all are in sync with this powerfully valid vote by the people of the TCI. We do not want VAT and it can destroy us. In sum this is the reality of the anti VAT debate.

Also see:

A View From the Mud Hole: Is Democracy Dead or Alive in the TCI reference VAT?