30 May 2013

French Polynesia discussed at United Nations Decolonization Seminar

Statement by Hon. Richard, Ariihau TUHEIAVA
(Senator for French Polynesia)

 Caribbean Regional Seminar on the Implementation of the Third International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism

United Nations Special Committee on Decolonization 

"Question of French Polynesia"

28-30 May 2013

 Mr. Chairman, Your Excellency Ambassador Diego Morejon-Pazmiño of the Republic of Ecuador

 Representatives of U.N. member states,

Distinguished representatives of non-self-governing territories, and members of this Seminar,

Ladies and gentlemen,

 I am Richard Tuheiava, elected member of French Polynesia in the French Senate, and also elected member of the House of Assembly of French Polynesia from the Group "Union for Democracy" (UPLD). It is indeed my priviledge, on behalf of the UPLD political alliance led by the Hon. Oscar, Manutahi TEMARU, to extend best wishes to the distinguished participants of this regional seminar and to acknowledge, through you Mr. Chairman, the hospitality and the solid dedication of the Government of the Republic of Ecuador to the main subject of this event : decolonization.

            Mr. Chairman,
At the outset, I wish to reiterate our deepest appreciation to the General Assembly of the United Nations for the adoption of the consensus resolution on 17th March 2013 providing for the re-inscription of the territory on the U.N. list of non self-governing territories. This singular act was achieved after over two years of intense discussions between our delegates from Tahiti and member States. The resolution A/67/L.56/Rev.1 entitled "Self Determination of French Polynesia" was adopted some 35 years after the Hon. Oscar Temaru, President of the Tavini Huiraatira-FLP Independence Party, began the long journey to achieve re-inscription.

In this regards, I had the pleasure to be advised yesterday that the reference code of the General Assembly resolution regarding French Polynesia's re-inscription on the U.N. List of non Self-governing territories is definitely A/RES/67/265.

The resumed international oversight of the self-determination process of French Polynesia has finally came after the unilateral de-listing, without a General Assembly resolution, of both New Caledonia and French Polynesia from the U.N. list back in 1947. The General Assembly corrected the omission from the list of New Caledonia in 1986 with its adoption of resolution 41/41 of that year. It is only in 2013 that the omission was then corrected for French Polynesia. 

In this connection, it is to be emphasized that the General Assembly has repeatedly reaffirmed that it is within the purview of the Assembly alone to determine whether a territory is non self-governing within the scope of the U.N. Charter. It was never meant that such a decision was to be made by the administering power alone, despite their protestations. That would be a classic conflict of interest and contrary to the meaning of the U.N. Charter.
   Mr. Chairman,

It must be borne in mind that the genuine act of self-determination for the Ma’ohi people of French Polynesia is consistent with relevant international instruments, in particular the International Covenant on Civil and Political rights; the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; and the U.N. Charter itself. It is also important to emphasize the relevance of the U.N. Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, in particular the few provisions related to their self-determination.

In this connection, the Noumea Accord back in 1998, which governs the self-determination process of New Caledonia formally, recognizes the rights of the Kanak people in determining the political future of the territory through realistic voter eligibility criteria for participation in the process. It means that not all the current inhabitants of New Caledonia are qualified to vote the upcoming self determination referendum in New Caledonia planned in 2014 or 2018. The European Court of Human Rights has confirmed the legality of this criterion in January 2005.

Accordingly, I wish to emphasize three points:

First: if the process is to proceed to a genuine act of self-determination exercised by the Ma'ohi people of French Polynesia, in the light of resolution 67/265, such eligibility criteria must be also employed in French Polynesia, as it has been in the case in New Caledonia, and not unduly influenced by the participation of recent settlers whose right to self-determination had long been exercised in Europe.

Mr. Chairman, allow me to strongly state that such eligibility criteria in French Polynesia is critical for the achievement of a fair and equitable self determination process to take place in my Country, should this criteria be set in parallel with the implementation of a Polynesian citizenship.

Second, I would like to stress the concern of the uncertainty of the legal status of the indigenous People of French Polynesia by virtue of the French Constitution. Before the revision of the French Constitution in March 2003, all inhabitants of the French overseas territories were constitutionally called "Peoples", regardless of the status of their territories (French overseas departments, or French overseas territories). Since this revision, the language "Peoples" was replaced by "populations" without any local consultation. The purpose was for France to prevent itself from any recognized precedent after the due adoption of a specific chapter within the French Constitution in 1999 on the issue of New Caledonia (in particular, the recognition of the indigeneity of the Kanak people), and for France to preserve itself from the legal perspectives of ratifying the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples in September 2007.

 In this regard, the proper implementation of the resolution 67/265 on French Polynesia requires to clearly lift this legal uncertainty and to allow the due recognition of the Mā´ohi People as the indigenous People of this non self-governing territory.

Third, I wish to point out that the mandate of the General Assembly on the decolonization of French Polynesia can only be achieved through the development of an authentic political education programme on the legitimate options of political equality with direct support of the United Nations in all stages of the process. Indeed, the mindset of peoples of such former colonies is not prepared for quick political and economic shifts, unless sufficient time is allowed, educational assistance is provided and specific economic and social measures are achieved locally, prior to the Self determination referendum.

Mr. Chairman,

I emphasized these three points in the context of the recent advocacy by the recently elected territorial government of French Polynesia, in early May 2013, that the French expedite the organization of a self determination referendum in the territory designed to legitimize the status quo territorial arrangements – and with the deliberate inclusion of French or European settlers. This is an unacceptably distorted process, and is radically inconsistent with the established and internationally recognized precedents for the self-determination of New Caledonia.

Such recognized precedents include :

1. the conduct of a genuine political education program with direct U.N. support;

2. the setting of a reasonable eligibility criteria to vote the self-determination referendum

3. the achievement of selected legal, economical and social measures locally and prior to the referendum.

Accordingly, we ask that the Special Committee on Decolonization to pay very close attention to post-reinscription developments in French Polynesia. Because the opportunity is offered for the very first time before the Special Committee of Decolonization, please allow me, Mr. Chairman, to provide you a quick overall view of the selected measures to be necessarily achieved before a self-determination referendum would take place in French Polynesia:

·  creation and implementation of a Polynesian citizenship, in parallel with the setting of a reasonable eligibility criteria to vote the self-determination referendum,

·   local electoral system, to be revised,

· Fair and equitable compensation of the health and environmental consequences of the French nuclear testings in French Polynesia,

· legal competency on deep-sea or terrestrial strategic minerals within the Economic Exclusive Zone of French Polynesia,

·  positive labour discrimination in favour of locals, to be set,

·   land tenure and division, to be revised,

·   legal competency on control of immigration, and visas deliveries for non EU citizens,

·  legal recognition of the Tahitian language as second official one in French Polynesia,

·    legal system of the communes of French Polynesia, to be fully revised according to the geographical, demographical and financial constraints,

·  full-recognition of the legislative status of the Laws voted by the House of Assembly of French Polynesia,

Before concluding this statement, Mr. Chairman, I wish to point to the nature of the so-called “autonomous” status of French Polynesia.  In the absence of U.N. oversight of our political and economic evolution for over 66 years, a particular type of unilateral authority by the administering power emerged through changes in the French Constitution and the creation of various French “autonomy statutes” – all of which retained the reins of power in Paris.

What was – and is termed – as autonomy, is in fact nothing more that non self-governing territorial status under another name. This is political subterfuge of the first order, and needs to be addressed by the Special Committee in the course of its upcoming session in a few weeks time.

As a preliminary initiative, let me very shortly list you a few provisional items, applicable to the territory of French Polynesia, that would testify its non self-governing status:

· Whereas the provision of article 73 of the U.N. Charter asserts the priority of the interests of the inhabitants of the self-governing territories, beyond those of their administering powers, the current provision of article 74 of the French Constitution under which French Polynesia is placed shows that the particular interests of this French overseas collectivity need to be considered within the French Republic. Therefore, the unilateral authority of the administering power still exists and is subject to political variations.

·  Whereas the proper understanding of the self governing status of a territory, under the U.N. Charter, is that the transfer of the competencies by the administrating powers to its self-govering territory is not reversible, this is not the case of French Polynesia. Indeed, the powers and competencies transferred by the French to the local elected government of French Polynesia are identified and negotiated through a Organic Law that is voted by the French Parliament from Paris. Therefore, the final say remains in the hands of the periodical majority of the French Parliament in Paris, whatever the will of the elected members of French Polynesia would be.

· the constitutional separation of Legislative, Executive powers and Justice is not fully implemented in French Polynesia as the judicial system remains in full control of the administering power, even the designation and turn-over of the judges. The elected members of the institutions of French Polynesia have no say nor control on the Judicial system in this territory.

·  the electoral system applicable to the French overseas collectivity of French Polynesia is fully determined, adopted, controlled and implemented by the administering power. There is absolutely no power of the members of the House of Assembly of French Polynesia, nor the Mayors and Council members of the 48 communes of French Polynesia, to amend or correct the electoral rules under which they have been elected.

· the control and ruling of the foreign immigration - entering and exiting French Polynesia – remains fully in the hands of the administering power.

· the determination of the local currency, which is different from the EU currency, however is not controlled by the local elected government of French Polynesia. The current currency is still named C.F.P., for French Colony in the Pacific.

A relevant assessment of self governance was proceeded to French Polynesia over the past two years and has clearly indicated that the so-called autonomous status of this territory, under the French Constitution, was not consistent with the U.N. self governance indicators that are reflected in numerous General Assembly resolutions.

The adoption by consensus of the resolution 67/265 last 17 May provides now the highest evidence of the non self-governing status of French Polynesia. Now that the General Assembly has paved the way, the Union for Democracy-UPLD is engaging with the Special Committee to achieve, under the auspices and with the support of this U.N. Body, the next step forward, i.e. the achievement of a fair and equitable process of self-determination in favour of the Ma’ohi people of French Polynesia.

We look forward to active participation in your session in the coming weeks at U.N. Headquarters in New York in order to provide further background to our situation, and to make concrete recommendations on the realization of the self-determination of our people.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman

Richard, Ariihau TUHEIAVA
Senator for French Polynesia

Elected member of the Assembly of French Polynesia - UPLD Group

29 May 2013

In United Nations, dark shades of France's Pacific past

By Denise Fisher

Visiting Fellow at ANU's Centre for European Studies. 

The Interpreter - Weblog of the Lowy Institute for International Policy

On 17 May, French Polynesian President Oscar Temaru (pictured below) achieved a long-sought after goal. The UN General Assembly passed a consensus resolution to reinscribe French Polynesia on the UN Committee of Decolonisation's list of non-self governing territories. This means French Polynesia should be treated under UN principles of self-determination, aiming at self-government in one of three forms: sovereign independence, complete integration with a sovereign state, or some form of association with a sovereign state.

France took the unusual step of boycotting the UN General Assembly meeting, and the UK, US, Germany and the Netherlands disassociated themselves from the resolution. All except Germany have overseas territories.

The term 'reinscription' is being used because in 1947, France declined to allow its territories to be seen as non-self governing territories, and would not report on them as the UN charter required. When the UN created a Committee on Decolonisation in 1960, it listed territories under its tutelage, but France continued to refuse to allow its territories to be included.

The relative ease of Temaru's victory, with the support of the three South Pacific island countries that sponsored the resolution (Solomon Islands, Nauru and Tuvalu), was all the more impressive when compared with the public battle, and civil war, that had led to a UN General Assembly resolution reinscribing its sister Pacific territory, New Caledonia, in 1986. Then, France conducted a public campaign for years opposing reinscription. Even after the Resolution was passed, France refused to cooperate with the UN's Decolonization Committee until 2004.

The French have claimed that 'the right to self-determination cannot be exercised against the will of the concerned populations', a reference to a local territorial election in early May, when the pro-France, pro-autonomy parties won power over Temaru's pro-independence group and speedily passed a resolution calling for the UN vote to be postponed. France had headed off a UN resolution until last week on the basis of 'waiting' for that local election to be held. But, as Solomon Islands UN Ambassador Beck has noted, the results of this election must never be equated with a referendum on self-determination. It is an election under the authorisation and statutory provisions of the sovereign power, France.

If France wants the international community to respect local elections, a number of related developments deserve consideration as well. From the time of his election in 2004, Oscar Temaru and his pro-independence government have been frustrated by pro-France machinations. These included even a re-run of the initial election (whichTemaru again won), and perpetual floor-crossings by individual members, resulting in 12 changes in president over the last ten years. And in August 2011, the French Polynesian Territorial Assembly passed a resolution seeking self-determination within UN processes.

France is also being inconsistent with its recent approach to UN processes involving New Caledonia. In 2004, after 60 years of rejecting a UN decolonisation role for New Caledonia, France quietly began submitting reports as Administering Authority of New Caledonia, implicitly subjecting itself to UN decolonisation procedures.

France's position is also puzzling in view of the impressive record it has in New Caledonia, through its negotiation and implementation of the Matignon/Noumea Accords, which themselves provide for a self-determination referendum after 2014. Presumably it is the success of these Accords that led France to comply, finally, with UN decolonisation procedures on New Caledonia.

At a time when France is noting that its Pacific territories make it a maritime power and a factor for stability in the Pacific, France's non-participation in the UN resolution is disappointing and is likely to raise old questions about its intent for its territories and for the region.

Photo by Flickr user Parti socialiste.

27 May 2013

A Conversation on the Challenges to Contemporary Decolonisation

Special to Overseas Territories Review

first published on 08 October 2012

In a comprehensive interview, advisor on governance and multilateral diplomacy Dr. Carlyle G. Corbin discusses the historical evolution of the United Nations decolonization process, the challenges to implementation of the decolonization mandate, and proposals for the future political and constitutional evolution of the remaining dependencies.

The information discussed is timely as the U.N. begins its 2013 regional seminar from 28 to 30 May in Quito, Ecuador.
Read the full interview here.

23 May 2013

‘Things Fall Apart’ and the case against imperialism


by Sankara Kamara

*Sankara Kamara is a Sierra Leonean academic and freelance writer. You can catch him on Facebook: www.facebook/sankara kamara 

cc T G
When Chinua Achebe showed the horrors of colonial rule in ‘Things Fall Apart,’ the narrative easily became the African story that impinged itself on our consciousness. The novel epitomized the case against imperialism

The death of the renowned Nigerian writer, Chinua Achebe, has thrust one of the most popular African books in the news. 

Although Achebe wrote multiple books and produced several works of scholarship, ‘Things Fall Apart’ acted as the catalyst for his popularity, sending the Nigerian writer to the highest plateaus of academic fame. 

How did ‘Things Fall Apart,’ a book written about the Igbo people in Nigeria, become an explanatory voice for colonially oppressed societies all over Africa? The literary tenor used by Achebe to write ‘Things Fall Apart,’ is the first reason behind the book’s popularity. 

Any exhaustive commentary on ‘Things Fall Apart,’ must recognize the book’s flair for weaving Igbo words and phrases with the English language. By partly Africanizing the English language to tell an African story, Achebe was able to show a pre-colonial Igbo society equipped with the ability for self-rule. 

Through the book’s main character, Okonkwo, Achebe showed how pre-colonial Igbo society dealt with crime and punishment. When Okonkwo committed what could be termed in today’s legal systems as manslaughter, the response from the oracles at Umuofia was swift and judicious. 

Once it became clear that Okonkwo’s accidentally-discharged gun was responsible for killing a citizen of the land, the oracles pronounced a verdict, which ordered Okonkwo’s seven-year exile from the land he loved. Despite his enormous stature in Igbo society, Okonkwo was subjected to the rule of law through a cultural edict, forcing a seemingly untouchable man into seven anguishing years of exile. 


19 May 2013

General Assembly adds French Polynesia to UN decolonization list

18 May 2013 – The United Nations General Assembly voted on Friday to place French Polynesia back on the UN list of territories that should be decolonized and requested the French Government to “facilitate rapid progress […] towards a self-determination process.” 

A wide view of the General Assembly Hall. UN Photo/Ryan Brown
 Adopting a consensus resolution tabled by Nauru, Tuvalu and Solomon Islands, the Assembly affirmed “the inalienable right of the people of French Polynesia to self-determination and independence” under the UN Charter, and declared that “an obligation exists [under the Charter] on the part of the Government of France, as the administering Power of the Territory, to transmit information on French Polynesia.”

The Assembly's action places French Polynesia back on the UN list of Non-Self-Governing Territories, bringing the number of inscriptions to 17.

Although France had undertaken to furnish information on French Polynesia in 1946, along with New Caledonia, this transmittal of information stopped the following year, as stated by the delegate of the Solomon Islands.

In June 2011, the Council of Ministers of French Polynesia adopted a resolution seeking self-determination within UN processes. The Territory's Assembly adopted the resolution in August of 2011. The current text “sends a simple message of peace and hope to the population that wants to determine their future,” the delegate added.

In that light, the resolution adopted by the 193-member UN General Assembly requests the UN Special Committee on Decolonization to consider the question of French Polynesia at its next session and to report to the General Assembly at its sixty-eighth session.

It further requests the French Government, “as the Administering Power concerned, to intensify its dialogue with French Polynesia in order to facilitate rapid progress towards a fair and effective self-determination process, under which the terms and timelines for an act of self-determination will be agreed.”

 Through their statements in the Assembly, the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany and the Netherlands all disassociated themselves from the consensus vote.

According to news reports, the French delegation to the UN sent a letter to Member States on Thursday announcing that it would not be taking part in the Assembly meeting.

17 May 2013

UK "clamping down" on dependency financial sectors

Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne is reportedly finalising measures to clamp down on two Caribbean tax havens.

Under tough anti-evasion measures being drawn up by the Treasury, banks in the British Virgin Islands and the Cayman Islands will be forced to reveal details about customers suspected of hiding money offshore.

The Caribbean islands are among the world’s main offshore financial centres. More than one million offshore companies are registered in the British Virgin Islands alone, even though the total population is just 30,000.

“The places you can hide are getting smaller and smaller,” Osborne said at the weekend at the European finance ministers’ summit in Dublin.

“We are in advanced stages of discussion [with the two territories]. They are in no doubt about what we expect,” he added.

Osborne’s remarks drew an immediate reaction from Cayman Islands Stock Exchange Chairman, Anthony Travers.

According to Travers, if the UK recovery is dependent on revenues from Osborne’s tax crackdown on Caribbean financial centres, then he is in for a rude awakening.

Travers said, “I am deeply troubled that the meritless attacks on the Overseas Territories by [Austrian Finance Minister Maria] Fekter appear to be gaining traction. Furthermore, there seems to be no contrary assertion from the UK government and the chancellor as to the true position .This is in neither of our interests, as in turn it seems to me to leave the City open to further Franco-German attack by association. But this is an attack based on mischaracterization.

“A cursory review of the publically available statistics under the European Saving Directive which established fully transparent proactive tax reporting shows bank deposits in Cayman of EU residents of a statistically irrelevant US$25 million,” he pointed out. 

“The correct answer to Ms Fekter should have been that the Overseas Territories already demonstrate full tax transparency .Given that HMRC already has full treaty access to Cayman accounts for UK tax purposes, the provisions of FATCA are simply duplicative, wholly unnecessary and will raise no additional revenue,” Travers added.

He went on to say that it has not escaped his notice that Osborne has also attacked the British Virgin Islands, which has similar tax transparency with the UK and the USA.

“He should know that the BVI has an extensive network of some twenty one tax information exchange agreements providing for complete tax transparency notably to HMRC and the IRS; that they are concluding the FATCA negotiation with the UK, and the US and that they are considering moving to proactive reporting with the EU under the Directive,” he said.

He pointed out that the Cayman Islands, as well as the BVI and Bermuda, regard tax evasion as firmly off the table but yet they are continually labeled tax havens, a term that has become synonymous with illegality and wrongdoing.

“Our measures in Cayman far exceed the tax transparency available in Austria (and many other places, including the US) and yet we find no rebuttal from Chancellor Osborne, rather the contrary. One can only gaze in awe at the misinformation being promoted by a UK chancellor and wonder why he appears willing to assist the French and Germans in their avowed quest to irretrievably damage The City of London’s global dominance,” Travers concluded.

Meanwhile, in a letter on Sunday to the editor of Britain’s Daily Mirror newspaper, BVI Premier Dr Orlando Smith responded to an article published on Saturday, headlined “Margaret Thatcher the tax snatcher?”

The article claimed that Thatcher’s £6 million (US$9 million) London townhouse is owned by a BVI company, which could have been a scheme that would help her estate avoid millions in inheritance tax.

John Christensen, of the Tax Justice Network, said: “How can a former prime minister spend more than two decades living in a house in London that has been owned for many years by a company based in the British Virgin Islands? We all have a duty to pay our taxes, and that includes former politicians.”

However, Smith said that the article makes the classic error of assuming that the use of an offshore structure is in some way improper for UK tax purposes or that some unauthorised benefit is obtained.

“That is simply an unsound assumption. The fact that HMRC has clear avenues to obtain all tax information from the BVI should in fact lead your correspondent to the contrary conclusion; that offshore structuring in the Overseas Territories is correct and within the law,” Smith said.

“The legitimate use of transparent offshore financial centres needs to be better understood by your journalists,” he concluded.

14 May 2013

Homage to a Martyr - A Freedom Fighter joins the ancestors

Helmin Wiels (Photo: Pueblo Soberano)


When Martyrs died 
They save our lives
They had an early grave
Sacrifice has taken place

Here was one they crucified
Dead man tell no tales
There were some 
They hung so high
We know the reason why

Caught and tried
 Bound and beat
Locked, locked away inside

But won their war of words
Patriots lost their lives


Message preach to all
 you hear something

Doctrine for the soul
 you feel something

The story has been told
 you know something

Now answer martyrs call, 
Do something 

Prophesise the fall
Backs against the wall no more 

Be something!

10 May 2013

Vieques, a Target in the Sun

George Withers
Senior Fellow for Regional Security Policy
Washington Office on Latin America

Executive Summary

May 1, 2013 marks the tenth anniversary of the day that the U.S. Navy left the small island of Vieques, Puerto Rico. The Navy had used portions of the inhabited island for military training ranges and ammunitions storage. On the training ranges, the Navy and Marines conducted aggressive air-to-ground bombing, amphibious assaults, ship-to-shore shelling, artillery practice, and a variety of other training exercises involving the use of a wide range of explosives and toxic materials.

Four years earlier, on April 19, 1999, a local citizen named David Sanes Rodríguez was working as a guard at one of the ranges and was killed when a 500-pound bomb from a Marine jet missed its target and landed on an observation post. Local non-violent protests which shut down the ranges grew to national and international dimensions, and the U.S. Congress and two succeeding administrations grappled with controversy until finally the Navy was forced by congressional and administrative action to leave the island.

It could be a mistake to think that the controversy started in 1999, however. Since the 1940s, the island and its people had endured six decades of forced relocation, bombardment, and the introduction of toxic materials to its environment. The Navy made promises over that time to improve the environment, lessen the impact of the training, improve the economy and treat the people with respect. Congress held hearings in 1980, 1981 and for three years after the 1999 accident. Today, ten years after the Navy left, the people of the island continue to suffer from poor health, high unemployment, a lack of basic services and limited access to much of the land that were taken from them 60 years ago. 

This paper examines the history of the use of the island by the Navy, of the eventual legislation that furthered the punishment of the people, and the need for a more aggressive response to address the conditions that continue to afflict the people of Vieques.

Read the full report here.

08 May 2013

France’s Reactions To Tahiti Election Results Mixed

Radio New Zealand International 

MP: France ‘shamed’ after victory for ‘most corrupt’ Flosse

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, May 8, 2013) – The French minister in charge of overseas territories, Victorin Lurel, has acknowledged the Tahoeraa Huiraatira’s victory in French Polynesia’s territorial election.

The ministry says Mr. Lurel has taken note of the result and called the party leader, Gaston Flosse.

It says Paris will work with the democratically elected members.

However, a Socialist MP, Rene Dosiere, says the election outcome has brought shame on France as Mr. Flosse is now bound to be restored as president.

Mr. Dosiere says while the French president and the government value transparency and probity, it wouldn’t be acceptable for French Polynesia to return to its old corrupt practices.

He says the election result has to be officially acknowledged, but one can only be saddened that the victory was achieved by the French republic’s most sentenced and most corrupt politician.

Despite a raft of convictions, Mr. Flosse insists he has done no wrong.

Churches in Tahiti urge French Polynesia independence steps


Peter Kenny


Members of an ecumenical delegation with President Oscar Manutahi Temaru of French Polynesia in Tahiti during a visit from April 26 to May 1, 2013.

Representatives of churches and Christian organizations worldwide are calling for French Polynesia (Maohi Nui), an area where France does nuclear testing, to be placed on a list of United Nations countries to be decolonized.

In Tahiti, delegates from ecumenical organizations supported this during a meeting with local church leaders, civil society organizations and President Oscar Manutahi Temaru during a visit to French Polynesia from April 26 to May 1.

"The international ecumenical solidarity visit to French Polynesia comes at the right time," said Rev. Francois Pihaatae, general secretary of the Pacific Conference of Churches.

"This is significant in terms of accompanying the EPM [Maohi Protestant Church] and the Maohi people while they are struggling to deal with the critical issue of re-inscription of French Polynesia on the U.N. list," he said.

Members of the ecumenical delegation met President Oscar Manutahi Temaru of French Polynesia in Tahiti during their visit.

The visit was coordinated by the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs of the World Council of Churches in collaboration with the Pacific Conference of Churches and the Maohi Protestant Church.

In 1947 the French government had managed to remove Maohi Nui from the UN list of countries to be decolonized.

The backing from the ecumenical group follows a statement issued by the main governing body of the WCC, its central committee in Greece last year, supporting advocacy on re-inscription of French Polynesia on the UN list.

This WCC statement and the visit were initiated by the EPM, asking for CCIA support on the issue.

The 2012 Synod of the EPM also urged the WCC and the PCC to "support its efforts for advocacy on re-inscription of French Polynesia."

Rev. Taaroanui Maraea, president of the EPM, said that the EPM "considers re-inscription of French Polynesia on this list as means to protect the people from decisions and initiatives taken by the French State contrary to its interests." He noted a decision made at the EPM 2012 Synod.

John Taroanui Doom, WCC president from the Pacific, spoke about the consequences of nuclear testing by France in French Polynesia.

"The problems directly and indirectly linked with the nuclear tests in the past thirty years in the French Polynesia are not yet settled," he said.

"Successive governments in France suppressed the demands from the affected local people and denied people's legitimate demand for the sovereignty of their land and right to self-determination," noted Taroanui Doom.

The meeting organized by the EPM in conjunction with the international ecumenical solidarity team visit, explored the issue re-inscription of French Polynesia and was attended by more than 100 people.

07 May 2013

Curacao Government condemns assassination of Helmin Wiels

WILLEMSTAD – “The Curacao Government condemns the assassination act against the political leader Helmin Wiels, which took place on Sunday May 5, 2013 a few minutes before five. 

We for the people of Curacao to stay calm. The Government will do its utmost to solve this case. There are lots of emotion and pain, but we have to demonstrate civism and let the authorities do their work,” this is what outgoing Prime Minister of Curacao, Daniel Hodge said during a press conference on Sunday night at Fort Amsterdam. He was accompanied by the Minister of Justice, Nelson Navarro.

During the press conference, Chief of Police, Marlon Wernet, Senior Prosecutor, Heiko de Jong, Ivar Asjes of Pueblo Soberano and President of Parliament Mike Franco were also present. Some members of the Hodge Cabinet and also other Members of Parliament attended the press conference.

Mr. Wernet gave a short report on what exactly happened but emphasized that not all details are yet available. “A few minutes before five, there were shots fired at Marie Pampoen Beach. Mr. Helmin Wiels was fatally shot. Medical assistance was in vain. 

When the official police doctor arrives he confirmed the death of Mr. Wiels,’ Wernet said. “A petition goes to the whole community to please report any information you might have on this incident which could help authorities solve the case. Please call 911, 866-6124 or the anonymous line 108,” Wernet concluded. The Public Prosecution’s Office started immediately with the investigation. Senior Prosecutor, De Jong, said that all legal resources will be used to solve this case and bring justice to those who committed this horrendous act.

Ivar Asjes, representative of the political party Pueblo Soberano, which was headed by Helmin Wiels, expressed his condolences to the family of the late Helmin Wiels and has asked all the sympathizers to stay calm but alert. “What has happened is unacceptable for the Curacao that we all desire,” Asjes said.

President of Parliament, Mike Franco, also expressed his sincere condolences to the family of the member of Parliament, Helmin Wiels and declared that starting Monday the flag at the Parliament building will be at half mast.

Prime Minister Daniel Hodge concluded by asking everyone once again to stay calm and give any information that could lead to those who have committed this crime.

Rapa Nui elder says indigenous people must own marine reserves

A Rapa Nui elder says if reserves are established around her island her people must own them.

Pew Environment Group’s Kermadec Initiative hosted a group from Rapa Nui or Easter Island, French Polynesia and Chile looking to New Zealand for expertise on how to protect their ocean resources.
The trip has been described as an opportunity for the indigenous delegates to see how iwi have been able to negotiate with the government.

But Jacqueline Rapu Tuki says indigenous people should get the benefit of marine reserves.
“Here in New Zealand the government owns the reserve. What we’d like to see on Rapa Nui is that the Rapa Nui own the reserve.”
Jacqueline Rapu Tuki says a marine reserve would be very important for Rapa Nui’s identity but also for the rest of the world.


The Federation of Maori Authorities says the recent waka tapu voyage to Rapanui or Easter Island late last year gave tangata whenua there hope and inspiration about trade and exchange with their Maori cousins.

Te Aurere and Ngahiraka Mai Tawhiti left Auckland in September last year for a return journey to the island to complete the last leg of the Polynesian triangle.

Traci Houpapa, who was in Rapanui in March says the waka expedition also reminded the Easter Islanders of their early relationship with Maori, and started conversations about on-going cultural exchanges, and confirmed an ancient prophesy.

She says the Rapanui people were overwhelmed to host their Maori cousins because their historical stories told them that when the Maori of Aotearoa come to Easter Island it's time for them to stand up.

Ms Houpapa says this isn't the first time Polynesian canoes have made it to the shores of Rapanui or other parts of the Pacific, but indeed confirmation that the ancestors of the Maori travelled , traded and returned, and navigated the seas - not by chance, but by strategy and a deliberate decision to trade, export and exchange.

02 May 2013

Threat of the Trans-Pacific Agreement

by Alejandro Nadal

This week negotiations begin again in Singapore on the Transpacific agreement, a project hailed by its promoters as the biggest, most ambitious trade agreement ever. Eleven countries participate: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, United States, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zeeland, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. It’s billed as a tool for growth, employment and prosperity, but the reality will be quite different.

The world economy has seen three decades of neoliberal trade agreements along with strong financial liberalization, both domestically and in transborder flows. They have been accompanied by new rules on intellectual property, government procurement, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, labor relations and the prohibition of performance requirements on international corporations. These agreements radically redefine any nation’s development strategy, delivering it into the hands of transnationals and the “free market”.

What has the result been? A semi-stagnant world economy, high unemployment, rapid environmental deterioration and the worst crisis in 80 years. One might think that with these “achievements” we would have stopped negotiating new trade agreements. But it’s exactly the opposite.


01 May 2013

Puerto Rico: Characteristics of the Island’s Maritime Trade and Possible Effects of Modifying the Jones Act

U.S. General Accountability Office (GAO)

Why GAO Did This Study? 

Puerto Rico is subject to Section 27 of  the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, known as the “Jones Act” (Act), which requires that maritime transport of cargo between points in the United States be carried by vessels that are  (1) owned by U.S. citizens and registered in the United States, (2) built in the United States, and (3) operated with predominantly U.S.-citizen crews.
The general purposes of the Jones Act include providing the nation with a strong merchant marine that can provide transportation for the nation’s maritime commerce, serve in time of war or national emergency, and support an adequate shipyard industrial base.

Companies (shippers) that use Jones Act carriers for shipping in the Puerto Rico trade have expressed concerns that, as a result of the Jones Act, freight rates between the United States and Puerto Rico are higher than they otherwise would be, and given the reliance on waterborne transportation have an adverse economic impact on Puerto Rico.

This report examines (1) maritime transportation to and from Puerto Rico and how the Jones Act affects that trade and (2) possible effects of modifying the application of the Jones Act in Puerto Rico. GAO collected and analyzed information and literature relevant to the market and gathered the views of numerous public and private sector stakeholders through interviews and written responses. GAO is not making recommendations in this report. The Department of Transportation (DOT) generally agreed with the report, but emphasized that many of the issues related to the Jones Act are complex and multifaceted. 


What GAO Found

Jones Act requirements have resulted in a discrete shipping market between Puerto Rico and the United States. Most of the cargo shipped between the United States and Puerto Rico is carried by four Jones Act carriers that provide dedicated, scheduled weekly service using containerships and container barges. Although some vessels are operating beyond their expected useful service life, many have been reconstructed or refurbished. Jones Act dry and liquid bulkcargo vessels also operate in the market, although some shippers report that qualified bulk-cargo vessels may not always be available to meet their needs. 

Cargo moving between Puerto Rico and foreign destinations is carried by numerous foreign-flag vessels, often with greater capacity, and typically as part of longer global trade routes. Freight rates are determined by a number of factors, including the supply of vessels and consumer demand in the market, as well as costs that carriers face to operate, some of which (e.g., crew costs) are affected by Jones Act requirements. The average freight rates of the four major Jones Act carriers in this market were lower in 2010 than they were in 2006, which was the onset of the recent recession in Puerto Rico that has contributed to decreases in demand. 

Foreign-flag carriers serving Puerto Rico from foreign ports operate under different rules, regulations, and supply and demand conditions and generally have lower costs to operate than Jones Act carriers have. Shippers doing business in Puerto Rico that GAO contacted reported that the freight rates are often—although not always—lower for foreign carriers going to and from Puerto Rico and foreign locations than the rates shippers pay to ship similar cargo to and from the United States, despite longer distances. However, data were not available to allow us to validate the examples given or verify the extent to which this difference occurred. According to these shippers, lower rates, as well as the limited availability of qualified vessels in some cases, can lead companies to source products from foreign countries rather than the United States.

The effects of modifying the application of the Jones Act for Puerto Rico are highly uncertain, and various trade-offs could materialize depending on how the Act is modified. Under a full exemption from the Act, the rules and requirements that would apply to all carriers would need to be determined. While proponents of this change expect increased competition and greater availability of vessels to suit shippers’ needs, it is also possible that the reliability and other beneficial aspects of the current service could be affected. 

Furthermore, because of cost advantages, unrestricted competition from foreign-flag vessels could result in the disappearance of most U.S.-flag vessels in this trade, having a negative impact on the U.S. merchant marine and the shipyard industrial base that the Act was meant to protect. Instead of a full exemption, some stakeholders advocate an exemption from the U.S.-build requirement for vessels. 

According to proponents of this change, the availability of lower-cost, foreign-built vessels could encourage existing carriers to recapitalize their aging fleets (although one existing carrier has recently ordered two new U.S.-built vessels for this trade), and could encourage new carriers to enter the market. However, as with a full exemption, this partial exemption could also reduce or eliminate existing and future shipbuilding orders for vessels to be used in the Puerto Rico trade, having a negative impact on the shipyard industrial base the Act was meant to support. 

Read full document here.