31 July 2013


1804 Caribvoices

by Ralph Gonsalves

Undoubtedly, Britain was the beneficiary of criminal enrichment through the slave trade, slavery, and its Caribbean colonies. It is surely unquestionable that African slavery in the Caribbean contributed immensely to the building of Britain’s economy.

Part 4 of a review essay on Hilary Beckles’ book, Britain’s Black Debt: Reparations for Caribbean Slavery and Native Genocide.


28 July 2013


Organization of American States

Permanent Council

FORTY-THIRD REGULAR SESSION                                                                        OEA/Ser.P
June 4 to 6, 2013                                                                                             AG/RES. 2793 (XLIII-O/13)
La Antigua, Guatemala                                                                                                5 June 2013
                                                                                                                        Original: Spanish

AG/RES. 2793 (XLIII-O/13)

(Adopted at the second plenary session, held on June 5, 2013)


            RECALLING resolutions AG/RES. 1022 (XIX-O/89), AG/RES. 1479 (XXVII-O/97), AG/RES. 1549 (XXVIII-O/98), AG/RES. 1610 (XXIX-O/99), AG/RES. 1708 (XXX-O/00), AG/RES. 1780 (XXXI-O/01), AG/RES. 1851 (XXXII-O/02), AG/RES. 1919 (XXXIII-O/03), AG/RES. 2029 (XXXIV-O/04), AG/RES. 2073 (XXXV-O/05), AG/RES. 2234 (XXXVI-O/06), AG/RES. 2294 (XXXVII-O/07), AG/RES. 2368 (XXXVIII-O/08), AG/RES. 2498 (XXXIX-O/09), AG/RES. 2565 (XL-O/10), AG/RES. 2674 (XLI-O/11); and AG/RES. 2724 (XLII-O/12);

            HAVING SEEN the report of the Chair of the Working Group to Prepare the Draft American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples on the activities carried out in 2012-2013 (GT/DADIN/doc. 428/13);

            RECOGNIZING the importance of contributions to the Specific Fund to Support the Elaboration of the American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which enable effective participation by indigenous representatives in the meetings of negotiation; and

            UNDERSCORING the efforts of the Working Group to promote an early conclusion of negotiations on the Declaration and to make effective participation of indigenous peoples in the negotiations a reality, in view of the difficulties faced by the Working Group in securing contributions to the aforementioned Specific Fund, including the search for alternative sources of financing and consideration of the use of information and communication technology,


            1.      To reaffirm the will and the commitment of the OAS member states to the process surrounding the Draft American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

            2.      To renew the mandate of the Working Group to Prepare the Draft American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to continue holding its meetings of negotiations in the quest for points of consensus, so as to complete the drafting of the Declaration, on the basis of the document entitled “Record of the Current Status of the Draft American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples” (GT/DADIN/doc. 334/08 rev.7) and taking into consideration the “Compendium of Proposals of Negotiations in the Quest for Points of Consensus Held by the Working Group” (GT/DADIN/doc. 255/06 add.5), issued by the Fourteenth Meeting of Negotiations in the Quest for Points of Consensus, and other pertinent documents of the Working Group.

            3.      To request the Permanent Council to instruct the Working Group to:

a)            Hold three-day Meetings of Negotiations in the Quest for Points of Consensus prior to the forty-fourth regular session of the General Assembly;

b)            Convene the Meetings of Negotiations in the Quest for Points of Consensus on the Draft American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples three months in advance; and

c)            Take the appropriate measures to ensure the effective participation in these meetings of member states and representatives of the indigenous peoples.

            4.      To invite member states to conduct consultations or dialogues on the Draft American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples with the respective indigenous peoples.

            5.      To request the Selection Board of the Specific Fund to Support the Preparation of the American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to continue to work according to the principles of transparency established in resolution CP/RES. 951 (1691/09), “Specific Fund to Support the Elaboration of the American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”

            6.      To urge the member states, permanent observers, and institutions to contribute to the Specific Fund during the period covered by this resolution.

            7.      To urge the Working Group to continue seeking alternatives for overcoming the current financial difficulties, without affecting the quality or representativeness of indigenous participation in the negotiation process, both of which are essential elements in upholding its legitimacy.

            8.      To request the General Secretariat and the organs, agencies, and entities of the Organization to continue to lend their valuable support to the process of drafting the American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; and to thank them for their ongoing contribution to that process.

            9.      To request the Permanent Council to report to the General Assembly at its forty-fourth regular session on the implementation of this resolution. Execution of the activities envisaged in this resolution shall be subject to the availability of financial resources in the program-budget of the Organization and other resources.

26 July 2013

Scourge of slavery recalled at emancipation ceremony in French St. Martin

Daily Herald

MARIGOT--The 165th anniversary of the Abolition of Slavery was commemorated at a ceremony held at the Lady Liberty statue in Agrément on Monday with a programme of official speeches, interspersed with theatrical skits from a dark period in history with actors posing as slaves.

Fortunately the weather remained fine and sunny for the outdoor ceremony although dignitaries were seated under a tent should rain have fallen.

Préfet Philippe Chopin, Senator Louis-Constant Fleming, and Parliamentarian Daniel Gibbs, were present joining President Aline Hanson, her Vice-Presidents, the Territorial Council, and Presidents of the District Councils and Culture Associations.

The programme was opened by Natisha Hanson who sang an interpretation of Bob Marley's Redemption Song." She also closed the ceremony with a rendition of the St. Martin Song.

Short addresses to mark the occasion were given by Préfet Chopin and President Hanson who also read out a message from President of the French Republic François Hollande.

"Our children must know what happened in the past," she said. "Here in St. Martin they must know the various areas where cultivation took place and who the families were who were brought in from Africa to work. We have to make sure slavery never happens again, that human beings are never exploited. We are all equal and humanity must be respected."

The theatrical programme was once again well organised by the Collectivité's Arts and Culture Department. The roundabout was decorated with props and authentic items that would have been used during the period on plantations or in the home.

The first segment directed by Melissa Fleming and Romaric Benjamin from One Poet Society had actors as slaves dressed in period costume being beaten by the plantation owner for trying to escape, and then forced back to work cutting the sugar cane. Finally the slaves rejoice after learning of their freedom.

Another entertaining exchange between a local woman (played by Reinette Petit) and a fish seller (played by Patou from Youth Waves) drew laughter from the audience.

Gwoka drum music to accompany the performances was provided by Hélié and Company.

President of the Nature Valley Colombier Association, Vernicia Brooks, then read out an ancestral roll call of names from the region and St. Martin, to remind people that those persons, not slaves, fought for rights in their communities and who have passed on.

"We have a tendency to forget them and this was a reminder," Brooks explained.

A minute's silence to remember the slavery period concluded the ceremony.

25 July 2013

Let the People of Diego Garcia Return to their Homeland

By David Vine

Foreign Policy in Focus

Originally published in The Huffington Post

Over a weekend of memorials, I was remembering a friend who died of a broken heart. Her death certificate may not say so, but she did. Aurélie Lisette Talate died last year at 70 of what members of her community call, in their creole language,sagren—profound sorrow.

Madame Talate, as many called her, was a stick-thin, strong-biceped woman. She ate almost nothing, smoked a lot, and spoke with a power that earned her the nickname ti piman—little chili pepper—because the littlest chilies are the hottest and fiercest. Then again, on the rare occasions when she smiled, she smiled like a little girl.

Madame Talate died of sagren because the U.S. and British governments exiledher and the rest of her Chagossian people from their homeland in the Indian Ocean's Chagos Archipelago to create a secretive military base on Chagos' largest island, Diego Garcia.

Read full article here.

Guam Legislator supports changes to Jones Act applicability to territory

Statement of Hon. Rory J. Respicio

Majority Leader
Thirty-Second Guam Legislature

Good morning and thank you all for being here this morning for our public hearing on Resolution No. 138‐32 (COR) – “Relative to requesting the Honorable Madeleine Z. Bordallo, Guam’s Delegate to Congress, support modifications to the antiquated and restrictive “Merchant Marine Act of 1920,” more commonly known as the “Jones Act,” which continues to have an adverse effect on certain noncontiguous domestic jurisdictions of the United States, including Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the Territory of Guam.

Before we begin to hear testimony, I would like to provide a little background information on this resolution. As many of you know, the “Merchant Marine Act of 1920,” more commonly known as the “Jones Act,” requires that all goods shipped from the U.S. mainland to the non‐contiguous areas of the United States, including Guam, Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico, must be shipped on board U.S. flag carriers using U.S.‐made vessels; must be owned by U.S. companies; and must be operated by U.S. crews.

This law was enacted to protect American shipbuilding and seafaring interests. But the law was implemented nearly 100 years ago. And although the Jones Act does provide a significant degree of protection for U.S. shipyards, domestic carriers, and American merchant sailors, a recent U.S. International Trade Commission economic study found that repealing the Jones Act would have an annual positive effect on the overall U.S. economy of $656 million, and this and other studies make an economic case for exemption or modification of the Act.

And we all know that the Jones Act has led to an adverse impact on the cost of shipping goods to Guam. With the Jones Act in place, the problem is that American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the CNMI all have exemptions and can use much less expensive foreign shipping to bring products to their islands. This means that the cost of goods transported by ship from the continental U.S. to Guam, Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico has a much higher delivery cost per mile than the same goods transported by ship from the continental U.S. to American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the CNMI.

I found this to be unfair as the CNMI and Guam are in the same island chain and separated by less than 60 miles of ocean. Why should there be two very different shipping costs?

Although Guam does have an exemption from the Jones Act, it has never been utilized because Hawaii is on the same shipping route from the U.S. west coast that includes Guam.Jones Act ships MUST carry the cargo from the west coast to Hawaii, and since those

ships then sail to Guam, we’re stuck with the Jones Act.

There is a movement in Hawaii pursuing an option known as NTJAR.In 2010, the Hawaii Shippers Council put forward a legislative proposal to reform the Jones Act. The proposal is
known as the Noncontiguous Trades Jones Act Reform (NTJAR). The NTJAR Initiative would exempt just the Jones Act noncontiguous domestic trades ‐ Alaska, Guam, Hawaii and
Puerto Rico ‐ from the U.S.‐Build requirement.

For the reasons above, we are pursuing this resolution to ensure the fair and equitable treatment of the people of Guam and to assist with the high cost of living for our people. I believe that the continued imposition of the Act is unnecessarily restrictive and costly for Guam which has more of an impact here on island because of our small size, and great distance from other U.S. ports.

 I am hoping that once this resolution is passed by my colleagues, it will encourage Congresswoman Madeleine Z. Bordallo to introduce and/or co‐sponsor legislation aimed at exempting Guam, Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico from the U.S. Build provision of the Jones Act or to propose legislation that would replace the Jones Act

without continuing to restrict the economic development of our island.


24 July 2013

New coin commemorating 150th Anniversary of Abolition and Liberation in Dutch West Indies

Coin Update

Netherlands Antilles: 150th Anniversary of Abolition

 and Liberation

The Central Bank of Curacao and Sint Maarten have launched (1st July) a new coin which marks the 150th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade in the Dutch West Indies – presently the islands of Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao and St. Maarten. The initial rebellion which took place in 1795 on the island of Curacao was led by a slave by the name of Tula – who did not survive the battle. It wasn’t until 1862 in which a law was proposed outlawing the slave trade in Dutch held possessions including Dutch Guyana or present-day Suriname. This law was passed in the same year and on the 1st July 1863, all slaves originating from West Africa and living in Dutch colonies in the Americas were liberated.

Netherlands Antilles

The coin, which includes a depiction of the very monument dedicated to the slave Tula, is seen on the obverse along with the text “Verbreek de Ketenen” (Break the shackles) which is seen below the primary design. The commemorative years “1863 – 2013” are also included in the main design.

Struck by the Royal Dutch Mint, the coin is struck to proof quality and has a strict mintage of just 750 pieces. The Authority denoted on the reverse is The Netherlands Antilles.

5 Gulden
.925 silver
11.9 grams
29 mm.
750 pieces

23 July 2013

French nuclear tests 'showered vast area of Polynesia with radioactivity'

Declassified papers show extent of plutonium fall-out from South Pacific tests of 60s and 70s was kept hidden, says French paper

Tahiti, Polynesia
Tahiti, above, was exposed to 500 times the accepted maximum radiation level from nuclear tests in the 20th century, reports Le Parisien.
French nuclear tests in the South Pacific in the 1960s and 1970s were far more toxic than has been previously acknowledged and hit a vast swath of Polynesia with radioactive fallout, according to newly declassified ministry of defence documents which have angered veterans and civilians' groups.
The papers, seen by the French paper Le Parisien, reportedly reveal that plutonium fallout hit the whole of French Polynesia, a much broader area than France had previously admitted. Tahiti, above, the most populated island, was exposed to 500 times the maximum accepted levels of radiation. The impact spread as far as the tourist island, Bora Bora.
Thousands of veterans, families and civilians still fighting for compensation over health issues have insisted France now reveals the full truth about the notorious tests whose impact was kept secret for decades.
From 1960 to 1996, France carried out 210 nuclear tests, 17 in the Algerian Sahara and 193 in French Polynesia in the South Pacific, symbolised by the images of a mushroom cloud over the Mururoa atoll. For decades, France argued that the controlled explosions were clean.Jacques Chirac, the French president, controversially resumed nuclear atoll explosions in the South Pacific shortly after being elected in 1995.
Le Parisien said the documents "lifted the lid on one of the biggest secrets of the French army". It said papers showed that on 17 July 1974, a test exposed Tahiti to 500 times the maximum allowed level of plutonium fallout.
Bruno Barillot, who has investigated the impacts of the nuclear tests for the Polynesian government, complained of the high levels of thyroid cancers and leukaemia in Polynesia. He said the declassified documents revealed Tahiti had "literally been showered with plutonium for two days" during the Mururoa test; from the outset France knew the impact spread further than it publicly admitted. But of the 2,050 pages declassified, 114 remained blacked out.
Richard Oldham, a member of the Polynesia nuclear workers' association Mururoa e Tatou, told Radio New Zealand International : "It's the right for our future generations to know what has happened in this country."
In 2006 a French medical research body found nuclear testing had caused an increase in cancer on the nearest inhabited islands. The French judiciary began investigating health implications. It was not until 2010 that France acknowledged that there could be a compensation process for veterans and civilians. But that is complex and limited to a small geographical area and certain ailments.
About 150,000 veterans and civilians worked on, or were present during, nuclear tests, including 127,000 in Polynesia. But of 800 dossiers, only 11 people have received compensation.
Troops who worked on the tests have described a staggering lack of precaution for workers. During the Mururoa tests in French Polynesia in the late 1960s, one veteran described how he was stationed in shorts and a T-shirt on a boat only about 15 miles from the explosion before having to sail immediately to the area of the vast mushroom cloud to examine the damage.
Others on different tests wore shorts and had no sunglasses; they were told simply to shield their eyes and turn their backs at the time of the explosion.

18 July 2013

France used Pacific dependencies to spy on New Zealand

France spying on New Zealand - report

France's secret service is monitoring phone calls, text messages, emails and faxes out of New Zealand and Australia from two bases in the South Pacific, according to Paris newspaper, Le Monde.

How DGSE spy.
Le Monde

The data was being collected by the same people behind the bombing of the Rainbow Warrior in 1985 - the Generale de la Securite Exterieure (DGSE), the report said.

It said the service was using the military base at La Tontouta Airport in New Caledonia and facilities in Papeete, French Polynesia.

All the data was being held in a supercomputer at the DGSE headquarters in Paris.

Under the headline Revelations sur le Big Brother francais (Revelations about France's big brother), the newspaper noted the revelations from US whistleblower Edward Snowden about US spying in Europe.

But Le Monde said France was guilty of doing the same.
"The (DGSE) systematically collect electromagnetic signals from computers or phones in France, as well as flows between French and abroad," it said.

"All emails, text messages, telephone records, access to Facebook, Twitter, are then stored for years."

The computer holding the data occupied three floors and was open to the DGSE, the Central Directorate of Interior Intelligence, the Directorate of Military Intelligence and the Intelligence Service of the Prefecture of Police of Paris.

Le Monde said the DGSE was mainly interested in the metadata - who makes calls, from where and to who(m). 

17 July 2013

The unfinished business of total liberation - Africa’s islands


Akyaaba Addai-Sebo

It is generally held that decolonisation of Africa ended with the fall of apartheid in South Africa in 1994. But the truth is that Britain, France, Spain and Portugal continue to colonise a number African islands.

Dr. Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana was categorical in his thinking about the ‘liberation and unification’ of Africa. He left no doubt that the total ‘political and economic’ liberation and unification of Africa included all the islands of Africa in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, the Red Sea and the Mediterranean Sea. 

To emphasise this and to ensure that posterity does not relinquish, by benign neglect, any territory of Africa, Nkrumah in his books used maps with annotated listings of Africa’s islands to etch in the consciousness of the reader the fact that these islands are integral to the imperative of Africa’s total liberation and unification. To Nkrumah, no African land mass must be under colonisation, trusteeship or be alienated from the cause of African unity.

As we mark the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) and its Coordinating Committee for the Liberation of Africa (Liberation Committee), we must wake up to the fact that the United Kingdom, France, Spain and Portugal still hold a sizeable colony of islands in Africa’s territorial waters. It is refreshing, however, to note that some African countries, on their own, are laying claim to some of these ‘overseas possessions’ of these European ‘powers’.

As I write, it is ‘Not Yet Uhuru’ for the following islands: Ascension Island (United Kingdom); Saint Helena Island (United Kingdom); Tristan da Cunha Archipelago (United Kingdom); Bassas de India Atoll (France); Europa Island (France); Glorioso Islands (France); Iles Esparses (France); Juan de Nova Island (France); Mayotte Island (France); Reunion Island (France); Tromelin Island (France); Canary Islands (Spain); Ceuta (Spain) and Madeira (Portugal).

Read the full article in PAMBAZUKA .

16 July 2013

Study: Puerto Rico's children mired in poverty that dwarfs rest of U.S.

San Juan, Puerto Rico (CNN) -- More than 80% of children in Puerto Rico live in high-poverty areas, according to a recent report. That's a sharp difference from national figures measured by the same study, which indicates that 11% of minors across the United States live in high-poverty areas.

"What this implies is that the children of Puerto Rico are facing really great difficulties in order to have the appropriate resources to develop. Whether it is because in their homes there are not enough resources or because in the community where they live there are not enough resources," said Nayda Rivera-Hernandez, senior research analyst at the National Council of La Raza.

The study, released last week by the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the National Council of La Raza using data from the U.S. Census American Community Survey, showed that the percentage of Puerto Rico's teenagers who are not in school or working is higher than in any U.S. state; at 18%, the rate is twice as high as the national U.S. figure, according to the National Council of La Raza.

The report says 56% of Puerto Rican children live in poverty, compared with 22% for the entire United States.

For the leaders of the communities along the Martin Pena Canal in San Juan, these statistics give a glimpse what their children live every day.

Of the communities' 26,000 residents, 23% are minors. Many of them go to school without supplies. And according to their directors, sometimes the schools themselves don't have the necessary materials for basic studies. But this isn't the greatest problem.

One of the most worrying issues here is public health, community leaders say, because the community does not have a sewage system. On rainy days, water flows into the canal, forcing wastewater back into pipes and causing floods that sometimes reach inside homes.

"What keeps impacting us is the problem of polluted water. ... Our children have to put their feet in polluted water. The kids sometimes see little turtles that come out of the canal and they want to pick them up," said Lucy Cruz, a community leader.

The canal community has more than 80 leaders who say they are actively working to improve the lives of residents -- and their children -- with or without the help of the island's government.

According to the American Community Survey, Puerto Rico's poverty rate is about 45% -- three times the national U.S. figure.

Puerto Rican government statistics indicate 640,000 families on the island receive food stamps.

Rivera-Hernandez, of the National Council of La Raza civil rights group, said officials should devote more resources to helping families on the island.

"When a large majority of our children live in high-poverty areas, in single-parent families, and with parents who lack secure employment, we cannot ignore the threats to their well-being," she said. "If we focus on helping families, then our children will do better. We must target our limited resources to strengthen our children's prospects and help prepare them for the future."



                      What is colonialism doing to Puerto Rico 

                         Compañeros Unidos para la Descolonización de Puerto Rico:

Much is said about how much money the United States ’ Government spends on Puerto Rico . This is all propaganda designed to maintain the colonial relationship that the United States unilaterally established with Puerto Rico . The United States is smart enough to get out of a losing deal if that were the case.The fact of the matter is that, the government of the United States gets far more benefits from this relationship than it is willing to admit to the public.

* A captive market for its goods and services

* Control of an island in the Caribbean

* Use of Puerto Rico ’s resources for the empire

* Because of the above, Puerto Ricans are forced to leave the island for opportunities (presently, more Puerto Ricans off the island than on)

* Because the above, Puerto Rico provides more soldiers for the US Armed Forces than any other state of the Union .

* Etc. (you get the picture)

Colonies are designed for the exploitation of the empire. This is why we need to work together to protest for the decolonization of Puerto Rico and the liberation of Oscar Lopez Rivera. Join 2 peaceful protests a year until it is accomplished! Protesting is necessary because, those who practice or accept colonialism don’t believe in justice for all.

14 July 2013

Zones for nuclear compensation in Tahiti must change - Tuheiava

Radio New Zealand

French Polynesia’s pro-independence senator says newly declassified military documents about nuclear tests on Mururoa show victim compensation should be extended to all of French Polynesia.

The documents confirm that fallout from the atmospheric tests of between 1966 and 1974 affected all islands and not only the 21 atolls listed by the defence ministry three years ago.

They show a total of 26 navy vessels were also contaminated, as was Tahiti, by higher levels of radioactivity than was previously thought.
Senator Richard Tuheiava says the documents strengthen the case for more compensation.
“They need to change the zoning to allow mostly all inhabitants of French Polynesia that his been facing diseases to ask for compensation.”
Richard Tuheiava says he always suspected the fallout from the nuclear tests was wider than the French government admitted.

12 July 2013

Pacific islands as global frontier for seabed mining


Foua Toloa
Foua Toloa

by Aliki Faipule Foua Toloa*

APIA: MONDAY 24 JUNE 2013: Pacific islands are set to become the global frontier for a new industry—the mining of minerals from the seabed. The industry carries plenty of potential for controversy, for reasons that should be obvious to anyone familiar with mining on land, in our region and elsewhere.

How much of the proceeds will flow to the people of the Pacific? How will the industry affect communities? How many local people will be employed, and on what grade of job, with what working conditions? What will be the impact on nature? Who will really be in control?

Pacific islands governments have been discussing and debating these questions for several years, and we have some proposed answers in the form of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community’s Regional Legislative and Regulatory Framework. Even so, the concerns I raised above are very real. They are, for example, causing significant delay to the Solwara 1 project in Papua New Guinea.

This indicates that mining companies as well as governments need to take the peoples’ issues seriously. If they do not, operations will be disrupted and perhaps even cancelled. Last month, at the kind invitation of Minister Anthony Lecren of New Caledonia, I had the honour of discussing these issues with representatives of other Pacific states and territories at the Oceania21 environment meeting. I outlined what I see as the issues and challenges facing Pacific islands as we address this new frontier. And I was struck by the level of concern, both for local communities and for the environment. But I was also struck by the potential of the industry to help our islands, if it is done properly.

Prices for copper, silver and palladium rose fivefold between 2004 and 2011; if the right deals are struck with companies mining these minerals from our seabed, some of these high prices can benefit our people. The so-called “rare earth” elements such as neodymium, dysprosium and samarium are especially important in the “green economy”, in technologies such as wind turbines and electric cars, which can help industrial countries to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions.

Prepare for seabed mining

So I would endorse the views expressed at various times over the last year by a number of senior figures in our region, including Tonga’s Deputy Prime Minister Samiu Vaipulu; SOPAC Director Dr Mike Pettersen; and SPC Director-General Dr Jimmie Rodgers.

We need to prepare for the era of seabed mining; we need a tough set of rules on social and environmental criteria, preferably turned into national laws.

As Dr Pettersen expressed it a couple of months back: “We need to know how to negotiate and drive a hard deal. We have to prepare ourselves as best we can by developing our negotiating skills, along with a network of people that we trust and know…and for our communities to benefit while the environment is protected as best we can.”I would also argue that as far as we can, we should harmonise standards across the region to prevent companies “picking off” countries that are less able or less willing to enforce strict rules.

But there are other things that we can and should be doing that entail looking beyond our own region. One takes us into the international parts of the seabed, beneath the high seas, that are regulated by the International Seabed Authority (ISA). When companies mine minerals from the international seabed, the ISA’s constitution says that some of the profits have to flow to the developing world, to aid economic and social progress. But the rules on benefit sharing have not yet been agreed.

The first ISA mining concessions are likely to come in the next decade, and to be in the Pacific. So we have a strong interest in how the rules are written and in ensuring that environmental standards are upheld. Pacific governments can and should be involved in that process and be active and vocal participants in ISA’s deliberations.

Another issue that has been highlighted through my role as a Commissioner on the Global Ocean Commission, a new independent initiative on governance and management of the high seas, is the extraction of biological resources from the ocean. Following the agreement made at the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) meeting in 2010, companies cannot simply take biological resources, make products out of them and keep the profit; they have to acknowledge and reward the place of origin.

But there is one huge part of the world where this benefit sharing does not apply: the international waters of the high seas, which make up nearly half of the Earth’s surface. Last month saw the launch in Paris of a new “Appeal for the High Seas”, backed by the French government; among other things, it argues that high seas biological resources should come under ISA rules and be subject to the same benefit sharing regime as seabed minerals. Maybe that is something the Pacific should endorse, maybe not; but it is certainly a debate in which we should be engaged.

Not powerless and I would make one point very strongly; we are not powerless before commercial interests, as we once were.

For example, we are progressively regaining control of our fisheries. Establishing marine protected areas, kicking out illegal vessels and setting science-based quotas are three of the measures we are taking forward in our own waters. In the Nauru Agreement, we are ahead of the rest of the world in establishing a mechanism designed to ensure that foreign fleets act responsibly in areas that are technically beyond our national jurisdiction.

If we can do this with fish, we can do it with seabed minerals. But there is one key difference: whereas fish are a renewable resource if we manage them properly, minerals are not. They are a once-in-forever opportunity to build wealth for our islands and our children. If we are to make that wealth last beyond a single generation, we must look further afield for best practice.

We can look to Norway, for example. Decades ago, it made a far-sighted decision to place a proportion of revenue from exploiting its North Sea oil and gas fields into a special fund. It is commonly known as the Oil Fund and is now worth US$700 billion. It is the largest pension fund in Europe, despite Norway having a population less than 10% of France’s or the UK’s. When money from the fund is invested, it has to follow ethical guidelines; companies that contribute to torture anywhere in the world, for example, are banned. The capital sum, boosted by some of the return on investment, is retained for the benefit of future generations of Norwegians.

This might not be precisely the right model for us, but its existence shows that there are ways to turn a non-renewable resource into something that yields consistent, sustainable benefits for future generations. This is something for which we should all be striving, and I would urge Pacific peoples and Pacific governments to begin discussions soon. The era of seabed mining is coming; we need to be ready for its arrival.

*Aliki Faipule Foua Toloa is Minister for Energy of Tokelau, former Ulu (head of government) and Commissioner on the Global Ocean Commission. This statement was made by Faipule Foua Toloa in his capacity as a Commissioner of the Global Oceans Commission. It was not made on behalf of the Government of Tokelau and should not be taken as representing the means of the Government of Tokelau.

11 July 2013

Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) to send mission to West Papua

Poll across Melanesia shows support 
for West Papua Independence


MSG to send mission to Jakarta and West Papua

By Nic Maclellan
 in Lifou, New Caledonia

Islands Business

The Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) will send a mission to Jakarta and Jayapura later this year, to discuss the issue of West Papua with the Government of Indonesia.

The recommendation to MSG leaders came at a meeting of Melanesian foreign ministers, held on Lifou in the Loyalty Islands of New Caledonia, as part of the 19th MSG Summit.

Outgoing chair of the MSG Foreign Ministers Meeting, Fiji foreign minister Ratu Inoke Kubuabola said: “We have all agreed that a mission will go to Jakarta at the invitation of the Government of Indonesia and then on to West Papua. It’ll be this year, depending on the dates agreed with the Government of Indonesia.”

The invitation was issued by Indonesia on 3 June, during a meeting in Fiji between Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama and Djoko Suyanto, Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister for Legal, Political and Security Affairs and a former commander of Indonesia’s armed forces.

The MSG Foreign Ministers Meeting in Lifou is part of the 19th MSG summit. Later this week, leaders will gather in Noumea from the five members of the sub-regional organisation, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and the Kanak independence movement Front de Liberation Nationale Kanak et Socialiste (FLNKS).

New Caledonia’s delegation in Lifou is led by FLNKS representative Caroline Machoro-Regnier, who serves as an elected member of New Caledonia’s Northern Province and national Congress. She is joined in Lifou by Vanuatu’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Edward Natapei, Solomon Islands Foreign Minister Clay Forau Soalaoi and Fiji’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation Ratu Inoke Kubuabola.

In the absence of PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill and Foreign Minister Rimbink Pato, who are leading a delegation to Indonesia, Papua New Guinea has been represented at this week’s MSG senior officials and Foreign Ministers Meeting by Peter Eafeare, PNG’s High Commissioner to Fiji.

The incoming chair of the Foreign Ministers Meeting, Caroline Machoro-Regnier, told Islands Business that the meeting had been successful, addressing issues of common concern on environment and development. But she noted that some issues like West Papua were “more political, more sensitive.”

Ms. Machoro-Regnier said: “There was an agreement by all the foreign ministers represented here that the MSG must address this issue and we’ll continue to try to find a solution, an issue that is before us and touches a fellow nation. However, this is a very sensitive topic that affects relations between Indonesia and the other member states in the Spearhead Group. So in order to find solutions, we must take some time, so to start, today’s meeting has agreed to send a mission to Jakarta and Jayapura.”

The FLNKS representative stated that the Kanak independence movement would continue to support the people of West Papua. “If this issue came up today within the MSG, it’s because the FLNKS requested it,” she said. “We asked the representatives of West Papua to come to New Caledonia to explain the situation to us. We cannot just leave the issue aside, with all the exactions, the violations of human rights that West Papua is suffering. “

Fiji took the initiative to introduce a roadmap on the issue, said Foreign Minister Kubuabola: “It’s a very sensitive issue - Papua New Guinea, Fiji and even Solomon Islands take the same position. But all the MSG countries share the same view, that we’d like to see some form of self-determination for West Papua.”

He added: “We’ve been raising our views on human rights. Even when our Prime Minister was in Jakarta in 2011 soon after the opening of our mission, he had a bilateral meeting with the President of Indonesia to raise the issue of the abuse of human rights at that level.”

The Fiji Foreign Minister acknowledged the support of the FLNKS for the movement for self-determination in West Papua. At the invitation of the FLNKS, representatives of the West Papua National Council for Liberation (WPNCL) are due in Noumea this week, to lobby for their application for MSG membership .

“The WPNCL has been invited as a special guest of the Chair of the FLNKS,” Kubuabola said. “But as far as membership is concerned, it’s being deferred at the recommendation of the Senior Officials Meeting, for this mission to go and have a look at Jakarta and also how representative this group is.”

The Vanuatu government led by Prime Minister Moana Carcasses Kalosil has supported the call for self-determination by West Papuan nationalists. The WPNCL has an information office in the Vanuatu capital Port Vila.

However the proposal to send a mission to Indonesia proceeded with support from the FLNKS and Vanuatu. Vanuatu’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Edward Natapei told Islands Business that Vanuatu accepted the consensus decision of the ministers.

“Our reaction follows the majority in the meeting. It seems we are outnumbered, so we have to comply with the majority. I’m happy with that decision,” he said.

Natapei said that his government would await the confirmed dates for the mission and would participate in the delegation to Indonesia.

“What we want is some timelines to ensure that this issue is going to be dealt with within this year. At least that’s a start for us,” he said. “If the meeting is to be held this year then we’re happy, because we’d like to keep the issue alive in the MSG. We can go to Indonesia and raise this issue there, then we’ll take it on from there.”

The recommendation by the MSG Foreign Ministers Meeting will now go the leaders’ summit in Noumea on Thursday. Vanuatu’s Foreign Minister is sure that the topic will remain on the MSG agenda this week.

“This issue will certainly come up again,” Natapei said. “I raised this issue here on instructions from the Prime Minister and I’m sure he will raise it at the leader’s retreat.”


As leaders gather(ed) in Fiji... for the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) Leaders Summit, the Pacific Institute of Public Policy (PiPP) has released its findings from the first ever telephone poll conducted across Melanesia.

Seven questions relating to the “Melanesian family” of nations were posed, including one asking which major “non Pacific island” nation was considered to be the best partner for individual nations in the region.

MSG leaders may be encouraged that a majority (74.9%) of respondents were aware of the regional body to represent Melanesians.

When asked who they considered part of the Melanesian family, a clear majority of respondents included the established members (PNG, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji and New Caledonia) while 42% also included West Papua, 17.1% included Australia, 14.9% included Indonesia and 14.1% included Timor Leste.

Another question posed was “do you support independence for West Papua?” A clear majority of respondents across Melanesia said yes, with very high support in PNG (89.3%) and Vanuatu (88.2%). This suggests a disconnect between popular support and the position taken by governments in the region, except Vanuatu, which has long championed the West Papuan cause at the political level.

Asked to relate the relationship between their country and Australia, the majority of respondents said it was positive except those in Fiji. Australia is also considered to be the best external partner for PNG (40.5%) and the Solomons (40.4%), while for Vanuatu only 14.1% of respondents considered Australia best, whereas China scored 32.9%. Among respondents in Fiji there was a sense that it considered Australia, New Zealand, China and US as all roughly equal in importance.

In relation to engagement with Fiji, a majority of respondents including those in Fiji itself, opted for increased engagement or keeping the level of engagement as it is.

The views expressed by the respondents of this poll may assist MSG leaders as they deliberate on the future of this region.