30 January 2015

Free trade agreement between U.S. & EU could spells trouble for American Samoa canneries

Tri-Marine working with U.S. trade Reps in DC to include territory in agreement

By Fili Sagapolutele


Tri Marine International is targeting the European markets for export of its canned tuna products and the company is currently waiting for authorization from the European Union (EU), which at this point does not recognize that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is the authorized federal regulator for exports from the U.S. territory.

With free-trade negotiations ongoing between the U.S. and the EU, Tri Marine along with ASG wants to make sure that American Samoa is not excluded, because such exclusion will mean tuna products from the territory would pay a 24% duty fee in Europe.

Tri Marine’s cannery operations will be launched on Jan. 24 at its local Samoa Tuna Processors Inc., facility in Atu’u and the target market is duty-free export to the U.S. with its canned tuna carrying the “Made In USA” label.

It is also targeting the European markets where there are “export impediments”, which Tri Marine and the American Samoa government are collaborating to have removed.

Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga mentioned this issue briefly during his State of the Territory address to the Fono on Monday.

Responding to Samoa News questions, Tri Marine chief operating officer Joe Hamby said the company and ASG are collaborating to “remove tariff and non-tariff trade barriers” to expand the markets that are economically accessible to the American Samoan tuna industry.

“The reason is simple. More markets mean more production and more jobs for our new cannery,” he said through the company’s communication office.

He also said that the non-tariff trade barrier “we are trying to overcome" is with the European Union, "which does not recognize the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as the competent sanitary authority for tuna exports from the territory.”

FDA director Camille Brewer has written to the European Commission “to clearly explain that the FDA is in fact the competent sanitary authority for the Territory,” he said, adding that while the EU has acknowledged Brewer’s letter, it “has not yet recognized the authority of the FDA over tuna exports from American Samoa to the EU.”

Asked how lifting the EU restrictions will benefit Tri Marine tuna product exports, Hamby said that lifting the restrictions “will allow all exporters in the Territory to sell tuna products to the EU.”

“Having additional markets can only be seen as positive for the Territory’s tuna industry,” Hamby said. “The more markets we can reach, the more ability we have to meet a growing demand for tuna and the more opportunity we have to create new jobs in American Samoa.”

Hamby went on to point out that on a global basis, the EU is an important market for Tri Marine, which intends to start exporting to the EU as soon as the FDA’s authority is recognized.

“The other critical issue is the potential free trade agreement that the US is currently negotiating with the EU,” he said. “Currently, canned tuna shipped to the EU includes a duty of 24 percent.”

According to the Tri Marine official, current free trade negotiations have introduced the real possibility that the duty on canned tuna will be reduced to zero and if that happens, EU canned tuna producers will be able to sell their canned tuna in the US without duty and US canned tuna producers will be able to do the same in the EU.

“However, American Samoa is currently excluded from those negotiations. So even if a free trade agreement is reached between the US and the EU, American Samoa tuna products will still have to pay 24 percent duty in the EU,” Hamby explained.

“This is a significant disadvantage for American Samoa as we anticipate that we would see a lot of new European canned tuna producers exporting their canned tuna duty-free to the US in direct competition with American Samoa,” he said. “Those producers export very little to the US market currently because they have to pay 12.5 to 35 percent duty.

“Once that duty is eliminated, we would expect their products to be competitive, and that they would be able to take market share away from the American Samoa canneries,” he said, adding, “It’s critical that the US negotiators understand that American Samoa needs to be included in their free trade agreement discussions.”

Tri Marine is working with the U.S. Trade Representative in Washington D.C. and with ASG to make sure that they are aware of the potential negative impact on American Samoa of the free trade agreement being negotiated between the US and EU.

“Our request is that they treat tuna as a sensitive commodity and it either be excluded from the agreement or that the American Samoa leadership find a way to include the Territory in the agreement so that the American Samoa tuna industry can have the opportunity to export duty-free to the EU,” he said.

“This will give us a level playing field. EU products would be able to come to the US duty-free and American Samoa tuna products would be able to go to the EU market duty-free,” he said.

28 January 2015

American Samoa Governor sees locally-owned airline as answer

With eye on expanding visitor industry, governor proposes ASG-owned airline

27 January 2015

Papua New Guinea provincial governor supports West Papua independence


The Governor of Papua New Guinea’s Oro province, Garry Juffa has announced his stand in fight for a free West Papua.

The governor said the dilemma that the West Papuans are facing is a long time issue that the government of Papua New Guinea and other Pacific Island nations need to look into to help them achieve their quest for political independence from Indonesia.

Governor Juffa said West Papuans have been suffering brutal acts of the Indonesian government through its coercive state apparatus (police and army) who killed more than seven hundred thousand West Papuans since 1965 when the Dutch rulers handed them to be part of Indonesia upon advice from the Unite Nations based on a referendum which he said was not representative of the majority of the West Papuans.

He partly blamed the United Nations for not properly conducting that referendum and said that he has prepared a petition to the Secretary General for the UN to look into West Papuan Political Independence from Indonesia.

He says that West Papuans are part of the Melanesian family who deserve to be free and given their political freedom back and not to be suppressed.

He clarified his stance is not a gesture of aggression towards the Indonesian governments but a politically neutral move aimed at emancipating the West Papuan people from their dilemma inflicted upon them by the Indonesian army and to give the needed support to help them achieve their long sought desire to be an independent state.

Meanwhile, when asked for existing diplomatic talks between the PNG and Indonesia government on the issue, the governor said that as far is he is aware, there is no talks between the two governments on the West Papua issue.

26 January 2015

Bonaire continues to face political challenges to referendum

To the president of the Island Council
Lt Governor Rijna
January 23, 2015
Subject: Nos Kier Boneiru Bek,- “the right to self-government of the Bonerian Peoples”

Dear Lt Governor and Island Council members,

Minister Plasterk in early 2014 officially stated in a letter that we as Bonaire are free to make our voice heard as a people through a referendum, and that our acquired self-determination right is fully recognized by their government. And a possible new choice for a new constitutional status with the Netherlands in the Kingdom will be respected and Netherlands will negotiate and work together to realise it.

The constant call and protest actions for years after the fraudulent referendum of 2004, letters, support-petitions--signatures etc, of the people to organize a referendum by our governments has so far resulted only to a show- off of power by the coalition-forming block in the island council and further no consensus or intention to do so by the political leadership. For the people it is running slowly towards a critical point where any democratic intervention by the people themselves become a major risk or impossible.

The Kingdom Government carries the ultimate political responsibility in accordance with their "guarantee function" for the welfare and rights of the Bonairean people to intervene and guaranteeing the fundamental rights of our people has been approached to request to intervene and without success. Here follows some points that can be considered as double moral. 

- Referendum-law to organize a referendum, which was realized thru a legitimate legal democratic process and decision of our Island council was destroyed by Kingdom representations, the Lt Governor Thode and Governor Goedgedrag

- recent letter August 13, 2014 by the Minister, where he wants to consider the election results on 18 March to legitimize the fraudulent referendum processes which was the origin to come to the current status and accepting that it has not been rejected by this population, meanwhile it is clearly that in accordance to international law and self-determination rights treaties, CANNOT be legitimized by local island elections but only by a "free choice" through a referendum in accordance with United Nations rules is acceptable

- that after 10-10-10 the immigration influx of European Dutch no longer the native Bonerian population is protected against the numerical superiority of the European Dutch since then immigrate and re-populate Bonaire and that influence and disrupt our cultural and political identity and scenario, and neutralize our democratic voice as Bonerian people, and towards a minority group and a fair democratic process and voice of the Bonerian people in the island council-elections will be a unfair representation and will not resolve our self-determination right problem

-and that the planned "evaluation" that has no legal base, because the current status has not so far been legitimized by the people, and that is already going on is not a political or constitutional evaluation that can correct the peoples self-determination right ,but continuously the politicians and government is used continuously to mislead the people and that they have to wait for the evaluation before a referendum is possible, unless this misleading information does not get corrected by you or your representative bodies

- that recently in the Kingdom of various interventions were executed by Royal Decrees in Curacao, Aruba and St Maarten, and on Bonaire there is enough indications of mismanagement , corruption case of Mr. R Booi, island council member, and acquittal just before the establishing o f the referendum-law in Island-council that the whole nation has experience as a public secret that is regulated by upper hand to boycott the referendum, directly against the positive trend for the first time in years the people again moving towards a reconciliation and reunification process, and then Mr. Santana ,island council member, threats of Public Prosecution corruptive affairs if he supported the referendum and then withdrew, all pointing towards corruption and mismanagement, with purpose to boycott referendum

- and at the moment, a public secret, that political movements and parties are busy with corruption, bribery, intimidation and reprisal election campaign practices and the next election will offer NO reflection of a fair democratic expression of the people, but a misleading corruptive view, which gives then 1st and 2nd Chamber, The Hague, to immortalize our people without a fair democratic vote in the Dutch constitution without a way out perspective

Summary of issues that are important to restoration of our people’s acquired human and self-determination rights and right to political freedom and equality, our right to self-government:

-Violation of fundamental human right, the right to self-government (decolonization) of fundamental human right, the right of self-determination

-Implementation and continuation of constitutional status Public Body, integration into Dutch constitution without that this was an option in the 2004 referendum

-Implementation and continuation BES structure without that it was an option in the referendum of 2004

-Not recognizing the obvious result of the rejection of the current status in the referendum of december 2010 and up to today not to disclose or withholding the substantive reporting of United Nations UN mission / supervision despite several official requests by our government 

-rejection 1st and 2nd chamber elections in September 2012; 1732 protest votes and a total of approx 80% no-votes against the 2nd Chamber as representatives of Bonaire

-idem same scenario and rejection with the elections to the European parliament

-Neglecting, not recognizing citizen or citizens' initiative: more than 3000 (the equivalent of 3 million in the Netherlands) signatures to petition for referendum

-Not respecting unanimous request of Bonaire Island Council to put Bonaire as a Non-Self-Governing Territories (NSGT) of the United Nations

-St Eustatius recent clear signal and rejection of the current constitutional status OLB and BES and choice for autonomy or self-government which were their acquired their sacred human and self-determination right

It is clear that there are gross violations of fundamental human rights and international laws and that you according to your responsibility position of the inhabitants of Bonaire to oversee this and must act in accordance. Reason because "acquired rights" not a political debate, referendum or approval deem necessary to respect them and re-establishing, unless you wants to infringe and not willing to respect all agreements and resolutions in the United Nations and international laws

That you will have enough base to help fix the created division and impasse in our nation by following the laws and regulations in accordance with decolonization treaties and to stop the colonizer Netherlands to govern our nation, but the Netherlands to fulfil its decolonization responsibility, to support and help us to realize our legitimate autonomy and development. By the way this was also the wish and commitment of our new King Willem Alexander, during our interview at their introductory visit to Bonaire, his vision for his Kingdom to help us recover our autonomy back, and where you assume your ultimate managerial responsibility for the welfare Bonerian people to protect our acquired rights and not to violate these.

It is not a special exception because we as people of Bonaire since 1948 has acquired the right to self-government and this was transferred in 1954 in the Netherlands Antilles autonomous country, but since 10-10-10 with the "illegal integration" in Dutch constitution this sacred fundamental right to self-government was illegally ceased.

We hope you will take this letter seriously and that you conform your responsibility position to safeguard the Bonerian people will help protect their human and self-determination rights and re-establishing and that these rights cannot be depending to an un-fair-island council election (see previous points) and risk (also described above) because this is the right of the people issue and not a party-political issue.

After this letter and given the short timeframe leading to the island council-elections of 18 March, we give you the time and ultimatum of two working days, so until Tuesday, January 27th at midnight to resolve this with your board. Then we see no other fair and official democratic possibility that the people have to their abducted right to govern themselves, thus restoring their self-government or autonomy, and we withdraw our intentions and requests to you as our representatives and government than to leave it to the people themselves to find a solution and fix it if they do or do not wants to fight or protect their rightful acquired political freedom and equality, the right to self-government or again be or remained governed and dominated by their colonizers The Netherlands.

Yours sincerely,
James Finies
:President, Foundation Nos Kier Boneiru Bek


Aan de Voorzitter van de Eilandsraad, Gezaghebber Rijna,
Bonaire, 2 3 Januari 2015

Betreft: Nos Kier Boneiru Bek,- “herstel van het recht op zelfbestuur van het Boneriaans volk”
Geachte gezaghebber en eilandraadsleden,

Minister Plasterk heeft begin 2014 aan ons middels een brief officieel verklaard dat wij als Bonaire vrij zijn om onze stem als volk te laten horen middels een referendum en dat ons verworven zelfbeschikkingsrecht onverkort door hun kabinet erkend wordt. En een eventuele nieuwe keuze voor een nieuwe staatsverband met Nederland in het Koninkrijk zullen respecteren en mee zal werken en onderhandelen om te realiseren.

De constante roep en protest-acties sinds jaren na de fraudulente referenda van 2004, brieven, steun-petities-firmanten etc, van het volk om een referendum te organiseren door onze bestuurders heeft tot zover alleen tot een machtsvertoon van de coalitie-vormende-blok in de eilandsraad geleid en verder geen consensus of intentie daartoe door de politieke leiderschap. Voor het volk loopt het langzamerhand op tot een kritieke moment waar enige democratische interventie door het volk zelf een groot risico word of onmogelijk wordt.

Op Nederland Rijksbestuur die de uiteindelijke politieke verantwoordelijkheid draagt conform hun“waarborgfunctie” voor het welzijn en rechten van het Boneriaanse volk om in te grijpen ten behoeve het waarborgen van de fundamentele rechten van onze volk is er ook aanspraak en verzoek gedaan om in te grijpen en zonder succes. Hierbij een aantal punten die als dubbel moraal geinterpreteerd kunnen worden:

- referendumwet om een referendum te organiseren en die tot stand kwam door een legitieme legale democratische process en beslissing van onze eilandsraad werd vernietigd door bestuurlijke Rijks- vertegenwoordigers, de gezaghebber Thode en gouverneur Goedgedrag

- recente schrijven 13 augustus 2014 van de Minister, waarbij de verkiezingsuitslagen van 18 maart als legitimatie van de fraudulente referendaprocessen die deze huidige status tot stand bracht zou kunnen beschouwen en dat daardoor de bevolking het niet heeft verworpen, tenzij het wel degelijk duidelijk is dat dit conform de internationale volkenrechten verdragen, NIET door lokale eilandsverkiezingen gelegitimeerd kan worden doch alleen door een “vrije keuze “ via een conform Verenigde Naties regels volksraadpleging acceptabel is

- dat na 10-10-10 de immigratiebeleid de instroom van Europese Nederlanders niet meer het autochtone Boneriaans bevolking beschermd tegen het numerieke meerderheid van de Europese Nederlanders die sindsdien immigreren en Bonaire re-populeren en die onze kulturele en politieke identiteit en scenario definitief beinvloeden en uit balans trekken en onze democratische stem als autochtone Boneriaans volk neutraliseren en richting minderheidsgroep terugdrukken en een eerlijke democratische process en stem van het autochtone Boneriaans volk in de eilandsraadsverrkiezing oneerlijke weergave is en geen oplossing zal bieden voor ons volkenrechterlijk probleem 

- en dat de geplande “evaluatie” die ook geen rechtsbasis heeft doordat de huidige status totzover nog niet is gelegitimeerd door het volk, en die al gaande is geen politieke of staatskundige verhouding evaluatie is die het volkenrechterlijke zelfbeschikkingsrecht kan corrigeren maar tochwel continue door de politiek en bestuurders aan de macht onze volk ermee misleiden om deze af te wachten voor een volksraadpleging mogelijk is, tenzij deze misleidende informatie niet gecorrigeerd word door U of Uw vertegenwoordigende instantie

- dat recent in het Koninkrijk diverse ingrepen waren middels Koninklijke besluiten in Curacao, Aruba en St Maarten en op Bonaire erg veel en genoeg indicaties zijn van onbehoorlijk bestuur gezien, Dhr R Booi, raadslid, corruptie zaak en vrijspraak net voor de vastelling van referendumwet in eilandsraad die het gehele volk ervaart als een publiek gehiem dat geregeld is van hogere hand om de referendum te boycotten, rechtsreeks tegen het positieve ontwikkeling die voor het eerst sinds jaren het volk weer in een reconciliatie en hereniging process zat, en daarna Dhr Santana , raadslid, dreigementen met Openbare Ministerie aanklagen van corruptieve zaken indien hij de referendum steunde en daarna zich terugtrok, allen wijzende richting corruptie en onbehoorlijk bestuur, met doel referendum te boycotten,

- en momenteel al , als publieke volksgeheim,politieke stromingen en partijen met corrupte omkopings , intimidatie en represaille verkiezings-campagne praktijken bezig zijn en de volgende verkiezing GEEN weerspiegeling zal bieden van een eerlijke democratische uiting van het volk, maar een misleidende corruptieve weergave, die daarna de 1ste en 2de kamer de mogelijkheid biedt ons volk zonder een eerlijke democratische stem in Uw grondwet zal vereeuwigen zonder enig terugweg perspectief. 

Samenvatting van punten die belangrijk zijn om uw ingreep om hertsel van onze verworven mensen en volkenrecht op politieke vrijheid en gelijkheid, ons recht op zelfbestuur:

-Schending van fundaméntele mensenrecht, terugtrekking recht op zelfbestuur (dekolonisatie)

-Schending van fundamentele mensenrecht, recht van zelfbeschikking

-Invoeren en Voortzetting van konstitionele status van Openbaar Lichaam, integratie in Nederlands staatsbestel zonder dat deze een optie was bij de referendum van 2004

-Invoeren en voortzetting BES struktuur zonder dat deze een optie was in de referendum van 2004

-negeren van de overduidelijke uitslag van afwijzing van de huidige status in de referendum van desember 2010 en nog steeds niet openbaren of achterhouden van de inhoudelijke-rapportage van Verenigde Naties door de VN observateur/supervision tenzij verschijdene officiele verzoeken door onze bestuurders 

-afwijzing 1ste en 2de kamer verkiezingen september 2012; 1732 proteststemmen en totaal ca 80% no-votes tegen het 2de kamer als volksvertegenwoordigers van Bonaire

-idem hetzelfde scenario en afwijzing net met de verkiezingen van het Europese parlament

-negeren van burger of volksinitiatief: meer dan 3000(vergelijkbaar met 3 miljoen in Nederland) handtekeningen van petitie voor referendum

-negeren van unaniem verzoek Eilandsraad Bonaire om Bonaire te plaatsten als Non-Self-governing-Territories (NSGT) van de Verenigde Naties

-St Eustatius recente duidelijke signaal en afwijzing van de huidige staatsructuur OLB en BES en keuze voor autonomie of zelfbestuur wat trouwens ook hun onschendbare mensen en volkenrecht is
Duidelijk is dat er grove schendingen van fundamentele mensenrechten en internationale wetten te constateren zijn en dat U conform Uw verantwoordelijkpositie van de inwoners van Bonaire om hierop toe te zien en ook conform moet handelen. Reden omdat “verworven rechten” geen politieke discussie, referendum of goedkeuring meer nodig achten om deze te respecteren en te herstellen, tenzij U uw allen eigen akkoorden en afspraken in de Verenigde Naties en internationale wetten willen blijven schenden en niet bereid zijn te volgen.

Dat U hierdoor genoeg basis bezit om de gecreerde verdeelheid in onze volk en impasse te kunnen helpen doorbreken door de wetten en regels te volgen conform dekolonisatie verdragen om onze volk niet meer door de kolonisator Nederland overnieuw te laten besturen, maar Nederland haar dekolonisatie verantwoordelijk toewijzen, dus ons steunen en helpen om onze rechtmatige zelfbestuur en ontwikkeling te realiseren. Trouwens dit was ook de wens en belofte van onze nieuwe Koning Willem Alexander, tijdens onze gesprek bij hun kennismakingbezoek aan Bonaire, zijn visie voor zijn Koninkrijk, ons te helpen onze autonomie terug te herstellen, en waarbij U allen uw uiteindelijke bestuurlijke verantwoordelijkheid voor het welzijn van Boneriaans volk neemt en onze verworven rechten bescherm en niet zullen schenden.

Het is geen bijzondere uitzondering daar wij als volk van Bonaire sinds 1948 het recht heeft vervorwen op zelfbestuur en deze in 1954 is overgedragen in de autonome land Nederlandse Antillen, maar sinds 10-10-10 met de “illegale integratie” in het Nederlands staatsbestel is ons volk deze fundamentele onschendbare recht op zelfbestuur illegaal afgenomen. 

Wij hopen dat U deze brief serieus doorneem en dat U conform uw verantwoordelijkheids-positie in het voordeel van het Boneriaans volk hun volkenrechterlijke en mensenrechterlijke rechten zal helpen beschermen en laten herstellen en dat deze rechten niet kunnen worden opgeleverd aan een on-eerlijke-eilandsraadsverkiezing(zie eerdere punten) en risico (ook hierboven omschreven) omdat dit een volksaangelegenheid is en geen partij-politiek aangelegenheid. 

Na deze brief en gezien de korte tijdsbestek oplopend naar de ER-verkiezingen van 18 maart , geven wij u de tijd en ultimatum van 2 werkdagen, dus tot dinsdag 27 januari middernacht om deze met uw raad te beraden. Daarna zien wij verder geen andere eerlijke en oficiele democratische mogelijkheid dat het volk bezit om het afgenomen recht om zichzelf te besturen, dus hun zelfbestuur of autonomie te herstellen, en wij ons terugtrekken van onze intenties en verzoeken aan u als onze vertegenwoordigers en bestuurders dan dat U het overlaat aan het volk zelf om het uit te zoeken en op te lossen indien ze wel of niet voor hun rechtmatige verworven politieke vrijheid en gelijkheid, dus recht op zelfbestuur willen vechten of beschermen of overnieuw bestuurd en geregeert willen zijn en blijven door hun kolonisator Nederland. 

Wij verblijven inmiddels, Met vriendelijk groet,
James Finies
voorzitter Stichting Nos Kier Boneiru Bek

22 January 2015

Inaugural Address of Kenneth E. Mapp, Governor of U.S. Virgin Islands

Photo by OTR

U.S. Virgin Islands

Emancipation Gardens

St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands

Monday, January 5, 2014

Good morning. Soon after the end of the 2006 campaign, a gentleman confronted me, wagging his finger and shouted, “Kenneth Mapp, the only way you will ever get into Government House is by invitation.” Well, today, with great pride and humility, I want to thank you, the people of the Virgin Islands, for your huge invitation, inviting me into Government House. Thank you.

As Lieutenant Governor Potter and I take our oaths of office on the grounds of Emancipation Garden, I am reminded of the sacrifices that are forever memorialized in this historic location. The lives of our ancestors, who toiled on the land upon which we now live, work, and play, are consecrated here. This monument to their memory serves as a testament to the unquenchable thirst for human freedom and dignity, as well as our ability and resilience to overcome even the most challenging obstacles.

Those who lived before us and those who taught us to live with integrity and courage—teaching us to have respect for others and to accept personal responsibility—have created a proud people who understand that anything worth having is worth working for. I salute my grandmother, Mrs. Almina Hewitt, who with her husband, managed their farm and raised and provided for thirteen children and then extended her firm hand in raising her 71 grandchildren. Grandma Hewitt prepared us well and challenged us all to do well by doing good.

We are here for a great and noble occasion: the changing of the guard, as provided in our governing charter, the Revised Organic Act of the Virgin Islands. Today we are carrying on the traditions that have been established over the years. Today we move peacefully from one Administration to the next, from the 7th elected Governor to the 8th.

We do inaugurals because this ceremony celebrates the will of a free people to exercise their vote, to choose through a democratic process who governs. Inauguration means beginning, and today this new Administration is committed to begin a new era on the foundation of “building.” Building for the people of the Virgin Islands, inspiring hope, and constructing a better quality of life. Building to create opportunities for our youth, to provide and care for our senior citizens, and to protect and nurture the well-being of our children. And while we will work hard on doing these things, we will walk in the path that we have been taught, to be respectful, to be compassionate, to be disciplined, to be appreciative, and to be thankful.

Governor John DeJongh, Jr. and Lt. Gov. Gregory Francis, on behalf of our Territory and our people, please accept our thanks and appreciation for your leadership, service and dedication to our beloved Virgin Islands.

Delegate Donna Christian-Christensen, we acknowledge and respect your patriotism and love for the people of the Virgin Islands. Thank you for your more than four decades of service as a physician, community activist, and as our Delegate to Congress.

We also acknowledge our young men and women in uniform for the sacrifices they make each and every day as they protect our freedoms and liberties. Many of our soldiers are serving in faraway places and are in harm’s way. Let us continue to keep them in our prayers as they serve our country and make their way back home.

To my fellow Virgin Islanders, I accept the honor you have bestowed upon me to chart a new course for generations to come; a course to restore, to revitalize, to renovate, and to reenergize America’s Paradise.

During our campaign, Lt. Governor Potter and I saw firsthand and learned just how difficult life in our Virgin Islands has become. We met single mothers who are struggling to stay employed and feed and clothe their families. We spoke and listened to the business owners who are fighting to keep the lights on and their doors open. We have been in the homes of working couples who have electric bills that have grown larger than one of their paychecks. And because we have all but shut the doors of our senior citizen centers, we have visited with senior citizens in the cafeterias of our hospitals, in the food courts of our shopping centers and malls, and under the trees on our streets.

We mention these difficulties not to cast blame, but to underscore just how difficult the lives of many Virgin Islanders have become because as a community, as a people, and as a government we have lost our way.

For decades we have been counting the money we have and the money we don’t have by the hundreds of millions of dollars. So we no longer see that a gallon of milk priced at $14.00 hurts families. We no longer see that $.51 pkwh—five times the national average—for electricity kills businesses, puts our people out of work, and forces some families to live by candle light. We have become numb to the violence that pervades our neighborhoods, and we no longer empathize with many folks who simply can no longer make it. Everyday retirees and families decide to move away, because they cannot afford the high cost-of-living in the Virgin Islands.

Every year when our youth graduate from high school, many of them are left with no option, but to leave the territory and not return home because we provide them with little to no opportunities to remain here.

My fellow Virgin Islanders, the consequences of our not so good choices, the unwillingness of many of us to work hard, and the result of many of the poor public policies that we have adopted have come full circle to collect their reward.

And so today, this inauguration—a new beginning—offers us again, new choices. Do we remain on a self-destructive path and continue the behavior that has brought us despair and hopelessness, or do we turn and see the opportunities in the challenges facing us? Are we ready to work hard, be disciplined, be compassionate to others, and be honest with ourselves and accept our responsibilities so we can truly build a better quality of life for all?

What would you choose? Lt. Governor Potter and I have chosen. We agreed over a year ago that we want to lead a government marked by striving for excellence, not perfection. We committed to each other that we would work hard for the people of this Territory, to be the #1 public servants, and not lords and masters. We agreed to be responsible, honest and transparent.

So today, I share with you that the Virgin Islands has an opportunity for a new beginning. We are at point where we can choose to wave our white flag and give up or face the many challenges ahead and decide that together we will rebuild our beloved Virgin Islands—better and stronger. Osbert and I are inviting everyone to join us in an effort that requires all hands on deck to rebuild our Territory. In order to build a better Virgin Islands, everyone is needed—the private sector, the not-for-profit community, the public sector and everyone in between.

In short, our commitment is simple: we will not betray or trample upon the expectations and hope of you, the people of the Virgin Islands. We see the hope in the eyes of the people of the Virgin Islands, and together we will all work to make the hopes and dreams, of those who call these great Virgin Islands home, a reality. I caution you that this will not happen overnight, but together, keeping focus on a common purpose, it will happen. Difficult days do lie ahead, but these difficult days are rife with opportunities for a better quality of life. These opportunities will only become a reality if we seize upon them with hope, faith, vision, hard work, and a common purpose to build a better, stronger, and brighter Virgin Islands for all who call these islands home.

In the Gospel according to John, chapter 16, verse 33, Jesus teaches us that “in the world you will have tribulation: but be of good cheer. I have overcome the world”. As Virgin Islanders at this new beginning, we must do just that, be of good cheer. With our faith, our hope, our determination to strive for excellence and our commitment to work hard, we will overcome our tribulations. We will build on the good choices and actions we have taken. We must look towards the future and only learn from the past.

So we are off to building our vision and our promise to you. We’re off to a place to invest in our people, to hire, to create opportunities by growing our economy and providing our youth with the skills and trades to do the jobs and to own and operate the businesses. We’re off to a place to build roads and invest in our infrastructure, and a place where businesses can thrive and prosper because we will work with our business partners fairly, with rules and laws that make sense, that are clear, and that can be relied upon.

To our senior citizens, Osbert and I assure you that we are committed to providing you with open, comfortable and accessible centers where you can have meaningful social interactions with each other and the community.

My friends I want you to know that long ago I set a standard of excellence for myself and today, this is the standard that I am setting for my Administration. To achieve this objective, I will lead first by example.

Like many Virgin Islanders, I come from a very large family, on both sides, families whose roots are deeply planted in the Caribbean—families who exhibited the importance of being involved in a child’s life. For me that included my grandmother, my mother, my many aunts, uncles, cousins and teachers who played a role in shaping the person I have become. They instilled in me a love for others and a love for the U.S. Virgin Islands. They taught me the value of hard work and hence, my passion for public service.

I am a proud product of the public school system so I know firsthand the dedication and sacrifices of our teachers and principals who do so much while earning so little.

My career path, some might say, was an improbable rise to the podium upon which I stand today. I began my public service as a police officer, which gives me a unique insight into our communities.

The more than three decades that I have worked in the public sector have taught me the value of teamwork, coming together as one and the importance of being able to reach across the aisle to get the work done. I pledge to work with the members of our Senate, our new Delegate to Congress, our leaders in the business community, and those who sacrifice and work hard in the not for profit community.

To our former Governors in attendance today, we ask you to be a part of this new beginning; to the members of the Legislature, we need you as part of our foundation; and to the members of our Judiciary who work diligently every day to enforce the rule of law, we also need you as part of our foundation. The wheels of good government work when we all work together.

To our people, we need you. We need your voice and we need your support. We are committed to doing all we can on your behalf, but you too must be a part of this rebuilding. Neither I, nor anyone on my team, will ever ask more of you than we are willing to give. My Administration cannot do this alone; we must stand together or none of us will stand at all.

Thank you for your continued support, and I ask that you keep us in your prayers. God bless the Virgin Islands and God bless the United States of America.

21 January 2015

Inauguration of 8th elected governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands

Photos by Overseas Territories Review

Governor Kenneth Mapp delivers Inaugural Address to the people of the U.S. Virgin Islands in official ceremonies at Emancipation Garden, St. Thomas. Governor Mapp is the eighth elected governor of the U.S. dependency which first elected its head of government in 1970. 
Governor Kenneth Mapp takes the oath of office as the eighth elected governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands during official Inauguration Ceremonies at Emancipation Garden, St. Thomas. He is joined by (British) Virgin Islands Premier D. Orlando Smith (left) and members of his family and close friends. 
Lieutenant Governor Osbert Potter delivers official address at Inauguration Ceremonies in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas. 

Lieutenant Governor Potter (centre) and outgoing Lieutenant Governor Gregory Francis (right) during Inaugural ceremonies.

Virgin Islanders view the Inaugural Parade in Charlotte Amalie,  St. Thomas.

St. Croix Majorettes march in Post-Inaugural Parade in Frederiksted, St. Croix. 

Crucians gather at Budhoe Park for Post Inaugural Ceremonies in Frederiksted, St. Croix. 

A St. Croix majorette marches in Post Inaugural Parade in Frederiksted, St. Croix.

Students participate in Post-Inaugural Parade in Frederiksted,  St. Croix.

Marching bands help commemorate the inaugural of  the eighth elected governor of the US. Virgin Islands.

Drummers add to the musical tribute to the new Governor and Lieutenant Governor.

More drummers add to the festive occasion.

Students march in Inaugural Parade in Frederiksted, St. Croix

A marching band shows off its musical prowess and marching skills. 

20 January 2015

New U.S. Virgin Islands Government seeks resolution to closed petroleum refinery

V.I. to foreclose on HOVENSA, sue for breach of contract

ST. CROIX - Gov. Kenneth Mapp has directed the V.I. government's legal counsel to proceed with foreclosing on the HOVENSA property and to reopen a natural resources damages case against HOVENSA stemming from groundwater contamination.

During a press conference Thursday, he also announced plans to pursue claims against Hess Corp., HOVENSA and its owners for breach of contract stemming from their concession agreements with the government.

"The people of the Virgin Islands expect a full compliance with the obligations under our contracts and a complete cleanup of the South Shore of St. Croix as mandated - and we will pursue those claims to the fullest extent of the law," Mapp said.

However, he noted that the government remains open to a peaceful resolution to the issues.

"We are willing for a peaceful parting of the ways," he said. "But the obligations and the environmental damages to this territory cannot go unabated and will not go unresolved by the Mapp-Potter administration."

Thursday's press conference stemmed from a Wednesday meeting that Mapp had with representatives from Hess Corp., PDVSA and PDVSA V.I., HOVENSA LLC, and Lazard Freres & Co. They had requested the meeting, according to Mapp.

HOVENSA is a joint venture between HOVIC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Hess Corporation, and PDVSA VI, a wholly owned subsidiary of the national oil company of Venezuela, Petroleos de Venezuela.

Attorney George Dudley, local counsel for HOVENSA and its owners, said Thursday afternoon that he will discuss the governor's announcement with his clients "and we will figure it out from there."

He declined comment on the Wednesday meeting with Mapp, instead deferring to the governor's comments.

HOVENSA and its owners typically do not comment on meetings with the governor, instead deferring to Government House to release information.

Holding $40 million hostage

Mapp described the meeting as "very cordial," but he said that at one point, Timothy Goodell, senior vice president of Hess Corp., indicated that if they are unable to get a buyer for the refinery, or if the government is unable to enter into an agreement with a potential buyer, the company would use the $40 million it owes the V.I. government as a settlement in a natural resources damages claim "to bring the plant to a mothball close and then seek to file bankruptcy."

"I was a bit dismayed at the comment and asked for some clarification. And it was restated," Mapp said.

The governor also said that he made it clear that the V.I. government views the obligations of HOVENSA and its owners as separate and apart from the potential sale of the refinery.

The owners can sell the refinery to whom they wish, he said, and the government will try to work out an operating arrangement with the prospective buyers.
"But we view that arrangement separate and apart from the outstanding claims, obligations, the environmental issues and the issues that are contained in all the concession agreements," Mapp said.

Alex Moorhead, a spokesman for HOVENSA, also declined comment on the government's plan take legal action.

The natural resources case

The $40 million HOVENSA and its owners owe the government is the amount still owed on a settlement that was reached in connection with one of the natural resources damages cases the V.I. Government brought several years ago against a number of companies that operated plants on St. Croix's South Shore.

The case against HOVENSA was over its contamination of groundwater.

As a settlement in that case, HOVENSA and its owners earlier this year agreed to pay the V.I. Government $43.5 million in damages, with $3.5 million paid up front and the $40 million balance to be paid by Dec. 31.

The owners put up a mortgage lien on the refinery and the property on it as security on the $40 million.

They did not pay the money by Dec. 31 - and still have not paid.

USVI legal actions

On Thursday morning, Mapp said that he directed Acting Attorney General Soraya Diase Coffelt to issue a notice of a breach of the settlement agreement immediately to Hess Oil and to PDVSA. He also said he directed her to advise the District Court of the matter, and file a motion to reopen the litigation on the groundwater contamination issues.

And he told her to proceed with the foreclosure action, he said.

"I am instructing the attorney general to foreclose on the note and to take every legal action to seize the assets and security instruments contained at Estate Hope," Mapp said.

Although Diase Coffelt resigned later in the day on Thursday over what was described as a "staffing conflict," Mapp said in a press release that there would be no break in the government's stance regarding litigation issues discussed in the press conference.

"I have also directed staff to identify a law firm on the U.S. mainland that is very experienced in dealing with these kinds of matters, particularly as it relates to oil, gas and refining, because we also have the issues of the breach under the concession agreement," Mapp said at Thursday's press conference.

The notification of breach advises HOVENSA and its owners that no fixture, properties or assets are to be removed without a written request and approval from the government.

Other issues

The government contends there have been multiple breaches by Hess and HOVENSA in the concession agreements the refinery owners have had with the government over the years.

"We will also take on the issues of the breaches in the original concession agreement and the four amendments thereto, that there are a number of obligations that the company has there," Mapp said. "And we will undertake to pursue our claims, rights and privileges under those concession agreements."
Mapp said Thursday that during Wednesday's meeting, he made it clear to Hess that "we got along, but we're really at a stage of a divorce.

"And while we are open and prepared for a peaceful and amicable divorce, a long protracted and expensive litigation does not daunt our resolve that the rights and obligations to the people of the Virgin Islands must be fulfilled," he said.

Unknown costs

Officials said they do not know what the price tag for the litigation might be - or how long it might take.

"I don't know how much it will cost," Mapp said. "The question is how much will it cost us if we just sit down and continue to be abused."

He said the government is not at the point of asking how much it will cost.
"We're at the point of saying there are responsibilities and obligations that any company doing business like that in any community must face," he said. "And this government is saying that we expect Hess Oil and its partners to fulfill those duties and responsibilities."

He contended that the territory delivered on its part of the bargain with HOVENSA and "it is now time for Hess Oil, HOVIC, HOVENSA, and PDVSA to deliver on its part of the promise."

The $40 million that was not paid, though, was money the cash-strapped V.I. Government was counting on.

The unpaid settlement money already is budgeted as revenue for the current fiscal year.

09 January 2015

Civil Society supports International Decade for African Descendants

International Decade for People of African Descent

Statement by Dr. Barryl A. Biekman
Civil Society Speaker
Launching International Decade for People of African descent

United Nations
New York
December, 10, 2014

Mr. President, Excellencies, Honoured Guests, Representatives of the African Families and Civil Society,

I bring you greetings from the members of Tiye International, The African European Women ' s ' Movement "Sophiedela", the Platform of the Dutch Slavery Past, the Global Coalition for the International Decade for People of African descent 1/ and the world wide Civil Society grassroots African families on this historical moment of the launching of the International Decade for People of African descent.

Mr. President,

We support the International Decade for People of African descent and it’s Mandate to follow the recommendations pertaining to the DDPA from the 2001 World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance (WCAR), as well as the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD).

It must be reminded here that the decision to have the International Decade did not come as a gift from heaven. It came only because of a long struggle by Pan Africanist supported by those civil society organizations who were committed to the implementation of the DDPA and finally because of the hard working involvement of the Working Group of Experts on People of African descent, a special thanks goes to dr. Mireille Fanon and Professor dr. Verene Shepherd and not to forget the support of the African Group and the great majority of member states of the United Nations. A special thanks therefore goes to the African countries for their role in defending the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action and to the African Union to declare African Diaspora worldwide family as their 6th region.

The launching of the Decade today is a great victory for the cause of justice with the strong reaffirmation of and call for the full and effective implementation of the DDPA. We hope that the implementation of the Decade should put a final end to the opposition against, undermining of and false promotion regarding the Durban follow-up process which we have regularly witnessed since the successful World Conference Against Racism in 2001.

At the center of the demands during the World Conference Against Racism, by African people and in diaspora under the leadership of the 12th December Reparation Movement and many other Pan African Reparation Coalitions, was the declaration of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, slavery, colonialism and apartheid as crimes against humanity. In fact it was the longest and most depraved crime against humanity ever.. which lasted for more than three centuries as had been declared by the United Nations including the republic Suriname by its Permanent Delegation, ambassador Udenhout in 2001. The trans-Atlantic slave trade, slavery, colonialism and apartheid destroyed the development of Africa and enriched Europe and the European colonists in the Americas. It established the system of racism & racial discrimination, to be specific Afrophobia, that effects and has its impact what the African people and in diaspora experience until today.

Mr. President,

Really, we have reasons to be glad with the establishment of the Decade. But we have reasons to be disappointed too. Because despite of the adoption of the Programme of Activities by the General Assembly last month, powerful State actors, including those who boycotted the 2009 Durban Review Conference and the 2011 commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the adoption of the DDPA,. continue their efforts to render the DDPA impotent.

We deplore the 9 votes cast against and 42 abstentions cast, but salute the 121 votes in favor of the resolution on actions against racism and comprehensive implementation of the DDPA, which the Third Committee of the General Assembly approved on November 26nd. At the same time we are bewildered that abstaining countries succeeded to delete a paragraph from the G77 draft resolution, which had the support of the majority of countries and which stated: "Commends the constructive role played by non-governmental organizations in participating in the Durban follow-up mechanisms and the Human Rights Council, which has greatly contributed to the development of the Programme of Activities and the preparation for the International Decade."

Mr. President,

 Truth has the inherent power to produce the promised effects. The full and irrevocable recognition by all countries that the trans-Atlantic slave trade, slavery, colonialism and apartheid was a crime against humanity is necessary for the credibility of the Decade. Without that we have reason to doubt the sincerity of states to restore the rights of people of African descent during the Decade. It is why I on behalf of the African descent worldwide families challenge all national state parliaments and governments to officially recognize and declare the trans-Atlantic slave trade and slavery as crimes against humanity as some countries have already done. We call on all the countries who organized, participated in and profited from the trans-Atlantic slave trade and the hard slave labour by the kidnapped African ancestors to present their sincere apologies as the first step and I challenge all governments and parliaments concerned, to act on this urgent matter.

We strongly welcome the efforts by Caribbean governments & states to place the issue of Reparations on the International Agenda. For the African descendants families the adopted theme of the Decade, "Recognition, Justice, Development", is for us synonymous with the Repairing of the damage, which must become the overall concept of the Decade. Reparations is not limited to material repair, but something more fundamental relating to restoring every aspect of the rights of people of African descent.

Mr. President,

We therefore invite all Member States, as proposed by the Global Coalition for the International Decade for People of African Descent, to recognize and honour the Decade as the "Reparation Decade".

We believe that the right of People of African descent to learn about their rights as enshrined in the DDPA and other Human Rights instruments must be assured during the Decade. The Decade must become a framework to address the concentration of misery and disadvantages which people of African descent face everywhere they live: poverty, racial discrimination and lack of access to human rights & their institutions, high rates of unemployment and imprisonment, vulnerability to violence and lack of access to justice, lack of access to good education, healthcare, housing, multiple forms of discrimination, and political and economic marginalization and stigmatization.

As educators and scholars across the racial divide agree that (a) the primary purpose of education is to uplift and enhance the lives of all individuals (b) it must be the right type of education that engenders positive identity, self-esteem, self-confidence including love, respect and appreciation for one's history and culture. We therefore call for adapting both formal and informal education for students of African descent and others so that that it no longer marginalizes and relegates Africa and Africans to periphery of anything important, but for most that our next African generations can say: “I’m not afraid, because of the color of my skin, to be an African…., I’m proud to be an African…….”.

Mr. President,

We have seen the situation faced by people of African descent around the world grow more and more precarious.. and we seek urgent and concrete results from the International Decade. African Diaspora Civil Society grassroots organizations cannot afford to leave any members of the African Diaspora and African Civil Society around the world behind. Every forum, every workshop, every review and assessment, every planning session and every on-the-ground implementation project must closely involve representatives from Civil Society and the grassroots communities. And we cannot stress enough the importance of always including women, girls and young male adults, the future generation, on an equal basis. To leave them behind would be as to leave our hearts and souls, our very selves, behind as well.

When an African American man is strangled to death by the police on the streets of New York we the people of African descent feel the same that we cannot breathe. We add our voices in solidarity with all those demonstrating to demand justice for the victims of racially based police brutality. This situation makes it clear that institutionalized racism is still alive and that the campaigns against all forms of multiple racism & racial profiling as well the symbolic & psychological violence situation in different countries must be intensified. Whether the ' Black Pete figure ' in the yearly Dutch Santa Claus culture historical tradition is just a problem in the Netherlands because of the revival of stereotype of African (black) people or interlinked to similar historical cultural tradition, stereotypical language like some people continue to call us ’nigger’ & racist situations in other parts of Europe and the rest of the world.

Mr. President,

On behalf of the world wide African diaspora families I invite all of you to join hands with us for the implementation of the Programme of Activities in the spirit of "Recognition, Justice and Development." Because this Decade requires the committed support and involvement of all: international, regional, national, sectors of society, stakeholders and people of good will in the world.

I invite you all to make this “Reparation Decade” a great success.

I thank you Mr. President.


1 / The Global Coalition for the International Decade for People of African Descent is established to provide global peoples activism 
and support for the implementation of the International Decade for People of African Descent as proclaimed by the United Nations 
for the period 2015-2024 based on the principles of Recognition, Justice and Development.