31 May 2016

UN Secretary-General calls for concrete actions in advancing the decolonisation agenda

31 MAY 2016

Following is UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s message, delivered by Rie Kadota, Senior Political Affairs Officer, Decolonization Unit, Department of Political Affairs, to the Pacific Regional Seminar on Decolonization, in Managua today:

I am pleased to send my greetings to all who have gathered in Managua for the 2016 Pacific Regional Seminar on Decolonization, in the Week of Solidarity with the Peoples of Non-Self-Governing Territories. I thank the Government and the people of Nicaragua for their generous hospitality in hosting this important Seminar for the second time in two years.

This Managua Seminar also marks the twenty-fifth Regional Seminar of the Special Committee since 1990. I welcome this year’s focus on the Pacific region under the theme of “Commitments and Actions for Decolonization in the Non-Self-Governing Territories”, within the framework of the third Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism.

According to the Charter of the United Nations and relevant General Assembly resolutions, a full measure of self-government can be achieved through independence, integration or free association with another State. The choice should be the result of the freely expressed will and desire of the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories. The Special Committee on Decolonization supports this decolonization process. I also count on the administering Powers to continue to fulfil the obligation to promote the well-being of the peoples under their administration.

This annual Regional Seminar provides a key opportunity for the Special Committee to hear directly from representatives of Non-Self-Governing Territories about their unique situations and problems. It also facilitates informal exchanges between administering Powers, other stakeholders, Non-Self-Governing Territories, the Special Committee, experts, civil society organizations, regional organizations and others.

Let us seize this opportunity to identify concrete actions to advance the decolonization agenda. I wish you success in your deliberations. Thank you.

MERCOSUR condemns UK attempts to usurp Malvinas petroleum resources


The Presidents of the MERCOSUR States parties and associated States, being aware of the presence of a semi-submersible platform on the Argentine continental shelf that is carrying out hydrocarbon exploration activities that are unauthorized by the Argentine Republic, 

Firmly reject this new unilateral action by the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, which violates international law and Argentine domestic legislation; 

Recall the ongoing mandate set forth in United Nations General Assembly resolution 31/49, which calls upon both parties in the sovereignty dispute over the Malvinas Islands, South Georgia Islands and South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas to refrain from taking decisions that would imply introducing unilateral modifications in the situation, as such decisions are in no way conducive to the attainment of a definitive solution to the sovereignty dispute, a solution which the international community has called for repeatedly; 

Reaffirm, in particular, the special communiqué on hydrocarbon exploration on the continental shelf, which was approved by the Heads of State and Government at the Latin American and Caribbean Unity Summit held in Cancún, Mexico, on 23 February 2010, and the commitments made with respect to illegal hydrocarbon and/or mining activities on the Argentine continental shelf, including the sharing of information, and the prevention of the entry into their ports of vessels flying the illegal flag of the Malvinas Islands; 

Ratify the statements of other regional and bi-regional organizations and forums that have taken a position on this question, most recently the Group of 77 and China, the Latin American Energy Organization and the Latin American Integration Association, which expressed the view that the operations carried out by companies not authorized by the Argentine Government in the Malvinas Islands area relating to the exploration for natural resources, especially hydrocarbon resources, were seriously detrimental to the sovereign rights of the Argentine Republic over its continental shelf. Those forums have also recognized the right of the Argentine Republic to take administrative and legal action, with full respect for international law and relevant resolutions, against the unauthorized hydrocarbon exploration and exploitation activities that the United Kingdom is carrying out in the aforementioned area; 

Take note of the legal action taken by the Argentine Republic against companies involved in unauthorized hydrocarbon exploration and exploitation activities on the Argentine continental shelf. Asunción, 21 December 2015.

25 May 2016

Puerto Rican Mayor to call for self-determination at United Nations

SAN JUAN – The mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulín Cruz, confirmed she will appear before the United Nations’ Special Committee on Decolonization in June to testify on the island’s territorial status.

The mayor said she intends to call for Puerto Rican people’s “right to self-determination” and that political prisoner Oscar López Rivera be freed. On May 29, he will have spent 35 years in prison, 12 of them in solitary confinement, her statement adds.

Cruz also said she has withdrawn her endorsement of Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton because of her position in favor of the proposed fiscal oversight board the U.S. Congress “intends to impose” on the commonwealth government.

“I’m not a Democrat; I’ll never be a Republican. I have never voted in presidential primaries nor ever will, although I don’t criticize those who consider it a way to contribute,” she said.

Hillary supports, Bernie condemns, benevolent colonialism for Puerto Rico via unelected control board for U.S. territories

SAN JUAN – Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton released the following statement about the proposed bill in the House of Representatives on the Puerto Rican debt crisis:

“The House Natural Resources Committee reached an agreement on a bipartisan bill to address the Puerto Rican debt crisis. While I have serious concerns about several provisions in this bill, including the creation of an oversight board that would exert substantial control over Puerto Rico, I believe that we must move forward with this legislation. Otherwise, without any means of addressing this crisis, too many Puerto Ricans will continue to suffer.

“However, as this bill moves forward, I will work to ensure that concerns about the oversight board are addressed and any such entity includes members that will act in the best interest of Puerto Ricans – protecting their health, their pensions, and their well-being. We can no longer sit idly by while hedge funds seek to maximize their profits at the island’s expense. That’s why I will continue to stand with the Puerto Ricans to ensure that they can put their economy back on a path of stability and prosperity, including the steps I am committed to take as President to provide equality in critical federal programs.”




We must never give an unelected control board the power to balance Puerto Rico’s budget on the backs of children, senior citizens, the sick and the most vulnerable people in Puerto Rico while giving the people of Puerto Rico absolutely no say at all in the process,”

“We cannot allow Senate Majority Leader McConnell and Speaker Ryan to determine the fate of Puerto Rico by handpicking a majority of the control board’s members, while the people of Puerto Rico would be in charge of choosing none. That may make sense to groups representing Wall Street, but it makes absolutely no sense to me.

“Among other efforts, what Congress should do is to act immediately to give Puerto Rico the same authority granted to every municipality in this country to restructure its debt under the supervision of a bankruptcy court.

“The billionaire hedge fund managers on Wall Street cannot get a 100 percent return on their bonds while workers, senior citizens and children are punished. Wall Street vulture capitalists must not be allowed to get it all.

“Today, I am proud to stand in strong opposition to this bill not only with the people of Puerto Rico, but the AFL-CIO, UAW, SEIU, AFSCME, UFCW and other unions that recognize just how bad this bill would be.

“We must stop treating Puerto Rico like a colony and start treating the American citizens of Puerto Rico with the respect and dignity that they deserve.”

23 May 2016

Guam panel series to explore non-colonial political status options

Illustration: The World CIA Factbook

Office of the Governor


Pacific Islanders and Local Experts 
to examine our path to decolonization

(Hagatna, Guam) The Governor (Eddie Calvo) encourages residents and FestPac (Festival of Pacific Arts) delegates to participate in the Decolonization Discussion Series over the next week at the University of Guam.

Guam’s experts and activists for statehood, free association with the United States, and independence will join experts from islands that are and once were colonies as well.

“It’s not very often we have this many people from almost all the nations and communities of the Pacific here at one time. These are places that either struggle with their colonial status just as we do, or already overcame their struggle. We can learn a lot from them. They can help us, and we welcome that.” – Guam Governor Eddie Calvo.

Below is information on each of the panel discussions that will take place:

Decolonization Discussion Series

Sponsored by the Festival of Pacific Arts Workshops Committee, Guam Community College (GCC), and the University of Guam (UOG) 

Panel Discussion 1:

Statehood and Integration in the 21st Century Pacific: Realities, Advantages, Struggles, and Lessons Learned” 

May 24th, 6PM 
CLASS Lecture Hall, 
University of Guam

Description: This panel discussion presents an examination of the political status option of statehood and integration into an independent state. As Guahan prepares for its exercise of the right to self-determination, a deeper look into statehood’s realities, advantages, struggles, and lessons learned will be explored. In addition, the critical question of statehood’s impact on cultural survival and indigenous nation building will be discussed.
Panelists: Former Senator Edward Duenas (Chairperson, Guam Statehood Task Force), Dr. Ron McNinch (Professor, University of Guam), Attorney Melody Mackenzie (Ka Huli Ao Center for Excellence in Native Hawaiian Law, Hawai’i), and Dr. Carlyle Corbin (International Advisor on Governance and Decolonization Expert, US Virgin Islands)

Moderator: Professor J. Peter Roberto


Panel Discussion 2

 “Case Examples of Free-Association in the 21st Century Pacific: Realities, Advantages, Struggles, 
and Lessons Learned” 

May 26th, 6PM
 CLASS Lecture Hall
 University of Guam

Description: This panel discussion presents an examination of the political status option of being freely associated with an independent state. As Guahan prepares for its exercise of the right to self-determination, a deeper look into free association’s realities, advantages, struggles, and lessons learned will be explored. In addition, the critical question of free association’s impact on cultural survival and indigenous nation building will be discussed.

Panelists: Mr. Joe Garrido (Chairperson of the Guam Free Association Task Force), Attorney Roman Bador (Republic of Belau), Attorney Mark Short (Cook Islands), and Dr. Carlyle Corbin (International Advisor on Governance and Decolonization Expert, US Virgin Islands)

Moderator: Ms. Deeann Choffat


Panel Discussion 3 

Case Examples of Political Independence in the 21st Century Pacific: Realities, Advantages, Struggles, 
and Lessons Learned” 

May 31st,  6PM, 
CLASS Lecture Hall
University of Guam

Description: This panel discussion presents an examination of the political status option of becoming a sovereign, independent state. As Guahan prepares for its exercise of the right to self-determination, a deeper look into political independence’s realities, advantages, struggles, and lessons learned will be explored. In addition, the critical question of independence’s impact on cultural survival and indigenous nation building will be discussed.

Panelists: Ms. Victoria-Lola Leon Guerrero (Co-chair, Guam Independence Task Force), Mr. Matiu Matavai (Samoa), Consulate General Marciano R. De Borja (Philippines Consulate Office, Guam), Dr. Carlyle Corbin (International Advisor on Governance and Decolonization)

Moderator: Mr. Raymond Lujan


Panel Discussion 4

 Independence, Free-Association, and Statehood: Implications of Status Options for Guahan” 

June 2nd, 6PM
 CLASS Lecture Hall
 University of Guam

Description: This panel discussion presents an examination of the three political status options of statehood or integration; free-association with an independent state; and becoming a sovereign, independent state. As Guahan prepares for its exercise of the right to self-determination, a deeper look into the advantages and struggles of each of these options will be explored. In addition, the critical question of the status options’ impact on cultural survival and indigenous nation building will be discussed. 

Panelists: Former Senator Edward Duenas (Chairperson, Guam Statehood Task Force), Mr. Joe Garrido (Chairperson, Guam Free Association Task Force), Ms. Victoria-Lola Leon Guerrero (Co-chair, Independence Task Force), and Dr. Carlyle Corbin (International Advisor on Governance and Decolonization Expert, US Virgin Islands)

Moderator: Drs. Lisa Marie Baza and LisaLinda Natividad


Read "Guam’s Political Status" 

by Dr. Robert A. Underwood in Guampedia

20 May 2016

Am. Samoa Government, Congressional Delegate oppose automatic U.S. citizenship birthright in U.S. Supreme Court case

"A unilateral extension of U.S. citizenship could have important implications to the ability of American Samoans to control their own affairs in future. This has been strongly opposed by the elected governor and Congressional delegate of the territory which is already struggling to maintain their natural resources (fisheries) from U.S. incursion under their present 'U.S. national' status. It is amazingly disappointing that some political leaders in several other territories have been convinced to support such a federal intrusion against the wishes of the elected leadership of American Samoa who argue that any decision on citizenship is for the people to decide in the context of the exercise of their legitimate right to self-determination. Why would any leader in another territory oppose such a fundamental principle which also applies to them? There was a time when territorial solidarity would not have allowed for such divergence. That time clearly needs to come again."  - A territorial scholar.


Government, Congresswoman oppose birthright citizenship

Samoa News
By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa  Samoa News – The Attorney for the American Samoa government and Congresswoman Aumua Amata all contend that arguments advanced by plaintiffs and their supporters in the US citizenship lawsuit case amount to a plea for the Supreme Court of the United States to extend US citizenship "to the people of American Samoa, whether they like it not."

ASG and the Congresswoman’s office are ‘amicus curiae’, or ‘friends of the court’ in the citizenship lawsuit case, in which five plaintiffs — led by local resident Leneuoti Fiafia Tuaua— had argued in lower court, that because they were born in American Samoa they should have automatic US citizenship in accordance with provisions of the US Constitution.

However, the lower court ruled — and the appeals court in D.C. agreed — that only the US Congress can grant citizenship to persons born "in outlying territories" such as American Samoa. Defendants in the case include the US State Department and the Secretary of State.


19 May 2016

La "Promesa" de tratarte como colonia


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Perfil de Autor

La “promesa” de tratarte como Colonia. Ésa es la reafirmación que hace el borrador del proyecto de ley Puerto Rico, Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA, siglas en inglés) del Comité de Recursos Naturales de la Cámara de Representantes de Estados Unidos dirigido a imponer una Junta de Control Fiscal (JCF) en Puerto Rico.

“Vamos a ponerlo de esta manera, este proyecto sin duda retoma por así decirlo –porque nunca fueron entregados totalmente– retoma muchos de los poderes que se habían autorizado a través de la constitución del Estado Libre Asociado (ELA) que fue aprobada por el Congreso de Estados Unidos”, describió a Claridad el profesor de Derecho Constitucional, doctor Carlos Ramos González, sobre el citado proyecto. 

Aunque a diferentes niveles el borrador del proyecto sobre la Junta de Control Fiscal que se ha dado a conocer por el presidente del Comité de Recursos Naturales, Rob Bishop, ha recibido el rechazo de todos los sectores políticos de la isla, movimiento sindical, asociaciones profesionales y otros grupos de la sociedad civil. 

Ramos González expuso sobre el retroceso en derechos que representa el proyecto presentado el que por ejemplo la junta, cuyos miembros serían nombrados por el Presidente de EE UU altera o sustituye en un alto grado el proceso de aprobación de presupuesto que establece la constitución del ELA. Se supone que la aprobación del presupuesto de la isla es uno que se inicia en la Cámara de Representantes, continúa en el Senado y luego de aprobado por ambos cuerpos es firmado por el gobernador, quien a su vez lo había sometido inicialmente conforme a las prioridades que establece el Ejecutivo. 

“Esta Junta para todos los efectos le establece las prioridades al gobierno y le indica al gobernador y a las ramas legislativas que si no actúan según lo establece la Junta pues se impone sobre ellos por lo tanto está sustituyendo un gobierno interno”, reparó el profesor de Derecho Constitucional de la Facultad de Derecho de la Universidad Interamericana de Puerto Rico (UIA). Advirtió, además, el que todavía se desconocen detalles de cuál o cómo será el funcionamiento de la junta ya que es ésta la que debe establecer su propio reglamento. Además de reglamento se supone que la JCF tenga su propia oficina para reclutar personal y gran parte de su funcionamiento será sufragado por el gobierno de Puerto Rico. 

Ramos González censuró también la facultad que tendría la Junta de reclutar funcionarios del gobierno de Puerto Rico e incluso la capacidad de imponerle una multa al funcionario que no quiera “trabajar” , seguir sus órdenes. En un primer borrador se incluía hasta reclusión al funcionario que se negara a seguir las directrices de la junta. La multa- dijo Ramos González - tiene el propósito de ser un elemento disuasivo para obligar al funcionario a obedecer sus órdenes lo que también puede provocar un cambio de lealtad. 

A juicio del entrevistado la JCF manejará al gobierno de Puerto Rico a través del presupuesto, comenzando con el gobernador y la Asamblea Legislativa y las agencias ligadas al presupuesto como el Departamento de Hacienda, la Oficina de Presupuesto y Gerencia; la Junta de Planificación, el Banco Gubernamental de Fomento, la Oficina del Contralor, la Oficina de Administración de Infraestructura, hasta capacidad para entrar en procesos de alianzas público privadas. 

Ramos González expresó que frente a este organismo se tiene que sentir indignación, la que describió como una indignación histórica. “Uno no puede estar indignado en contra de esta Junta sin recordar cómo lo estuvieron muchos contra el gobierno militar de 1898, contra la Ley Foraker, los que protestamos como hicimos con la Ley 600 ésa es una objeción histórica que hemos tenido porque atenta contra el derecho a la libre determinación. Dentro de ese contexto ésta es una ley más cruda”.

Frente a lo anterior destacó que otro problema particular que tiene la junta y que hace recordar al gobierno militar estadounidense y hasta bajo el dominio español es quién supervisará a la junta. “Nadie”, apuntó Ramos González. Expuso que el proyecto no especifica y dado a que sus miembros serán nombrados directamente por el Presidente, “éste, el Presidente, tú sabes que está pendiente a otras cosas”.

Acotó que aunque el proyecto establece que si hay alguna objeción a una decisión de la JCF se podrá apelar al Tribunal Federal en Washington DC esto representa un problema de acceso y encima de eso el término para presentar una objeción será sólo diez días. A la luz de estas disposiciones describió la junta como una dictatorial ya que las probabilidades de que puedan corregirse sus errores, dijo serán muy pocas. 

Un aspecto que señaló no se ha discutido es que la Junta se lleva por el medio la independencia judicial de Puerto Rico debido a que según el proyecto de haber un problema de interpretación de una ley puertorriqueña la controversia se podrá llevar al Tribunal Supremo de EE UU, el cual estará obligado a emitir una interpretación. 

Desde la óptica del Derecho Internacional, Ramos González apuntó a que se puede decir que el proyecto viene a agudizar la denuncia histórica, de que se trata de un acto más en contra del derecho de autodeterminación de los pueblos. Descartó, además, el que de alguna manera el Congreso permita alguna gestión de consentimiento por parte de Puerto Rico y comparó que la acción del Congreso en estos momentos es una exactamente igual a la exhibida durante la aprobación de la Ley 600 en la cual el Congreso hizo gala de su poder territorial. Más allá resaltó que la conducta del Congreso, del Presidente Obama e incluso de los gobernantes de Puerto Rico, los cuales han dicho que tiene que haber “respeto a la autonomía”, en el fondo lo que están diciendo es que hay que cuidar la forma, “como lo hicieron con la Ley 600 cuidaron la forma hasta el punto de que engañaron a las Naciones Unidas”. 

Un poder colonial del Siglo XVIII

En tanto la copresidenta del Movimiento Independentista Nacional Hostosiano (MINH), licenciada Wilma Reverón Collazo, describió el proyecto como el de “un ejercicio legal de un poder territorial que está basado en una constitución del siglo 18 que es contraria a los principios internacionales de los derechos humanos vigentes”. 

En ese sentido explicó que hay que recordar que cuando Estados Unidos adoptó su constitución en ese momento los poderes europeos entendían que tenían el derecho de invadir, ocupar, explotar y expoliar otros pueblos y otros países lo que era la norma en aquel momento, por lo cual se dieron los procesos coloniales tanto en África, Asia y los que se estaban dando en toda América Latina y el Caribe.

Reverón Collazo criticó el que Estados Unidos haya mantenido esa cláusula territorial en su constitución lo que para todos los efectos es una anomalía en el siglo XXI porque en el 1960 la Corte Internacional dijo clara y de manera diáfana que el colonialismo era un crimen contra la humanidad y que ningún país o estado tenía derecho a sujetar bajo su dominio a ningún otro territorio o nación.

“Así que el primer análisis que hay que hacer es que esta junta de control fiscal está invocando el poder para administrar, imponer reglas y reglamentos dentro de la constitución de Estados Unidos. Así que empezamos de entrada con un ejercicio que dentro del derecho internacional y específicamente desde el 1960 es totalmente ilegal y contrario al derecho internacional. Ése es el primer problemita que enfrenta esa junta, eso de por sí es suficiente para denunciarla, reprocharla como un ejercicio de dominio colonialista y por lo tanto un crimen contra el pueblo de Puerto Rico”. 

Cuestionada sobre si en efecto se llega a implementar la JCF las repercusiones que pueda tener este hecho en las próximas vistas del Comité de Descolonización de la ONU sobre el caso de la isla, la copresidenta del MINH quien fue coordinadora del Comité de Puerto Rico en la ONU, reparó en que por parte del independentismo siempre llevará un mensaje claro y diáfano contra cualquier ejercicio bajo la cláusula territorial. Pero advirtió que el problema que se tiene es la contradicción que presenta los llamados representantes del pueblo de Puerto Rico que fueron electos de que a la vez que gritan contra la junta, a la misma vez están negociando para que se le hagan enmiendas y cambios. 

Dado a este escenario Reverón Collazo vaticinó que “habrá una marcada diferencia en junio 20 entre el independentismo que lo que va a hacer es reiterar la situación colonial y los colonialistas que lo que van es probablemente a quejarse de que se les quitó un poquito de poder aquí y un poquito de poder allá pero no van a cuestionar y confrontar el ejercicio colonialista que estamos padeciendo”. 

En lo que respecta a las acciones en la ONU Reverón Collazo trajo a colación que el gobernador Alejandro García Padilla tuvo oportunidad de plantear la situación colonial y no lo hizo, cuando le escribió una carta al secretario general Baki Moon, al quejarse de la postura del Ejecutivo de EE UU en el caso de Sánchez Valle. 

“Obviamente éste es momento de que todo el mundo cierre fila en contra de esa junta de control fiscal”, expresó. En esa línea Reverón Collazo exhortó al pueblo a participar de una manifestación en contra de esta junta y cualquier otra junta de control fiscal que no sea una avalada en un ejercicio democrático del pueblo de Puerto Rico. 

“Me parece que una manifestación contundente multitudinaria sobre todo de los trabajadores mandaría un mensaje bien importante al gobierno de Estados Unidos de que aquí hay pueblo, que todavía hay capacidad de organizarnos, de hacer resistencia como hicimos en Vieques”. 

Una expresión flagrante de colonialismo

“Ciertamente es una expresión flagrante de colonialismo, mi contención es que Estados Unidos nos está tratando peor de lo que Inglaterra trató a esas 13 primeras colonias”, expresó a CLARIDAD el presidente del Colegio de Abogados y Abogadas de Puerto Rico (CAPR) licenciado Mark Anthony Bimbela. 

Para atender la situación el licenciado Bimbela reveló que le encomendó a la Comisión de Desarrollo Constitucional del CAPR que evalúe el proyecto y presente sus recomendaciones para hacerlas parte del informe que la institución se propone presentar en las próximas vistas del Comité de Descolonización de la ONU. “Aprovecharemos ese foro internacional para denunciar el atropello que se está realizando en contra del pueblo de Puerto Rico”.

18 May 2016

Dutch plan for full annexation of its Caribbean colonies opposed in Bonaire

Letter to The Minister of the Interior and Kingdom Relations, R.H.A. Plasterk 


May 4, 2016

Subject: Intention Hague take-over island tasks 
BES islands

Dear Mr Plasterk,

We have learned through the media of your plans and intentions of your draft cabinet response to the report Spies, where you are proposing to take over the rest of the island-tasks by the RCN.

It is incomprehensible to us how you and your government intend to stand above democracy and above the law. You are completely ignoring the fundamental rights and the democratic voice of the people of Bonaire and you show no respect for our people that you intend to compare with a municipality in the Netherlands. 

It is very clear that you lack any moral or humane base and are forcing your own agenda on this humble and hospitable people.  Again, Bonaire is not a municipality but a nation, same like your nation, As the Netherlands where you belong to, Bonaire has its own culture, language, traditions, norms and values and identity and acquired people's self-determination rights that you have to respect.
The discussion about the legality of this structure is outdated since December 18th last year, when the people of Bonaire rejected your annexation or forced illegal integration in your Dutch state and now there is no legal base  anymore for your keep forcing your take-over and occupation and administration of our people. The people have never chosen for this structure and have officially and legally rejected it in the december referendum.

Your task is now as responsible government to respect your own agreements in the United Nations and higher international law and stop this Illegal state-structure.  
Your influence on our island is already too much and you ignore all surveys, protests, letters etc. which clearly indicate that the population of Bonaire is unhappy because of this structure and you are now directing towards a total takeover of our local administration tasks by your RCN.

This will actually leave us with no other option at this time to inform you that 'No is No', that this is unacceptable, that we have the right to stand up for our rights, and that your RCN and neocolonial staff and policy are no longer welcome on our Bonaire. It becomes time to dismantle, transfer and repatriate.

With kind regards,
James Finies, Nos Ke Boneiru Bek. 

Cc. Governor of Bonaire, E. E. Rijna, Directors of Public Body Bonaire,Island Council of the Public Body Bonaire, the Permanent Committee members, Members of the Permanent Committee of the 1st and 2nd Chamber.

14 May 2016

Curacao law protects national labour force

Labor Minister: “Soon We Will Implement 80/20 System”

WILLEMSTAD – According to the Minister of Social Development, Labor and Welfare (SOAW) Ruthmilda Larmonie Cecilia (PS), the 80/20 system will enter into force soon.

This means that each company on the island must have 80% of their employees come from the local force. The other 20% can be foreigners.
According to the Minister this will improve the social situation on the island.
This is because local workers get jobs and then be able to stand on their own feet and be independent.
The Minister believes that one must first provide work for their own people and then for someone of a different nationality.
The moratorium on work permits for foreign nationals in positions where little training is required and for which the SOAW-ministry thinks that there are enough local forces to for these types of jobs, will generate many jobs, according to the Minister.
The moratorium on work permits for foreign nationals will enter into force on May 1 this year.
The moratorium on 34 types of jobs, which is a law to safeguard employment, will apply for one year.

13 May 2016

The Case for Comprehensive Immigration Reform for Bermuda

Official Statement of Walton Brown, JP, MP | Bermuda Progressive Labour Party  on 7th March 2016 as he led the motion to establish a Joint-Select Committee on Comprehensive Immigration Reform. The motion was defeated. A historic blockade of Parliament followed, and with the people united, the Government committed to a process leading to such reform.



Mr. Walton Brown:

WHEREAS the public welfare is now challenged by a proposed amendment to the immigration law, and the likelihood for growing and sustained unrest increases daily; and

WHEREAS there was a need for an inclusive approach for the betterment of Bermuda on such law, accompanied by the movement away from brinkmanship dispositions;
BE IT RESOLVED that, pursuant to Part IV of the Parliament Act 1957, a Parliamentary Joint Select Committee be appointed:
1. to examine the wide range of issues involved in comprehensive immigration reform;
2. to propose for the consideration of Parliament a set of comprehensive immigration reform measures; and
3. to submit its report within six months;
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this report be consulted by Members of the Legislature prior to any Bill being tabled dealing with the subject matter.

The Speaker: All right. Thank you.

Mr. Walton Brown: And I further request, Mr. Speaker, that we be allowed to debate this forthwith, as is provided for under Standing Order 9, section (3), (4) and (5).

Mr. Walton Brown: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. And I appreciate your ruling to allow us to address the matter that is of fundamental and urgent importance.

Mr. Speaker, we are on a precipice. There is an increase in the volume, there is an increase in the level of agitation on this matter. This is a matter, immigration reform, that has been fundamentally divisive in this country. And we need to find a way in which we can tone down both the direction and the level at which these issues are being addressed.

And so, Mr. Speaker, this motion is an opportunity for this House to demonstrate real leadership, bipartisan leadership, on a matter that is tearing this country apart.

So, Mr. Speaker, let us talk first about the importance of a bipartisan approach. For three years, there has been a call from this side for a bipartisan approach on this issue. For three years, that has been ignored. And with the series of proposed amendments that have yet to be tabled, we run the risk of becoming unstable in this country.

I have heard Members from the Government side say on many occasions that they were elected to lead, and therefore they will do so. It is true, Mr. Speaker, that the One Bermuda Alliance was duly elected in December of 2012. They have the mandate from the population, from the electorate, to lead. But they do not, Mr. Speaker, have a mandate to lead in the way they are leading on immigration reform.

I say this because this Government made an express promise to the people of the country that they would not do what they are currently doing, in their pre-election statements. They made a repeated promise to the people of this country that they would not do what they are proposing to do now. So they do not have the mandate to do it. They cannot argue that they have a mandate.

Secondly, Mr. Speaker, in the absence of any real dialogue with key parties in this country, I pose the question to the Government: What is the urgency? Why must this be done right now and to this extent? There has been no answer from them. The position that the Government is taking today is completely opposite to what they said in 2012, 2013, and 2014. The way to address it in a mature, responsible way is through bipartisanship.

There was a danger, Mr. Speaker, of unilateralism. There was a danger of one side doing everything at once and doing it fully, without regard for opposing or competing viewpoints. This Government has taken one unilateral position. It is not healthy on such an issue, Mr. Speaker, because there are unilateral positions on the other side, as well. The Government says they will give out status grants to every single person who qualifies or who has been here for a certain period of time.

One position on the outside, Mr. Speaker, is that no such Bermuda status grant be issued until such time as Bermuda becomes a sovereign state. That too is a unilateral position. So what happens when the PLP regain power and decide to eschew a bipartisan approach to mimic what this Government is doing? Do you want to have two unilateral approaches to immigration reform? You would have a series of unilateral approaches that do not benefit the country. It will send nerves of unease in the international business community. It would have those people whom we have invited to come to work here have a level of confusion about the direction of government. And it just does not make good parliamentary sense to have large swings in terms of policy.

So, unilateralism is an unhealthy approach in a democratic society. Yes, you won the government. Yes, you have a mandate. But you do not have a mandate for this. So let sound minds prevail. Let us commit to a bipartisan committee so that the two unilateral positions can interact and come up with what has to be a compromise solution. Everyone on this side embraces the notion of compromise solution. Yes, you have heard unilateral positions. You have heard positions way on one side. But you have heard it all around. In a committee, there has to be a give and take.

And what we are calling for is for this Government to allow us to step back from the precipice, allow us to engage in a serious, mature discussion, and not an arrogant disposition which says, We were elected to lead. Therefore, we will do so.

Mr. Speaker, any discussion on any critical issue in Bermuda that is burdened down by historical precedents has to emanate from a position of respect and understanding. Respect and understanding are key components of what a government should be doing. What Government is proposing demonstrates no respect and no understanding for the impact of the past.

Let me just share an analogy that was raised Friday on the grounds of Parliament by my friend, Toby Butterfield. She talked about cacti and daisies in a desert. Cacti thrive in a desert. They love the arid, dry atmosphere and the boundless sun. For them, the weather is good. Daisies do not do too well in a desert. They complain about the heat. They complain about the lack of water. And if the cacti rule, they say, Everything is fine. What are the daisies complaining about? You have no empathy. You have no understanding for the pain and the hardship of the daisy.

The difference, Mr. Speaker, between daisies, cacti and people—is that daisies cannot rise up and do anything. But people can. And when you have what are seen to be unjust laws, unjust proposals, people will engage in civil disobedience to resist. And when there is a pattern of disrespect, a pattern of a failure to understand, you will see greater and greater civil disobedience.

No one wants to do that. But I can assure you, Mr. Speaker, every single person whom I have talked to who has engaged in civil disobedience understands fully that when you break the law, there are consequences. And so, when you saw that protest at the East Broadway last week, every single person there was prepared to be arrested, so severely and so generally do they understand the importance of these issues.

So you cannot go forward with legislation of such a magnitude without an understanding, without a respect for the past. We know that everyone knows, especially because the Minister responsible for Immigration said a few weeks ago that he understands the legacy of the past when it comes to Immigration policy. He appreciates that it was used for political purposes. He appreciates that there was a racial component to legislation in the past regarding Immigration. So, how can you go from that appreciation and understanding of the 1960s and 1970s, adopt proposals on a unilateral scale that embrace elements, which contain elements of the 1960s and 1970s and say that, This is what we think is right, and we do not care what anyone else has to say?

You cannot have public meetings where your public meeting is designed only to tell the public what you intend to do, as opposed to getting input from the public to shape the direction of government. This law was drafted months ago. So, we need that, 
Mr. Speaker.

We are standing here today offering this Government an opportunity through the parliamentary process to engage in a mature discussion based on genuine bipartisanship where, by the way, Mr. Speaker, the Government will control the committee! The Government will have the majority of members on any such committee that is set up.

There have been many comments about what is meant by comprehensive immigration reform. I find that a little bit disingenuous, Mr. Speaker, because the Government side has been fully informed on a multitude of occasions what the elements of comprehensive immigration reform are. But for the benefit of the public, Mr. Speaker, for the benefit of the public, I will highlight some of the key issues that are a necessary component of any comprehensive immigration reform.

Let us take first the issue of Bermuda status. Up until 1989, there were only 40 discretionary grants of Bermuda status awarded. Other Bermuda status grants were by birth or by marriage. And then, of course, you later had the relevant section in the Immigration and Protection Act 1956, section 22(1)(d), which provided a provision for people with a family connection. So, the government abandoned that. This Government said no status grants were on their electoral agenda, but now we have it.

But how would a discussion go in a committee? In a parliamentary committee, we would have to answer a few questions. What should be the process by which further Bermuda status grants are to be awarded? What should be the criteria? Should you have to speak English to get status, or not? How many should be given out a year? I know the Government was paying someone to fill out applications for people who did not speak English. Some people might say, maybe you should speak English in order to get Bermudian status.

The point is, Mr. Speaker, a bipartisan committee will say, We believe “X” number should be awarded a year. Here are the criteria. Here is the process by which it should be done. We do not reject the awarding of Bermuda status in and of itself. That was not our earlier position. We recognise that there has to be some kind of compromise. This Government has refused to even talk about numbers. Every country in the world has an idea, or some controls over, how many citizenships they award, how many permanent residence certificates [PRCs] they award. This Government has refused to even discuss the issue.

And in refusing to discuss the issue, it begs the question, Why? Why not? What is the hardship? What is the harm? So, a bipartisan committee would look at the issue of Bermuda status, decide on criteria, decide on numbers, decide on processes that will be involved.

Secondly, PRCs. We recognise that PRCs are a category of people who should be given certain rights. And we should talk about how that could be extended. It is the Progressive Labour Party that created the category of PRCs. We brought that in to provide a measure of security to people who have been here for the long term. But going forward, what should be the process in place? The only current law in place for PRCs, in my view, is racist, sexist and class-biased. I think it needs to be abolished. But a bipartisan committee will look at the current legislation regarding PRCs and come up with a more compromised approach. How many PRCs should we issue each year? By what criteria? And what rights should be attached to them?

There is one view which says the current situation regarding PRCs is inappropriate, saying, How could you give someone the right to live and work in a country without work permit control, and yet tell them they can only buy property at certain bands? Some will see that as inconsistent with the rights of someone living in a country. So we do not have firm positions. We are submitting to a bipartisan committee so that these issues can be addressed in the spirit of compromise, Mr. Speaker. We want to avoid unilateralism, because, Mr. Speaker, unilateralism is not healthy in a country as divided as we are today.

Mr. Speaker, this bipartisan committee will sort out what is a right and what is a privilege. What are the rights for Bermudians, and what is a privilege for Bermudians? What is the right for a PRC and what is the privilege for a PRC? I hear a lot of talk about human rights issues and so forth. What right does someone have who comes here on a work permit that the employer renews repeatedly? There are a multitude of views on that, Mr. Speaker. We know that there are certain rights enshrined by law, equal protection under the law. But what right does that person have to permanent status, and what right does that person have to Bermuda status? A committee can sort that out!

What you have to date is a Minister—I am not even sure which technical people the Minister was using—but you have the Minister who has made such decisions and been supported by Cabinet. Bermudians have rights in their own country. Should Bermudians come first in their own country? I think everyone who loves this country would say Bermudians should come first in their own country. That is not to negate the right of anyone else whom we invite here on work permits and so forth. But we have to assess it. Again, you have the parliamentary committee to do so. It avoids a unilateral approach on such matters.

Another issue of great concern is that of the family unit. No one on this side wants to see policies and laws in place which have the effect of dividing families and giving families different political rights or a different political status. It is inappropriate for one person in a family to have Bermuda status, someone else to be a PRC or be on a work permit. So we want to see common political status. We have not even had that discussion with the Government because they refuse to talk about it. They refuse to engage in dialogue. And if you go by all the rhetoric, racist comments or provocative comments that you hear and read about in social media, you would think Bermuda is about to be at war with itself. 

So I appreciate, Mr. Speaker, your recognising the urgency of this.
But when it comes to the family unit, we need to find a mature and responsible solution so that families do not find themselves divided on this issue of different political status. This is our opportunity. This is the opportunity for this Parliament to demonstrate leadership that transcends what many see as a more narrowly defined political agenda that has less to do with the human rights, has less to do with rights of long-term residents, but more to do with a more crass political motivation.

Mr. Speaker, this bipartisan committee will address a very delicate issue about what right and what privileges people should have who are born here. Should everyone born in Bermuda have Bermuda status, as is the case with citizenship in the United States or Canada? Or should we look at a modification based on what you see in the UK, Germany, and other countries, where being born in a country does not automatically grant you citizenship rights?

Our policies have to be determined based on our circumstances. And so, those who wish to refer to the European Convention on Human Rights should read it very carefully. Do not just read the part about the importance of the family unit, because everyone in this Parliament I know recognises the importance of the family unit. But what the European Convention on Human Rights says is that any policies you advance should be mindful of local circumstances.

And, you know, there was an actual provision in the European Convention which says that, if the administering powers (i.e., one of the Colonial powers, like Britain, the Netherlands and France) are to apply or to extend this convention to their territories - in France, the department. In Holland, the Netherlands, it is one of their integrated territories in the ABC countries, in the Caribbean, or the British Overseas Territories. They have to be mindful of the small sizes of these populations. That is the European Convention on Human Rights.

So, what should be the criteria in place? At one point, we had 12,000 work permit holders in Bermuda. If 6,000 had children born in Bermuda, would this Government say they should all be granted Bermuda status? What should be the policy? What should be the legislation in place? Any legislation in place has to be mindful of what is a right, what is a privilege, what are the rights of  
Bermudians, and the rights of those who are here on work permits.
These are delicate issues, Mr. Speaker. They are sensitive issues. We are sensitive to that sensitivity. And we believe that a bipartisan approach is the only way to properly and fully address these issues. In the absence of bipartisanship, Mr. Speaker, this country is going to go through a period of turmoil and unease, and that is not good for anyone.

Intimately connected to the whole question of PRCs Bermuda status is that of work permit policy. I do not know how anyone could not see work permit policy as being an integral component of this whole notion of moving toward a lessening of restrictions with respect to PRCs and Bermuda status. Work permit policy is enshrined in the Bermuda Immigration and Protection Act 1956. So you cannot separate work permit policy from immigration policy.
Mr. Speaker, there are some very interesting components in the Immigration and Protection Act and in the work permit policy that tie in directly to longevity of stay and opportunities for Bermudians.

I will give you a couple of examples, Mr. Speaker, that this bipartisan committee will have to look at. We already have in immigration policy a provision that requires nannies to be paid a minimum wage of $10 an hour. It is minimal. It is not enough to live on. But at least it is a minimum base wage. That base salary, Mr. Speaker, is not sufficient to attract locals to apply for those positions. Because when you juxtapose the very low salary, the very low wage, with the working conditions, it is contrived to ensure that Bermudians do not apply for that position. And so, you will have someone in a position for five, ten or fifteen years precisely because no Bermudian is going to apply for it. And the employer knows that.

So, we have to consider in this bipartisan committee what is an appropriate wage or salary for workers, because it is that, Mr. Speaker, that is being used to deny Bermudians opportunities and lead to the denial of jobs that leads to those staying here for 15 or 20 years, working as nannies or in other areas.

When you have hospitality sectors paying people $5.25 an hour, you are not offering a living wage. You are contriving a set of employment circumstances that effectively deny Bermudians jobs. We do not have a liveable wage. And you cannot look at this apart from immigration policy, where the employer says, Oh, well. I’ll see how much of the gratuities I am going to share with my staff this week, where you rely on the good graces of the employer. Now, the employer has an incentive to hire only foreign workers in certain categories because employers do not need to pay pension for work permit holders. If you have 10, 15 or 20 employees, you are going to structure your business to maximise [using] foreign workers because it is reducing your cost. It is a basic economic decision that employers make.

So you cannot extricate work permit policy or wage scales from any proper discussion of immigration policy, Mr. Speaker. This has to be an item involved in immigration reform, comprehensive reform. It has to be an item that is discussed by this committee. These are some of the issues, Mr. Speaker, that we need to look at. Every time a PRC certificate is issued, that job has been removed from work permit control. That job is no longer open or available to a Bermudian to apply for.
A Government has to be sensitive to these kinds of issues when you have 3,000 people unemployed. And I have heard some very disparaging remarks about people who have been out protesting and so forth. The reality is that those who are out of work today, Mr. Speaker, fill the gamut in terms of qualifications, experience and skills. It is not one single class. I have heard the group described as a mob, uneducated people. Only those who have contempt for the people use such language, Mr. Speaker. And when you use such contempt, people respond accordingly.
We have a volatile environment. We do not need to have a volatile environment. We have to have an approach that is focused on compromise. Compromise has to be a critical part.
I listened to a speech by President Obama a few weeks ago. Everyone says they love Obama here. Everyone here says they love President Obama. And everyone wants to embrace his approach to politics. And each side accuse the other side of being like the Republicans. But let us take a lesson from Obama. He made a speech a few weeks ago. One very powerful statement he made, among many powerful statements. He said (and I quote—well, I paraphrase. I may not get it exactly right.) He said, If you cannot compromise, you cannot lead. Let me repeat that: If you cannot compromise, you cannot lead. Because no leadership, no matter how many votes you have, can decide to act in a unilateral manner on all major policy simply because you have the votes. Having the votes in Parliament does not mean you get the support of the people.

When Parliament refuses to act in ways that reflect, respect and respond to the public interest, the public has a right to reject what Parliament does. The [people] have a right to reject parliamentary measures and resort to extra-parliamentary measures.
But here we are, Mr. Speaker. We have a sacred duty to respond in ways that are meaningful and respectful and reduce the tension. This is our opportunity today. This is our opportunity today, Mr. Speaker.
One of the other items for discussion on this committee for bipartisan reform will be to look at the category of PRCs who are investors into Bermuda. Should we create a category for the super-wealthy who are either going to invest a significant sum of money or buy a significant property? We already have laws on the books which say that if you buy a property of a particular value, in a particular area, you get the right of residence. We have that already on the books for one property that I know of.
But consider wealthy individuals who are not interested in coming to work in Bermuda, but they may set up a business and hire people. What provisions can or should we make for these investors, who will bring money into the country, who will develop new businesses? Let us forget about the job makers. I have been a critic of the Job Makers Act since it was first tabled. And yes, you could talk about whom it was tabled under. These individuals are not job makers. I do not know why it was called a Job Makers Act, right? The investments of these companies came from the mutual fund, the hedge fund. These guys (because they are mostly guys—it is a very sexist sort of enterprise, this segment of international business) do not invest money. They benefit from the investments of others.
So if you want to create pathways to PRCs for the investors, talk to the guys who are putting up the money, not the guys who benefit from getting the high-paying jobs, because they are not creating the jobs. Yes, they have a big economic impact. But the Job Makers Act is a misnomer, and we need to look at providing, or at least assessing, what can be done for those individuals who are truly bringing money into Bermuda, who are creating these opportunities for growth, and particularly those who might be looking at new areas of investment. 

So these are some [ideas], Mr. Speaker.
The last issue that I will raise that I think could be a matter for discussion with this bipartisan committee is the notion of equal political rights for everyone who has Bermuda status. Because right now, Mr. Speaker, those who have Bermuda status, we do not have equal political rights. And some may be confused by what I mean. The reality is that an American who acquires Bermuda status can sit and serve in this Parliament. If, on the other hand, I decided to go and [I] take on American citizenship, I would be ineligible to sit in this Parliament.
So how can we, in the twenty-first century, want to move full steam ahead looking at this series of immigration reform and not tackle the issue of equal political status?
I know. It is based on an old colonial model, because our Constitution says that if anyone has sworn allegiance to another party other than the Queen of England, then you cannot serve in our Parliament. So why should I be denied the right to take out citizenship in a non-commonwealth country unless I am prepared to give up my seat in Parliament, whereas someone who comes from a non-commonwealth country can do so?
Just for the record, Mr. Speaker, I have no intention of taking out citizenship in any other country. I have no desire. I travel wherever I want to travel. I do not have a British passport; I have a Colonial passport. Let us just get that straight. And as I said before, Mr. Speaker, I would renounce my British citizenship tomorrow if it did not render me stateless. So I am caught in a bind. I am British because they passed a law.
But here there is a principle involved of unequal political rights. So, for all the comments by this Government about human rights and so forth, you have never once heard this Government talk about the human rights and equal political rights for those current Bermuda status holders.
So, Mr. Speaker, I have outlined eight or nine items that could and should legitimately be addressed by a bipartisan committee of this House and another Chamber. This is a sincere effort at taking everyone back from brinkmanship politics. This is our opportunity today, Mr. Speaker. 

For three years we have called for it. We watched the Government engage in a series of measures with respect to immigration reform, which has demonstrated callous disregard for the legacy of the past, callous disregard for the sincere efforts toward a bipartisan approach. And even amidst all of that, Mr. Speaker, against that backdrop, we stand before you today, we stand before Parliament today and we stand before the people of this country today, Mr. Speaker, to say, Let us engage in a sincere bipartisan effort. 

These are the items we have tabled. We want to get away from brinkmanship. And we are saying to the Government, Let us do it for the people of this country. Let us do it for those who hold work permits in this country, Mr. Speaker. We do not want to see things further unravel.
I know there is a lot of cynicism all around this country. But we are united on this front. We want to see a demonstrated commitment. This is our opportunity, Mr. Speaker. This is [possibly the] last opportunity for Parliament to show it can rise above the divisiveness that has been so inherent in what we have been doing since 2012. It is an opportunity to show genuine leadership. But also, Mr. Speaker, it is an opportunity to show genuine love and concern for the future of our country.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.