25 April 2018


CARIbBEAn development bank


The Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) has launched a Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Project in the British Virgin Islands (BVI), which will assist the country in recovering from the effects of Hurricane Irma. The Project, which was launched on April 10, 2018, will be funded through a USD65.3 million (mn) loan and a USD300,000 grant.
Speaking at the launch, Diana Wilson Patrick, General Counsel, CDB, noted that the Project is a further extension of CDB’s efforts to help BVI recover from the impact of the extreme weather event. In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Irma, the Bank provided an Emergency Relief Grant of USD200,000, and Immediate Response Loans totalling USD2.25 mn.
It was with a sense of some pride that the management and staff of the Caribbean Development Bank were able to work with our counterparts in the Government of the Virgin Islands to have financing towards the proposed rehabilitation and reconstruction activities approved by the Bank’s Board of Directors on December 14, 2017. This was a mere three months after Hurricane Irma caused the loss of four lives and an estimated USD3.6 billion in damage to homes, schools, infrastructure, public administration and defence and several other sectors; disrupting the lives of the country’s men, women, boys and girls.”   
Premier and Minister of Finance, Dr. The Honourable D. Orlando Smith said that the Project was timely, as it will assist with recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction.
It is time to get our livelihoods back on track. It is time for us to get on with the several projects and initiatives that are identified for each ministry in the loan agreement. And, it is time to weather proof our infrastructure and rebuild it in a way that offers some resiliency to unprecedented weather patterns.”
He went on to note that the funds provided will help to restore economic stability to the Territory.
Today’s project launch signals that we are moving full steam ahead, and getting on with it, so that we can put this Territory in a much better place tomorrow than it was yesterday, and is today. My government is now ready to begin injecting this money into the economy to rehabilitate and rebuild our schools, our roads, our ferry terminals, and other infrastructure, working hand-in-hand with CDB, as well as our local contractors and others to this end,” said Dr. Smith.
The components of the Project include road rehabilitation; the construction of schools and coastal defences; improvement of water and sewage facilities; and capacity building for the provision of psychosocial support and disaster risk reduction. Implementation is expected to be completed over a three-year period.

24 April 2018

Caribbean airlines seek cooperation across national boundaries


Under the initiative, the partners will work towards more efficient regional travel.

Philipsburg- Three important regional carriers, Air Antilles, Liat and Winair are working on an initative to make interregional traffic more efficient.

Under the name ‘Caribsky’ the three carriers want to provide better connections to travellers accross the English, Dutch and French speaking Caribbean. The Chief Executive Officers of the three carriers working on the project, Michael Cleaver of WINAIR, Serge Tsygalnitzky of AIR ANTILLES and Julie Reifer-Jones of LIAT will be providing more details about the projects in a joint press conference to be held on April 17, 2018 in Creole Beach Hotel, Pointe de la Verdure in Gosier, Guadeloupe.

Winair for some years already enjoys a close cooperation with Air Antilles. Based on a wet-leased agreement with Air Antilles Winair flies to various regional destinations with Air Antilles ATR aircraft, among which the routes between Sint Maarten and Curaçao, between St. Maarten and Haiti and between Bonaire and St. Eustatius.

It is noteworthy that various regional carriers, including Winair and Liat struggle to stay financially viable. Although Winair for some time was on a path of growth and expansion, the St. Maarten based carrier was hit bad by hurricanes Irma and Maria. Operational trouble at Curaçao based Insel Air has provided Winair a new lifeline in the form of regular flights between Sint Maarten and Hato Airport in Curaçao.

23 April 2018




The Netherlands and World Bank sign US$580 million agreement for Sint Maarten’s Recovery and Resilience Post Irma

WASHINGTON, April 16, 2018—The State Secretary for the Interior and Kingdom Affairs of the Netherlands, Raymond Knops, signed today an agreement with World Bank’s Chief Executive Officer Kristalina Georgieva in the presence of Sint Maarten Prime Minister Leona M. Marlin-Romeo, to channel 470 million euros (about US$580 million) through a Trust Fund managed by the World Bank to help Sint Maarten build back better and increase resilience following the devastation caused by hurricane Irma.

"I am delighted to team up with the World Bank, which has a proven track record in the successful execution of this type of projects. Together with Sint Maarten, we want to rebuild the island in a sustainable and hurricane-proof manner", said Raymond Knops, State Secretary for the Interior and Kingdom Affairs of the Netherlands.
The Sint Maarten Recovery, Reconstruction and Resilience Trust Fund will support recovery efforts and help the government of Sint Maarten prepare projects with well-defined development objectives, and provide capacity support for effective, efficient and transparent project execution.

“The World Bank is working closely with Sint Maarten and other Caribbean countries to help their people recover and rebuild after the recent hurricanes,” 
said Kristalina Georgieva, World Bank Chief Executive Officer“We are fast-tracking the preparation of emergency projects and using our global and regional expertise to speed up reconstruction, build resilience, and support all of those who have been affected”.
In Sint Maarten, the World Bank has already supported the government to carry out a Recovery Needs Assessment and prepare a National Recovery and Resilience Plan (NRRP); and is now helping set up a Recovery Bureau to guide the recovery, reconstruction and resilience efforts. According to the post disaster assessment, the effects of Hurricane Irma are estimated at US$1.8 billion (180% of GDP), affecting 90 percent of all infrastructure and large parts of the natural environment.
“This is an important step and we look forward to working with the World Bank and the Netherlands in speeding up recovery efforts and returning Sint Maarten to its position as a beacon of prosperity by building back better”, said Prime Minister Leona M. Marlin-Romeo.
As the next hurricane season is closing in, the World Bank teams are working with the governments of the Netherlands and Sint Maarten to fast track the preparation of three emergency projects amounting of up to US$128 million. These projects will focus on: recovery and disaster preparedness and the rehabilitation of water and electricity utilities; debris removal; as well as skills and hospitality training and a cash for work program to provide affected communities with a social safety net in times of economic uncertainty.  Future projects will continue to be selected by agreement from the steering Committee composed of representatives from the Netherlands, Sint Maarten and the World Bank, based on the needs identified in the NRRP.

22 April 2018


Pacific Daily News

Bevacqua: Guam being a colony affects neighbors in Micronesia

Conceptual compartmentalization is something all humans do as a way of navigating the world around us. We develop frameworks for understanding things that happen, things we learn, which in turn form our identities and lead to action or inaction.

Compartmentalization is also a form of prioritization. As we float the river of life, there are so many things to which we could feel potentially connected. No man is an island; everyone is part of something greater. But compartmentalization also means some connections will feel nearby, while others are faint.

I write about this often in the context of colonization and decolonization. It’s something that from my perspective is integral to understanding how this island has been shaped over the past few centuries, and where it should head next. For me, these topics are closely connected to almost everything in Guam today. To me, they are as close as Cocos Island, but to most people their connection to Guam is as distant as Greenland. It’s something that doesn’t have any real relevance and matters only to a select few.

Not only about conscious choices

But here is the problem: Compartmentalization isn’t only about conscious choices. It’s also about dreading certain topics or dreading confronting certain truths. We seal off things and actively push them away to not deal with how they may affect us if we were to wrestle with them.

Someone who is strongly (and sometimes unconsciously) invested in his or her particular privilege tends to seal off things more aggressively in order to maintain that privilege. It’s no wonder there are massive industries in every country meant to deny or minimize the violence against indigenous or marginalized groups. If you don’t, the fruits of that violence don’t look so grand or glorious, but can become grotesque.

Impact of the Jones Act

In terms of political status, much of this rejection of the relevance is tied to people not wanting to rethink their assumptions about the U.S. or about our connection to it. People have trouble contending with these ideas because they open too many questions, too many possibilities, and compartmentalization is usually about reducing and simplifying.

But how we see the world has very little relationship to how we are connected to things in the world. A case in point can be found in the much-maligned Jones Act, which is a federal statute that affects the cost of living in Guam. Most people have some familiarity with the impact of the Jones Act. But what few realize is how it actually affects the entire region around us.

Colonial status affects islands around us

As Guam is the shipping hub for all of Micronesia, our colonial status and the restrictions we face trickle down to all the islands around us, as they depend on Guam to receive goods. This is the case even though they are more sovereign and have a greater degree of independence. The high cost of living here, because of colonial laws, dramatically increases the cost of living in the islands around us.

A goal for decolonization would be to ensure a greater degree of regional integration. Right now, we all endure a system that isn’t meant to serve the interests of those living in Micronesia, but instead inflates our cost of living to protect certain interests in the U.S. We are unified by colonialism, even if we aren’t all colonized.

20 April 2018



Guam and Okinawa have a shared history of exploitation by their governments — and a shared threat from new military installations.

In January, three residents from the U.S. territory of Guam visited Japan to express their solidarity with Okinawans struggling to block construction of new U.S. military facilities on their island.
During their 10-day stay, the members of Prutehi Litekyan: Save Ritidian — Monaeka Flores, Stasia Yoshida and Rebekah Garrison — participated in sit-in demonstrations and gave a series of lectures explaining the similarities between Guam and Okinawa.
The Japanese prefecture of Okinawa is host to 31 U.S. bases, which take up 15 percent of the main island. On the U.S. territory of Guam, the Department of Defense owns 29 percent of the island — more than the local government, which owns only 19 percent. And if the U.S. military gets its way, its share there will soon grow.
Currently, the Japanese and U.S. governments are planning to relocate roughly 4,000 marines from Okinawa to Guam — a move, the authorities assert, that will reduce the military burden on Okinawa. Tokyo has also started to return land currently used by the U.S. military — but only if new facilities are built elsewhere on the island.
During their visit to Japan, the three Guam residents saw firsthand the problems local residents are facing.


19 April 2018

Pacific nuclear survivors call for United Kingdom support


Pacific nuclear survivors call for UK support at CHOGM

Commonwealth servicemen who participated in the UK nuclear testing program in the Pacific are calling for recognition and compensation, as leaders gather in London for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM).

This month is the 60th anniversary of Grapple Y, the test of a multi-megaton thermonuclear weapon by the United Kingdom in the central Pacific. The atmospheric nuclear test was held at Christmas (Kiritimati) Island on 28 April 1958, during Operation Grapple - the program to develop the British hydrogen bomb.

Sixty years on, sailors and soldiers from New Zealand and Fiji who participated in Operation Grapple have issued an open letter to the Commonwealth Heads of Government, calling for justice for the survivors of the UK nuclear tests.

In the open letter (attached), they call on British Prime Minister Theresa May to fulfil promises made 60 years ago, to address the health and environmental consequences of the UK nuclear weapons program.

Nine UK hydrogen bomb tests were held between May 1957 and September 1958 at Malden Island and Christmas (Kiritimati) Island in the British Gilbert and Ellice Islands Colony - today part of the Pacific nation of Kiribati. Nearly 14,000 British troops travelled to the central Pacific for the H-bomb testing program, but other Commonwealth countries were also involved.

New Zealand sent aircraft and two naval frigates with 551 New Zealand sailors to support the tests. The British colony of Fiji supplied 276 Fijian participants from the Royal Fiji Military Force and the Fiji Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. Dozens of Gilbertese islanders worked as labourers to support the military operation. Australia provided uranium for the UK nuclear weapons program, and atomic triggers used for the UK hydrogen bomb were tested in the South Australian desert at Maralinga. Canadian airbases were used to transport the nuclear weapons to the Pacific. Commonwealth countries like Samoa, Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati and Australia hosted radiation monitoring stations.

As a member of the Fiji Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, Paul Ah Poy helped survey the test site, and witnessed seven nuclear tests during Operation Grapple.

“As British colonial subjects in the 1950s, Fijians loyally served the UK military. But as survivors of the nuclear tests, we have lost friends and colleagues to cancer, leukaemia and other illnesses that can be caused by radiation.” said Ah Poy. “Today, we ask the British government to provide compensation, medical support and environmental rehabilitation to all people affected by Operation Grapple, including New Zealand and Fijian military personnel and i-Kiribati living on Christmas (Kiritimati) Island.”

Children of Gilbertese plantation workers on the island suffered eye damage and other health effects from the nuclear detonations. Survivors on Christmas (Kiritimati) Island have formed the ‘Association of Cancer Patients Affected by the British and American Bomb Tests.’

Independent medical studies, such as research conducted by Professor Al Rowland at Massey University in New Zealand, have documented significant chromosomal translocations amongst the New Zealand sailors who joined the naval task force for Operation Grapple.

Roy Sefton, chair of the New Zealand Nuclear Test Veterans Association, was awarded the Queen’s Service Medal for his work with NZ nuclear veterans. As a participant during five nuclear tests, he says that Commonwealth veterans should receive the same support as British troops.

“The British government should provide funds for an independent medical study to investigate potential intergenerational health effects for the children and grandchildren of Operation Grapple participants from New Zealand, Kiribati and Fiji - as it has done for UK veterans”, said Sefton.

18 April 2018



Foundation Nos Ke Boneiru Bek and Brighter Path Foundation mission to Caricom Guyana and Surinam 

Willemstad, April 16th 2018 

Representatives of the Nos Kier Boneiru Bek Foundation from Bonaire, the Brighter Path Foundation of St. Eustatius, and the illegally deposed Government of St. Eustatius travelled to Guyana and Suriname with the object to solicit solidarity in condemnation of, and to expose the blatant violations of human rights, the continued colonial administration, and the contempt for identity and culture of the local people by the Dutch government in The Hague and its local collaborators in the islands of Bonaire and St. Eustatius. 

They received a warm welcome and experienced sympathy and were given support. They met with his Hon. Mr. Carl B. Greenidge, Vice-President and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Guyana, with his excellency Mr Colin Granderson assistant Secretary- General CARICOM, Ms Karen de Sousa founder and coordinator of Red Thread a woman and child human rights organization which was awarded the Caribbean Award for Excellence

The delegation also met with Honourable Ms Indranie Chanderpal, Member of Parliament in the opposition and President of Commission for Equal Rights of the Woman; with Honourable Mr Clement J Rohee ex-minister of Foreign Affairs, ex-minister of Home Affairs and president of Guyana Peace Council; with Mr drs. Andre Misiekaba, Faction coalition leader of the Parliament of Suriname, Chair of the Permanent Committee for Foreign Affairs, Chair of the Permanent Committee for Internal Affairs, Chair of the Permanent Committee for Defense, and Chair of the Permanent Committee for Environment and Climate Change of the National Assembly of the Republic of Suriname; and with Honourable Mr Chan Santokhi ex-minister of Foreign Affairs and faction leader of opposition of the Nationaale Assamblee Republic of Suriname. At the meetings the following topics were discussed:

* Bonaire and St. Eustatius are two small islands in the Dutch Caribbean which since October 10, 2010 were forced in a subordinate direct relationship with the (European) Netherlands at the dissolution of The Netherlands Antilles. This happened against the will of the people of both islands who expressed their desire in separate referenda to retain or possibly expand their level of autonomy. Effectively, the islands are currently governed in a constitutional status that was firmly and clearly rejected by the people.

* Since October 10, 2010 the Dutch government has continued pursuing an aggressive colonial policy of imposing laws contrary to local customs and cultural traditions, undermining and limiting the responsibilities of local democratically elected parliaments and governments, and appointing European Dutch citizens in the local administration and demoting local heads of departments.

* Furthermore, the Dutch government took away all restrictions on immigration of European Dutch to the islands and encouraged their immigration by offering them tax holidays and financial benefits NOT available to the local people. Having wiped out the local businesses by demanding immediate payment of taxes allegedly owed over the five years prior to October 10, 2010, the economy in Bonaire is now largely in the hands of European Dutch. 

* In Bonaire, the immigration has come to such a level that it makes the local people fear for genocide by substitution. The same trend is visible in St. Eustatius. With the right to vote in local elections obtained in 90 days (a Dutch law), these Dutch immigrants could soon outnumber locals in the electorate and replace them in the representative bodies, making the exclusion of local people complete.

* On October 10, 2010 the Netherlands usurped the responsibilities for healthcare, education, and social affairs. Since then, despite allegedly big investments in the healthcare system, the crude death rate has gone up significantly and is out of proportion compared to the numbers in the wider Caribbean. 

* In education, changes were made in the educational system in Bonaire that adversely affected the local students by limiting them to the lower levels of the system, and hence segregation between the European Dutch and local people. Despite three reports by independent organizations, which stated that the minimum wage was too low, and the average income was well-below the poverty level, the Dutch Government has only ordered a next report to come to the establishment of an acceptable social minimum. 

* The effective tax pressure is as high in the islands as it is in the European part of the Kingdom with a lower average income. At the same time the cost of living in the islands is about twice the level of the cost of living in the European Netherlands, while the social benefits in the islands are less than half compared to the European Netherlands. By now building the second biggest (per capita) prison in the world, the Dutch government says to invest in the social well-being of the Bonerians. 

Despite the promise of reluctance in introducing new laws, the Dutch government pushed highly controversial Dutch laws without input from the islands and experienced locally as immoral and as a threat to the identity and culture. In November 2017, the islands were annexed and incorporated in the Dutch constitution, again despite fierce opposition from the islands and despite the referenda in Bonaire in 2015 and 2014 in St. Eustatius. 

On top of it, a paragraph was included giving the Dutch government the right to deviate from the constitution and declare parts of the constitution not-applicable to the islands without giving a reason, thus making the status of second class citizens of the people of our islands legal.

Ultimately, the undemocratic and colonial actions of the government in the Netherlands resulted on February 7, 2018 in King Willem-Alexander signing a law into effect, that passed through the Dutch Parliament unanimously in the record time of two days, by which the legislative and executive branches of government of St. Eustatius were thrown out and replaced by a sole (Dutch) Government Commissioner, appointed by and accountable to the Dutch Minister of the Interior in The Hague alone. 

By the same law, the elections for the legislative body of St. Eustatius, slated for March 2019, were postponed indefinitely. The law was passed based on a report compiled by two persons appointed by the Dutch Minister of the Interior in which the local government was accused of corruption, nepotism, and fraud. All accusations have so far remained without proof.

The people of Bonaire and St. Eustatius reach out to their brothers and sisters in the Caribbean to increase the awareness about the persistent colonial behavior of the Dutch government toward the islands and help them in their struggle to acquire their measure of self-governance as is stipulated in the resolutions of the United Nations. 

By removing these and the other islands of the Dutch Antilles from the UN list of non-self-governing countries and territories under false pretense in 1954, the Dutch achieved to escape reporting to the United Nations on the decolonization of the islands and have their wicked way with the islands.

The NGO’s Nos Kier Boneiru Bek and Brighter Path, joined by the deposed legitimately and democratically elected government of St. Eustatius, strive for re-enlisting on the list of non-self-governing countries and territories of the United Nations and for acquisition of their measure of self-governance to guarantee the human rights of the local people of Bonaire and St. Eustatius now trampled on and taken away by a Dutch government. This quest has brought them to the doors of CARICOM and the governments of the member states.


16 April 2018

Nuke veterans write to French Polynesia election candidates

A French Polynesian nuclear test veterans organisation has written an open letter to all election candidates urging them to stand up to France over the consequences of the tests.

Remnants of the testing infrastructure on Moruroa atoll Photo: AFP
The Association 193 has written to all candidates asking them to position themselves on four issues which center on getting France to assume full responsibility for the test legacy and the impact people's lives and the environment.

It called on all politicians to show the courage to challenge France as the health problems are widespread, with hundreds of new cancer cases being recorded each year.

The letter pointed to the last two presidents, Edouard Fritch and Gaston Flosse, who both said that they had told lied on behalf of France about the tests' risks.

It said it was not enough to concede to have lied.

This, it said, should be followed by an apology and concrete steps to make France honour its responsibilities.

France carried out 193 tests in Moruroa and Fangataufa between 1966 and 1996 - the last ones during the tenure of Flosse.



Minister Wiebes, according to his spokesperson, is not studying any changes to the fee structure laid down in the law regulating Electricity and Water on the BES-islands. 

By René Zwart © 

The Hague – Minister Eric Wiebes of Economic Affairs and Climate is not planning to make any adjustments to the law regulating electricity and water on the BES-islands, now that has become clear what negative effects the law will have on consumers in Bonaire.

The new fee structure for electricity, introduced on 1 April, 2018 will result in (much) higher bills for those who consume little electricity. The law that was actually meant to keep energy affordable, now appears to affect the poorest consumers the most. The culprit is the introduction of the fixed connection fee: even those who do not use any electricity, will now pay a fixed monthly amount just for having a connection to the electricity grid.

The new fees have led to much upheaval and criticism on the island. Thousands of citizens signed a petition, the Island Council announced an emergency visit to The Hague and the Executive Council protested by letter to the Dutch Government. The commotion also brought members of the House of Representatives of CDA and D66 into action, sending several written questions to Wiebes.

The protests however seem to have failed to impress Minister Wiebes so far. A question by news site Bonaire.Nu to Wiebes’ spokesman about whether an adaptation of the law is being studied, the answer was both clear and short: “That is not the case.” According to the spokesperson, extensive consultations were held on the islands, prior to the implementation of the new law.

Exco did not protest proposed fee structure

Official documents do show indeed that the Executive Council of Bonaire in 2014 did not raise any concerns about the negative effects that the new law would possibly have for the population. At the time, the Executive Council in Bonaire was mainly against the idea that citizens would be allowed to generate electricity themselves, because this would be at the expense of WEB’s turnover. Protests were also filed against the announcement that the subsidy of the state would be phased out.

Now that Minister Wiebes says he does not intend to do anything about the protests, it will depend on the Second Chamber to decide if the law will be “repaired.” This can be achieved by either increasing the subsidy by the Ministry of Economic affairs, or by reverting back to the old system where the bills to be paid are calculated exclusively based on consumption.

03 April 2018


Contributing Commentary

"The membership in the Security Council of the Netherlands and its dependencies last January came amid intensified colonial practices of the Kingdom in the Caribbean. To this end, the semi-autonomous countries of Aruba, Curacao and Sint Maarten have experienced systematic reduction of their autonomy forced by heavy-handed political pressure from Holland which controls them. Meanwhile, additional manuevers have been employed in the 'public entities' of Bonaire, Saba and Sint Eustatius where an status of 'direct ties with the Kingdom' agreed in 2010 was quickly transformed into an unwanted Dutch annexation of the so-called "Caribbean Netherlands" - the new designation used to describe the colonies which had been strategically transformed from being Dutch dependencies in the Caribbean to being projected as inferior parts of Europe. 

Ironically, two of these three dependencies had formally rejected the emerging colonialism in formal referenda in Sint Eustatius (2014) and in Bonaire (2015). The results of these referenda were either mis-represented by the Dutch in the case of Sint Eustatius, or totally ignored in the case of Bonaire. Sint Eustatius even suffered through the unceremonious "colonial coup" through the abolition of its elected government in favour of a Dutch-appointed prefect who would administer the colony with absolute power at the direction of the colonial master. The lack of response to such extraordinary events by countries of  Latin America and the Caribbean has not go unnoticed, as the spectre of extra-regional colonial powers operating with impunity in the hemisphere in the 21st Century remains a sad commentary. 

It is unsurprising that the members of the United Nations Security Council would welcome the Netherlands membership with open arms given that the other present-day colonial powers of France, the United Kingdom, and the United States - the permanent members of the Council - all freely operate in the hemisphere. Only the issue of the Malvinas (Falkland Islands) appears to be on the radar screen of some hemispheric states whilst their silence surrounding colonialism in the Caribbean territories is deafening.

The ancestors must surely be rolling in their graves...


NEW YORK - The Kingdom of the Netherlands, including Aruba, Curaçao and St Maarten, took up its seat on the United Nations (UN) Security Council for a one-year tenure as of January 1.

The Kingdom will chair the Security Council during the month March. It has been present as an observer at the Council’s meetings from October 2017. Karel van Oosterom, the Kingdom’s Permanent Representative to the UN, tweeted Monday: “Mille grazie to our Italian colleagues … for a great first year of the Italian-Dutch #SplitTerm in the UN Security Council.” 

During the Security Council elections in 2016, the Kingdom made agreements with Italy on dividing the 2017-2018 term, so that each state would occupy the seat for one year.

Photo: Van Oosterom with other colleagues at the changeover at UN with backdrops featuring St. Maarten and other 'countries' in the kingdom.

02 April 2018

Unlikely extension of political powers under U.S.territorial status would yield only a lesser form of political inequality


Territorial Status Not “Equally American”

Editors Note: This article reports that Neal Weare of “We The People Project” changed its name to “Equally American.” Subsequently, Weare’s renamed lobbying organization filed a new lawsuit seeking rights of statehood for the territories. An analysis of that lawsuit’s merits by PR51ST is forthcoming.
The nonprofit territorial rights lobbying and litigation organization known as “We the People Project” is changing its marketing brand. WTPP founder Neil Weare announced the fundraising operation’s new name will be “Equally American.”  As aspirational sloganeering that new rallying cry certainly defines the goal, but not the path to reach it.
For Puerto Rico, the only political status that would make the people “equally American” is statehood. The smaller territories are in the same predicament as the District of Columbia, where “state like” treatment and even a constitutional amendment giving residents voting representation in one branch of government has failed generations of citizens aspiring to be “Equally American.”
Still, a name change and new marketing platform may be a smart move. At a minimum it shifts the focus away from WTPP’s unbroken record losing every federal court case engineered by Weare and funded by donations from all five U.S. territories.
Weare fell far short of his goal of a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court making U.S. citizens in the territories “Equally American” compared to citizens in the states. But after losing every federal court case he is still espousing hopeful aspirations to somehow end denial of equal rights for residents of federal reservations governed under federal territorial law.
The new name actually reveals the fundamental disconnect between citizenship and equal rights in any U.S. ruled territory not within a state. While U.S. nationals and citizens in the territories can be respected and accorded the dignity of being recognized as “Equally American” in creed and character, that does not change the fact that they do not have equal rights of U.S. national citizenship when they are residing in a territory.
That is because U.S. nationality and citizenship are conferred by Congress under territorial law, not by application of the U.S. Constitution in territories outside the states. Similarly, under the U.S. Constitution voting in federal elections is a right of citizenship and eligibility to vote in a state.
Seeking rights in the territories that only exist under the U.S. Constitution for citizens residing and eligible to vote in a state of the union can perhaps lead to federal policies making territories “more equally” American, but never “fully equal” to Americans in the states.  So the only real path to being “Equally American” in rights for all territories is statehood or integration into a state.
The only other alternative is to propose an amendment to the Constitution to make national citizenship, voting in federal elections and equal representation in Congress and the Electoral College a right not linked to state citizenship. Weare promised a proposed constitutional amendment after losing all his court cases, but like other hopes he aroused his donors and followers are still waiting for a draft amendment that would not suffer the same fate as his litigation tactics.
Weare is becoming the Gregorio Igartua of Guam, referring to Puerto Rico’s perennial advocate for federal voting rights in territories whose failed litigation projects arguably confused the real issues in the struggle for equality.
It is not at all clear how a territorial citizenship equality amendment would work in our federation of states without preserving constitutionally guaranteed future acquisition of national citizenship based on birth in a state. Even more importantly, “Equally American” under Articles I and II of the U.S. Constitution means consent of the governed based in part on population-determined apportionment of representation in the organs of government among states, a result untenable for small territories.
That is why there is no outcome other than statehood that delivers on the promise of full equality for residents of territories who are U.S. nationals and/or citizens.  This is a lesson Washington D.C. has learned only too well, and too late after false expectations were created by people like Weare.
Weare recently asserted “Hurricanes Maria and Irma and North Korea’s nuclear threats to Guam create an unprecedented opportunity to make the case that it is time to treat the 4 million citizens living in U.S. territories as ‘Equally American.’”  That sound bite logic ignores the reality that true equality must be defined by vested, inalienable rights under the U.S. Constitution rather than permission granted by Congress under federal territorial statutes.

Democratic Self Determination Means Just That

The ultimate arbiter of the fate of each territory has to be a free and informed act of self-determination. But it must be clear that choosing to remain in an undemocratic status does not create a permanent status or vested rights, much less an “Equally American” status.
For the U.S. territories the choices for ending territorial status are statehood or nationhood (with or without a treaty of “free association”). If Congress could give equal rights of national citizenship to citizens in the territories, there would be no reason to become a state, a free associated state or a nation. Why bother if you can have equal rights without equal duties and burdens?
The truth is Congress and the federal courts do not have the power to make residents of a territory “Equally American” with residents of the states. Indeed, in addition to statehood, only nationhood with or without free association ends the less than “Equally American” status of all nationals/citizens in the territories.
An amendment to give DC and the territories full representation in the Electoral College and Congress without statehood is not politically realistic. Integrating all six into existing states would require agreement of the existing state(s) concerned, also defying norms of political realism.
But ironically it may be that the biggest obstacle in some small territories to being “Equally American” is that this goal can be pursued only if based on self-determination of each territory. Giving up the vested political interests and allocation of local powers under the status quo is a decision each territory may respond to differently, rather than with collective uniformity.
And, finally, even if majorities in one or more territory voted for equal status under the U.S. flag, the U.S. has the same right of self-determination as the territories regarding any status option as it relates to the U.S. as a constitutional federation.
Local territorial regimes may resist empowerment and enfranchisement of citizens at the national level if it means a loss of local order of political power under territorial regimes. But even if there is agreement on an “Equally American” status model, in the end it will resolve itself into a quest for statehood, because giving territories the rights and benefits of statehood without the duties and burdens is not realistic, nor would it be right.

01 April 2018


by Olivia Rosane

Easter Island has long served as a reminder of what happens to a civilization when the environment it depends upon collapses. Now, the iconic remains of that civilization are under threat from a new environmental challenge: global climate change.

Easter Island, Rapa Nui in Polynesian, is surrounded by statues called moai situated on top of ahu, or platforms. But according to an in-depth report for The New York Timespublished Thursday, the moai are now at risk from erosion caused by sea level rise.
The article, written by Nicholas Casey with photographs by Josh Haner, launches a series by the Times called Warming Planet, Vanishing Heritage which examines "how climate change is erasing cultural identity around the world."

In the case of Easter Island, Haner photographed one moai that had fallen over and lies just yards from the edge of an eroding cliff; Casey reported on a stone wall that stood between some platforms and the coast and had partly collapsed due to powerful waves.
But while the moai are the most visible signs of Rapa Nui's heritage, what lies beneath them might hold even more cultural importance: The ahu the statues stand on often double as tombs.

Archaeologists told the Times that the remains inside these tombs might help determine what exactly caused the deforestation of the island and shrunk the population from the thousands to around 100 by 1870.

But for some islanders, the fate of the tombs has a more personal meaning.
"You feel an impotency in this, to not be able to protect the bones of your own ancestors," Camilo Rapu, leader of the Ma'u Henua indigenous organization that runs Rapa Nui National Park, told the Times. "It hurts immensely."

One landmark that has already changed dramatically is Ovahe Beach, which used to be covered in sand. The sea swallowed most of it, leaving only rocks, and now threatens a nearby burial site.

Hanga Roa mayor Pedro Pablo Edmunds told the Times about a time capsule the town had buried two years ago to be opened in 2066, including a picture of the still-sandy beach.
"They will dig it up in 50 years and see us standing there, where there is no beach," Edmunds said.

The loss of monuments could also damage the island's economy, which depends on tourism. In 2016, 100,000 people visited the island of 6,000, according to the Times.
There is debate surrounding what caused the first, infamous alteration of Rapa Nui's environment. In accounts like Jared Diamond's Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive, the inhabitants deforested the island in the process of constructing the moai, leading to erosion, the deterioration of agriculture, starvation and war.

However, according to Scientific American, that account is now debated by archaeologists. There are no signs of armed conflict in the remaining artifacts, for example. Some think the process of deforestation was much slower and perhaps helped along by droughts or rats, and that the inhabitants were not necessarily aware of it as a catastrophe.
Now, some islanders find hope in those of their ancestors who did survive the mysterious collapse.

"They knew their environment was coming apart, but that didn't stop them from persisting here. It's the same with climate change today," Ma'u Henua's head of planning Sebastián Paoa told the Times.