19 October 2017

EU support discussed for post-hurricane British Virgin Islands as spectre of British departure from European Union looms large

UK territories concerned that BREXIT would phase out their access to European Union (EU) overseas countries and territories (OCT) assistance programmes.  

Department of Information and Public Relations (GIS)
Press Release

18 October 2017 
L-R: European Commission Director-General for International Cooperation and Development, Stefano Manservisi and Premier and Minister of Finance, Dr. the Honourable D. Orlando Smith, OBE

The British Virgin Islands (BVI) and European Union (EU) have discussed the EU’s support for the Territory in the aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Maria in the margins of the Annual World Bank/IMF meetings in Washington, DC.

Following the passage of the two category 5 hurricanes through the Caribbean, the EU released €2 million in emergency assistance to support the affected Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs) in the region associated with the EU, including the BVI.

“The EU has already provided emergency assistance to the Territory via the Red Cross for which we are extremely grateful,” Premier Smith said.

The Premier briefly exchanged with European Commission Director-General for International Cooperation and Development, Stefano Manservisi as members of their delegations discussed what further support the EU could provide to the BVI.

“We have agreed to discuss in greater detail what additional resources for OCTs can be channelled to the BVI to support its recovery”, said the Territory’s Minister of Finance.

He went on to say, “The EU is our main development partner whose assistance to us is critical during this time.”

The Premier was joined by Minister for Health and Social Development, Honourable Ronnie Skelton and Director of the BVI London Office, Benito Wheatley.

18 October 2017

Saba and Sint Eustatius to have sea transport link to Saint Kitts

Draft Constitution for an autonomous Sint Eustatius supports transport and trade links with neighboring Caribbean countries.  

The Bottom, Saba– Saba and St. Eustatius will get a scheduled ferry service with neigboring St. Kitts and, in the case of Saba, also with Sint Maarten. The service to St. Kitts will be provided 3 times per week, while there will be a direct connection between Saba and Sint Maarten 2 times per week by means of the Edge.

Commissioner of Tourism in Saba, Bruce Zagers said to be happy with news that an agreement has been reached with Aquamania Adventures to start with the ferry services operated out of Saba. According to the Commissioner, the assistance and cooperation received from the Ministry of Economic Affairs in the Netherlands was instrumental. 

Starting on Thursday, October 5th, 2017, the Edge will be running a 3 times weekly ferry service between Saba, Statia and St. Kitts, on Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays. The Edge will depart Saba at 7:30 am and arrive in St. Kitts at 10:45 am at the Zante Port, with a stop in Statia, at 8:45 am on the way. 

The ferry will then depart from St. Kitts at 3:30 pm for the return trip to Saba, also stopping in Statia. The stops in Statia according to the Commissioner will be based on necessity when there are passengers to disembark or reservations for persons to be picked up. 

In addition to this, there will be a twice-weekly service between Saba and St. Maarten. The Edge will depart Saba on Mondays at 8:15 am and will return on Wednesdays, departing St. Maarten at 3 pm from the Simpson Bay dock of Aquamania Adventures. It will also make a day trip on Fridays departing Saba at 8:15 am and St. Maarten at 3:30 pm for the return trip. 

“Connectivity is important for Saba, as isolation can be a detriment to a small island’s economy”, said Zagers. “This ferry service provides the opportunity for visitors and locals alike to travel between the islands, creating the possibility for our tourism industry to survive during a difficult period”, according to the Commissioner. 

According to Zagers, already there are visitors hoping to visit during Saba’s annual event of Sea & Learn. Zagers said that he was confident that the service would open the gateway for more visitors to come.

17 October 2017

Irma-Maria: A Reparations Requiem for Caribbean Poverty

Vice-Chancellor of The University of the West Indies (The UWI), Professor Sir Hilary Beckles issues the following statement on the aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Maria:
“Hurricane Irma’s fury preceded Maria’s by a deadly Caribbean second. Together they constitute the familiar sound of death and destruction reminiscent of a colonial past that clings to the present and is determined to possess and own the Caribbean future.

The chain linked imperial legacy that still imprisons the islands, keeping them politically fragmented and economically divided, was exposed as both cause and effect of a fragile region still feeling the presence of an imperial ethos that assigns to them a reality of structural dependency. Irma-Maria blew away the roof of the long and ongoing imperial cover up, and critically, was revelatory of the horrific history that dwells in the ruins of the present.

The destruction is an instruction for the survivors of slavery who are the majority in these islands. As descendants they were left for over half a century, when some of them stood up and demanded constitutional independence in the quest to be members of the free democratic world. They have annually battled ill-winds without any reparations support from former and contemporary imperial owners and overlords.

The persistent loss of black life and the dereliction of poor peoples’ materialism in a backward built environment that was designed for the sole purpose of servicing imperial sugar plantations, reside squarely at the core of their respective metropolitan capitols.

Barbuda tells the story in a stark fashion. An island once grabbed by Christopher Codrington, imperial warlord of England, and genocidal leader who received a mandate from his King to wipe the native Kalinago people off the face of the earth, was wiped out by Irma. Codrington, the island’s only town, is no more. Yet, the rich-descendant Codrington family of England sent no email, posted no blog, and cares nothing for the Caribbean place that bears their name. Shame and guilt, maybe, by not looking back to the source of their wealth.

The death and destruction accounted for is measured in the way the IMF has well taught the islands. Methodologies that highlight mythologies like GDP per capital loss, and resultant national debt rather than community death ratios, occupy international relief rationalisation. Barbuda, home of England’s first native genocide in the Caribbean, is once again devoid of people, emptied by Irma.

But beyond the measurement of materialism there is the haunting spectre of the metaphysical that speaks to the persistent imperialism that grips the Caribbean by the throat. Images of roofs warped and ripped, and domestic walls flattened into useless bridges of debris now populate the internet. Meanwhile, injured introspective inhabitants cannot but ponder how these ill-winds so precisely trace the journeys of the deadly European slave ships that crossed the middle passage.

Irma-Maria’s blowing apart of the Caribbean adds to the daily tearing apart of Islands by the legacy of lingering pain and poverty caused by EUROPE’s colonialism and its attendant crimes. There is the stillness of an imposing immorality within this hurricane moment. Under dark, deadly clouds, Irma -Maria’s all-seeing eye, brought the illumination necessary for a people who were recently told by David Cameron, speaking in Jamaica’s parliament as Britain’s Prime Minister, that his nation’s enslavement of their five million ancestors across these islands was unfortunate, and that folks should stop moaning and “get over it”.

Packing winds between them of near 200 kph Irma-Maria unearthed the sordid details of as many years of the Caribbean’s colonial past and present. They tore the scales off twenty million Caribbean eyes. They exposed the excretions of inconvenient truths that constitute the rotten colonial carcass long brushed under a carpet of criminality that increasingly resembled a mountain, the monumental Caribbean colonial mess that has gone without reparations.

Europeans in their rush for competitive economic development committed their unrepaired crimes against humanity in these islands. No paradise has every seen as much blood spilt in the name of white supremacy, economic accumulation, and competitive nationalism. Twenty million natives put to the sword; ten millions Africans put to slavery in chains; and descendants trapped in the hell of 20th century racial apartheid. Then, as if on a stage of glory, Europe walked away into the sunset leaving survivors to endure the task of Sisyphus. Undeterred descendants set about job of cleaning up the colonial carnage. They build micro-nations as celebrations of democracy. But alas, without reparatory justice, managing the colonial mess has overwhelmed them.

Painful it is to see the British imperial Foreign Minister, Boris Johnson, arriving to inspect Irma’s damage to his colony while ignoring the images of England’s slavery legacy everywhere to be seen. Shameful it was to see the Mother Country dangling piddly amounts of pounds in the face of the destruction! Prime Minister May offered 32 million, then as Irma was upgraded from category two to four, she revised the sum and offered 52 million. Disgraceful, many said, as the Union Jack fluttered above the Caribbean carnage left behind by 300 years of black enslavement and 100 years of the racial segregation installed in the aftermath of a shambolic emancipation. England’s slave ownership had received 20 million pounds in compensation for freed Africans in 1834, a sum worth 15 billion in today’s money.

Then, in the shadow of Haiti, came the French in the person of President Macron, with a promise to rebuild rather than liberate their colonies, a pledge made before and for the paparazzi but with no parliamentary power. The French and the British vied for political advantage and the moral high ground over who will give the more to address the colonial mess magnified by Irma. Another Anglo-French war on Caribbean soil ensued. The Dutch, meanwhile, seeking to hide deceptive hands in mudslides of their St Maarten, quietly came as if in shame, and offered to help the hopeless.

The colonised Caribbean has taken centre stage. To the north, Canada and the USA boast of their national freedom. To the south, Latin America celebrates its freedom. Only in the centre, in the Caribbean, do colonies remain. Only here are imperial powers raising flags to a colonial reality. Only here is history halted. Irma-Maria has revealed these truths. Islands entitled to reparations for the crimes against humanity committed upon their inhabitants are offered plasters to cover their wounds that will not heal.

Sir Richard Branson, English mogul, who owns privately an island in the Virgin group, called upon his British government to formulate a Marshall Plan for the region. Such a call was made in 1838, 1898, 1948, 1963, 1992, and countless other times to the closed eyes and ears of his nation. Similar calls were made by every colonised island in the Caribbean seeking justice and development rather than aid and relief that has never been sufficient to meet basic needs and moral expectations.

These ravished islands have done their best to clean up the colonial mess. They have spent beyond their means in the process of seeking to convert colonials into citizens. Left largely illiterate and riddled with ill health by colonialism they have built schools and hospitals that must be maintained. Social expenditure in the interest of building democracy exceeds financial income. This is the price they paid for participation in modernity. Now their public debt strangles their quest for economic growth. It a debt that should be written off as an investment in democracy. Britain, France and the USA should prevail upon the IMF to lead in this effort.

Once the jewel in the British Crown these islands are now treated like a pain to their Parliament. The region calls for reparations as a development plan. The British press have said, “Oh, it’s a hand out you mean!” The demand intensifies. Heads of governments, constituted as CARICOM, have written to those European states enriched by Caribbean slavery, calling for an international summit to discuss reparations as a Marshall Plan. Responses have been muted.

On October 12th The University of the West Indies will launch in Jamaica the Caribbean Centre for Reparations Research in order to professionally prepare the evidentiary basis of the claim. The University already has a Centre for Hurricane and Disaster Management Research. There will be a conference informed by the question: Can the Caribbean achieve economic development without Reparatory Justice? The economics of reparations will take centre stage in a requiem mass to Irma-Maria.”

Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, an Economic Historian, was installed as the 8th Vice-Chancellor of The University of the West Indies (The UWI) on May 30, 2015. Before assuming the office of Vice-Chancellor of The UWI, Sir Hilary was Principal and Pro Vice-Chancellor of the University’s Cave Hill Campus in Barbados for thirteen years (2002-2015). Sir Hilary is a distinguished university administrator, and transformational leader in higher education.

Regional Headquarters, Jamaica. September 26, 2017 


Washington, D.C. ­– U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) released the following statement after the Trump administration announced it would not extend the temporary Jones Act waiver for Puerto Rico, which expired yesterday:

“Now that the temporary Jones Act waiver for Puerto Rico has expired, it is more important than ever for Congress to pass my bill to permanently exempt Puerto Rico from this archaic and burdensome law. Until we provide Puerto Rico with long-term relief, the Jones Act will continue to hinder much-needed efforts to help the people of Puerto Rico recover and rebuild from Hurricane Maria.”

On September 28, 2017, Senators McCain and Mike Lee (R-UT) introduced legislation to permanently exempt Puerto Rico from the Jones Act.

A strong supporter of free trade, Senator McCain has been working for years to reform and repeal the archaic and burdensome Jones Act. In 1998, Senator McCain sponsored legislation that was signed into law to provide an administrative process for obtaining a Jones Act waiver for certain foreign vessels to trade between U.S. ports, eliminating the previous requirement for Congress to pass legislation for every waiver. 

In 2010, Senator McCain introduced legislation to fully repeal the Jones Act. He reintroduced the same piece of legislation in 2015 and again this July.

13 October 2017

In Pacific, rising tensions evoke troubling nuclear legacy

Licorne test, 1971, French Polynesia. Photo: The Official CTBTO Photostream
Licorne test, 1971, French Polynesia. Photo: The Official CTBTO Photostream

Nick Perry
Associated Press 

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — As a young boy growing up on Bikini Atoll, Alson Kelen spent idyllic days playing on the beach and fishing.

His grandfather built canoes and his father tended the land. With fewer than 150 people on the remote Pacific island it was a close community, he says, with few signs of the former U.S. nuclear testing program other than the concrete bunkers he was told to avoid and the sunken ships in the lagoon.

But in 1978, when Kelen was 10, officials evacuated everybody. It turned out they'd been premature in declaring the Marshall Islands atoll safe again for humans. Radiation levels were still dangerously high.

More than 70 years after the first tests, the atoll remains contaminated today. It's part of a troubling nuclear legacy that continues to affect islands and people across the Pacific long after the U.S., Britain and France stopped their testing programs there.

As nuclear tensions rise in the Asia-Pacific region, Kelen and others are reflecting on that legacy anew.

North Korea has discussed testing a hydrogen bomb in the Pacific after earlier firing a missile over Japan and threatening Guam. U.S. President Donald Trump has threatened to "totally destroy North Korea" if provoked and called leader Kim Jong Un "Rocket Man." The dictator has responded by calling Trump a "mentally deranged U.S. dotard."

Kelen says that if the threats do escalate to a nuclear test or even an attack, "it would be a huge, huge disaster."

The 49-year-old says he has no idea if his exposure to radiation during the four years he lived on Bikini as a boy has affected his health. He says scientists used to test him and his family regularly, but stopped within a couple of years of them leaving the atoll.

Scientists have calculated that about 1.6 percent of all cancers developed by Marshallese people exposed to radiation can be attributed to the nuclear tests. For some islanders who were close to the blasts, the rate rises to 55 percent.

The nuclear tests exacted an enormous social toll on Bikini residents and their children, who are now scattered across the Marshall Islands and beyond and have been left without a homeland. Kelen says they've lost the ancestral land that's central to their identity.

"Ninety percent of Bikinians have never seen Bikini. It's a legend; it's a fairy tale," he said. "They know more about Hawaii and the U.S. mainland than Bikini."

The U.S. government first asked Bikini residents to leave temporarily in 1946. It then conducted a series of tests over a dozen years, including detonating a massive hydrogen bomb hundreds of times more powerful than the nuclear bombs the U.S. dropped on Japan during World War II.

The inhabitants were moved to other islands that proved inhospitable. Kelen's family eventually ended up in Majuro, the capital. He says his parents always planned to return to Bikini but got to spend just four years there before being told to leave again. Kelen's father died two years ago and his mother, now 93, is too old to travel.

"They told us we were relocated from Bikini for the good of mankind, to bring peace to the world. But I think nuclear is the same as climate change," Kelen said. "It benefits the big countries and ruins the small countries."

Bikini residents have received some compensation from the United States. But many people, including Marshall Islands President Hilda Heine, say it's not enough.

Heine said in a speech this year that the removal of the Bikini residents produced "inconsolable grief, terror and righteous anger" that hadn't diminished in the seven decades since, and had been exacerbated by the U.S. being dishonest about the extent of the radiation and its effects.

Five thousand kilometers (3,000 miles) away in Tahiti, French Polynesia, Roland Oldham is also grappling with nuclear testing's legacy.

He is president of Moruroa e tatou, an organization that represents victims of French tests at Moruroa and Fangataufa atolls. The nuclear tests lasted 30 years, ending in 1996, the year the United Nations adopted the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.

Studies have shown that people in the region during the tests had an increased risk of developing thyroid cancer. But information on radiation exposure remains classified, making it hard to estimate the risks.

Oldham says those who worked directly on the testing program suffered high rates of cancer and other health problems. He says it's difficult to get good statistics on the health effects on the broader community because of the continuing secrecy.

Much of the later testing was carried out underground, but some radiation has leaked. Oldham fears the problem could get much worse because parts of the atolls are in danger of subsiding.

Oldham, 66, says he sailed around Moruroa while completing his military service with the French Navy in 1970. He says he never saw or felt anything, and doesn't know if he was exposed to radiation or the extent of that exposure.

Oldham says the heated rhetoric between the leaders of North Korea and the United States has made much of the Pacific vulnerable at the moment because of U.S. military bases in places like Guam, Japan and South Korea.

"The day the two guys throw a punch at each other," he said, "the whole area will be suffering."

He says he worries that mankind is headed toward its own destruction by nuclear weapons.

"At some stage I want to be sick, when I observe the things happening in front of my eyes," he said. "What a world. What a crazy mess."

11 October 2017

IN MEMORIAM - Victor Uherbelau joined the ancestors

Solomon Islands (Fisheries Forum Agency )-- The Forum Fisheries Agency mourns the sad passing of its former FFA Director, Talobak Victorio Uherbelau on Sunday, August 27, 2017. He was 78. 

At the forefront of Palau’s emergence into nationhood, Uherbelau, who held the chiefly title Talobak, served as his country’s first Attorney General and went on to become the first of his country to lead a regional agency. The post title was changed to Director-General in 2005.

“Vic Uherbelau was a standout strategist and a determined and principled negotiator in Palau and the former Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands who brought his skills and his strong commitment to ‘Pacific nationalism’ to his two terms as Director of the FFA from November 1994 to November 2000,” says FFA Director General James Movick.

A self-described “Palauan nationalist”, Talobak Victorio had an impressive career of service to his nation spanning more than five decades and featuring many roles where his work ethic, gifted prose and law degree would help shape Palau’s journey onto the regional and global stage.  

“Talobak Victorio’s life journey reflects the determination of a generation of young Pacific Islanders from Micronesia to take control of their own national destiny even in the days before elected leadership. The late Tony DeBrum on Marshall Islands was another. Talobak Victorio was literally at the centre of it all when the nationhood of Palau was being determined and established. He worked tirelessly to ensure a destiny and a voice for his people at the UN table, and he brought those same traits to his regional leadership of the FFA,” says DG James Movick.

“We mourn the loss of another Pacific leader and statesman, and remember him well as a tough and seasoned negotiator, leading Palau through its Compact negotiations as well as playing a large role in the US Fisheries Treaty throughout its life and up to the most recent negotiation.” 

“The secretariat staff of the FFA and our Pacific fisheries family across the across the region join me in extending condolences to Talobak Victorio’s family, colleagues, and community at this time of bereavement. His contribution to Palau and Pacific development, and to Oceanic Fisheries at the regional and global tables, is immeasurable and we thank them for letting him give so much of his time and his commitment to regional fisheries.”  

Talobak Victorio is survived by his wife Rachel Ngiruos-Uherbelau; daughters, Elsie, Angela, Rebecca and Vaidil, sons Numa and Gaafar; and many grand and great grandchildren.  


"Such protectionist measures penalize some U.S. territories whose conditional citizenship provides deficient  political power in a system where the U.S. Congress can unilaterally apply laws and regulations to them however and whenever they wish, and for whatever reason - some would call this colonialism."  - a U.S. Congressional staffer

Maritime Executive Logo

McCain: Puerto Rico Should Be Exempt from Jones Act

By MarEx 

On Thursday, shortly after the Trump administration issued a 10-day Jones Act waiver for Puerto Rico to aid the island's recovery, Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Mike Lee (R-UT) introduced legislation to permanently exempt the island from the terms of American cabotage law. McCain is a longstanding opponent of the Jones Act and has regularly introduced legislation to weaken or repeal the law.
“While I welcome the Trump administration’s Jones Act waiver for Puerto Rico, this short-term, 10-day exemption is insufficient to help the people of Puerto Rico recover and rebuild from Hurricane Maria,” said McCain in a statement. “Our legislation would permanently exempt Puerto Rico from the Jones Act, an antiquated, protectionist law that has driven up costs and crippled Puerto Rico’s economy. For years, I have fought to fully repeal the Jones Act, which has long outlived its purpose to the benefit of special interests."
At one page in total, McCain's legislative proposal is brief: it would add Puerto Rico to the list of existing Jones Act-exempt territories, which includes American Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Guam, Alaska, Hawaii, and other U.S. coastwise points would still be covered by cabotage regulations. 
The extent of broader congressional support for McCain's bill is not clear, and previous iterations have all failed. Industry groups strongly contest McCain's frequent claim that the Jones Act doubles transportation costs for Puerto Rican consumers. "There is no study that supports this statement in any way," AMP wrote in a recent press briefing. "In fact, anecdotal evidence about rates indicates that the opposite is true. For example, one analysis shows it is 40 percent more expensive to ship goods from the U.S. mainland on foreign vessels to the U.S. Virgin Islands (not subject to the Jones Act) than on Jones Act vessels to Puerto Rico." 
AMP noted that a Government Accountability Office study found that it could not fully estimate the price effects of a permanent Jones Act exemption for Puerto Rico due to the compliance costs associated with other American laws. In addition, AMP pointed out that Jones Act shipping companies are providing certainty and continuity of service for consumers by investing $1 billion in ships, equipment and infrastructure for the Jones Act trade – like TOTE Maritime's new $180 million Panamax container ships, which run on clean LNG fuel. 
Jones Act shipping fits the need
Even in an emergency, the existing American fleet is enough to serve Puerto Rico's needs, asserts shipping firm Crowley Maritime. Crowley operates a container service to Puerto Rico and a cargo terminal in San Juan. “If a Jones Act waiver was needed, we would not be opposed. But in this case, it is not needed," the firm said in a statement Thursday. "By the end of the day Friday, we will have more than 4,100 loaded containers on our terminal in Puerto Rico awaiting distribution, and thousands more on the way . . . There is plenty of U.S. vessel capacity to respond to this crisis, and no amount of foreign ships arriving to the island is going to get relief cargo into the hands of those who need it any faster. In fact, they will likely add to the congestion at the ports and may cause more disruptions. We continue to believe that Americans responding to Americans in need offer the greatest opportunity for success in Puerto Rico." 
Crowley's statement was echoed by the leaders of the House Subcommittee on the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, Rep. Duncan Hunter and Rep. John Garamendi, who both critized the Trump administration's decision to temporarily waive the Jones Act for Puerto Rico. “Shipping carriers that comply with the Jones Act have more than enough capacity for a robust relief effort for Puerto Rico," said Garamendi. "The entire American maritime industry has done outstanding work to coordinate with local governments to provide relief. The Jones Act is essential to maintain a robust shipbuilding industry and sealift capacity, and waiving it will not help solve Puerto Rico’s problems.”

10 October 2017

French Polynesia Agency to go to European Human Rights Court


French Polynesia's social welfare agency is set to go to the European Court of Human Rights over payments for victims of France's nuclear weapons tests.

It followed a French court ruling which upheld a French government decision not to compensate the agency in Tahiti after it paid for the care of a victim.

The court rejected the compensation claim by stating that the French state was not liable because there was no proof that the state was directly responsible for the damage.

The expert advice to the court had earlier pointed out that the French compensation commission attributed payments to victims out of national solidarity and not because the state recognised any liability.

It argued that as a service provider the Tahitian agency could only get compensated if it could prove the state's responsibility.

Radio1 in Tahiti said after the rejection the social welfare agency's board has now decided to lodge the case with the European Court of Human Rights.

In July, the French government announced all rejected compensation claims would be reconsidered including one lodged by the agency for money it had disbursed to a victim.

In a reaction to the court ruling, the National Front accused the France's ruling En Marche party of hiding behind legal quibbles.

In reply, En Marche accused the National Front of missing the chance to be quiet, saying it was a constitutional question about the separation of power between the executive and the judiciary.

04 October 2017



3 OCTOBER 2017


French Polynesia Petitioners Say ‘Accommodationist’ Territorial Government Provides Illusion of Self-determination, as President Hails Autonomy

Governor of Guam Laments Second-class Status of Indigenous Chamorro People, as Others Decry Homeland’s Militarization

The Non-Self-Governing Territory of French Polynesia was led by an “accommodationist” government that provided its people with only the illusion of self-determination, many petitioners declared today, as the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) entered its second day of debate on decolonization issues.
However, President Édouard Fritch of French Polynesia pointed out that the Territory already enjoyed a large degree of autonomy to govern itself freely and democratically, with full political powers in several spheres.  Its people did not wish to be guinea pigs for ideological clashes, he stressed, recalling that during the last election, in June 2017, 70 per cent of French Polynesia’s population had voted for self-governing candidates.  Moreover, the Territory had demanded that France recognize the consequences of the nuclear testing it had conducted on the Territory, and the French State had done so, he observed.
However, Minarii Chantal Galenon, President of the Association Vahine Piri Rava, noted that while the Territory’s government had recently signed the Elysée accord — thereby establishing goodwill when France had recognized the plight of the testing victims — the accord came with little real commitment and offered no apology, she said, pointing out that it also failed to deal with environmental damage and to clean up radioactive waste.
Maxime Chan, President of the Executive Board of Association 193, added that nothing had been said about nuclear testing for a long time, and young people did not recognize that sad history.  “This is the poisonous legacy that France has left the people of French Polynesia” he declared, emphasizing France must bear the health-care costs arising from temporary or lasting injury to the victims.
The Committee also took up the question of Guam, with Governor Eddie Baza Calvo saying that while he understood the interests of the United States and respected its laws, that Government should also understand the interests of Guam’s people.  When would they be held as equals and given the same rights as other Americans, he asked, instead of being viewed as second-class citizens?
Pim Limtiaco, another petitioner, condemned the ongoing colonization and militarization of Guam, noting that the Territory had suffered an $11 million loss in tourism revenues due to recent threats to its security posed by rising tensions with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
Agreeing, Victoria-Lola Leon Guerrero, founding member of Our Islands are Sacred, warned that Guam could be caught in the middle of a now-threatened nuclear conflagration.  She also pointed out that a man she had not chosen to lead her country was trading threats with another holder of nuclear weapons, and she did not know how to assure her children that they were safe.
Also speaking today were representatives of Spain, Nicaragua and Venezuela.
The Chief Minister of Gibraltar and another petitioner from that Territory also spoke today, as did several additional petitioners from French Polynesia and Guam.
The Fourth Committee will reconvene at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, 4 October, to continue its discussions on decolonization issues.


Hayward calls for independence

Owain Johnston-Barnes

Independence for Bermuda should be high on the list of priorities for the Progressive Labour Party after its landslide election victory, Senator Jason Hayward told Labour Day crowds yesterday.

The head of the Bermuda Public Services Union said the introduction of a living wage and unemployment insurance had to be addressed, and that independence must be considered.

Mr Hayward said: “We have to come to the conclusion that we live in a system that is not designed for a segment of the population to get ahead.

“We have seen the middle class deteriorate, we have seen our communities deteriorate, we have seen our family structures deteriorate.

“Some will say all by design. So if I want to stand here on this Labour Day as a free worker, we must really be free.

“We have to shift the conversation and remove ourselves from this colonial rule.

“We have to now look at independence as a viable option for our people so we can set our own agenda, so we can create our own system and so we can see our people get ahead.”


03 October 2017

Cuba, Venezuela Offer Puerto Rico Hurricane Relief

The offers of support come as Trump’s administration continues to ramp up pressure against both leftist governments.

The governments of Cuba and Venezuela are offering relief assistance to Puerto Rico as it recovers from the devastating effects of Hurricane Maria.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro promised to activate a “special plan of support and solidarity” for victims on the Caribbean island. Meanwhile, Cuban Foreign Minister Rogelio Sierra offered to send a team of 39 doctors “to help our brother people.”

The offers of support come as U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration continues to ramp up pressure against both leftist governments. The former reality TV star has threatened to bolster the illegal U.S. blockade against Cuba and has escalated sanctions against Venezuela.


After Hurricane, Trump Reminds Puerto Rico of 'Massive Debt'

Authorities are calling Puerto Rico’s current state a “humanitarian crisis,” with food, water, fuel, telecommunications and electricity scarce and U.S. aid slowly making its way to the island.

“The situation here in Puerto Rico is dire,” said Case Harrity, a local Save the Children representative.

“This is a major disaster and recovery will take months, if not years. Families in Puerto Rico need more help, and they need it urgently.”

It wasn’t until five days after the hurricane hit Puerto Rico that Trump commented on the island’s destruction. Both Texas and Florida were in stable condition, he said, but Puerto Rico “which was already suffering from broken infrastructure & massive debt, is in deep trouble.”

The island’s electrical grid was “devastated,” the president added, reminding the public of its over US$70 billion owed to “Wall Street and the banks” which, he said, “must be dealt with.”

Save the Children reported that nearly 700,000 children and over 15,000 citizens have been displaced, forcing them to live in makeshift shelters while struggling to survive amid the destruction.

Tired of waiting for action from the government, New Jersey residents have organized a relief project for their friends and family in Puerto Rico. Despite the presence of FEMA workers on the ground, community leaders in New Jersey report that many of those areas in desperate need of aid are not in a position to receive it.

“The main roads are open. It’s when you get into the inner cities that they are not as accessible as the main roads where you go to the center of the island, where the eye of the storm passed,” said Lydia Valencia, CEO of the Puerto Rican Congress of New Jersey.

Numerous businesses there have also banded together, organizing fundraisers and gathering donations and supplies for relief efforts.

“We have about 25 pallets ready from the first collection of mixed items. Now we’re working on loading the truck up again,” said Steve Levine, a local restaurant owner.

Hurricane Maria left at least 16 people dead in Puerto Rico as well as damage to 14 bridges, five highways, 58 aqueducts and two major dams.

29 September 2017

Banned West Papua independence petition handed to UN

the guardian

Exclusive: Document outlawed by Indonesia was ‘smuggled from one end of Papua to the other’ and signed by 70% of the population.

 27 September 2017 

A petition banned by the Indonesian government, but bearing the signatures of 1.8 million West Papuans – more than 70% of the contested province’s population – has been presented to the United Nations, with a demand for a free vote on independence.

Exiled West Papuan independence campaigner Benny Wenda presented the bound petition to the UN’s decolonisation committee, the body that monitors the progress of former colonies – known as non-self-governing territories – towards independence.

The petition was banned in the provinces of Papua and West Papua by the Indonesian government, and blocked online across the country, so petition sheets had to be “smuggled from one end of Papua to the other”, Wenda told the Guardian from New York.

Independence campaigners have been jailed and allegedly tortured in Papua for opposing the rule of Indonesia, which has controlled Papua (now Papua and West Papua) since 1963. Those signing the petition risked arrest and jail.

“The people have risked their lives, some have been beaten up, some are in prison. In 50 years, we have never done this before, and we had to organise this in secret,” Wenda said.

“People were willing to carry it between villages, to smuggle it from one end of Papua to the other, because this petition is very significant for us in our struggle for freedom.”

The petition asks the UN to appoint a special representative to investigate human rights abuses and “put West Papua back on the decolonisation committee agenda and ensure their right to self‐determination … is respected by holding an internationally supervised vote”.

West Papua was formerly on the decolonisation committee’s agenda – which monitors progress towards decolonisation and independent rule – but was removed in 1963.

Wenda said it felt to him that West Papua’s referendum “had already happened” and that the petition was a manifestation of the people’s desire for independence.

“The people have already chosen, people have signed the petition with their blood and their thumbprint. We are optimistic, confident, that in a few years, we will have progress. This is not just an activist issue: this has gone up to government level, to diplomatic level, up to the United Nations.”

Independence activist Yanto Awerkion was jailed in June for leading a rally in support of the petition. He remains in custody and potentially faces charges of treason.

In an interview from prison, he said: “From behind the iron bars I order and appeal to the international community and to the United Nations, please hear the voice of the West Papuan people.”
‘A publicity stunt’

However, Indonesian foreign ministry spokesperson Arrmanatha Nasir, accompanying the country’s contingent to the UN General Assembly meeting in New York, dismissed the West Papuan petition as baseless theatrics.

“That is purely a publicity stunt with no credibility,” he told the Guardian via a text message, “Papua is an integral part of Indonesia as provided for in the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 2504 (XXIV) 1969.”

Indonesian President Joko Widodo has worked hard to demonstrate the central government’s commitment to developing the easternmost province, prioritising infrastructure and connectivity development, and visiting more than six times since his election in 2014.

The UK’s all-party parliamentary group on West Papua fully supported the petition and its push for UN action, co-chair Alex Sobel said. “This inspiring act of mass democratic expression should definitively lay to rest rhetoric from the Indonesian government that West Papuans are content being part of Indonesia,” he said.

“The people of West Papua have endured over 50 years of widespread human rights violations that have been described by many as a systematic genocide. It has become clear that in an ever worsening situation, the people of West Papua are not safe under Indonesian occupation.”

At the UN over the last week, support for Papuan independence has come from fellow Melanesian leaders of the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. But the deputy prime minister of Caribbean nation St Vincent and the Grenadines, Louis Straker, also lent his support to the “legitimate aspiration … for freedom” of the West Papuan people.

Indonesian-controlled Papua and West Papua form the western half of the island of New Guinea. Political control of the region has been contested for more than half a century and Indonesia has consistently been accused of gross human rights violations and violent suppression of the region’s independence movement.

The people indigenous to the province are Melanesian, ethnically distinct from the rest of Indonesia and more closely linked to the people of Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji and New Caledonia.

Formerly the Netherlands New Guinea, Papua was retained by the Dutch after Indonesian independence in 1945 but the province was annexed by Jakarta in 1963.

Indonesia formalised its control over West Papua in 1969 when its military hand-picked 1,026 of West Papua’s population and compelled them into voting in favour of Indonesian annexation under a UN-supervised process known as the Act of Free Choice.

A 2004 report by the International Human Rights Clinic at Yale Law School said: “Indonesian military leaders began making public threats against Papuan leaders … vowing to shoot them on the spot if they did not vote for Indonesian control.”

Known as Irian Jaya until 2000, it been split into two provinces, Papua and West Papua, since 2003. They have semi-autonomous status.

Many Papuans regard the Indonesian takeover as an illegal annexation and the OPM (Free Papua Movement) has led a low-level insurgency for decades. That insurgency has long been the excuse for significant military involvement in Papua.

With the heightened police and military presence, there have been reports of security force abuses including extrajudicial killings, torture, arbitrary detention, excessive use of force and mistreatment of peaceful protesters. At least 37 Papuans remain behind bars for peaceful acts of free expression or expressing solidarity with the independence movement.

There is little independent scrutiny of the situation in West Papua, as human rights organisations and journalists are restricted from visiting.

Dr Jason MacLeod, from Sydney University’s centre for peace and conflict studies, said the petition directly challenged Indonesia’s legitimacy in West Papua.

“The people of West Papua have never had a chance to freely or fairly decide their political status. This is the first time they’ve really been able to canvas people’s political views from across the territory: a huge number of people have participated in it and overwhelmingly indicated their support for the referendum.”