28 September 2016

Netherlands proposal to limit residency for Antilleans in the "European part of the Kingdom" discussed in Dutch Parliament


Curious timing on eve of elections in Curacao and Sint Maarten
__________________________________



THE HAGUE - The plenary handling of the initiative law proposal of Member of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament André Bosman of the liberal democratic VVD party to regulate the residency of persons from Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten in the Netherlands will continue on Wednesday after a delay of some 2½ years.

During the previous handling on March 12, 2014, the members of the Second Chamber used the opportunity to pose questions to Bosman and to voice their criticism or support. Bosman will answer the long list of questions and address the concerns on Wednesday.

“For me, personally, it will be a special debate,” said Bosman, who will be defending and explaining his first individual initiative law proposal. He said it concerned an “important” law proposal that related to the Dutch Kingdom and the subject of the movement of persons. “I am hoping for a nice discussion,” he told The Daily Herald on Monday.

Bosman, who will be seated in the Government section together with State Secretary of Security and Justice Klaas Dijkhoff, said he expected the issue of racism and second-class citizens to come up on Wednesday.

Criticism that his law proposal has racist elements and degraded persons from the islands with a Dutch passport to second-class citizens has not deterred Bosman or moved him to make significant changes to the law text.

He said he was still convinced that there was nothing racist or wrong about his law proposal because the islands have similar legislation, the LTU (“Landsverordening Toelating en Uitzetting”) to restrict the residency of persons from the Netherlands. He emphasised that his law proposal came very close to the LTU legislation in the Dutch Caribbean.

“People are shouting racism, but the LTU does the same thing to persons from the Netherlands who want to move to Aruba, Curaçao or St. Maarten. People from the Netherlands are also second class citizens because they cannot freely live and work on the islands,” he said.

Under what has been commonly named the “Bosman law,” persons from the Dutch Caribbean countries who want to take up residency in the Netherlands would need to show that they can sustain themselves, that they have a diploma or come to study. A person with a criminal record who presents a serious risk to public safety will not be admitted.

Stack of questions

Bosman will have to answer a stack of questions regarding the intention and scope of the law proposal, its implications for the already strained relations in the Kingdom, its relation to European Union (EU) legislation, and the criticism of the expert committee Meijers, that were posed in March 2014.

According to the Meijers Committee, the law proposal is in violation of international responsibilities to which the Netherlands is tied, based on five treaties and two EU guidelines. Various MPs, including Gert-Jan Segers of the Christian Union (CU) and Sharon Gesthuizen of the Socialist Party (SP), referred to the committee’s critical judgment during the first debate on March 12, 2014.

MPs Gesthuizen, Segers, Linda Voortman of the green left party GroenLinks and Gerard Schouw of the Democratic Party D66 also reminded Bosman at that time that Dutch Caribbean people were Dutch citizens with a Dutch passport and citizens of the EU, with the right of unlimited residency in the Netherlands.

“This initiative infringes on the rights of Dutch Caribbean persons to reside in the Netherlands,” said Voortman.

“From a legal point of view, the law proposal is untenable. It violates international treaties and EU law and makes a distinction based on ethnicity, while its effectiveness will be very minimal,” said Schouw about what he called a “trashcan law proposal.”

Segers: “The law proposal will create a wedge between us and the islands, between one Dutch citizen and the other. Dutch citizenship will be hollowed out. We will take away one of the most essential civil rights.”

Fundamental reasons

This Wednesday the big question will be, again, whether the Labour Party PvdA will support Bosman’s law proposal. MP Roelof van Laar (PvdA) stated on March 12, 2014, that his party distanced itself from the differentiation based on place of birth for “fundamental reasons.”

Van Laar made clear during that debate that the PvdA could only give its support if the law proposal was adapted to target specific groups: Dutch Caribbean persons without a diploma or with a criminal record. “Those persons can be subjected to the conditions of the law, but not all residents of the islands. You cannot subject every Dutch Caribbean person to this law if you only want to keep out underprivileged or criminal persons,” he said.

(WOW...)

Bosman has not adapted his law proposal to accommodate the coalition partner PvdA. In the second amendment (“nota van wijziging”) dated May 16, 2016, he stated that opting for an alternative application range that focused on the place of residency or to have his law proposal only apply to persons of the three countries without a diploma or with a criminal record “would not result in a better law proposal.”

In the second amendment, children of Dutch citizens born in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba were exempted from the law proposal. The term of refusal of residency in the Netherlands after a person has been sent back to the islands in the interest of protecting public order has been set at five years.

The amendment also stated that the person who has been refused residency must leave the Netherlands immediately. Authorities would not use the law in a proactive manner, but in a reactive way. Persons will not be arrested without a reason. However, authorities will look at the consequences for a person’s residency permit when this person is arrested in connection with a crime, or applies for social welfare.

Young delinquents

With this law proposal, Bosman wants to contribute to reducing the problems with young delinquents of Dutch Caribbean descent. “What are you doing here if you are not here to work or to study, and if you can’t sustain yourself?” he asked. None of the parties in the Second Chamber denied the problems with high-risk Dutch Caribbean youngsters in the Netherlands.

Bosman stands by his original conviction that his law proposal is “highly useful” in deterring problematic youngsters from coming to the Netherlands.

The Consultative Council for persons of Dutch Caribbean descent Ocan has protested vehemently against the “Bosman” law, which the foundation finds discriminatory and a “clear sign” that their people are not welcome in the Netherlands. A number of Ocan representatives and persons of the Dutch Caribbean community were present during the first handling.

The original law proposal dates back to July 3, 2012. Additional legal advice, research, consultation, the answering of the long list of questions and concerns of the Parliament, the heavy workload and the overloaded agenda of the Second Chamber have resulted in a considerable delay in the handling of the law proposal.

Bosman said he hoped the first and second term could be concluded on Wednesday, so the law proposal could be put on the agenda for voting next week Tuesday. So far it remains unsure whether it will muster majority support. If approved, the law proposal will be sent to the First Chamber for handling.


UK overseas territories could be affected by EU tax crackdown


Jersey, British Virgin Islands and Cayman Islands among possible targets for economic sanctions after being included on low corporation tax scorecard


 
A view of the Cayman Islands. The EU is planning to publish a definitive list of tax havens. Photograph: David Doubilet/National Geographic/Getty Images

BY


Eight British overseas territories and crown dependencies, including Jersey, the British Virgin Islands and Cayman Islands, could face EU economic sanctions after Brussels identified them as having low or no corporation tax.

Experts have published a scorecard showing red flag warnings set against a list of the 81 countries that may attract companies or individuals seeking to avoid or evade European taxes. 

The scorecard will be discussed among member states before a shortlist of countries is selected for further screening and whittled down to a definitive EU list of tax and secrecy havens, to be published at the end of next year. 

In the meantime, discussions are under way as to sanctions that the EU could impose on countries included in the final list. Options being discussed include the introduction of additional taxes, known as “withholding taxes”, or the removal of tax deductions.

READ THE FULL REPORT IN THE GUARDIAN .

27 September 2016

CURACAO PM EMPHASIZES CURACAO-CHINA PARTNERSHIP

Address by His Excellency, Dr. B. Whiteman

Prime Minister of Curaçao
Celebration of the 67th Anniversary of the Founding of the People’s Republic of China
Atrium Hall, Renaissance Curacao Resort and Casino
20 September 2016

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, bon nochi, good evening, wǎnshànghǎo (wangshanhou).

On behalf of the Government of Curaçao, I want to congratulate you all on the 67th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China: a country whose strength lies in its ancient culture, and an impressive economic growth and prosperity, as a result of the hard work of its peoples, both at home and abroad.
Thinking of China, reminds me of the wise expression of Confucius, a famous Chinese teacher, politician and philosopher who expressed the following: “it does not matter how slowly you go, as long as you do not stop.” As we would say in spanish: sin prisa, pero sin pausa.


The reason that I decided to mention this expression, is because in September 2015, the world watched while world leaders adopted the Sustainable Development Goals; a set of goals that unites all United Nation member-states, with the willpower for progress and leaving no one behind.

As the expression says, uniting for progress, no matter how slow, despite the obstacles that stand in the way, is the essence of Curaçao and China’s relationship. This willpower for progress, lays the foundation of our common futures and the prosperity of both the Curaçao and Chinese peoples.
The Sustainable Development Goals are critical success factors in securing a good future for Curaçao. The presentation of the National Development Plan, based on specific Sustainable Development Goals, highlights the way we will progress, and how our relationship with countries around the world will be formed.

In my speech last year, I spoke of the current relationship between Curacao and China, and how an island like Curaçao can still learn a lot from China’s development. From building sustainable cities like Shanghai and Suzhou (Soo-Chow), to sustainable investment and sustainable economic growth. The success of the People’s Republic of China is a lesson for us all.

As a leader in sustainable energy, China has much to offer Curaçao, especially as our partnership continues to grow. It is estimated that by 2020, over 15 percent of China’s energy capacity will come from non-fossil fuel sources, indicating again how China is a leader in the renewable energy industry.
The most wind energy capacity in the world is in China.

The most solar energy capacity in the world is in China.
The most hydropower capacity in the world is in China.

As of 2016, nearly 31% of Curaçao’s energy will come from renewable sources, a clear leader in the Caribbean region. That is something we should all be proud of.
In addition to renewable energy sources, Curaçao, China and other countries are still currently dependent on fossil fuels – an industry that has, in both situations, had a negative effect on the environment. Like Confucius said, it is not about how quickly we progress, but the mere fact that we continue to do so. The same is relevant when we speak of the fossil fuel industry.
Ladies and Gentlemen, there is another reason why I want to congratulate you all, and that is with the celebration of the Mid-Autmn Festival. Simbolically the bright moon and its light brings you and your family’s happiness and prosperity.

Ladies and Gentlemen, it brings happiness and prosperity also to Curacao, because precisely the date of it’s celebration is the 16th of September, which is exactly the day on which the Government of Curacao signed the MOU with the State Owned Company of China, Guangdon Zhenrong Energy Company ltd.

There couldn’t be a better date to sign this Memorandum of Understanding.

While a shift to renewable sources is a step in the right direction, other steps need to be taken to make our current fossil fuel industries more sustainable. It is for this reason that the Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of Curaçao and the Chinese company Guangdong Zhenrong Energy Co. Limited is so important.

Agreements like these play a pivotal role in building a sustainable future.

One where our children will be able to grow up in a Curaçao that is cleaner, economically stable, and constantly growing.
Thus where there is a balance between People, Planet and Profit.

That’s why, we look at this Memorandum of Understanding as a vital part of the Country that we want to be, building on the strengths of our current economic pillars, and broadening horizons to explore new possibilities.

Let the Sustainable Development Goals continue to shape the way we build our relationship, and work together, particularly when it comes to building the future based not only on reducing our dependency on sources of non-renewable energy, but also on utilizing the strengths of our economy to make way for future generations.

Let’s use the resources that we have to stimulate policies for growth and prosperity, and let’s start working together through making sure we leave no one, and no country behind, no matter how small.

The love that people in Curaçao have for their Country is similar to the national pride that you all have for China. I know that for many of you, Curaçao has been a home for a very long time. No matter how long you have considered this island your home, I am convinced that the love and pride that you have for China, is also something that you share for our Dushi Korsou.


There is still so much Curaçao can learn from China, and still so much that we can build together. All this begins with building a sustainable relationship, built on trust, respect, and progress for all. The Sustainable Development Goals, the Chinese population in Curaçao, the Chinese Consulate General on the island, and this initial Memorandum of Understanding that paves the way for further investment, are some of the aspects that keep on uniting our two countries.

As we celebrate approximately two and a half years of the Consul General of China’s presence in Curaçao, I look forward to strengthening the ties between our two nations, looking towards a future of more solar panels especially for schools, wind mills, and hydropower. This is only the beginning of what can be a strong relationship and Curaçao’s potential to be a hub for exporting Chinese energy products to the whole region.

“MAN HOW” (BONNOCHI) , FOE YIN (BON BINI),
HOW CHI, NEI FOEK CHOK (PABIEN KU BOSO SELEBRASHON),
OHN SUNG OH TEI HOO YI, SING WAY,
TAI YIN CHI MOEI, TO CHE (MI TA SPERA KU NOS POR BIRA RUMAN).

Danki, thank you, xièxie (sheeshee) and again, let us celebrate the success of the People’s Republic of China, and the strong ties that your country has with Curaçao.

26 September 2016

The United Nations and the Decolonisation of West Papua

The Diplomat



The UN no longer considers West Papua to be “colonized,” leaving activists hard pressed to find solutions.

By Prianka Srinivasan

NEW YORK — A decade ago, Herman Wainggai caused a diplomatic furor between Indonesia and Australia when he boarded a homemade canoe and crossed the Arafura Sea to the northern tip of Australia. Escaping his home in the Indonesian-controlled territory of West Papua, Wainggai feared that his campaign for West Papuan independence would soon cost him his life. In March 2006, Australia recognized Wainggai as a refugee and granted him protection. Indonesia responded by temporarily recalling its Australian ambassador.

With reports of renewed intimidation by Indonesian authorities in West Papua, Wainggai will once again embark on a controversial journey to seek justice for his people. This time, his destination is New York’s UN headquarters to lobby at its 71st General Assembly. “We want to remind the UN they can’t let West Papua be colonized for so long,” said Wainggai in a telephone interview.

But Wainggai’s task will not be easy. The UN has slumbered in its decolonization efforts, with only one state, Timor-Leste, achieving independence in the past 20 years. Added to that, West Papua is currently unrecognized by the world body as a colonized “non-self-governing territory”—it lost this designation over four decades ago, when West Papua was integrated by Indonesia through controversial means.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE .

Puerto Rico's final status determination sorely required


El Nuevo Dia



"The decision on status is an inherent part of any practical decisions on Puerto Rico's economic future."
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Like never before since 1952, the political leadership in Puerto Rico and the US government (Congress as well as the White House) are coping with the unavoidable need to work together and in all earnestness, in order to design and enforce a mechanism to ensure the final determination of political relations between the Island and the United States.

The lengthy discussion about our nation's political status began during the days of the Spanish imperial reign over the Island, and escalated under the plenary powers of the US Congress over our Caribbean territory. Nowadays, at the exact moment we're celebrating the 64th anniversary of the Puerto Rican Constitution, this debate is at a point where it won't bear political and partisan games—which have hindered the solution of this hundred-year-old dilemma—any longer.

On the contrary, current circumstances require, or rather demand, an understanding on behalf of Puerto Rican and United States political leaders to bring to an end what the most recent decisions and actions at the federal level (judicial, executive and congressional) have defined as a clearly colonial situation.

Those representing all ideologies are responsible for requiring and guiding a serious debate on the process to decolonize Puerto Rico, especially with the cooperation from those supporting the commonwealth, many of whom acknowledge the clear frailty of the status quo. The ultimate decision on the Island's political status quo should be made by Puerto Ricans through their votes. However, the federal government is also responsible for establishing the base—via non-territorial, non-colonial and permanent options—on which the Puerto Rican people may express their will, entirely of their own volition, to emerge from this colonial trap.

The most recent incidents with judicial authorities, the White House and Congress should be seen as warning signs telling Puerto Ricans that the time has come for the most important choice.

The first incident involves Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, who on January—within the framework of congressional proposals looking for a legislation to help Puerto Rico out of its severe fiscal crisis—stated that the current territorial status did not provide the Island the adequate tools to arise from this situation and rebuild its economic development. This was a hard knock on the conscience of our local political elite—a knock that should have reached political leaders and executives in Washington—regarding the importance of dealing with the political status.

After this admonishment from the high-ranking federal officer (who spoke on behalf of the White House) came a historic decision from the US Supreme Court in June: a ruling which set a precedent to the effects that Puerto Rico's sovereignty resides in Washington, and that the Island's ultimate source of authority is the US Congress. In June, the US Supreme Court also ruled that Puerto Rico's territorial government does not have the authority to approve, as the Governor and local Legislature had, a local bankruptcy code for its public corporations. With this decision by the Supreme Court, the Island was left in a judicial limbo, since it cannot resort to the US Bankruptcy Code, but neither does it have the authority to approve a bankruptcy code created by its own Legislative Assembly.

These decisions, political in nature, are added to the affront upon our dignity that is the continuity of a colonial state as a system of government in this day and age. In short, the Island's structural problem is based on the political, judicial and economic relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States. It's time for a definitive solution, to make way for the Island's economic development and the respect of our people.


24 September 2016

Chileans Demand British Museum Return Four-Ton Easter Island Statue

View of Moais Ahu Tongariki. Photo Gregory Boissy/AFP/Getty Images.







A campaign to return one of the famous Easter Island statues to its native Chile has been launched by a group of Chilean filmmakers, who believe that it should be returned by the UK.

Hoa Haka Nana’ia or Hidden or Stolen Friend is currently on view at the British Museum as one of its main attractions. The moai, believed by the Rapa Nui culture to be inhabited by spirits or mana that protected local tribes, was made in the 13th century. It stands at around eight feet tall and weighs around four tons.

The makers of a new documentary on the statues, called Te Kuhane o the Tupuna: El espíritu de los ancestros, claim that returning the moai to Easter Island could go some way to improve things there.

“One way to recover the mana to restore wellbeing to the island is to bring the spirit of the Moai Hoa Kaka Nana’ia back to its native land,” the new film says, according to AFP.

Photo: courtesy the Easter Island Statue Project.



The producer of the film, Paula Rossetti, told AFP that she has a petition of over 500 signatures asking the Chilean government to demand the return of the statue and other valuable artifacts to its shores, but admits: “It will be difficult to get them back.”

Countries from around the world are asking Britain to return items found, collected, or looted by British explorers that now sit in the some of the countries most famous institutions. The most famous example is that of the infamous Elgin marbles, which the Greek government has been campaigning to have returned for many years to no avail.

Related: Greece Puts International Pressure on British Museum to Return Parthenon Sculptures

Hoa Haka Nana’ia is one of an estimated 4,000 artifacts taken from Easter Island that are currently in collections around the world.

There are an estimated 887 of the largest moai on Easter Island, most of which were carved from volcanic rock between the years 1100 and 1680.


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23 September 2016

Curacao inks deal with China firm to run Isla refinery

REUTERS
By Sailu Urribarri  
The government of Curacao has signed a preliminary agreement with China's Guangdong Zhenrong Energy to operate the aging Isla refinery and invest some $10 billion in upgrading the facility, according to an agreement made public on Monday.
Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA [PDVSA.UL] has for decades operated the refinery, which opened in 1918, under a lease agreement. But the cash-poor PDVSA has been reluctant to invest some $1.5 billion that Curacao authorities requested several years back to modernize the 335,000-barrels-per-day facility.
"Unfortunately, all the government's efforts to reach a new contract with Venezuela did not yield positive results," Curacao Prime Minister Bernard Whiteman said in a video posted on the government's website on Monday. "Curacao could not wait any longer; we had to look at other alternatives."
He added that Guangdong Zhenrong would "finance, modernize and operate the refinery, the storage terminal and dock."
Guangdong Zhenrong, a state-controlled commodities trader, will also assist in modernizing the water and electricity plants as well as aid in the construction of a new gas terminal, he said.
The memorandum of understanding between the two parties lays out a two-month timeframe for negotiations with the possibility for a two-month extension.
PDVSA and Guangdong Zhenrong did not respond to emails seeking comment.
Located just 50 kilometers (31 miles) northwest of Venezuela, the Isla refinery is a strategic facility for PDVSA to store and ship Venezuelan oil destined for the Asian market. China in the last decade has become one of the top buyers of Venezuelan crude and fuel through an oil-for-loans financing agreement.
Unlike many facilities in Venezuela, terminals at Isla and neighboring Bullenbaai can receive large tankers, such as Very Large Crude Carriers that can transport up to 2 million barrels of oil to China.
The current lease agreement with PDVSA stipulates that if neither party ends the agreement two years before its expiration, it is automatically renewed for another 10 years. The current lease expires on Dec. 31, 2019.
Residents of Curacao, an autonomous country within the kingdom of the Netherlands, have for years complained that Isla's emissions cause health problems and insist the facility needs investment to reduce its environmental impact.
Guangdong Zhenrong is 44.3 percent owned by Zhuhai Zhenrong Corp, one of China's top four state petroleum traders.


22 September 2016

El rol del MNOAL en los avances por la descolonización de Puerto Rico ante la ONU




Delegación del MINH a XVII Cumbre MNOAL.
José Santos Valderrama, Wilma E. Reverón Collazo (centro) y Olga Sanabria.

Wilma E. Reverón Collazo
Copresidenta del MINH


Desde la aprobación de la Resolución 1514 (XV) el 1ro. de diciembre de 1960 pasaron doce (12) años para que el caso de Puerto Rico fuera atendido por el Comité Especial de Descolonización. Juan Mari Brás, entonces líder del Movimiento Pro Independencia (MPI), explica que la aprobación de la Resolución 1514 (XV) fue celebrada con gran euforia por el movimiento independentista porque pensaban que garantizaría la apertura del caso de Puerto Rico. Pero no fue así. 

Fueron múltiples los esfuerzos realizados por varias delegaciones, año tras año, que comparecían a reclamar que nuestro caso fuera incluido en la agenda del Comité Especial de Descolonización. ¨Tuvimos que acudir a múltiples foros auxiliares en busca de apoyo a nuestro reclamo. Así, el de las cumbres de los Países No Alineados en Belgrado (1961) al que asistió Gabriel Vicente Maura luego de ser arrestado en el aeropuerto; El Cairo (1964) al que fue una delegación compuesta por Maura, Norman Pietri y la Dra. Ana Livia Cordero, quien a la sazón vivía en Ghana y por sus múltiples contactos africanos fue la principal consideración para que se aceptara por primera vez una delegación puertorriqueña como ¨invitada¨.i 

Mari Brás, considera la aprobación de la Resolución 1514 (XV) con el logro de la inserción de la frase ¨y cualquier otro territorio que no haya alcanzado su independencia¨, como el primero de cinco triunfos en las gestiones internacionales ante la ONU. ¨El segundo gran triunfo fue el apoyo recibido del Movimiento de los Países No Alineados, a partir de la cumbre celebrada en El Cairo en 1964. Esto produjo la primera mención de Puerto Rico, en 1965, en el seno del Comité Especial de Descolonización, cuando el gobierno cubano solicitó la inclusión de nuestro caso en la agenda de dicho comité, basándose en el pedido de la Cumbre de El Cairo y, subsiguientemente, la convocatoria a un plebiscito en Puerto Rico, que dicho sea de paso, cambió aquí el curso de la política interna. Como consecuencia de la maniobra plebiscitaria de Estados Unidos, el Comité de Descolonización de la ONU inició su primer debate en torno al caso de Puerto Rico en ese mismo año de 1967.¨ ii


Leer el artículo completo aquí



Bonaire Foundation head on mission to Sint Eustatius, Saba and Sint Maarten

SABA NEWS

Autonomy activist visits Statia, Saba

The Foundation seeks more autonomy from the Netherlands, as it feels that Bonaire is overwhelmed by an increased influx of Dutch residents and civil servants.
Finies’ visit to Statia was hosted by Brighter Path Foundation, which also seeks more autonomy for the “Historical Gem.”
On Statia, Finies met with several government officials, including Commissioner Derrick Simmons, Island Secretary Louis van Ameijden, independent Island Councilman Reuben Merkman and Charles Woodley. He also spoke on the local radio station.
During his visit to Saba, the NKBB Chairman had meetings with Island Governor Jonathan Johnson, Commissioner Rolando Wilson, Island Councilman for Saba Labour Party (SLP) Ishmael Levenston, and with Chairman of Saba Business Association Wolfgang Tooten.
Finies rounded off his visit to the Windward Islands on Anguilla. He also made appearances on radio stations in Dutch St. Maarten and French St. Martin.
“We met people from all the islands in search for solidarity and their support. People are surprised when they hear about what happened on Bonaire since it obtained its status as special entity of the Netherlands on October 10, 2010. Since then we have witnessed a large influx of Dutch people. The new status has had a bad outcome for our islands, such as the closure of the Medical School on Bonaire, similar to the one on Statia,” Finies said.
“We feel overwhelmed and overpowered by the Dutch on our small islands. We feel that we cannot exert our democratic and fundamental human rights, because we have become a minority on our own island and have no voice in The Hague,” the activist explained, adding that NKBB is not fighting for independence.
“We need more attention for our island and our people,” Finies said in stating that his organization has hired a specialist with the UN in pursuit of efforts to include Bonaire, Saba and Statia on the list of non-self governing territories.

21 September 2016

British 'colonial conservation' project restricts fishing in large areas of the waters off its Pacific, South Atlantic dependencies

THE GUARDIAN

British control of far flung islands of Pitcairn, St. Helena, now being used as "conservation" areas bans commercial fishing; Similar restrictions in Asension and Tristan da Cunha to be put in place  in coming years. 

UK to ban fishing from a million square kilometres of ocean



The UK is to ban commercial fishing from a million square kilometres of ocean around British overseas territories, the government said on Thursday.

In total, the government is creating marine protected areas around four islands in the Pacific and Atlantic, including the designation this week of one of the world’s biggest around the Pitcairn Islands.

A 840,000 sq km (320,000 sq mile) area around Pitcairn, where the mutineers of the Bounty settled, becomes a no-take zone for any fishing from this week. St Helena, around 445,000 sq km of the south Atlantic ocean and home to whale sharks and humpbacks, is now also designated as a protected area.

The foreign office said it would designate two further marine protection zones, one each around two south Altantic islands – Ascension by 2019 and Tristan da Cunha by 2020.

Sir Alan Duncan, minister of state for Europe and the Americas, said: “Protecting 4m sq km of ocean is a fantastic achievement, converting our historic legacy into modern environmental success.”

Commercial fishing will be banned in all of Pitcairn’s zone – excepting ‘sustainable’ local fishing – and half of the 445,390 sq km Ascension protected area. Fishing will be allowed in the other areas, but activities such as oil drilling will be prohibited.

Conservationists welcomed the new protections. “By protecting the vast array of marine life within these rich waters, the United Kingdom has solidified its position as a leader in ocean conservation,” said Joshua S Reichert, of the Pew Charitable Trusts, which is working with the UK on technology to monitor the Pitcairn area.

Jonathan Hall, the RSPB’s head of UK Overseas Territories, said: “This is simply enormous and shows world-leading vision.”

The UK announcement, at the Our Oceans summit in Washington, came as the White House said the US would ban fishing in a 5,000 sq km area in the Altantic, known as the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts marine national monument. That followed Barack Obama’s expansion last month of the Papahānaumokuākea monument off Hawaii.

In his speech at the Washington conference, Duncan quipped: “this was going to have been my big moment, because until last week the Pitcairn MPA would have been the largest in the world. But President Obama sort of rather blew that out of the water by announcing an even bigger MPA in Hawaii – trust the Yanks to indulge in a bit of one-upmanship over us poor Brits.

“But we’re happy as our loss is the world’s gain and we congratulate the United States.”

This week, scientists warned that humanity is driving an unprecedented extinction of the largest marine creatures that could affect ocean ecology for millions of years. Experts said the large range required for such creatures meant large-scale marine protected areas would be a key part of addressing the problem.



St Maarten government MPs support call for a referendum on independence

GREAT BAY, St Martin -- A majority of St Maarten 
parliamentarians present at the reconvened meeting of the Central Committee of Parliament held on Friday, September 2, 2016, with a delegation of the Independence for St Martin Foundation (ISMF), expressed support for the foundation’s call for a referendum to be held so that the people of the territory could have their say on the issue of independence. 


Joseph H. Lake, Jr, president, Independence for St Martin Foundation (ISMF)

President of the ISMF, Jose Lake, Jr., made the case for a referendum to be called on the issue of independence and urged the Members of Parliament to act swiftly to make this happen within the next year.

Dr Rhoda Arrindell, secretary of the foundation, addressed the issue of placing St Maarten back on the United Nations (UN) list of non-self-governing territories. She said when the territory was removed from the list by the Netherlands in 1954 the people of the island were not consulted.

Arrindell further elaborated on why such reinstatement would not be a step backwards as some had argued, pointing out that the “autonomy of St Maarten” is a myth as the territory is still a colony that does not have control over the appointment of the governor, nor over constitutional matters, which still require the approval of the Dutch Kingdom government.

Arrindell added that in both judicial and financial matters, the last word remained with the Kingdom government.

“What autonomy are we talking about?” she asked rhetorically.

She then proceeded to answer the questions posed by the MPs during the May 18 meeting.

Placing the territory back on the United Nations (UN) list would secure international support for the island’s quest, Arrindell said. She added that St Eustatius and Bonaire are also seeking the same thing, having taken their case to the Association of Caribbean States (ACS) heads of state meeting and to the UN.

Independence, continued Arrindell, is a right of all colonized people, and not a privilege.

“If a right is not a priority for politicians, what else would be?” she asked.

Friday’s meeting was adjourned briefly to allow the ISMF to answer additional questions from the MPs.

President of Parliament, Sarah Wescott-Williams, brought the meeting to a close after she indicated that the next step would be for the foundation to present a formal petition to Parliament and/or for the individual MPs to make use of their right to present a motion to a plenary session of the legislative body.

“We are very satisfied with the outcome of the meeting,” said Lake. The ISMF president noted that during the first meeting, ten of the MPs present expressed support for independence.

“That’s a two-thirds majority,” he stated.

He reiterated that the quest for independence is not a partisan issue and urged the politicians to take the lead in working with the people. A referendum does not mean that the territory would obtain independence the next day, but it would signal the beginning of the march towards sovereignty, Lake said.

The meeting was a continuation of the first one held on May 18, 2016, which was adjourned after the MPs listened to the presentation of the foundation, made some remarks and posed a series of questions, which the ISMF had the opportunity to answer on Friday.

20 September 2016

Virgin Islands Rastafarians propose ‘commercial marijuana’ as third economic pillar

Virgin Islands News Online

- Said commercial use of the ‘herb’ may be the answer to VI’s economic challenges



ROAD TOWN, Tortola, VI- The Rastafarian community in the Virgin Islands has proposed the use of marijuana on a commercial level as a possible solution to the current fiscal challenges facing the territory.


Using their time of an hour and a half on the 3D show on ZBVI 780 AM with host Doug Wheatley on Friday August 26, 2016, Halstead L. Lima, also known as Cool Lion, said on a regular basis more and more countries are coming to recognise the value of the herb both as a medicine and on a commercial level. He suggested that the Virgin Islands should do the same.

“We have been at this thing a while now. It’s not a marijuana concern; it is just about the economy. I’m just using some alternate survival techniques for the economy,” he stated.

He likened the territory’s economy as standing on a stool with two legs- offshore banking and Tourism- and in his view, commercial marijuana should be the third leg.

‘Legalise it’

“It’s time to free up the people and it’s time to free up the herb, so yes, I would like to have one of them islands to grow some herbs and to export it,” he continued.

In addition, he pointed to so many things that can be derived from this one plant, but said the people have a mental “block. They cannot see beyond what is in front of their nose.”

Another member of the Rastafarian community, Educator Shaniqua F. Vanterpool, also known as Empress Ruth, said in her view enough is not being done to educate the masses.

“I think when the public hears of marijuana they only think about the smoking. So I think as a community of people I don’t think we have done enough. We have to do more to free our people to educate the youths,” she remarked.

According to her, the herb has garnered a bad reputation among youth who use it as a fashion trend and noted that a lot of work has to be done to change that image.

In terms of decriminalisation of the herb, Empress Ruth would like to see it on all levels medically, since she believes there are many people in society that would benefit if the government was to legalise it, particularly for cancer and asthma patients.

The other guest on the show was Robert D. Penn also known as Acutui.

In 2014, Premier Dr The Hon D. Orlando Smith, when pressed on whether the Virgin Islands would join the move to legalise marijuana for medicinal purposes, noted that further studies would have to be conducted prior to any decision.

19 September 2016

IMPLICATIONS OF FULL MEMBERSHIP OF FRENCH COLONIES IN PACIFIC ISLANDS FORUM

OTR COMMENTARY


The member States of the (Pacific Islands) Forum (PIF) may have made a tactical misstep by granting full membership to the French colonies in apparent exchange for promises of closer economic cooperation and other favourable measures. Given the obvious dominance of Australia and New Zealand in the PIF, the admission of France through its colonies serves to further dilute the political power of the Pacific Small Island States (P-SIDS) within the organisation. This could not have been an intended goal of the P-SIDS. 

It was no secret that both (current French) President Francois Hollande and his predecessor (former French President) Nicolas Sarkozy had repeatedly stated openly that membership of the French colonies in international organizations is "on behalf of the French State," so it is clear that these colonies do not have the requisite international personality to make sovereign decisions in their own right as a full member of such an international, political organization. 

The associate membership status in the Forum, which was already enjoyed by these French colonies, as well as by the U.S. dependencies in the Pacific, was created precisely to permit participation by non-self-governing territories, but limit their influence on Forum decisionmaking. The associate membership category of participation is standard in many regional and international organisations for non sovereign territories, and was the appropriate level of participation for a colony whose foreign policy is dictated by the French State. That is, until now. 

Whatever benefits to be derived from this extraordinary decision may pale by comparison to the leverage gained by the French in their geo-strategic plans for the Pacific, and the unintended consequence of the PIF being used as a vehicle in the global chess match of blocking the expansion of Chinese influence in the region. A security analyst expanded on this theme in an interview with Radio New Zealand (below).
__________________________________________________

RADIO NEW ZEALAND


New Forum members about reining in Fiji


14 September 2016 
·         
A security analyst says one of the key motives for France's effective addition to the Pacific Islands Forum is to stem the impact of Fiji's Frank Bainimarama. After years of lobbying, France has effectively become a member with the admission of its territories, New Caledonia and French Polynesia.Don Wiseman asked Paul Buchanan of 36th Parallel Assessments why the Forum has moved this way.

TRANSCRIPT

PAUL BUCHANAN: The immediate game is the power struggle between Frank Bainimarama and the Pacific Islands Forum. There have traditionally been divisions between Melanesians and Polynesians within the PIF and within the South Pacific council as well. And Bainimarama has been trying to capitalise on this by developing alternative groups to the PIF which he thinks are dominated by the colonial powers, Australia and New Zealand in particular. And he has lobbied for their expulsion from the PIF.
The counter-ploy, which has been building for over a year now, is to bring the French in because the French represent New Caledonia and French Polynesia diplomatically and militarily even though both those territories have a considerable degree of autonomy in their internal affairs. What that means is that we now have three, if you would, western powers, dominant powers, now sitting at PIF as full members. And we have to remember that the French Pacific Army is based in New Caledonia.
There are 8000 French troops based in New Caledonia and the French Pacific Navy is based in French Polynesia. This is not coincidental that the French have tried to get into what some would argue  is the premier inter-governmental organisation in the South Pacific. Because Fiji is the tip of a spear of Chinese influence projected into the South Pacific through Commodore Bainimarama the Chinese have a defacto, if indirect diplomatic representative and it is their interest as much as his own interest that come into play in these sorts of manoeuvrings. So the second game, is a game by proxy between the Chinese and Australia and New Zealand and now the French. And that is where things get interesting because why would the French want to reassert themselves as full members. And it seems to me that that is because there is an increasingly assertive Chinese presence. Not only diplomatically, not only economically, but increasingly militarily in the region that is facilitated in part by the close association of Fiji with China in the wake of the coup of 2006, the sanctions that were imposed on Fiji as a result of that and the declining influence of its traditional partners of Australia and New Zealand in particular but the United States as well and the rise of China as its foremost interlocutor on all three dimensions of strategic power. And it remains to be seen whether the entrance of the French will harden the divisions between Polynesians and Melanesians, or at least harden the divisions between the Pacific Island Forum and Fiji.
DON WISEMAN: Well what do you think?
PB: I think it will. I think that contrary to Australia and New Zealand the French play hard ball. The French can be very diplomatic. They can use very subtle mechanisms of statecraft but I have a feeling that dealing with the likes of Bainimarama they will not be subtle and their approach to him and his attempts to usurp traditional prerogatives not so much of the French, New Zealanders and Australians in the South Pacific.
 But the established inter-governmental forms that such as the PIF and the SPC. That I think is seen as a threat and perhaps it is because those organisations are seen to be more western friendly although the voting record of the PIF in the UN would indicate otherwise. But also because of the preoccupation with this growing Chinese presence and the concern is, is that if they don't push back in some measure, then much like the China Sea, the South Pacific is increasingly going to become a Chinese lake. And the French among others are very alarmed by that prospect. And I think that this diplomatic ploy, if you will, is part and parcel of their response.
DW: Yet the likes of Mr Bainimarama he could continue down his merry way with the various other organisations that he has been building up with some success over these last four or five years. Meantime the Pacific Islands Forum seems to have almost waned somewhat. It would appear to be a lesser of an organisation than it once was. And now this move here is really undermining its basic tenet for existing, which was to keep the older colonial powers out of the Pacific.
PB: That is a very good point, but that tells you why any international agreement or treaty is never written in stone. Times are fluid and with fluid times comes changes in the orientation of players and I think that what we are seeing here, and I absolutely agree that it was a moribund organisation which allowed Bainimarama to exploit its weakness and the squabbling between the smaller members. That has now elicited a a response where the French inclusion clearly signals that there will be a renewed emphasis on the activities of the PIF and perhaps people will start to get very serious about giving it things such as enforcement power for the treaties and agreements that it enacts.
And we may even see it begin to adopt a policy of providing some degree of security muscle it does not have at this point and I say that only because one of the objectives of the Commodore within the MSG was to create a regional peace keeping force that in his vision would intervene in the domestic politics of island states in the event of civil war or even more minor cases of unrest.
That didn't go over well at all with many of the island states but particularly Australia and New Zealand and the French. There is a lot harder edge to French diplomacy in the South Pacific and that edge has a military component to it. And I think that with the French inclusion we may actually see a sort of wake up and take notice within the PIF that its days are numbered unless it starts to act, not only as an effective organisation on its own but also as an effective counterbalance to the initiatives being proposed by Fiji.

SEE ALSO:  France in Forum to counter China influence




18 September 2016

Pacific Forum reveals regional geo-strategic tensions



By John Braddock 

The Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) summit at Pohnpei in Micronesia last weekend agreed to admit the French colonies of New Caledonia and French Polynesia as members of the organisation. Wallis and Futuna, another French territory, retains observer status. French Polynesian President Edouard Fritch called the decision “historic,” declaring it would see greater involvement of the territories in regional affairs.
In reality, the move is another sign of deepening geo-strategic tensions as the imperialist powers seek to counter Beijing’s growing influence in the southwest Pacific. France, a major imperialist power, is being brought forward to buttress the position of the US and its local allies, Australia and New Zealand.
The French territories are strategically significant. New Caledonia has a key military base and is one of the world’s largest suppliers of nickel, an essential element in armaments manufacture. French Polynesia was the site of France’s nuclear testing program at Mururoa Atoll from 1966-1996.
Since the forum’s founding in 1971, Canberra and Wellington have used the 16-member body as a vehicle for their own neo-colonial interests. Their dominance began to break up after they imposed sanctions on Fiji following its 2006 military coup. Fiji’s regime turned elsewhere, primarily to China and Russia, for trade, aid and military equipment.
Frank Bainimarama, Fiji’s military leader, who was elected prime minster in 2014, has encouraged other Pacific nations to take a more “independent” stance. In 2012, Fiji set up the Pacific Islands Development Forum (PIDF) as an alternative to the PIF. While Fiji was readmitted to the PIF two years ago, Bainimarama boycotted the summit, sending his foreign minister in his place.
Last weekend, as the forum was sitting, Bainimarama reshuffled his cabinet, relieving Foreign Minister Ratu Inoke Kubuabola of his job and taking it on himself. Australia’s ABC political editor Chris Uhlmann described the sacking as “a calculated slap down of the forum, aimed at showing Australia and New Zealand that Fiji does not need them to make its way in the world.” Noting that the summit was being held in a sports centre financed by China, Uhlmann warned that while China had been “making friends in the Pacific,” Australia had been “making enemies.”
Fiji’s trade minister Faiyaz Koya last week announced Fiji was withdrawing from talks on a Pacific-wide trade deal, the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (Pacer Plus), citing backtracks on key commitments by Australia and New Zealand. Papua New Guinea has also withdrawn from the agreement.
At last year’s PIF meeting, Tony Abbott, then Australian prime minister, and New Zealand’s John Key tried to strong-arm the Pacific states, prior to the ecological summit in Paris, into accepting lower carbon emission targets even though rising sea levels threaten their survival. Bainimarama led a rebellion by the Pacific countries in Paris, declaring the Pacific was “bearing the brunt” of climate change.
This year, after lobbying by France, New Zealand and Australia, the vote to admit New Caledonia and French Polynesia to the PIF was unanimous. France has been pushing for membership for its territories since 2003. Their inclusion was resisted by the other island states because the forum is meant to be for “independent” countries, even though their own “independence” has always been extremely limited, largely because of the ongoing domination of the former colonial powers, Australia and New Zealand.
The legacy of France’s nuclear testing has long fuelled opposition to the encroachment of France into regional policy. Canberra and Wellington have always viewed France as an imperialist competitor. New Zealand’s “anti-nuclear” stance in the 1970s and 1980s sought to diminish French influence. Mutual antagonism reached fever pitch in 1985 when the French secret service bombed the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior in Auckland harbour.
Opening the door to wider French influence in Pacific affairs is therefore a significant shift. According to Radio NZ, France had been able to “defy the forum for decades and now [it] gets to sit—indirectly—at the Forum table.”
The decision coincided with an anti-China witch-hunting campaign by the Australian media and political establishment aimed at ramping up an atmosphere for war preparations with China. On August 29, analyst Hugh White told the ABC’s “Pacific Beat” program that China was seeking to become “perhaps the leading power” in the western Pacific. It was cultivating closer relationships with “even the smallest and most remote” countries. Any improvement in China’s position, he declared, would be a “negative for Washington.”
In fact, China’s expansion into the Pacific has been primarily in response to the Obama administration’s aggressive “pivot” to the Asia-Pacific. Within the next five years, 60 percent of the US Navy’s warships will be operating in the Pacific. Military facilities in South Korea, Japan, the Philippines and Singapore are being upgraded, along with the expanded use of Australian ports and bases. In a break with New Zealand’s longstanding “anti-nuclear” policy, a US warship is to visit the country in November.
According to the Sydney-based Lowy Institute, China has overtaken Australia as the biggest source of aid to Fiji, and will soon surpass Canberra’s aid to Samoa and Tonga. Beijing’s aid exceeds that from New Zealand and Japan and, at $US1.8 billion, is on the verge of overtaking the US in terms of total aid delivered to the Pacific islands since 2006.
Trade between China and the Pacific doubled last year. The ABC reported that in 2015 total trade reached $US7.5 billion, up from $4.5 billion in 2014. Most of the growth has come from China’s exports to the region, but the Pacific’s exports to China are also expanding, led by the Papua New Guinea’s liquefied natural gas projects. Fish products and timber are the other major exports. More than half of Solomon Islands’ total export income comes from logs sent to China.
The Chinese technology giant Huawei has a major regional presence, working with Pacific telecommunications providers, governments, and businesses to develop subsea cables, networks and datacentres. In 2013, the Australian government stopped Huawei being awarded contracts for a major fibre-optic Internet infrastructure project. The ban was imposed, on bogus “security” grounds, at the behest of Washington. Documents released by whistleblower Edward Snowden confirmed that the US engaged for years in a campaign of industrial espionage against Huawei.
The expansion of France, a European imperialist power, into the Pacific is a sharp warning of the deepening tensions and march to war. In his ABC interview last month, White warned that the growing pattern of rivalry in the Pacific is “what you would expect to see in the lead-up to conflict.”