Rights advocates are protesting an Australian detainment camp on a remote Indian Ocean island as the "new Guantánamo Bay." Christmas Island, a full 1,000 miles from the Australia mainland, is currently holding some 1,500 asylum seekers from Afghanistan and other Asian countries. A group of 39 "boat people" from Sri Lanka, rescued by a gas tanker after their makeshift craft sank in Australian territorial waters about 600 kilometers northwest of the Cocos Islands, are currently en route to the island.
The government of New Zealand agreed Feb. 11 to pay $140 million in compensation to eight Maori tribes for illegal land seizures and breaches of the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi. The tribes will also receive control of land and other resources, and will receive rent from forests on state land and greenhouse gas emission credits. The tribes have 12,000 members living in both the north and south islands. Many packed into parliament to watch New Zealand Prime Minister John Key sign the letters of agreement.
Australia has claimed a blow against a home-grown terrorist cell, with the conviction and sentencing of Abdul Nacer Benbrika, 48, of the Melbourne suburb of Dallas, and a group of five followers. Benbrika received a maximum term of 15 years, but two of his followers will be eligible for parole in 15 months. Justice Bernard Bongiorno said Benbrika formed the group, known as "Jemaa" for the purpose of engaging in violent jihad "The jemaah would achieve this by acts of terrible violence in this country, or perhaps elsewhere," Justice Bongiorno said.
Seven Maori tribes signed New Zealand's largest-ever settlement on grievances over the loss of lands and fisheries during European settlement in the 19th century. Hundreds of Maori, some wearing traditional feather cloaks, gathered at Wellington to watch the agreement being signed in parliament by the government and tribal leaders. Some wept during the ceremony, while others chanted, sang and blew conch shells.
Traditional Aboriginal land-users from Borroloola, near Australia's Gulf of Carpentaria, are demanding compensation for land taken by the expansion of Xstrata's McArthur River zinc mine in the Northern Territory. A federal court June 13 rejected an appeal by traditional residents to halt the expansion of the mine, which involves redirecting five kilometers of the river. Justice John Mansfield decided former environment minister Ian Campbell was not in error when he approved the expansion. Indigenous land user Harry Lancen says sacred sites are being destroyed by the mine's operation.
America's own Tibet in the Pacific? From the New York Times, May 3, links added:
Occupation of Palace Area Invigorates Native Hawaiian Movement
HONOLULU — A Native Hawaiian independence group laid claim this week to the nation's only royal palace and the state land surrounding it, raising anew the issue of self-determination for the islands’ native people.
New Zealand's Maori Party harshly protested the Oct. 15 police raids on Maori activists in which 17 were arrested. "This action has violated the trust that has been developing between Maori and Pakeha and sets our race relations back 100 years," party leader Pita Sharples charged, using the Maori word for New Zealanders of European descent. He called the raids "storm trooper tactics" by a police force that consistently targets the indigenous population.
Elite police units raided properties across New Zealand Oct. 15, apparently seizing weapons in what the media are calling "anti-terrorist" sweeps targeting Maori activists. An armed roadblock was set up around the inland Maori settlement of Ruatoki on the North Island, gateway to the Urewera mountains, home of the reclusive Tuhoe tribe. The raid allegedly followed sightings by hunters in the region of armed men in camouflage at a camp in the Ureweras. TV reports said that a napalm bomb had been tested at one camp, and a threat made against Prime Minister Helen Clark. Locations in Wellington, Auckland and Christchurch were also raided. Among the 17 arrested was Tame Iti, 55, a prominent campaigner for Maori independence. He appeared before Rotorua District Court on eight charges relating to possession of firearms and petrol bombs. (Radio New Zealand, Stuff.co.nz, London Times, Oct. 15)