Chilean police evicted indigenous Rapa Nui protesters who had occupied the central plaza and a luxury hotel in Hanga Roa, capital of Easter Island, over the new year. At least 17 Rapa Nui are facing charges from the occupation and were ordered to appear in court this week. The occupation was launched to press ancestral land claims over 16 sites on the island. The eviction order came from Mayor Raul Celis of Valparaiso, Chile, which has jurisdiction over Easter Island despite being more than 2,000 miles away. (Radio New Zealand International, Jan. 13; UPI, Jan. 4)
On Sept. 29, a C-47 military plane arrived on Rapanui (Easter Island) with more Chilean troops to augment the already in-place armed forces set to remove indigenous Rapanui people from their ancestral lands. Since July 31, the Rapanui have non-violently re-occupied the land illegally taken from their grandparents and have been demanding their legal title to be restored. That same day, Marisol Hito, spokeswomen of the Hitorangi clan, presented her people's case to the Human Rights Commission of the Chilean chamber of deputies.
Dozens of Guam residents led by the Guam Boonie Stompers staged a protest hike of the Pagat area over the weekend to oppose US plans to take the land for a new military base to house troops relocated from Okinawa. (Kuam News, Jan. 4) There have been numerous protests against the relocation in Guam in recent months, and in October a delegation of mostly young ethnic Chamorros traveled from the island to New York to denounce the plan before a special summit of the UN Committee on Decolonization.
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.