Faleomavaega appeals for a peaceful solution on Rapa Nui

Date:  February 10, 2011 
Written Transcript

Washington, D.C. --  Congressman Faleomavaega today announced that he delivered a Special Order speech on the floor of the U.S. House Chamber on February 8, 2011, calling for a peaceful solution to the Easter Island crisis.

February 8 was also the court-ordered date for the eviction of the Hito clan.  Despite the court order, Chilean armed forces evicted the clan two days prior, on February 6.  On February 7, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights granted a “pre-cautionary measure,” which was filed through the Indian Law Resource Center, the legal representative for all 32 Rapa Nui clans.  The Commission has required Chile’s Interior Ministry to issue a full report of the situation within 10 days.        

Also on February 8, a Chilean Judge suspended criminal trespassing charges against the Hito family, ruling that the courts must first determine who rightfully owns the land before deciding whether anybody was trespassing.        

Excerpts from Faleomavaega’s Special Order are copied below:

            “Mr. Speaker, I want to share with my colleagues and the American people a particular issue that is now brewing in the Pacific region. It is the current crisis now happening between the Government of Chile and the people of Easter Island.”

            “Mr. Speaker, Easter Island is a province of Chile, also known as Rapa Nui among its native people…It is also the southeastern point of the Polynesian triangle, from the State of Hawaii north and as far south as New Zealand, with several other islands in between, including the Samoan Islands…”

            “Given that Easter Island is a remote location, many people throughout the world mistakenly considered the island to be uninhabited. However, Easter Island is a home with a population of roughly 5,000 people, but approximately half of those people are indigenous of Rapa Nui…”

            “Mr. Speaker, Rapa Nui, the people of Easter Island are small in number, yet they carry a very vibrant culture dating back centuries before the arrival of Europeans. Their means of preparing food and living off of the land and their respect for family and nature are all ways of life dating back to the time when the first Polynesians settled the Pacific Islands on double-hulled canoes. Because all Polynesians are connected in this way, the people of Rapa Nui are very similar to that of other Polynesian people, such as the native Hawaiians, the Samoans, the Tongans, the Tahitians, and the Maoris of Aotearoa or New Zealand…”

            “The point I hope to make is that the people of Rapa Nui, Mr. Speaker, their culture is still vibrant, and this is not a mysterious, uninhabited island as it has been thought of for all these years…”

            “Mr. Speaker, Chile's current relationship with Easter Island and the treatment of the native people poses many legal, policy, and human rights problems. With the annexation of Easter Island in 1933, the Government of Chile unilaterally developed and adopted laws regarding the ancestral lands of the people, and the enforcement of these laws continue to reflect the nature of Chile's initial treaty and subsequent annexation--disputed, unclear, and still highly questionable in terms of the rights of these native people to their ancestral lands..”

            “In addition to the serious land rights disputes, there are several other issues that threaten the livelihood of the people of Rapa Nui. For instance, the people of Rapa Nui have no voice when it comes to residency and immigration to their own island. Each year, an increased number of Chilean nationals travel to and remain on Easter Island. Some roughly 50,000 tourists visit each year to see the ancient Moai statues. Despite the influx of tourists, Easter Island is also prohibited from having a television and Internet signal. The influx of travelers and residents have given way to massive unemployment among the native people, exploitation of natural resources, and increased pollution. Sustainability of natural resources is further threatened by foreign fishing boats which are allowed to fish around the island.”       

            “The Parliament of Rapa Nui, clan leaders, and members have reached out to the Chilean Government through peaceful and diplomatic means to resolve the serious issues at hand…Mr. Speaker, Chile somewhat has made an effort to solve these issues diplomatically. In August of last year, the Minister of Interior visited Rapa Nui to announce the creation of ``working tables'' to address these issues. The project was given 60 days for its outcome. However, despite this attempt, the very same month a squadron of Chilean armed police, or ‘carabineros,’ arrived on Easter Island, signaling the beginning of a 6-month-long violent conflict between the local inhabitants and the police forces that the Chilean Government sent to Easter Island.”

            “Mr. Speaker, the point is this: This is the year 2011, and this type of treatment should not be happening.  But unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, it is happening. As I stated before, Chile's current relationship with Easter Island is disputed, unclear, and highly questionable. However, there is a choice to be made in how to address the many legal, policy and human rights issues that have stemmed from this unfortunate relationship.”

            “I appeal to the Government of Chile to begin a dialogue for ways to help the Rapa Nui people achieve self-determination, economic self-sufficiency, and preservation of culture. We can learn, for example, how the Government of Nicaragua treated its people, the indigenous people of the Miskito tribe. We can learn from government-to-government relations how our own government has treated some 600 tribes here in the United States and in the same way that we ought to learn how we could better treat the people of Rapa Nui…”

            “So, Mr. Speaker, I make this personal appeal to President Pinera. I ask for a true demonstration of his leadership and capacity to exercise fair judgment and above all show common decency towards the safety and welfare of probably the most helpless people who currently live on this planet, a people who centuries ago were among the greatest in the world as navigators and voyagers of the Pacific region, a people whom scientists today can still marvel at their ability to build statues cut from stones weighing hundreds of tons, a people who only ask to be treated as any other human being would like to be treated.”