Pitcairn Island under martial law and "selective prosecution" academic charges.
ANGWIN (Napa County) Calif., May 27, 2003With virtual martial law now imposed on Pitcairn
Island in the South
Pacific Ocean, the director of an American research center has suggested
that the island's inhabitants consider appealing to the United Nations
for relief from what some are calling oppressive British governance.
Herbert Ford, director of the Pitcairn Islands Study
Center located here, said that charges of sexual criminality against
some Pitcairn men have brought in their wake gag orders, restrictions of
civil liberties, and a thought control mentality.
According to Ford, there are currently four Ministry
of Defense police officers, a Pitcairn police officer and a
government-appointed representative keeping watch over every move of the
fewer than 30 permanent inhabitants of the island. Two additional
police officers arrived on May 23. Two New Zealand social workers, in
whom few if any of the Pitcairners have any confidence, are also on the
In addition, an avalanche of confusing, restrictive
ordinances has been issued by the island's New Zealand-based,
British-appointed governor. Some of the ordinances adversely affect the
cultural and traditional way of Pitcairn life, said Ford. "The disproportionally
large military police contingent amounts to nothing less than martial law
and a de facto military
occupation of Pitcairn," said Ford. "The Island Council has also been
de facto removed from power by the Governor."
Ford said he is suggesting that the Pitcairners consider
appointing a representative who will present credentials at the United
Nations in New York, and make a unilateral declaration of independence,
due to the intolerable nature of present conditions on the island. That
representative would ask other nations to recognize Pitcairn as a
sovereign state. "This done, treaties can be made with France, the
closest local 'power,' for military protection and health care," said
"The legal system and the governmental organs of
Pitcairn are compromised, and the most logical way to correct the
situation may be to declare unilateral independence from the oppressor.
The people of Pitcairn can no longer have any confidence in British
justice and government."
The present impasse has come after a three-years-long
investigation of possible sexual criminality on Pitcairn purporting
to have occurred from five to 40 years ago. Nine men, seven of whom
currently on Pitcairn, have been charged. Others, now living in
New Zealand, are expected to be charged.
It is unclear if the offences cited were illegal if
and when they were supposed to have been committed, due to changes
have been made to Pitcairn's laws through the years.
Pitcairn watchers also believe the charges constitute "selective
prosecution" since sexual activity similar to that for which
charges are being brought against the Pitcairners has also been
engaged in by British Royal Engineers, British Royal Navy personnel,
governmental personnel, a United Kingdom physician, a New Zealand
teacher, and an unknown number of persons from yachts that have
called at the island. None of these people have been charged as the
Stemming from the charges is a law enacted by New
Zealand, considered by many to be illegal, that Pitcairners
can be tried
in that country rather than on Pitcairn. Electronic equipment
has been installed on Pitcairn to handle possible needs related
to the charges.
A new, three-cell jail and other structures have been
built on Pitcairn by government order rather than at the request
of the Pitcairners, while requested infrastructure improvements have
ignored. All the construction is believed to be related to
the criminal charges. The jail and judiciary facilities have been
British government order by the same men (Pitcairners) who
are to be tried and perhaps held in them.
"Hundreds of thousands
of dollars have been spent by the British government to make ready
for 'the Pitcairn trials,' while
increasingly needed help for the Pitcairners remains unmet," said
There is now a feeling of "thought control" on Pitcairn,
according to Ford.
"Being the open and hospitable people they are, the
Pitcairners quite innocently recently invited the Ministry
of Defense police to attend their Council meetings," said Ford.
"But that invitation was not made with any thought
that from that moment on the police would not only attend but would
also sit at the table with the Council members, eye-balling anyone
and, on many occasions, monopolizing the discussions
themselves. This has contributed to the feeling that a police state
The laws of Pitcairn have been revised twice in the
past three years, and an avalanche of ordinances recently issued,
all bringing the force of law to areas that have not been
addressed, some of which aversely affect the traditions
and culture of
As but one example, Ford cited a new firearm
regulation, "Possessing firearm when a trespasser on land," which
carries a three month jail term and/or a fine of $900.
"Anywhere you go on tiny Pitcairn you are walking
across someone else's land," Ford said. "If you do
that and happen to have a rifle with you to shoot
a rogue goat, or to drop
a breadfruit from a
tree, and your neighbor has a mad at you at the
moment, he can declare you a "trespasser." You
may or may not have ammunition in your rifle
or on your person, but because you have the
rifle in your hand you could
well wind up in jail for three months, and also
be fined $900.
A $900 fine to a Pitcairner is an economically
"Pitcairners have carried .22 rifles for various
domestic uses for close to a hundred years,
never with criminal intent,"
according to Ford.
Also, Pitcairn men have always had knives at their
belts. When you need to cut a rope to release
an island longboat in an emergency while the boat is tied to a ship
in open ocean, you need that
knife immediately, and it needs to be very
sharp," said Ford.
"New Pitcairn laws are being written by people whose
concepts are based on the harsh streets of
metropolitan cities, not on little Pitcairn Island," Ford said. "Downtown
Londoners, or people in Wellington, Sydney or Auckland; those who have
written a whole family of
new and confusing Pitcairn laws, have no concept
of the practicalities of life on Pitcairn Island."
Pitcairn, located about midway between Panama and
New Zealand, became the hideout of British seamen
and their Polynesian companions in 1790. The seamen had earlier
Captain William Bligh on the British ship H.M.S.
One mile wide by two miles long, Pitcairn is the
smallest protectorate of the United
Kingdom. It is administered by a British-appointed governor headquartered
in Wellington, New Zealand.
Since 1977 the Pitcairn Islands Study Center, located
on the campus of Pacific Union College
California's Napa Valley, has
been a major source of information
for scholars, journalists, researchers, authors, students and others
mutiny on H.M.S. Bounty."
Pitcairn Islands Study Center, 1 Angwin
Ave., Angwin, CA, USA. Herbert Ford, 707-965-6625, 707-965-2047, Fax: 707-965-6504,
Email: email@example.com, Website: http://library.puc.edu/pitcairn