A gunless future for peaceful Pitcairn Island?
ANGWIN, Calif., USA, September 2, 2004 ----- One Pitcairn Islander
stood in front of the Public Notice Board on the tiny South Pacific
island wrapped in a mix of deep emotions.
All guns are to be handed in to myself or the MDPs
by 7th Sept. 04, the notice, signed by B. Christian,
Police Officer, Pitcairn Island, read.
If someone who knows Pitcairn law could show me where the
Governor has such powers to do what he is doing, then could you
please show me where and on what page in the Pitcairn law book it
says such a thing? asked the Pitcairner in a report made available
to the Pitcairn Islands Study Center here.
The gun confiscation order had come from Pitcairns governor
in connection with an upcoming trial on September 23 of seven Pitcairn
men accused of sexual abuse. There are about 35 Pitcairners
on the island who trace their lineage back to the sailors who mutinied
on H.M.S. Bounty in 1789.
The Governor, Richard Fell, residing in Wellington, New Zealand,
thousands of miles from Pitcairn, says the confiscation is necessary
because of what might be heightened tension that could come to the
one-mile-wide by two-miles-long island in connection with the trial.
Never in its more than 200-year Euro-Polynesian history, since
late 1700s fighting erupted between the mutinous British sailors
and Polynesian men, has a gun been used in anger on Pitcairn. Light,
single-shot rifles and shotguns on the island are for everyday use
such as shooting breadfruit from high in trees, or to take a wild
goat for food. All the guns are licensed and registered.
A number of the Pitcairners respond that confiscation of their
guns is illegal in that it is not provided for in Pitcairn law,
which they have followed since 1838. They also contend it completely
ignores the centuries long peaceful nature of the Pitcairners.
The Pitcairners report explains that all firearms on the
island have previously been required to be licensed by their owners.
The Governors confiscation order applies to every person,
including those with gun licenses, yet it does not give any reason
The Pitcairner said he has asked the Governor to tell him if anyone
refusing to surrender his or her firearm would be treated as a criminal
and lawbreaker, but he has yet to answer me, he said.
Some of the Pitcairners feel the Governors gun confiscation
order, coming as it does weeks before the onset of the trial, is
but another of numerous moves he has made that will irrevocable
prejudice the outcome of the trial. And the trial, they point out,
will not even follow Pitcairn law by using a jury of Pitcairners.
Three Governor-appointed New Zealand judges will pass judgment on
As steel gates and wire fencing that will surround the new, six-cell
island jail recently built at the Governors order was being
offloaded from a supply ship at Pitcairn on Wednesday, September
1, one of the islanders said he found it difficult to hold back
Some islanders feel that the Governors building of a new
jail of such size just a couple of months in advance of the
trial, is yet another move that could prejudice the upcoming proceedings.
The ratio of one jail cell in the new Pitcairn jail for less than
every five adult Pitcairners possibly makes it one of the largest
incarceration facilities per capita in the entire world.
I believe in justice and mercy and forgiveness and reconciliation,
but I have never seen so much money being poured into a system which
has so far resulted in anything but that, the Pitcairner said.
Pitcairn Islands Study Center, 1 Angwin
Ave., Angwin, CA, USA. Herbert Ford, 707-965-6625, 707-965-2047, Fax: 707-965-6504,
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Website: http://library.puc.edu/pitcairn