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Substantive responses received by the Small Islands Voice global forum to the posting on the theme 'Colonialism in the 21st century'
by C. Corbyn and H. Grant, 20 March 2007

List of contents

Pedro Alcado, Cuba
Morris Amos, Vanuatu
Juliet Boon, Samoa*
Tony de Brum, Marshall Islands
John Bungitak, Marshall Islands
Jan Collander, Philippines
Carlyle Corbin, Virgin Islands
Tony Deamer, Vanuatu*
Corine Duffis, San Andres, Colombia
Ioannis Economides, Cyprus
Francesco Emmanuel
Francesco Emmanuel
Jacques Gedeon, Vanuatu*
Bernhard Grdseloff, Grenada*
Ismael Guadalupe Ortiz, Puerto Rico
Ismael Guadalupe Ortiz, Puerto Rico*
Guy Harel, Mauritius
Derrick Harvey, Vanuatu
Charles Kaaiai, Hawaii*
Kris Rampersad, Trinidad & Tobago
Rolf, Turcs & Caicos Islands
Laitia Tamata, Fiji
Barbara Wilson, Canada
Writer, Federated States of Micronesia
Writer, Fiji
Writer, Jamaica*
Writer, Northern Marianas
Writer, Turcs & Caicos Islands
Writer, St. Kitts & Nevis
Arlette St. Ville, St. Lucia

Other Responses
Ravi Chauhan
Asenati Liki, Fiji*
Dimple Seewoogobin, Mauritius
Writer, Brazil




From Pedro Alcolado, Cuba

It is hard for me to believe that foreign investors from developed countries, as a rule, will sincerely   respect our culture, our customs, our hospitality. They use to follow only the call of market forces and the best ways to get more profits is imposing their power by different direct and indirect ways. On one side, the great job demand permits foreign investors to pay the lowest salaries. At the same time they make natives feel fear of being dismissed because of non-compliance with investors’ expectations, or the existence of a pool of many candidates for their jobs, or because of market depressions. By these ways (among others) an economic domination is imposed on local people. Then they also can dominate governments (by bribery, blackmailing, or threat of leaving the country) when these governments are not able or do not have the possibilities to generate new jobs for covering community needs, or are corrupt or weak, for example.  Foreign investment could be only beneficial when the government (with great patriotic and a sense of national self-esteem) and national legislations can exert a strong control on the investors and can negotiate fair rules that benefit both parts, protecting the country from behaving as a colony.

Additionally, neoliberalism does not allow for government (or State) control, but only follows market rules and trends, with no sense of humanity or solidarity, but a blind and rampant economic greed. For that reason it is very harmful for workers everywhere, but mostly in developing countries or colonies. To my mind, accepting colonialism and neoliberalism is to pave the way to the loss of independency and of real human and economic nationally owned progress, at least in the long term (and increased poverty in the very short term).

I am commenting only about a small bit of a very much more complex and comprehensive issue, dealing only with some aspects of economical dominance (that usually leads to political dominance too). I have read that some island countries have accepted to be colonies when they feel it is very advantageous for their countries or they are unable to function as a nation because of national or territorial or resource restrictions, but I wonder to what extent these people are suffering a silent sense of loss (for discrimination, loss of tradition, sense of ownership of their resources, national proud, etc.) or whether they were tamed into adopt resignation and conformity, or if they really feel fulfilled and happy. It deserves a more deep and unbiased social survey or research to really assess the effect and general acceptance of being a colony in these countries. I am sorry my English is far from perfect, and please excuse me for any confusion it can generate.

From Morris Amos, Vanuatu

Though small, we were independent and rich in our cultures and livelihood. Now, after being colonized, most of these livelihood skills, etc. were lost. Upon granting independence, we struggle again to survive in a different mode of dependency. Many are still in transition, trying to settle down and still puzzling whether to continue to follow colonial ways or go back to traditional living. For some the fight is still on.

From Juliet Boon, Samoa*

Thank you for taking the time to inform us on your views of colonialism. It is enlightening to see, as a small island, the extreme negative effects of colonialism are not so apparent here as it is in our sister island nations. However, although Samoa was the first island nation to become independent, it still has its fair share of colonialism in every aspect of our political, social, economic and even in our environmental living. The same powers who have stripped off other small islands from their wealth are the same powers who are dictating to small islands issues of bioethics. It is like what Redclift (1987) noted - he argued that it should be remembered that those who are concerned with the fixed limits of resources are the 'urban bureaucrats' who are more concerned at the cost to the quality of their life posed by food poverty, pollution, industrial waste and in particular profit reduction rather that the quality of life of the small islands. In other words, the call for sustainable development is really from the big powers who do not want to see the source of their wealth being used, depleted and degraded.
In our small country of Samoa, the colonial effects are manifested in multi-facet ways. Being dependent on Aid donors have had some actual and potential consequences like the emergence of the Land Bill 2007 which stipulates the degradation of the 'matai' system of communal land to private ownership. The same system has stripped Vanuatu indigenous of the communal and traditional rights to their land. The communal land system, although has autocratic attributes, it has lasted and maintained peace in the 'faaSamoa' - Samoa way of life - on a national level . In the attempt to provide hydropower electricity from the natural water resources in the villages, environmental impact assessments (EIA), although are implemented, there is very little acknowledgement of such reports. Yet again, EIA was initiated by big powers. When the villagers oppose, funding agencies earmark and blame the village people who do not consent rather they should be tackling the problem to provide alternative means. The same message they give to us through management trainings run and sourced by overseas consultancy which pays their own people to do these trainings. The drive to meet the so-called 'Millennium Development Goals' also dictated and reinforced by regional agencies like UNDP has had fluctuating effects.
Recently, there has been an indigenous revolution (or reconnaissance) for local people to demand foreign researchers to ethically conduct culturally appropriate research to avoid misinterpretation of their way of life. When the workshop takes place, UNESCO and other regional organizations send expats from the same countries who colonized small islands to dictate to the local people what the mechanisms of 'ethics' are. It will be great if those who dictate can take a taste of their own medicine to ensure colonialism does not repeat itself. Furthermore, the same people who preach to the local educators about ethics, try to take archeological artifacts without the consent of the local villagers concerned. I agree with other writers (within this lively 'small island' discussion) that education is the key factor for success and happiness. This has to have a filter down effect to the other local people to ensure that our cultural treasures (measina) are not depleted, peace and happiness is maintained, and our quality of life is ensured as well as sustained. Schumacher, one of the forefathers of sustainable development in Europe, once stated, that 'small is beautiful'. We should all try and make voices to ensure that our small islands maintain their beautiness.

From Tony de Brum, Marshall Islands

You observations fail to recognize three glaring examples of neocolonialism in the world:  The Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, and the Republic of Palau.  The Territory of Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas are generally accepted as colonies of the United States by most Pacific observers. 

From John Bungitak, Marshall Islands

Dear SIV,
It is interesting to know how other small island states were able to stand on their own feet, some with struggle and others without struggle, while for others remain still leaning heavily on their colonial mothers despite all the years.

If I may, I would like to bring a new issue to the table for discussion if that is permissible.  As a small island state, I would like to seek advice from anyone as to how they do it in their SIDs in obtaining landfill materials for their development projects without compromising their atolls' vulnerability to disaster risks in light of climate change? With reef blasting and dredging of the beaches for construction materials, our atolls' vulnerability to coastal erosion, loss of property and greater recovery costs in case of high waves is inevitable. Any advice from any of our friends?

From Jan Collander, Philippines

Dear Friends in the Pacifying Ocean. Yes I say PACIFYING, that is how it could be. I am a Swedish citizen living in the Philippines and married to a good Phillipina since 17 years. I like your Pacific Plan but I am afraid the Philippines is too big and too many people to join the Pacific Plan. My ideological credo is SMALL IS BEAUTIFUL. Being SMALL is not always a guarantee for independence. International companies control too much. So I am trying to tell people to patronize domestic products, making themselves 'free'.  If you want I can exemplify later. Best Regards.    

From Carlyle Corbin, Virgin Islands

I have read with interest the 6 March 2007 article  "Worsening Income Divide” by F. Ahmed, F. Emmanuel writing from the Bahamas, as well as the comments of Faiz Syed Ahmed, in relation to the article 'Our Land and Foreign Investment." The comment that "colonialism is over," reflects an often-repeated misconception, and needs fundamental correction. Colonialism is, in fact, still very much alive in the 21st Century. There are 16 remaining territories - most of which are small island territories - on the United Nations List of Non Self-Governing Territories, including seven in the Atlantic/Caribbean. Thus, Bermuda, Turks and Caicos Islands, Cayman Islands, Montserrat, British Virgin Islands Anguilla, and the US Virgin Islands are all classified as "colonies" by the United Nations General Assembly. Puerto Rico is the eighth colony in the Caribbean which is not listed by the UN. Other small island territories include Guam, American Samoa, and Tokelau. Whilst these territories may have elected governments, the powers of those governments do not meet the test of full self-government, as the administering countries hold the power to legislate for them, without their consent and often against their will. The United Nations reviews these territories each year and produce resolutions in promotion of their process of self-determination leading to full self-government through the recognised political options of independence, free association or integration (with full political rights). The international community is in its seventh year of the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism which is designed to bring an end to colonialism. Statements which dismiss the reality of this anachronistic condition of colonialism in the 21st Century should be carefully weighed against the objective reality of international law.

From Tony Deamer, Vanuatu*

From my 36 years experience in what was once a colonial state with two colonial powers running it at the one time; offering  the best  and the worst of both worlds  (Lucky we opted for the British justice and the French cuisine ), it would appear to me that regardless of how well prepared or how bad  the preparation was, before the handover, that  greed of  the local politician,  seems to do more harm and leave the local people in a worse state  then before!

Oh yes  we are "Free"  But free to do what! The Governments have run many of these  countries  into such a state of ruin  that it will be hard to dig ourselves out of the hole. We are so Free now we can't even go and work in Australia as farm labourers  because we have not learnt the Virtues required  to honour a short  term contract and to return by the due date  or this is how we are perceived. Freedom means submitting to some rules if  we want to say Free ! We are living in a world where everyone is trying to get the better of every one else and the same applies to nations.  Australia is happy to sell us rice, etc.  and spend millions on health and education;  but will they give us jobs,  so we can learn how to stand on our own two feet ? They all want free trade; but free trade will mean no local jobs, so where do we go? Free trade should go with freedom of movement too so the local people can get out  and work in developed nations and learn why we pay taxes and how governments are supposed to work !  Then in generations to come we too can build a nation based on experience, with voters with "savvy" and politicians with Virtues !

From Corine Duffis, San Andres, Colombia

My name is Corine Duffis, I am from a small island in the Caribbean. In the 50s we had only 10,000 people on this Island. Today, after the Colombian government started promoting the coming of people to live on our territory we are approximately 130,000 on this island of 27km2 . The Raizal Community makes up 25 % of this population and we are the owner of this territory but this is ignored. There is a case going on in the International Court of Justice- The Hague, between Colombia and Nicaragua disputing our territory and no one involves us. Our community is very worried about this matter but we do not know what to do. We need help from the international community. Please forgive the mistakes for my English is not too good, but I just sit at my computer and I think that someone can help us if we look for help. Thank you and God bless.

From Ioannis Economides, Cyprus

I really do not think that colonialism has much relevance to today’s political and business environment driven by technological advances, free trade and deregulation. It took European nations 200 years and two world wars before they realised that independence in the form of self sufficiency, colonialism and trade barriers cause a lot of problems and solve very few. Small island nations should learn some lessons from the past, but should focus into the future. One of the effects of today’s information technology is the reduction of economies of scale presenting opportunities for small countries and businesses, never presented before. Small island states can opt to preserve their identity and culture, but in doing so they must create their own way and stop blaming their failures on their past rulers. If they sell their land to foreigners, they are as much to blame as the foreigners that seduce them to do so. In the process everyone should become richer and if that is not the case they should look into their government and administration to find out who benefits and why the benefits are not distributed fairly amongst their populations.

Improvements do not come overnight but they can come a lot faster in smaller than larger communities. Education can be a key factor for success and happiness. An old Chinese proverb says something like: "If you think one year ahead, plant a seed; if you think 10 years ahead plant a tree; if you think 100 years ahead, educate the people". Educated people can choose to retain a way of life that provides fulfillment with less wealth and material abundance. But if the people choose to sell their land, abandon their traditional lifestyles and become employees in western style businesses, let it be. It is their choice after all and there are no many things more valuable than free choice in this world.

From Francesco Emmanuel

I would just like to say that not only in Tourism in the Caribbean is there this divide, that between the 'plantation owners' (in the form of multinational corporations and investors) and the workers and inhabitants of these islands; but there is also this divide in industrialised Caribbean nations as well. In Trinidad & Tobago, it is multinational corporations that reap the benefits of all the natural resources that island has to offer. The people that dwell in these regions hardly ever benefit from having a hotel, or a plant/office that is owned by these corporations. These companies take from the islands, bring in their own 'specialised' employees and take the rewards elsewhere.
The fact is, colonialism is over, but the Caribbean still is a slave to foreign investors and their huge corporate mandate, all sanctioned by the World Bank.

From Francesco Emmanuel

I honestly do believe, that no matter how hard anyone tries to get out of the grasp of 'old-colonialism' or the modern-day version of it, (multinational corporations that market everything to us in a nice shiny wrapping all the while bleeding a 'less'-advanced' society dry), that we, the people are continually being 'restrained' by invisible ceilings - deals made behind closed doors with our ELECTED government officials (who are supposed to be helping us) and other persons of 'interests'. Nice deals to fatten the pockets of few, and suffer the majority to marginalisation.
How can we ever hope to succeed on a large scale, for autonomy, for independence, for freedom from debt? How we can ever hope to own what is rightfully ours? On our own ISLAND, when it was sold at a steal of a price, by the people who were supposed to honour and protect it?
All we can hope for, is small victories, in our communities, with our families, on a small, grassroots level, and hope that this can spread, like a bushfire among other communities, till we take back what was rightfully ours - our LAND, and all that dwell on it.
Our forefathers were happy in their way of life until discovered by 'intruders', who sought to bring 'progress' to unchartered territory. Maybe we were all better off undiscovered.

From Jacques Gedeon, Vanuatu*

Hello and Pacific greetings to everyone of you. I am a regular reader of the issues discussed in this forum. I am from the republic of Vanuatu and I have a strong request to formulate to members so that an open discussion can take place in order to help Vanuatu settle an important issue concerning two stony island in the far South of Vanuatu namely Mathew and Hunter islands. In geographical terms those two islands belong to Vanuatu...they are situated on the tectonic plaque where Vanuatu is...but with the development so far...France is claiming those two islands and has deposited at the United Nations in New York a dossier to possess those two islands...If the members can come up with concrete discussions to help Vanuatu fight back...thank you in advance for the chance of allowing the discussion to go on that issue.

From Bernhard Grdseloff, Grenada*

Just look at Martinique and Guadeloupe in the Caribbean to see how little sense all the writing about colonialism makes. These two islands are part of France, the people living there have the same rights to vote the French government as any citizen of any other part of France. They have their representatives in the French parliament in Paris. The standard of living and the rights are the same as in Europe. And nowhere else between Guyana and Antigua is the original Caribbean-Creole culture and tradition so alive, well preserved and developing than on these French islands. Because there is public awareness for this culture and there is funding from the Authorities. I visit all the islands regularly as I am in tourism marketing and I always experience how well off these French overseas territories are as compared to the "independent" islands, which are dependant on supporters like Japan, China or the Arab Emirates funding them with "tips" in exchange for political influence and pro whaling votes...

From Ismael Guadalupe Ortiz, Puerto Rico 

I have read an article -received on March 20 - that encourages me to answer. It talks about hiring and paying native people. The described reality is not true in other islands, mainly in Puerto Rico.

I always read SIV articles with many limitations. Some of the experiences I read are similar but others reflect an opposite reality. In the past I have tried to communicate with people who have access to you in order to be able to share our experiences.

I agree with the approach set when someone refers to the new colonialism of the 21st century. In our case, we experience a process of neo-colonization in the island of Vieques, in the Puerto Rican archipelago.  The arrival of new inhabitants has marked the displacement of local people. Different to what I read, the tendency in my island is the recruitment of people belonging to the investors’ same nationality and, when they hire native people, they demand them to speak both languages. This demand is typical of those who want to impose their language as part of the neo-colonization process.

Additionally, the customs and habits of local people are constantly infringed upon. Several cases have been presented before local courts and local people interests have prevailed. As part of our culture, we love roosters, hens and coquis (unique species of tree frogs). As a people, we are used to listen to the singing of the rooster, the harmonious sound of the coqui. In the case of roosters and hens, new foreign inhabitants poison them. A very renowned case is the one of a local retailer whose dog was poisoned by a  (foreign) female neighbor. The retailer could, due to a scientific analysis, prove that the dog was poisoned; he even knows the type of poison that was used in the death of this pet.

With the arrival of these new visitors, real estate property value has increased, so local people cannot compete with the new arriving capital. Our future becomes uncertain. Our fight to remove the military US navy was to guarantee our population and future generations a place with more justice. Now we are on our way to a new type of expropriation, this time due to newly arrived capital.

Can we live in harmony in the same space? The answer is YES, but respecting our culture, our customs, our hospitality. Recognizing that there is a native population with deep roots, proud of its history as a people, which will not allow to be marginalized in their own land.

He leído un artículo de ustedes el cual me mueve a responder con este escrito. El mensaje al cual me refiero, me llegó hoy martes, 20 de marzo. El mismo se refiere a la contratación y pago a los nativos. Esa realidad que se describe no es típica en otras islas, sobre todo en las pertenecientes a Puerto Rico.

Siempre leo sus artículos sobre las islas pequeñas aunque con muchas limitaciones. En el pasado he tratado de comunicarme con personas que tienen acceso a ustedes para poder compartir nuestras experiencias.Algunas de estas experiencias parecidas y otras muy contrarias a las que  leo .

Coincido en el plateamiento sobre lo que se refiera al nuevo colonialismo del siglo 21.
En nuestro caso, la isla de Vieques perteneciente al archiéplago puertorriqueño, el proceso es uno de recolonización. La llegada de nuevos habitantes ha marcado el desplazamiento de los nativos.Distinto a lo que he leído, la tendencia en mi isla es la de que los nuevos reclutan a personas de su misma nación y sobre todo en aquellos casos cuando contratan a los nativos le exigen que hablen ambos idiomas.Esta exigencia es propia de los que quieren imponer su idioma como parte del proceso de recolonización. Igual las costumbres y habitos de los nativos es violada costantemente.Varios casos han sido llevado ante los tribunales locales prevaleciendo los nativos.

Como parte de nuestra cultura somos amantes de los gallos, gallinas y coquis. Estamos acostumbrados como pueblos al cantar del gallo, el sonido armonioso del coquí.En el caso de gallos y gallinas, los nuevos habitantes  las envenenan.Un caso muy conocido es el de un comerciante cuyo perro fue envenenado por una vecina.El comerciante logró por medio de análisis científico probar que fue envenenado, inclusive se tiene conocimiento del tipo de veneno usado en la muerte de esta mascota .

Con la llegada de estos nuevos visitantes también se ha buscado aumentar el valor de la propiedad de manera que los nativos no puedan compaetir con el capital que llega.
Nuestro futuro se torna inseguro. Nuestra lucha por sacar a la marina de guerra era garantizarle a nuestra población y las futuras generaciones un lugar con más justicia .Hoy vamos camino a una nueva expropiación por el capital.

Podemos vivir en armonía en el mismo espacio? La contestación es SÍ, pero respetando nuestra cultura, nuestras costumbres, nuestra hospitabilidad. Reconociendo que hay una población con raíces profundas , orgullosa de su historia como pueblo, que no av a permitir que se le margine en su propia tierra.

From Ismael Guadalupe Ortiz, Puerto Rico*

For several years I have participated in the Special Committee on Decolonization of the United Nations. For several decades, different political organizations have been claiming before this organism the colonial character of our Puerto Rican archipelago.

Under Law No. 600 issued by the U.S.A., a referendum was organized in 1952 to change the political relations between the U.S. and Puerto Rico. The result was an approved Constitution whose objective was to disguise our colonial relationship with the U.S. Today, after having approved that referendum of 1952 our sovereignty continues being subjected to the U.S. Congress will. The true powers continue to be under the control of the government of the U.S. more than 100 federal laws control important matters as the postal service, immigration, federal courts, communication agencies, air traffic agencies, the FBI and others imposed on our people.

The use of Puerto Rico as a military base and of our youth for their wars has been a crucial issue.

I attach a copy of my latest participation (in Spanish) in the Committee of Decolonization on June 2007.
(Click here).

Thank you for your attention.

Por varios años he estado participando ante el Comite de Descolonización de las Naciones Unidas. Hace varias décadas ante dicho organismo distintas organizaciones políticas han estado denunciando el carácter colonial de nuestro archipiélago puerttirriqueño.

Bajo la ley 600 y promovida por los Estados Unidos se realizó una consulta en el 1952 para cambiar las relaciones políticas entre Estados Unidos y Puerto Rico.El resultado fue que se aprobó una constitución cuyo objetivo fue tratar de maquillar nuestras relaciones coloniales entre EU y Puerto Rico. Hoy después de haberse aprobado aquella consulta del 1952 nuestra soberanía continúa sometida al congreso estadounidense .Los verdaderos poderes continúan bajo el control del gobierno de Estados Unidos. Más de 100 leyes Federales controlan asuntos muy importantes como correo, inmigración, cortes Federales, Agencias de Comunicaciones, Agencias Aéreas, la Agencia Federal del Investigaciones (FBI) y otras que se imponen sobre nuestro pueblo.

La utilización de PR como base militar ha sido uno de los asuntos más neurálgicos al igual que que nuestra juventud para sus guerras.

Le acompaño copia de mi última participación en el Comite de Descolonización este pasado junio del 2007.
gracias por su atención,

From Guy Harel, Mauritius

The question is: has Mauritius ever been a colony?
When we arrived here there were nothing but dodos. Isle de France / Ile Maurice has never been a colony.

From Derrick Harvey, Vanuatu

Having lived in Vanuatu for over 3 years, I have some idea what Colonialism has done to that island nation. While there are some points made by Morris Amos that can be agreed on, there is a continuing effort to preserve those traditions, languages and Kastoms on an ongoing basis. I was involved in setting up an independent community radio station on the island of Tanna that had among its policies and guidelines the promotion of programmes in local vernacular languages, the showcasing of local bands and musical groups to the exclusion of the traditional colonial identifiers, like English and French language, music from other parts of the world...and news that is not relevant to the day to day living of Ni van.... The fight that Morris is talking about, must continue, but in the context of accommodating the inevitable influx of foreign influence, ideas and more visible...tourists who, for some reason, what to make their tourist destinations like their homes....

Charles Kaaiai, Hawaii*

I just wanted to respond to the final statement, "I really do not think that colonialism has much relevance to today's political and business environment driven by technological advances, free trade and deregulation. Small island states can opt to preserve their identity and culture, but in doing so they must create their own way and stop blaming their failures on their past rulers. Education can be a key factor for success and happiness." I draw from a presentation I made to the National Marine Educators Association in 2006, Present day colonialism have strong historical precedents that need to be addressed, not merely accepted as an historical reality without present day consequences.

Today, governments, companies and individuals often proceed by the exploitation of land, cultural practices, religious customs, traditional knowledge, or biological assets of traditional societies. This is called globalization. While globalization has been effective in lifting millions out of poverty, millions more still remain in poverty. For the poorest of poor direct access to nature and natural resources is their lifeline. Another effect of the globalization is increasing centralization of wealth away from the poor reducing their access to economic opportunity. First world bio-prospectors appropriate plants, recipes, and other products from third-world communities. Modern artists appropriate cultural symbols and the techniques of folk artists, often using them in ways that violate traditional laws and practices. Tourists trample across sacred lands, sacred sites and ecologically sensitive areas. Manufacturers reproduce holy images and artifacts for sale in the global market. These actions undermine the traditional values of a community and tear at the fabric of social cohesion built over generations. "Nations” in general have been poor custodians of native and traditional natural resource assets. Democracies have been successful in protecting individual rights but have been unsuccessful in protecting communal and traditional rights particularly when they involve their own native people. These rights need to be protected to ensure survival of the native, traditional cultures and people.

How do we resolve what is clearly a cultural and philosophical clash? On the one hand there is the first world belief in individualism and materialism, on the other hand is the traditional belief in communalism and the non-commercial use of resources and knowledge. Present day intellectual property laws are established to allow owners of intellectual property to benefit through commercialization of their property. Traditional communities often seek to prohibit the commercialization of their knowledge. Traditional values and knowledge are under constant assault. Judicial interpretation and test for the recognition of traditional and cultural practice is the uninterrupted continuity of that practice, even in the face of open, hostile occupation and possession of the means to practice native culture and traditions.

First, the 1493 Papal Bull /Inter Caetera/ should be rescinded by the Vatican. Inter Caetera, issued by Pope Alexander VI, became a major document in the development of subsequent legal doctrines regarding claims of empire in the "new world." The bull assigned to Castile the exclusive right to acquire territory, to trade in, or even to approach the lands lying west of the meridian situated one hundred leagues west of the Azores and Cape Verde Islands. An exception was made for any lands actually possessed by any other Christian prince beyond this meridian prior to Christmas, 1492. Strange as it may seem, legal decisions are still being made based on this doctrine that continues to damage Native American claims to self-determination. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg cited the doctrine of discovery in the first footnote of 2005's infamous City of Sherrill v. Oneida Indian Nation of
New York decision, denying the right of the Oneida Indian Nation unilaterally to re-establish sovereignty on its own reacquired aboriginal territory. The legal arguments for European dispossession of Native America trace back to the doctrine of discovery, ambivalently endorsed by Chief Justice John Marshall in the 1823 foundation case Johnson v. M'Intosh. The Doctrine of Christian Discovery, recognizing the superior right of the Catholic monarchs of Europe to enlighten the pagan Natives of the New World to Christianity and, incidentally, take over their land. This right derives from a series of papal declarations starting in 1454. The Vatican merely has to declare that the doctrine of Christian Discovery is no longer relevant in the current world context.

Second, there should be an international convention on the protection of traditional and community resources, a framework for vesting authority and responsibility for management and regulation of ownership of traditional resources under traditional community structure according to traditional law. Traditional communities should be given the opportunity manage and regulate their resources based upon traditional cultural practices and laws. This would include intellectual property. This convention would give Nations a framework for the recognition of the authority of traditional communities over their resources and intellectual property.

Third, traditional communities need to assert their right to manage and regulate their communities’ natural resources, to put into place regulations to conserve their resources to ensure the continued survival of their cultures. Unlike the Western concept that man is separate from the environment, traditional cultures see man as part of and inseparable from the environment. To do this, traditional communities need to participate in the management and conservation of their natural resources. Communities must claim their right to cultural, traditional practice based on their history, ancestral and cultural cohesion and tradition. Their claims may include communal, holistic and shared cultural development, ancestral ties, kinship, religion, and belief systems. The community then asserts that it has certain resources
integral to its identity, freedom of expression, coherence, and dignity.

Fourth, the community may be challenged in their assertions of their right to manage and regulate their resources. The challenge should be judged by international mediation based upon an international convention on the protection of traditional and community resources, a doctrine of indigenous rights. If the challenge is successful, competing interests would be resolved according to equitable principles of international law. Communities may then regulate or protect their resources, may commercialize them, may allow others access on the principle of free and prior informed consent.

Ignoring these, or similar, steps will not resolve the basic conflict of colonialism with native claims. That will only strengthen colonial claims and weaken native claims. Who wins and who loses? Fair settlement of claims can only occur between equal parties in an impartial forum.

Thank you, SIV, for this forum.

From Kris Rampersad, Trinidad & Tobago
Though Trinidad and Tobago has been independent since 1962, much of the damages of colonialism still remain in insidious and persistent ways that continue to impede effective development …. And now old persistent colonials institutions - law, governance, media are being tested in a new world environment without borders.

From Rolf, Turcs & Caicos

Why do the people elect corrupt people to manage their islands? Even those that are "Dependent Territories" have their own local Government elected by their own people.

Don't blame other people for your own "mess-ups”! The guys (U.S., European, Japanese, Chinese or Russian - Mafia) who have a lot of money to invest are not at fault. They are just going about their business - often illegal - the way they are used to.

Allowing them to do it on your island is your own fault! You (meaning your local Government) have the power to say NO! But you don't say NO, do you (because there is "money to be made for me" now - my kids will just have to look after themselves).

I have been living on Providenciales for the last 23 years. Paradise! Until +/- 8 years ago.
Greed (both from outside and inside the island) is now destroying the attractions used as the "sales-pitch". When the tourists and condo owners realize they "have been conned" the (booming) economy will dry up. And there will be nothing (in the ocean) left to eat.

The guys (in Government) who allow this to happen don't care. They can go away and live like royalty anywhere on the money they have put away in CH, Lux, MC or wherever. Keeping it at home, even if not liable to taxation, is too risky.

The problem you have to address for the protection of your beautiful environments is your own greed! (You can't have your cake and eat it too!)

If you sit back and blame others for the mistakes you are allowing to be made today, you will most definitely mess up the future for your kids & grand children. After that, chances are there will not be anybody left to worry about!

That, of course, applies to everybody - not just those living on small islands.

From Laitia Tamata, Fiji

May I contribute to the debate by stating the following:
The debate is lengthy and complicated. I will attempt to make my contribution as basic as possible.
Colonialism is about Power: economic, social, military and political. States use a combination of these 4 and other factors to ensure that they either “stay in power” or “do not feel powerless”. The justification is ‘national and international security’. Power is unfortunately preferred as ‘owned’ and when ‘shared’ make states uncomfortable.
If the global world was fair, the justification of security need not be employed to seek power. Power may be acquired alone or as a union/federation. The United States have successfully employed this concept, the EU another version; the destruction of the mighty USSR is another example from the negative aspect.
In the Pacific, there is a proposed Pacific Plan. If done in a way so that the several interdependent small island nation states become one big united states or union or federation of states, they can amongst other things realize that they will own one of the biggest seas, the biggest air space, a population of close to 10 million hence they can determine Trade rules and not being bullied around, etc.
The big question is; in doing so, does the Pacific become an “economic, social, military or political threat”, “competitor” or “partner”?  Will the Pacific become another major power so as to threaten the current power brokers? If the Pacific will be, it will be denied all these ideals called: (i) independence, (ii) free association or (iii) integration (with full political rights).
The ideal would include many, one of which is to create a fair playing ground with fair rules. But since when has the world been fair? Christians believe that we will have this challenge in our face until the ‘source of unfairness’ is addressed.
It does not mean that we are doomed, the challenge is in equity; creating partnerships with fair game rules on level playing fields.
In the absence or even in the existence of the above, competition for Power which can be Colonialism will continue. The best response is to embrace it and work within and around it. It is a fact of this life at least!

From Barbara Wilson, Canada 

Although I haven't had the opportunity to read all the comments leading up to today's edition, I'd like to add a few lines - it is a wonderful concept to remove Colonialism from the way business is done - however, it does nothing on the ground if the school system, the attitude of those who are not first nation's and teaching our children is one of superiority, talking down to our children.  As a mother and grandmother, I see the results of attitude and have felt it myself.  How can things change if we do not rid our schools and other institutes of the caretaker attitude?

From Writer*

This is my first comment to SIV and, in the view of colonialism, the problem in my country is cheap labour from other countries. This may not be a direct act of colonialism but the way I see it, we are being colonised by these cheap labourers. Local people find it difficult to earn a living. The government has laid no restriction on the level of imported workers and other countries took advantage of it. More than 90% of chefs at restaurants and hotels are foreigners. Almost all the construction work is offered to foreigners. There are many locals who plan to become nurses but no action is taken to reduce foreign nurses. More than 80% of nurses in a government hospital are foreigners. The foreigners could barely speak English and patients can't understand them. Think of the problems that would happen in health industry due to miscommunication.

I believe the fact that there are work that locals are not willing to do, but what about those jobs that locals are willing to do?

From Writer, Federated States of Micronesia

In the real world real, "Real Politik" involves the ownership of 'raw material" and the "Brain Power" to convert that into a commodity that can be utilized and used to further the specific nations desires and ambitions. Take the simple case of "plastics" it may seem puny but how many island nations you know of who produce this stuff? mind you firearms, artilleries, ammunitions, better yet nukes for that matter. The belief that cultures are meant to remain the same is a colonial tool, used to repress old natives into their own little corners 

From Writer, Fiji

A further clarification on the exploitation of phosphate from Banaba – Ocean Island

This island was never part of the colony nor did any colonial power wanted it not until that fateful day that guano (or phosphate) was discovered. Much far away from the Kiribati group, this little island and islanders were then annexed by the British in order for the BPC British Phosphate Co to begin mining. The islanders (Banabans) are now forced to live in an island in the Fiji group called Rambi and have not seen justice by (1) when the British did not relinquish the island back to its rightful owners, (2) no rehabilitations of their mined-out homeland Banaba and, (3) compensation of monies that the islanders were denied on sales of phosphate either by diverting it to the colonial administrations, and also by under-pricing phosphate which they took. Urban drift is a key issue for most of Banabans for better education and as a minority race, very stiff competition to better standards of living is a big reality. To live under poverty line is quite an acceptable step that each family may need to take in trying to compete in the urban life.

The Banabans would be seeking paths to get justice on these injustices made unto them.

From Writer, Jamaica*

It is very easy to slip into the comfortable and well-worn form of writing off small island societies because they do not possess the BOMB. These islands unfortunately were always sources of raw materials and human resources for the larger economies. Now that the world is turning more to 'knowledge industries'  and the larger economies do not hesitate to steal skills from smaller places, don’t you think  there is scope for these smaller economies with educated populations to barter with the larger  ones and so enhance local development? After all, Lee Yuan Kew of Singapore did not let the small size of his country deter his wisdom in fostering development for Singapore!

From Writer, Northern Marianas

Same situation here in the Marianas having almost over 8,000 U.S. military transferring here from Okinawa it almost seems like History repeating itself. The island took a major part of ending WWII due to the fact that the Atomic Bomb that was dropped in Hiroshima came from one of the islands in the Marianas called Tinian. I guess what I am trying to say is that the interest of the Military being here on our Island is mainly for the purpose of Military Strategic position almost like a spot on the chess board where if the opponent would make a move a counter is ready therefore advancing to check mate. I am afraid that the cultural values and tradition will be jeopardized by the western laws in which we our experiencing now. What more would the Military do?

From Writer, Turcs & Caicos Islands

"...Bermuda, Turks & Caicos Islands, Cayman Islands, Montserrat, British Virgin Islands Anguilla, and the US Virgin Islands are all classified as "colonies" by the United Nations General Assembly..."

Despite being called colonies by the UN, these territories refer to themselves by a different name.  During the Thatcher regime, they were 're-classified' by the Foreign Office as 'dependent territories' and that name was printed on their official documents, including passports. As each gained more and more self government by national constitutional reforms (often overseen by the FCO), they each came to the conclusion that the term 'dependent' was not really in their national self-interests either.  At a joint meeting with dependent territory heads of state and newly elected Tony Blair, an agreement was made to re-classify them again as "overseas territories", giving much the same impression as the relationship between France and her Caribbean "colonies" of Martinique and Guadeloupe.  While not fully incorporated into the British state as are the French territories, the British territories all have much more autonomy than they ever have, in many cases being fully in control of their own national destinies both internally and with respect to their dealings with other countries. All the British territories have slightly different constitutions, depending on the will of their electorates to push their legislators for reform.  The Turks & Caicos, in particular, probably has the most modern and forward thinking constitution of all of them, giving virtually all power to locally elected officials. True, the appointed British Governor is still nominally the head of state (standing in for the Queen) and sits on the executive council of Ministers, but his role of advisor is more important than his nominal role of governor.

Today’s colonies operate much closer to the idea of 'associated state' than they do to the old -fashioned idea of a colony. The 'colonial yoke' of the old days is long gone. Modern British Caribbean territories are (by-and large) self-sustaining territories that appreciate the tie with the UK for a number of economic and security reasons.

The economies of the remaining British "colonies" in the Caribbean are the strongest in the West Indies.  Bermuda, Cayman, Turks & Caicos, BVI, Anguilla all have higher standards of living (and a lot less corruption and criminal activity) than any other Caribbean territory and better than some European countries. They are all attracting more investment and up-scale migration than any independent island state. Think it might be the stability and good reputation attached to that Union Jack symbol that's in the corner of each of these country's flags?

As for most "colonial citizens" of the UK, it's important to remember that the vast majority of them prefer the present status of their countries. After having witnessed the disastrous economic and political events of many Caribbean and African territories that went to independence in the 1960's and 70's, these small island states appreciate the economic and political stability that is afforded by their connection to the UK.  Over the past 25 years or so, candidates in national elections who have run on platforms of immediate independence from the UK have generally been roundly defeated.  Of course Caribbean politicians in the overseas territories love to rail against the Brits and their past transgressions, (That's what they think the electorate wants to hear.) but you don't see many of them actually making any quick moves in the direction of independence.

The UN's anti-colony committee has got to come to realize that their original premise of freeing the "poor benighted oppressed colonial serfs of their wicked colonial masters" is a fantasy in this era and the "new colonials" just may be better off than their contemporaries in independent, but economically failing ex-colonial states. In fact, the Committee's premise might even be considered paternalistic and insulting. Do politicians from Mongolia and Ghana and Uruguay (or wherever the hell they come from) really think they know something about the present day realities of life in a small island state?

I'm not a Brit, and generally do not approve of their political policies of the last several decades, so please don't try to pick a fight with me on those grounds.  As a matter of fact, I'm not really into much debate on this. Just expressing my opinion, as asked. And I'll be happy to read yours.

From Writer, St. Kitts & Nevis

Thank you for this medium by which we can express ourselves and hopefully enlighten and inform others.

I own a small business in Nevis and I am aware of the Colonialism that do exists (contrary to what people think or say), in the Caribbean and more so in the smaller islands.  Government welcome outside investors and to a point so does the locals but when outside investment threatens to bring back the shackles and whips of 400 years, that is where the line must be drawn.  Outside Investors receive large incentives and duty free concessions while locals who want to genuinely contribute to the local economy and society strain under the weight of taxes, duties and red tape politics. 

I still admire Past but much remembered Leaders like Dr. V.C. Bird Sr., Eric Geary and R.L. Bradshaw, how they were heroes for the people who fought the Plantation Owners and outside figures who wanted to dictate what should happen in another man's land.  They were stalwarts, pillars of the community that is so lacking in our present day society and governments. 

Colonialism has played on the drums of time and our leaders lack heart, stamina and courage to stand up and defend its people and our ancestors.  They are afraid of not receiving aid from the UN, WHO and the World Bank.  Afraid to be associated with the likes of Fidel Castro, and the Leader of St. Vincent whose name I cannot remember right now. 

When will we learn that we need to stand up and be self reliant, providing for ourselves and our Caribbean neighbours.  What will we do when the ships refuse to come, when the outside investors fully take over (as they now have some of our government officials in the palm of their hand), they will take back these islands.  This is the last frontier, they are seeking refuge, running from North America and Europe to conquer the remaining territories they missed the first time around.  Our people are so daft, they adore these wolves, vampires, anti-Christ!  For a few dollars, we are willing to sell out our own parents rather than stand up to justice and equality.  I stand with Peter Tosh and say I don't want peace, I want equal rights and justice!  I am a Garveyite and trodding onward to the Mother Land - Repatriation is a must!  Very soon we will learn that the west is not ours, we were just keepers for a while!

From Arlette St. Ville, St. Lucia

The Tourism Industry and local food consumption by Arlette St. Ville

Tourism's prominence in the Caribbean marks the search for alternate productive sectors amidst decline in traditional exports. Tourism's strength lay in the region's natural endowments, namely tropical climate, soothing winds, sandy beaches, blue sea and its varied and attractive tropical scenery.  Despite the many benefits, the high 'foreign content leakage' of the tourist package limits the real benefit to SIDS. In essence, in converting former agricultural monoculture economies to travel monoculture, tourism renews and reinforces the historical process of underdevelopment" (Perez, 1973).

One of the main effects of tourism on food consumption on the islands. The first is in replicating a lifestyle and larger ecological footprint of the developed world. It is apparent that, tourists, especially North Americans, prefer to consumer products with which they are familiar, such as Coca-Cola, Jack Daniels or Barcardi. Since these branded products must be imported from abroad, this consumer behaviour pattern contributes to the immediate repatriation of tourist expenditures (Woods, Perry and Steagall, 1994, p. 1).

High status attached to foreign products has existed for some time in the Caribbean. The focus on tourism by the Caribbean islands perpetuates the myths and dependence attached to ex-colonies. Cohen (1972, p.182) argues that " the easy-going tourist of our era might well complete the work of his predecessors, also travellers from the West-the conqueror and the colonialist."

Concerns of power, domination, control and the superiority of one group over another are real concerns. Accompanying the social and psychological impacts, the industry facilitates the entry of and high value attached to foreign food products into the local market and in addition, provides the cash (through waged seasonal employment) to purchase these relatively expensive products. Other indirect influences of tourism and its related infrastructural development are wide-ranging including competition with agricultural sector resources of labour, water and land. It also involves " direct competition for land, and a growing disparity between urban wage income and farming returns; a further inability to compete with growers in larger countries; and escalating land values caused by increasing population pressures and tourism. These threats to agriculture, and their associated sectoral imbalances, indirectly may induce a lack of care for the land, especially if money is in increasingly short supply. Urban/tourism rural conflicts will also increase competition for the available water resource, often increasing further the rate of decline in the water resource (Watts, 1993, p. 140).

The food system remains a vestige of the past when the role of the island was not to sustain itself but to sustain another, Europe. International tourism as it is now formed has all the hallmarks of another colonial construct in St. Lucia, the banana industry. Think about it!- local producers, external consumers, environmental degradation, adaptation to foreign tastes and values, relatively large ecological footprint, control by multinationals, susceptibility to natural disasters and unresponsive to local political climate.

Other responses

From Ravi Chauhan

Hi there

We have developed a website which should allow younger pacific islanders to communicate and express themselves: www.nesianlink.com
I hope you could help us promote it.

From Asenati Liki, Fiji*

Malo Juliet (refers to Juliet Boon, Samoa)
Please enlighten me/us on the context of your reply below. Was there an original question by Small Islands Voice?

From Dimple Seewoogobin, Mauritius

My son is presently working on the 'benefits and limitations of small island communities' for a debate at college. Would it be possible to direct me to some website or other information database for this purpose?

From Writer, Brazil

Bom dia,
Vimos convidá-lo a participar de uma lista de discussão sobre a cadeia produtiva de biodiesel. Havendo interesse, visite o site http://oleo.ufla.br, onde obterá informações sobre o 4º Congresso Brasileiro de Plantas Oleaginosas, Óleos, Gorduras e Biodiesel e poderá se inscrever nesta lista de discussão.

Comissão Organizadora.



To get involved, contact :


Coastal Regions and Small Islands Platform
UNESCO, Paris, France
fax: +33 1 45 68 58 08

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