Herbert Ford, 559-592-0980, 559-732-0313.
BRITISH FOREIGN OFFICE MINISTER'S RHETORIC SIGNALS UK GOVERNMENT PLANS TO END HABITATION OF PITCAIRN, SAYS ACADEMIC
ANGWIN (Napa County) Calif., August 20, 2003—“The inflammatory rhetoric this week in New Zealand by British Foreign Office minister Bill Rammell about pending trials of Pitcairn Island men on sex charges makes it devastatingly clear that the United Kingdom government plans to end the 200 plus-year habitation of the tiny South Pacific island by the descendants of the mutineers of HMS Bounty,” a United States academic said today (Wed., Aug. 20).
“With his public contention that the charges are ‘extraordinarily serious,’ and ‘the charges are very serious’ Mr. Rammell has helped assure that those accused will more likely be convicted whether they are innocent or guilty, with the result that it will probably scatter the Pitcairners to other countries,” said Herbert Ford, director of the Pitcairn Islands Study Center located near San Francisco.
But, Ford said whether his belief that the UK is planning to rid Pitcairn of its fewer than 40 Bounty descendants is right or wrong, “the result through holding these trials in the glaring spotlight of the world press will be exactly the same: Pitcairn will soon be rid of those who have inhabited it since the mutineers landed there in 1790.”
Ford said that either the trials will so rid the Pitcairn community of its able-bodied men that operation of the island will no longer be possible, or that the onus of association with the charges will probably drive most if not all of the Pitcairners elsewhere. “Whichever, the result may be exactly one and the same,” said the academic.
Ford, a student of Pitcairn life for almost half a century, has characterized as “suicidal” the UK Foreign Office’s present course as far as the Pitcairners are concerned. He has called for the UK “to change course from its blind pursuit of justice at the probable cost of an entire indigenous community to one of ‘restorative justice’ that would provide a better chance of holding the Pitcairn people together.
“All this, of course, if the UK really does want Pitcairn to continue to be inhabited, which by virtue of its present course it does not seem to want to do,” Ford said.
“Rammell’s suggestion that the Pitcairn people want no punishment for a person or persons who might be found guilty is absurd,” said Ford. “The Pitcairn people want justice, but they also want their community held together, not blasted apart as is currently happening through the overkill judicial process the UK is presently using.”
In the wake of the UK Foreign Office minister’s speaking out about the upcoming trials, Ford renewed his call for Britain to apply the restorative justice procedure for handling law breaking, a procedure that has been successfully used by Canada among small, indigenous communities in that country.
“While upholding law and order, and remedying wrongs, restorative justice also holds the community together throughout even if punishment is found necessary,” Ford said.
The study center director said, “A state of fear, depression and hopelessness currently grips the people of Pitcairn Island as a result of the course the UK has set for this matter. They feel their British overlords have only the pursuit of what the UK calls ‘justice’ in mind, not the welfare of the Pitcairn people.
“A small army of police officers, investigators, social workers and government personnel has been set down among the Pitcairn people; four police officers for fewer than 30 adult Pitcairners, for example,” said Ford. “There is fear that an innocently dropped word in the hearing of a member of this relatively over-large watchdog group might be twisted and used against them. A gag order is in force to prevent discussion by any Pitcairner about matters in any way relating to the trials with off-islanders. The fear on Pitcairn is palpable.”
The Pitcairn Islands Study Center is located on the campus of Pacific Union College, about 70 miles north of San Francisco in California’s Napa Valley. It was formed in 1977 to provide accurate information about Pitcairn Island and “The Bounty Saga.” It maintains regular contact with Pitcairn, the college itself having had contact with Pitcairn since before 1900.