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Pitcairn Islands Study Center

News - August 10, 2004

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PHONE: 707-965-6244
TEXT:   707-229-1340

Contact Herb Ford:
PHONE: 559-592-0980 or

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  [California Study Center]


PITCAIRN ISLANDS STUDY CENTER, Pacific Union College, Angwin, California USA.

Herbert Ford, 559-592-0980, 559-732-0313.


                        ANGWIN (Napa County) Calif., August 9, 2004—The governor of Pitcairn Island in the South Pacific Ocean has ordered the confiscation of all firearms on the tiny island in the latest of what many are calling a long list of his prejudicial moves made to gain conviction of seven Pitcairn men on sex abuse charges.

                        In a report reaching the Pitcairn Islands Study Center here it is learned that all those on Pitcairn must voluntarily turn in all their firearms by September 7, 2004, or have police conduct a house-to-house search for firearms not surrendered.

                        The confiscation is seen as a move to “sanitize” Pitcairn of firearms, except for those of Ministry of Defense police officers now on the island, during the trial of seven Pitcairn men which is scheduled to begin on September 23.

                        Most of the Pitcairners suspect the no-firearms order will be extended indefinitely beyond the trial period.

                        Except for bloodshed within just a few years after mutinous sailors from H.M.S. Bounty settled on Pitcairn in 1790, there has never been a murder by a firearm on the tiny island. The .22 caliber rifles and a few shot guns on the island have always been sparingly used for what the Pitcairners call workaday purposes.

                        The governor’s order was delivered to the Pitcairn Island Council, the local governing body, on Thursday, August 5, by Pitcairn Police Officer Brenda Christian. It drew immediate, stunned reaction from Pitcairners both on and off the island.

                        “My word,” wrote one on-island resident to Pitcairn Governor Richard Fell, “we are being treated as if we are a murdering, suicidal bunch of no-good, good-for-nothing sex-craved cowboys; as if Pitcairners were a gun-toting trigger-happy people who can’t do without their guns on their hips.

                        “If that is what we are like,” wrote the Pitcairner, “then how about removing our knives, including those we keep in our kitchens and those we wear on our belts; our eating forks, any sharp objects like needles. And why not remove our motorcycles and our tractors (which could be used to run over someone), our garden tools, our matches which could be used to burn down someone’s house with them in it, our petrol which could be used to make bombs, our poisonous fish and poisonous plants which could be used for poison, our electricity which could be used to electrocute someone.

                        “I suppose the next thing to come about would be that we’d be banned from our cliff’s just in case we shove someone off or we jump over ourselves.

                        “I ask what the removal of our guns would really do? It certainly won’t make my tiny island any safer or more unsafe than what is now. All it would show is that those responsible for making such ruling don’t really know the people they are supposed to be serving,” said the Pitcairner.

                        “It all brings to mind that we are not really a democratic place at all, that someone is dictating to the people of Pitcairn how we ought and ought not to govern our own affairs.”

                        Except for the unknown type of weaponry held by British police now on the island, there are no automatic or semi-automatic firearms on Pitcairn. Islanders owning .22 caliber, and similar firearms use them to shoot down high-hanging breadfruit or coconuts, or more infrequently to shoot wild goats for meat, wild cats, wild chickens or the plague of Pitcairn rats..

                        Knives carried on the belts of Pitcairners are used in open-ocean emergencies to quickly cut ropes holding Pitcairn boats to ships that call at the island, or for wood-carving of objects the islanders sell to those on calling ships.

                        Many see Fell’s firearms confiscation as another move that is certain to have a prejudicial effect on his appointed judges who will be coming to the island to try the accused.

                        “This sends a clear message to those who will judge the Pitcairners - even as many other of the governor’s previous actions have – that no one on Pitcairn, whether accused of not accused, is to be trusted. How can a trial be fair with the many similar, prejudicial moves of this governor?” said an off-islander.

                        Among the governor’s numerous moves thought by many to be prejudicial to a fair trial are his -

                        Making an unprecedented flurry of laws that favor conviction, and crying “fire” on Pitcairn to the public in the crowded theater of public opinion.

                        Appointing all judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys of the case; deciding almost singly every particular of the trials without broad counsel, each particular favoring a pre-conceived view of the trial and its outcome.

                        Building on Pitcairn, long before any trial is held or any verdict handed down, a jail that “just happens” to have the exact number of cells in it - seven - that corresponds to the number - seven - who are accused.

                        Subjecting all on Pitcairn - those accused as well as those not accused - to a virtual police state, with as many as nine police officers on the island at one time to “control” not more than 30 adult Pitcairners, thus making it appear all are guilty, where there might well be none even among the accused.

                        Placing social workers on Pitcairn the islanders did not ask for, from which, when publicized, makes it appear the islanders are suffering great social distress for anti-social acts supposed to have occurred up to more than 40 years ago, when, in fact, these professionals have had little or no use by the Pitcairners, the assignment, being to them, mostly a well-paid vacation.

                        Allowing the setting of a trial date and completing planning for a trial on a specific date when legitimate appeals in the case have not yet even been heard.

                        Suppressing any talk about the trial by Pitcairners, while not requiring the same by the prosecution, himself or his deputy, thus denying the Pitcairners any public voice while the governor and his prosecution appointees can court public opinion that favors the governor’s and the prosecution’s wishes relative to the accusations.

                        Refusing to interfere, even to the making of a statement of condemnation, when the governor’s appointed judges and prosecution team members were caught in the act of photographed sexual poses that clearly show them making light of the serious charges they will be prosecuting and judging of the accused in the future.

                        Spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to assure the logistical, material and judicial success of the trial, while relegating the crying need for infrastructure improvement on Pitcairn to a back burner, needs only now bringing promised relief, needs which may never actually be met given the many unfilled similar promises of the past.

                        Initiating the possibly illegal demand that New Zealand’s Parliament pass a law that allows Pitcairners to be tried in that country, thousands of miles from their homeland, and clearly contrary to Pitcairn law and practice.

                        Publicly declaring that the accusations against the Pitcairners are for acts “of a most serious nature,” without having any of the acts first tested in a court of law, thus courting public opinion for conviction.

                        Appointing only two defense attorneys to handle the trial of seven Pitcairners, a woefully inadequate defense team for the seven men who are accused. The governor is not affording the accused the full range of legal service to which they are entitled by reason of this deficiency.

                        Giving an inadequate time of only seven weeks to the trying of seven Pitcairn men. This is a rush to judgment what will likely not be adequate to a fair trial.

                        Giving implied consent to threats by investigators to alleged victims, the offering of money to victims in exchange for possibly incriminating testimony, and the badgering of victims. This calls the entire legal process in this trial into question.

                        Essentially ignoring the threat to a fair trial posed by way of the four years of time that have elapsed since investigation began of the accused who still have not come to trial.

                        Leaving all those investigated with no legal counsel for years until finally the government appointed a defense lawyer shortly before official charges were laid.

                        “Given all that has happened to prejudice this case - pre-judge - this case by this governor, it is certain that the apprehended mutineers of HMS Bounty received a fairer trial in the eighteenth century for their crime than are their descendants on Pitcairn in the twenty-first century receiving for what may or may not be their crimes,” said an off-islander.