Patrice Riemens on Thu, 2 May 2013 21:45:51 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Robert H Wade:

Courtesy of our department of text filtering (aka 'bullshit engineering
nettime' -Pit Schutlz).
Enjoy, p+4D!

original to:
(the (l)one comment is worth reading too)

Shouldn't Pitcairn really be French?
by Robert H Wade

The British overseas territory of Pitcairn Island, midway between
Auckland, New Zealand, and Panama, could almost be a testing ground for
Hobbes versus Rousseau.

Its climate, soils and water supply make it a bountiful place for
subsistence living, but what of its history?

In 1790 nine mutineers from the British Navy's HMS Bounty, accompanied by
18 Tahitians, arrived to settle on the uninhabited island. They burnt the
Bounty, because the island has no place to hide it from the British naval
officers sent out to bring the mutineers to justice. In this Garden of
Eden the settlers descended into alcoholism, murder and disease; when they
were finally discovered 18 years later, in 1808, only one of the mutineers
had survived, along with some of the original Tahitian women and numerous

In 2004 the community attracted unwanted international attention when a
British court laid charges against seven men on the island and another six
abroad for sexual offences. After extensive trials, six were convicted of
child abuse, including the island's mayor, and sent to prison. The prison
had to be specially constructed -- and the men who would serve time there
took part in the building work. In late 2006 they started their sentences;
by 2010 all had been released.

Now another case has come up, involving the current mayor. By mistake, he
sent an official email to the British governor's office containing a link
to a pornographic website. The police - or rather, the island's single
policeman - raided his house and took away his computer, on which a large
number of pornographic photographs and related items were found. He has
retained a New Zealand lawyer to defend himself against the charges; and
the lawyer is acting with great zeal -- paid for by unlimited British legal
aid. The two of them have turned the case into a challenge to the validity
of the entire governmental and legal structure -- a convenient diversion
from the facts of the case.

This structure certainly does merit revisiting. The island is tiny: 4.6
square kilometres with a population of just 51 Pitcairners. For this tiny
entity, the British government bears the cost of a resident establishment
of five New Zealanders seconded to the island: a schoolteacher (for the
six children), a policeman, a doctor, a social worker and the governor's
representative. The British government also bears the cost of a three-man
Court of Appeal.

The only way to reach the island is to fly to Papeete (Tahiti), wait two
days there before flying to Mangareva (flights are irregular), and from
there catch a cargo boat on one of its four-times-a-year visits to
Pitcairn, a trip that takes 30 hours if the weather's good, 40 when it's

The island has no geostrategic or economic importance -- no oil in prospect
-- and the island has no harbour for ships bigger than rowing boats. The
population depends on the infrequent visits of the cargo ships, but they
have to anchor at a considerable distance from shore, so the islanders
must row out to them in a longboat. Once the number of able-bodied men
falls below 12, the community is no longer viable because six adults are
needed for the longboat, and another six for the back-up longboat in case
of emergency (the rowers are restricted to men). So the community needs at
least twelve able-bodied men to be available at all times. When the six
men languished in prison after 2006, they had to be released for longboat
duty whenever a ship stopped.

All things considered, it would seem sensible for Britain to offer
sovereignty to France, so that Pitcairn and the other (uninhabited)
islands in the Pitcairn Islands group could be incorporated into the
governance structure of nearby French Polynesia. But Britain has no
intention of giving it up because, as the British deputy governor
declared, "If we pull out somebody else will come and plant a flag on it".

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