Major developments related to the ongoing controversy on Easter Island that concern Rapa Nui land claims and self-governance rights are expected as the end of October approaches. Based on an agreement reached with some Rapa Nui clans several weaks ago, the deadline—October 24th—for the Government-formed working groups to present their reports and proposed solutions is quickly approaching. Additionally, by that deadline, 26 families are expected to receive land titles.
In anticipation of that deadline, on October 20th, the regional intendant, Raúl Celis, is expected to travel to Easter Island to discuss the initial components of a Development Plan and elaborate on the progress of the working groups that were formed to seek resolutions to the current controversies. The Development Plan has been reviewed by nearly every government ministry and Celis indicated that they hope to have it finalized by November. That plan in its current form addresses themes including health, environment, infrastructure, economic growth and tourism, education, culture, and heritage. One goal of Celis’s upcoming visit is to present the plan to the Rapa Nui communities and obtain their support.
In addition to Celis, the Regional Subsecretary for Development, Miguel Flores, arrived on Easter Island yesterday. In addition to attending the First Environmental Fair on the Island, Flores is expected to meet with the Government working groups to discuss progress towards the October 24th deadline.
Earlier this month, Senator Francisco Chahuán (RN) traveled to the island in order to meet with representatives of the Rapa Nui Parliament and the Council of Elders. The Senator reiterated previous Government commitments to work on issues related to migration, development, and lands. With regards to these issues, Chahuán noted two legislative efforts underway: one to address immigration, and the other to pass a new statute for Easter Island.
Following his visit, Chahuán indicated that the month of October is a key time period for resolving the ongoing controversy. On October 24th, the commissions working on migration, development, and lands are expected to submit their respective reports, including proposed solutions. With regards to long-term solutions to the current conflicts, Chahuán focused on the need to better control migration to the Island as well as the need to increase Government spending on infrastructure and development. While acknowledging the country’s debt to Indigenous peoples and its commitment to finding solutions, Chahuán did apparently not speak specifically about land rights, which are a central issue for the Rapa Nui clans.
While most news recently has focused on Government progress, there is some response from the Rapa Nui clans at the center of this debate. In late September, in response to Government discussions taking place at the time, the president of the Rapa Nui parliament, Leviante Araki, noted that any discussions the government wishes to have need to take place with the presence of representatives from the ancestral families. The Parliament’s primary demands relate to the restoration of their lands and the right of the Rapa Nui people to form their own government. Araki further indicated that they were still awaiting a response from both the Chilean and Oceania governments regarding statement of possible secession.
Marisol Hito, the spokeswoman for the Rapa Nui clan claiming their ancestral land rights to the site where the Hotel Hanga Roa is located, echoed Araki’s sentiments, pointing out that the roundtable discussions formed by the Government have not resolved anything, and that the issue of lands is the primary issue needing resolution.