On Saturday, December 3rd, approximately 400 Rapa Nui people marched to express their disappointment about recent legislation that failed to get through Chile’s lower branch of Congress, the Chamber of Deputies (la Cámara de Diputados). The legislation, if passed, would have limited the number of visitors to Easter Island as well as the number of individuals who could move and set-up residency on the Island. Although the legislation failed to get through the Chamber, it has not died completely and will make its way to a joint committee that will re-examine the law and offer suggested modifications.
The peaceful protest by the Rapa Nui people was on the issue of immigration and visitation to Easter Island — an issue that is increasingly important to maintain Easter Island’s delicate balance. It has been one of the issues at the forefront of all discussions between the Rapa Nui people and the Chilean government in recent years. For instance, in October of 2010, the Chilean government created a working group to specifically examine the issue of immigration to Rapa Nui and propose possible solutions.
The legislation proposed this week was designed to address some of the immigration and visitation issues associated with Easter Island. That legislation ultimately failed due to a lack of a quorum. That said, much of the political conflict over limiting visitors and residents of Rapa Nui relates to whether such policies are, in effect, discriminatory, and whether they amount to an infringement on Chilean citizens’ right to move freely about the country. Advocates for the legislation argue that the laws do not discriminate against any specific group or protected class and are necessary for Easter Island, and the Rapa Nui people, to survive.