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Last Updated: Monday, 25 October, 2004, 11:48 GMT 12:48 UK
Pitcairn facing a fragile future
By Finlo Rohrer
BBC News

Pitcairn longboat
The men are needed to crew the island's vital longboat
The island of Pitcairn must cope with a precarious future as four men face imprisonment over sex charges.

The men, convicted of various offences, often involving underage girls, could be jailed in a specially-built prison on the island.

This would allow the option of releasing them to perform tasks vital for the community's livelihood.

It has been claimed that if the men are not available to help with these tasks, particularly the manning of the longboat that goes out to passing ships, life on the island will not be sustainable.

Two other men have been ordered to carry out community service.

Kari Young, originally from Finland but a resident on the island for a 20-year-period, said things could never be the same again.

This was Britain and New Zealand's chance to bring the [island] into this century, instead of destroying a fragile community
Kari Young
Former islander
"The whole structure on the island has changed. With six men in jail it will be very difficult. It won't be a community any more.

"Their families... how can they get firewood, do repairs on the houses, or do the carvings to get money for survival? It is absolutely impossible. It will be an artificial community."

Many islanders feel the men have been unfairly treated, insisting that sex with underage girls was considered normal on Pitcairn.

Ms Young, who left Pitcairn for New Zealand a decade ago, but who spent six months there recently, said: "Very few of us believe there should have been charges.

"This was Britain and New Zealand's chance to bring the [island] into this century, instead of destroying a fragile community. It will never be the same, it won't survive.

"I also know the men are just as much a victim of circumstances as the women were. They were left to themselves.

"I'm quite convinced there was no rape, or not on the scale alleged. There was underage sex, but rape, no. I know those men and I know those women.

"Those men are not criminals, they were just doing what their fathers and forefathers did and the girls were doing what their mothers had done."

The harder we get flogged the stronger we get... our men are not rapists or child molesters
Meralda Warren
Sister of cleared man
She said there had been a need for "restorative justice, not condemnation of the community", in a place she described as both beautiful and unique.

"I love the island, the isolation and the feeling of security."

But islander Mike Warren insisted island would survive whatever the challenges after the trial.

"Prior to and through the trials the majority within the community pulled together, supporting, uplifting and encouraging one another.

"We are still very much united together after the outcome. We are survivors and we will continue to survive."

At the start of the trial Meralda Warren, an islander whose brother Jay was cleared of indecent assault, wrote an impassioned e-mail to the BBC News website and other journalists in defence of her family and of Pitcairn.

"The British diplomats made sure it will happen. They are trying to rid us of our island home.

"The court should never have happened. When all this started in 1999 it should have been kept in-house and sorted out here on the island.

"Instead it was like a witch hunt by the British police and the New Zealand police to hunt down every Pitcairn woman and man who would be involved around the viable men living on the island.

"The atmosphere is that we have been pushed back so many times that we have risen from the dirt that is being flung at us and braced ourselves for what is being dealt to the working men.

"We are strong. The harder we get flogged the stronger we get. Our men are not rapists or child molesters...[as] they have been portrayed by the prosecution and wildly exaggerated by the media."

What will happen now

Six guilty in Pitcairn sex trial
25 Oct 04  |  Asia-Pacific
Pitcairn man admits sex charge
05 Oct 04  |  Asia-Pacific
Rape a 'way of life' on Pitcairn
01 Oct 04  |  Asia-Pacific
Bloody history of empire's last outpost
29 Sep 04  |  Asia-Pacific

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