Tuesday, January 12, 2016

A Kiribati/Fiji geopolitical pause

In a way of thought: what is a "philatelic/postal country".

These past two years, to small books were published in France about small forgotten strange territories by Olivier Marchon and Bruno Fuligni.

The latter listed many current territories, former revendicated or once possessed by a Frenchman territories in the world, from the Pheasant Island (6 month Spanish, 6 month French since 1659) till megalomaniac microkingdoms in the jungle of Indochina and Guyana.

The former has a worldwide scope: is the summit of the Mount Blanc in France or Italy (nobody knows) or the parasite citadel of Kowloon right in the middle of British Hong Kong, even a Belgian railway cuttting through Germany thanks to the treaty of Versailles.
A map by Martin W. Lewis if you are in need to study administrative and sovereign strangeness in some territories (courtesy of Mr. Lewis, GeoCurrents.info)
We can talk of the many enclaves between India and Bangladesh or the curiosities of the Belgian-Dutch border. If you add up all administrative sweets all over the world, you can open a website like Martin W. Lewis of the United States.

A part of GeoCurrents.info he managed explains how the concept of State and Nation-State that define the Western nations for the past two centuries or helped them slowly organise their states well before, is a fragile thought construction.

In a recent conference at Stanford University he developed some limits of the concept with concrete examples of our time. Some are known to philatelists but not recognize by the other States (Taiwan? Somaliland?).

All these niceties can help create a very precise postal history collection or a topical one.
This 1984 stamp of Kiribati reprensented the Banaba island (colnet.com, a voluntary gather of picture of collectibles including stamps).
Lewis published three articles last November on Kiribati, a name that will wake up British Empire stamp collectors: 12 et 3.

In particular, the irst one of November 24th explained how Banaba is an isolated island in Extreme-West Kiribati, but governed firmly from Rabi Island, in Fiji...

Knwon as Ocean Island too, Banaba like neighbouring Nauru had got a large reserve of phosphate largely exploited by the British before the Kiribati independence in 1979.

But due to the nuisance of the mining activity and the fear of a potential - that happened effectively - Japanese occupation, the Banabans collectivelly bought an island - Rabi - in Fiji to relocate themselves.

Now, while climate changes slowly and Pacific islanders are in fear of submersion, the 6 kilometers square island is a treasure with a summit at 81 meters above sea level... if the Rabi Council of Leaders and Elders accepts Kiribats to be located on their ancestral island.

Eight Fijians representing a majority of Fijian inhabitants but all descendents of Kiribats citizens - and holding Kiribats passports - of a precise islands they own by ancestral rights.

First: hopefully French politicians have only to decide on binationality of terrorists...

Second: hopefully, Banabans and the Kiribati government can discuss a inventive solution. No! For some years, the Banabans are thinking of a very Western State-style solution: Banaba should become part of the Fijian territory...

Banaba, an idea of topical collection, anybody?

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