17 Aug 2010

Rapa Nui man says family barricaded in Easter Island hotel

1:31 pm on 17 August 2010

A Rapa Nui man based in New York says forty of his family members are barricaded in an Easter Island hotel amid a long-running land dispute and calls for independence from Chile.

Santi Hitorangi says about one thousand indigenous islanders have taken over local government buildings on Rapa Nui, or Easter Island, as armed Chilean forces wait outside.

He says the Hangaroa Hotel is on land forcibly taken from his family.

Mr Hitorangi says the Rapa Nui people have lodged an order for protection with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights but fear Chilean forces will move in once a sixty day negotiation period is up.

"They're treating us as terrorists. This re-occupation of ancestral lands that belongs rightfully to the Rapa Nui native is peaceful action. It's about land not about guns and terror."

Mr Hitorangi says the Chilean government is now restricting communications and business on the island.

Community leaders have threatened to transfer allegiance to Polynesia and there are reports the Island's governor has resigned.