MINERVA was discovered in 1852 by a group of American Whalers. But no record of a claim to own.
The US military occupied Minerva between 1942-45 during WWII but no record of claim to won.
In 1971 Mr. Michael Oliver, a US Las Vegas millionaire and political activist brought in sand barges to raise the reef above the water, constructed a small tower and a flag and issued a declaration of the Republic of Minerva.
The declaration of the Republic of Minerva led to the Conference of the Neighboring Island States in 1972 at which the late King Taufa’ahau Tupou IV of Tonga made a claim over the Minerva Reef.
In 1982, the Republic of Minerva occupied the reefs for three weeks until they were forced out by the Tonga Defense Force. The Republic of Minerva group have allegedly sought to re-establish in Minerva in recent years.
To date no other claimant has made any attempt to take possession of Minerva until November 2005 that Fiji lodged a territorial claim.
The issues here are:
1. Whose claim is legitimate? It appears to me that the Republic of Minerva may have the upper edge unless Tonga can show an existing Territorial MAP that includes Minerva Reef. Possession is 9/10th of the law, and Tonga seem to have the upper edge. If it is left up to oral history, the reef belongs to Tonga.
2. Who has to make that determination? Is it some Pacific Island Forum or the United Nation?
I find it hard to see any legitimacy in Fiji’s claim. They were party to the conference of the neighboring states at which the late King of Tonga made a claim over the reefs. They did not protest this claim.
At the end of the day, it is going to end up in some court making some lawyers wealthy.
But that would be better than having the Tonga Navy and Defense Force confirming Tonga’s claim with force.
Sione Lousiale Kava
slkava [at] hotmail [dot] com