Camilo Rapu Riroroko

Camilo Rapu Riroroko

Testimony

Camilo
Rapu
Riroroko

President
Indigenous Community Ma’u Henua

Camilo Rapu-Riroroko, 38 years old, is the son of Camilo Rapu-Haoa and Maria Eugenia (Tita) Riroroko-Hey.  He studied in the Lorenzo Baeza Public School of Easter Island, did his secondary studies at the Barros Arana National Institute in Valparaiso and then graduated with a degree in business administration from the Catholic University of Valparaiso.  Following two years of internship in the Chilean National Customs Service and 10 years working with a cargo company in Valparaiso, he bought the freighter ship “Naviera Iorana” from his grandfather, Matias Riroroko, becoming an independent entrepreneur and businessman.

In July of 2016, he was asked by the Commission for Development of Easter Island (CODEIPA) and the recently formed native family groupings, called Honui, to present as a candidate for president of the Ma’u Henua Indigenous Community, then in formation, which was to assume the administration of the Rapa Nui National Park which the then-President of Chile, Michelle Bachelet, was going to turn over to the Rapanui community. An election was called and Camilo won with 80 % of the votes. Ma’u Henua was inscribed in the registries of CONADI (National Corporation for Indigenous Development) with 1,067 members. Camilo was willing to talk about the first years of native administration and the adversity that he later has had to face with the growing criticism of his work.

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“The beginnings of Ma’u Henua were complex. We had absolutely no resources to open the offices, bring in technology, employ staff or organize ourselves as a team to begin the work that was expected. Funds were delayed and no one would give us credit. Under these circumstances, the Board of Directors, which was made up by Tavake Hurtado-Atan, Marco Tuki-Hito, Kerematina Tepano-Haoa, Lavinia Pate-Tuki, Sergio Manuheuroroa-Teave and myself, financed the founding of the organization with the support of our families.”  Camilo clarifies, “My mother stepped in with the family hardware store, Hare Toa, and my father built the first public bathrooms in the Ahu Akivi sector.  Bit by bit, we began to pay off the debts.  We all worked without pay through December 2016. The following year, we began with salaries of 800,000 pesos (around US$ 1,185 at current rate of exchange) per month for the directors and one million, six hundred thousand pesos for the president, because that position implied full-time work. The highest salary, 3 million pesos, went to the general manager who was hired on January 1st of 2017.

“The first stage was joint management with CONAF (the Chilean government Forestry Department) which had administered the Park for the previous 50 years. From them, we learned their system of accounting, called POA or Annual Operational Program. The accounts were audited by external accountants, separate from CONAF, who helped us to improve our administrative systems.  When we became fully independent at the end of 2017, we continued to present our accounts with the same system, but the department which was now in charge of revising the accounts was National Properties.  At the first plenary meeting, the Minister of that area commented to us that there were ‘discrepancies in the accounts’, that is to say, there were errors in the classifications in which we had placed the out-going payments.

“At that point, some people were beginning to complain about the supposed financial ‘irregularities’. It got so bad that they even bothered our financial officer, Francisco Paté, yelling and swearing at him in his own house. He was already under so much stress from the change of system from the POA that he decided to step down. He was replaced by Enrique “Kike” Maure-Tuki, who drew up the plan of operations for 2019 as National Properties had requested and we presented it to CODEIPA, our local auditor. They suggested changes to a few points which have been integrated in the final plan.  Unfortunately, the disputes for the control of Ma’u Henua persisted, causing divisions among the Honui family groups.

Entrega del Parque a Ma’u Henua
por la Presidenta Bachelet.

“I still recall one of the plenary meetings at the Presidential Offices in Santiago in which the Minister of National Properties accused me and the group of having misused the funds, that we spent our time fighting among ourselves and that they were going to rescind the contract that we had signed with President Bachelet for the concession of the Park. This didn’t get out to the press, of course.  I responded that it would happen over my dead body. Those who came before me had fought for their autonomy and we would not accept going back now. He also said that they were going to audit us, to which I replied that he was more than welcome. By surprise, in the middle of all the unrest that is happening on Rapa Nui, some people from the Ministry of National Properties, and not the Comptrollers’ Office, arrived to audit us. They spent 2 days to do an analysis for which the external auditors of CONAF took 3 months. It was incomplete and irresponsible. They looked at only 7 of the 78 accounting archives that we have. To this day, we haven’t received a single official communication on this audit; we’ve only seen supposed results on social media. The “much discussed” topic of the lost 250 ticket books (N°27.501 to N° 50.000) has been resolved; we got them back. They were sent by TECROM through LATAM Cargo instead of via Tairenga (a cargo consolidator) as was usual.  Since they didn’t seem to arrive, we began to use the following ticket books.
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 “Cómo la auditoría fue irregular en forma y fondo, la Contraloría General de la República emitió un oficio a la CONADI en el cual presenta que toda esta acción del Gobierno no se ajustó a derecho. Hemos tomado las acciones judiciales  pertinentes por falta de probidad y autoría corrupta. En la reciente visita a la isla de los representantes del Museo Británico, participó el Ministro de Bienes Nacionales y yo lo enfrenté, su respuesta fue un simple…‘lo siento, fueron órdenes de arriba’ y nuevamente me pidió que firmara el cambio del Contrato de Concesión a lo cual le respondí que nunca.”

“The only conflict that we have today on Rapa Nui is political in nature.  Since, we, the Rapanui, have assumed the administration, we have doubled the sale of Park tickets. From the first year to date, we have collected 4,000 million pesos (over US$ 5,800,000) which has been invested in hiring of personnel, infrastructure projects in 20 new sites, training and others.  What happened was that the success of this experience quickly generated controversy and personal interests among some of the local people. Under these conditions, it is very difficult to fulfill the expectations of all, which causes discontent and distrust, based on partial reporting and rumors.  Social media with its “fake news” has contributed to distorting the truth and undermining confidence.
“Aside from our operational expenses and salaries, we also have an item for cultural and social support. An example of cultural support was the 12 million pesos (nearly USD 18,000) that was given to the team of Hoe Vaka (Polynesian canoes) for their trip to Tahiti.   Under contract, they agreed to do the work of fencing off the Ahu One Makihi site, but they came back from the trip and, to date, haven’t fulfilled their side of the bargain. Now, we will have to take legal action against our own brothers. “Another complex topic has been that many of our suppliers of goods and services have been my relatives. We have a big problem on the Island with consanguinity. We are 36 families and all related. We can’t apply the Chilean law here, when it prohibits government contracts with people up to the 4th degree of relations. We also have a cultural tapu (taboo) which prohibits marriage up to the 4th degree, but to apply that to contracts is impossible.” Speaking of marriage, Camilo Rapu just last year married Denise Guevara-Baiza, a Chilean. “My wife has found it hard to face all these problems, but she accompanies me and supports me.”

To wrap up, I want to stress that the great promise of Ma’u Henua is in its technological system and in the dedication of our workers who are members of the association and Rapanui. They know that they are caring for the legacy of our ancestors. We have made errors, but we have learned from them, as well. One of our weaknesses is the lack of civic education in the population and another the lack of experience among the younger professionals, but these are only problems of time.  We are continuing to train ourselves, to improve day by day. The future of Ma’u Henua lies in respect for the other and respect for the decisions of the majority; that is democracy. This Board of Directors will leave its post in the coming elections of 2020. We need to calm the waters. Fighting leads to nothing more than paralysis and retreat. We should never forget that those who will judge us will be our own children and the coming generations.”

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