Saturday, December 5, 2009

Hutt River Province Going Strong at 39 !

There are numerous "micronations" world wide. A micronation is a country with little or, most commonly no international recognition. A typical micronation will have one or two citizens and have someone's back yard as its entire territory. Some of the more ambitious ones might issue passports, currency and postage stamps. Most are private affairs, not even taken seriously by their own founders.

A handful of micronations actually control territory, have citizens and enjoy a twilight status of de facto recognition. The most famous of these nations is Sealand, which was founded by Major Paddy Roy Bates in 1967 on a tower located in the sea seven miles off of the English coast in international waters. Based on legal loopholes, Bates occupied the tower and declared its independence. In 1968, the British courts extended de facto recognition to Sealand. The Sealand web site details this astounding development as follows.

By late 1968, the British navy had become aware of the new situation off the coast of England. They were interested in terminating the state of affairs brought about by an error committed by the most senior military authorities without causing too much uproar.

Units of the navy entered the territorial waters claimed by Roy of Sealand. As he was aware of his sovereignty, Roy of Sealand threatened the navy by undertaking defensive activity. Shots were fired from Sealand in warning.

Since Roy of Sealand was still an English citizen, he was thus accused of extensive crimes in Britain and was summoned to an English court. The result of this lawsuit in Chelmsford, Essex was a spectacular success for Sealand's claim to sovereignty. In its judgment of 25 November 1968, the court declared that it was not competent in Roy of Sealand's case as it could not exert any jurisdiction outside of British national territory. This is the first de facto recognition of the Principality of Sealand. English law had ruled that Sealand was not part of the United Kingdom, nor did any other nation claim it, hence Prince Roy's declaration of a new Sovereign State was de facto upheld. "

The next oldest and most respected of micronations is the Hutt River Principality in Australia. Its own web site describes it as follows.

"The Principality of Hutt River (PHR) is an Independent Sovereign State having seceded from Australia on the Twenty First Day of April 1970 and is comparable in size to Hong Kong, though the Principality is larger than many countries such as Andorra, Lichtenstein, Monaco, and Nauru.

The Principality is a constitutional, hereditary and democratic monarchy, with HRH Prince Leonard as the Sovereign and Head Of State and a Government is exercised, under the Sovereignty of the Prince, by a Minister of State, HRH Crown Prince Prince Ian, assisted by a Council of Government consisting of as many Ministers, Vice Ministers and State Secretaries as necessary to lead the Country.
Whilst the existence of PHR as a Sovereign State was initially contested, for many years now it has been accepted and left in peace. With the same Head of State for 38+ years, the Principality is proud to have such leadership and therefore the Principality must be regarded as a very stable country. "

The country was founded after its head of state objected to government regulations concerning agriculture. Its head of state Leonard George Casley, decided to fight city hall by starting his own country on behalf of the five families in the territory who grouped around him for relief and redress. Atlas Obscura reports as follows concerning the tough stand taken by the people of the Hutt River Principality.

"After a stoush (Aussie slang for fight) with the Australian government over wheat quotas, a group of five farmsteads in the Hutt River region of Western Australia, an area of approximately 72 square kilometres or roughly the size of Hong Kong, banded together to fight the government’s forced acquisition of their land. These five families discovered a loophole in the British Treason Act of 1495 (Australia, as part of the Commonwealth, is answerable to British law) by which they were able to secede from the Commonwealth of Australia. Subsequently, in July of 1970, the sovereign nation of the Principality of Hutt River was formed with Leonard Casley, the main protagonist in the case against the government, being elected as Sovereign and Head of State. He later renamed himself His Royal Highness Prince Leonard of Hutt to ensure that, under Commonwealth law, anyone who interfered with his duties could be charged with treason.

In the years that followed the Australian government made every effort to make life difficult for the inhabitants of this constitutional monarchy. Australia Post refused to deliver mail, the government imposed a tax on any goods arriving or leaving the Principality, and the Australian Tax Office continually hounded them for payment of taxes. Fed up with this treatment, in 1977 the Principality declared war on Australia. Peace was declared several days later whereupon the mail system was restored and requests for payments ceased. The Principality has been left to its own devices ever since."

The HRP has the right to register overseas corporations as well as a registry for motor vehicles. It issues stamps and coins, making a nice income from doing so. It mints gold coins and silver coins as well.

The HRP is in a class by itself. Although Sealand has land and a few citizens, it was founded for fun, and not out of any sense of aggrievedness. Hutt Rriver Principality, on the other hand was a revolt against a genuine injustice being perpetrated by a government that had insulated itself from any form of redress. It was founded after a careful review of British law and existing legal options. Additionally, it has considerable territory and a natural landscape. It also encourages tourism, about 40,000 a year. Sealand, by contrast is more isolationship. It is very difficult to actually set foot on Sealand.

The Australian government has decided to let matters stand as they are in the HRP. The intriguing history of the HRP has added a dimension of human interest to that part of Australia that complements nicely the natural beauty of its location. As deliciously subversive the concept and implementation was of HRP independence it was done with firmness, grace and class that speaks well for both sides in the conflict. The HRP will be 40 years old on April 21, 2010. I wish them many more peaceful, pleasant and happy years. Sphere: Related Content

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