26 May 1999


Press Release
GA/COL/3001



'LITMUS TEST' FOR SELF-DETERMINATION, SELF-GOVERNANCE RECOMMENDED AT DECOLONIZATION MEETING IN SAINT LUCIA

19990526
(Received from a UN Information Officer.)

CASTRIES, SAINT LUCIA, 25 May -- Prior to any reclassification of the Caribbean Non-Self-Governing Territories, there should be a set of indicators developed and applied by the Special Committee which would amount to a "litmus test" for self-determination and self-governance, an expert from Bermuda said this afternoon, as the Special Committee on the Situation with Regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples met to continue its consideration of its substantive issues.

That litmus test, he continued, should include the following indicators: whether or not there was a credible effort to disseminate information to the population on the decolonization process; whether or not there were adequate educational campaigns on the Territory's constitutional options; and the degree to which a Territory had a self-sustaining economy, local decision- making on the economy, local control of institutions of cultural power and a constitutionally dominant-subordinate relationship between the Territory and the -- possibly former -- administering Power.

A representative from Anguilla said it was obvious that the goals of complete decolonization had not been achieved as the decade and the century came to an end. While the Special Committee might not be able to claim success in giving self-determination to the people of Non-Self-Governing Territories, the British were claiming success in giving those peoples self- determination, speaking of new partnerships and now referring to its colonies as overseas Territories that were self-governing, not dependent.

In addition, she went on to say, now the United Kingdom had reclassified its dependent Territories, there was now a move to have them removed from the United Nations list. The British claim was that the Territories were well- placed to play their part in the global community. While the British stated that the new Territories were founded on the principle of self-determination, the new millennium would see a tightening up on the Non-Self-Governing Territories, with closer scrutiny and micro-management.


Statements were also made by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) representative in Barbados, a member of the Guam Landowners Association, and representatives from East Timor, Guam, United States Virgin Islands and British Virgin Islands.

(For background information see Press Release GA/COL/2998 dated 19 May.)

Statements

C. WALTON BROWN, President, Research Innovations Limited and Professor of Politics and History, Bermuda College, said that with the United Nations declaration of the 1990s as the International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism, it appeared that the British Government -- the administering Power for most of the remaining Caribbean Non-Self-Governing Territories -- was claiming that its Territories had opted to remain a part of the United Kingdom and that they had achieved a sufficient measure of self-government. A logical nest step, from the British perspective, would be to have the six Territories -- Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Montserrat and Turks and Caicos Islands -- removed from the list and beyond the scrutiny of the Special Committee.

He said that prior to any reclassification of the Caribbean Non-Self- Governing Territories, however, there should be a set of indicators developed and applied by the Special Committee, which would amount to a litmus test for self-determination and self-governance.

That litmus test, he said, must take into consideration the peculiarities of those island Territories. More specifically, those indicators should include the following: whether or not there was a credible effort to disseminate information to the population on the decolonization process; whether or not there were adequate educational campaigns on the Territory's constitutional options; the degree to which a Territory had a self-sustaining economy without reliance on the administering Power for aid or other support; the degree to which key decisions affecting the economy were in local hands; the degree to which the institutions of cultural power were controlled and directed by locals; and the degree to which there was a constitutionally dominant-subordinate relationship between the Territory and the -- possible former -- administering Power.

He said the United Kingdom justified its new position by arguing that the Territories had all expressed a desire to remain British. Such arguments and subsequent statements to that effect were erroneous. A number of British Territories had made explicit statements in recent years that their goal was independence -- others wished to achieve it in tandem with economic development. The United Kingdom had also decided to extend the offer of full British citizenship to all its dependent Territories. That offer had been received warmly in many Territories because of the perceived benefits, such as


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lower-cost education in the United Kingdom, which was not true. It must be emphasized that the offer of citizenship was extended to individuals and did not alter in any way the constitutional relationship between the United Kingdom and its Territories.

PHYLLIS FLEMING-BANKS, of Anguilla, said it was obvious that the goals of complete decolonization had not been achieved as the decade and the century came to an end. While the Special Committee might not be able to claim success in giving self-determination to the people of Non-Self-Governing Territories, the British were claiming success in giving those peoples self- determination, speaking of new partnerships and now referring to its dependents as overseas Territories which were self-governing and not dependent. In addition, now that the United Kingdom had reclassified its dependent Territories, there was now a move to have them removed from the United Nations list. The British claim was that the Territories were well- placed to play their part in the global community.

The British "White Paper" noted that the new Territories were founded on the principle of self-determination. The new millennium would see a tightening up, however, on the Non-Self-Governing Territories, with closer scrutiny and micro-management. Did the new partnership reflect the end of the process where everyone had tried every option open to them in the exercise of looking for self-determination? Reality seemed to suggest that there was almost a concerted effort to avoid discussion on that subject. There had been no cooperation on the part of the United Kingdom in the work of the Special Committee, which had prevented the Committee from obtaining pertinent information.

The administering Powers, she went on to say, were quick to point out that they were willing to comply with any call for independence. Without any education, colonized people were afraid of what independence might entail. Independence was once the road to utopia -- it now signified the end of democracy and did not guarantee a better standard of living. What was needed was political education -- decolonization began in the mind.

TREVOR GORDON SUMMERS, Officer-in-Charge, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Barbados, said the challenges to the development of small island developing States were well known. They had a narrow natural resource base. Their economies were anchored on shifting sands, foreign direct investment and tourism. Their physical environments were fragile and subject to depletion and the costs of public administration and infrastructure development were extremely high. Those States were also extremely vulnerable to natural disasters. In 1995, the most active season for hurricanes, the gross domestic product (GDP) of Anguilla declined by 12 per cent. In Saint Martin GDP fell by 14 per cent. The impact of the recent World Trade Organization ruling on bananas underlined the vulnerability of the region even more. Today it was bananas; tomorrow it could be sugar.


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He said there was great diversity in the size, population and economic circumstances in the United States and British-controlled Non-Self-Governing Territories. There was full employment and no employment. Anguilla was advertising overseas to fill vacant public administration posts. The question to be asked was how appropriate was the Westminster system of government for the Caribbean, as it marched towards a new century? A new contract was emerging, in which it seemed that the governing State and the dependent Territory were entering into a new partnership.

RONALD TEEHAN, Secretary and member of the Board of Directors, Guam Landowners Association, said the administering Power's policies in Guam were actively destroying opportunities for the Territory's continued economic development. Land alienation policies were in direct violation of international conventions. The international standards made it clear that the land and natural resources were the inheritance of the peoples of the Non- Self-Governing Territories, whose permanent sovereignty was to be respected. The administering Power actively prevented his people from the assumption of their personalities in regional and international organizations.

Many other policies, including trade and transportation, "shackle us and have limited our natural development as a people deserving of self- government", he continued. Encouraging the economic well-being of the people of Non-Self-Governing Territories was sacred obligation under the Charter, What the administering Power wanted to ignore was that even its own legal standards did not make Guam a part of the United States. Through its internal process, that power had signalled little interest in decolonizing Guam. If Spain, Portugal, Belgium and South Africa were charged with upholding accepted international standards, Guam's administering Power should act no less responsibly.

ZACARIAS DACOSTA, of East Timor, said the situation in his homeland was proceeding towards a solution. East Timorese were conscious of the great difficulties ahead. There were two choices facing them: either accept the proposed special autonomy within the unitary state of Indonesia; or reject it and move towards separation from Indonesia. The upcoming ballot on 8 August would be a victory over the forces of violence that wanted to deny at all costs the sacred rights of East Timorese to self-determination, freedom and independence.

He said that as the Indonesian Foreign Minister, Ali Alatas, had stated last May in Jakarta, that without a proper atmosphere, "the whole process of consulting (the Timorese) opinion could be affected or even postponed". The conditions must be such that the vote could go ahead in a serious atmosphere without intimidation. It was unfortunate that the United Nations and the international community were yet to conclude that the Indonesian military did not want stability and security in East Timor. Supporters of independence were being subjected to extreme brutality and death.


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RONALD R. RIVERA, of Guam, urged Member States to recommit to the decolonization process. More concrete steps were necessary. Decolonization was the unfinished business in the work of the United Nations. There was a lot more to be done by the United Nations to bring attention to the responsibility of administering Powers to abide by international conventions and law. Self-determination was intended to exercise the will of people and would lead to decolonization. Decolonization required a relationship between colonizer and colonized. The role of the United Nations in the process was to facilitate that relationship.

The United Nations needed to establish new measures that would encourage a greater measure of cooperation by the administering Power, he said. Too much time had been spent on alternatives to independence. Self-determination should lead to sovereignty. The remaining administering Powers were delinquent in establishing self-government in the dependent Territories. More time needed to be spent on the move towards self-government and less on the Special Committee's role. Non-Self-Governing Territories had a fundamental right to sovereignty. There was also a need to prevent some Territories from falling into perpetual colonialism.

Question and Answer Session

JUDITH BOURNES, of the United States Virgin Islands, said the meetings of the Committee had been shortened more and more. As a result, there was not enough to information provided.

Ms. FLEMING-BANKS, of Anguilla, said that part of the problem with independence and self-determination was ignorance. There was no visible body of knowledge within the population. The media was a very useful tool as well. United Nations videos and radio programmes were the kind, if used, that could be very important. The politicians were very well-versed in their understanding of colonialism and self-determination. But politics was never about rationale, but more about what will "get me elected at the polls". No aspiring politician would commit political suicide.

Mr. BROWN, of Research Innovations Limited, said the format of the video seen this morning was highly educational and could help people in the education process. It was important to have real information from outside sources.

EDUARDO EGUIGUREN (Chile), addressing the issue of the refocusing of the work of the Committee, wanted an elaboration on how that could be done.

Mr. BROWN said that the positions he had expressed earlier -- the Non- Self-Governing Territory views that were pro-independence and administering Power view that peoples of the dependent Territories did not want independence -- were both views that had heard and which were being widely circulated.


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Mr. RIVERA, of Guam, said that in past meetings, there had been some temptation to look at other options other than those enshrined in resolution 1541. Too much time was devoted to other options. There were three options to achieve self-government. The question to be asked was what level of equality was gained by people when they implemented a specific option.

Mr. TEEHAN, of the Guam Landowners Association, said one of the most valuable exercises for the people of Guam was the visit of the United Nations Mission sent by the Special Committee.

ERMIN PENN, British Virgin Islands, said the education system for independence had to go across the boards -- parents had to teach the children to grow up to look forward to self-government.

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