25/05/2001
Press Release
GA/COL/3046



PUERTO RICO, AMERICAN SAMOA, GUAM, GIBRALTAR, NEW CALEDONIA


DISCUSSED AT CARIBBEAN DECOLONIZATION SEMINAR


(Received from a UN Information Officer; delayed in transmission.)


HAVANA, Cuba, 23 May -- The Special Committee this afternoon heard from experts from the Caribbean region, Committee members and representatives of Non-Self-Governing Territories, as it continued its Caribbean regional seminar to review the political, economic and social conditions in the small island Non-Self-Governing Territories.


Juan Mari Bras, and expert from Puerto Rico, said modernization of the Puerto Rican economy had been accompanied by a militarization of its archipelago,  as it had become the main base for the United States Army and Navy in the Caribbean.  In the 1950s there had been an exodus of Puerto Ricans to the United States because of unemployment and poverty.  For the United States military-industrial complex, Puerto Rico was reduced to a military base and an economic enclave.  The United States Treasury Department had pointed out that the return on capital in Puerto Rico was five times larger than that in the United States.  It was a myth to say that Puerto Rico was costly to the United States.


The Governor of American Samoa, Tauese Sunia, requested that the Special Committee no longer consider his territory as a colony.  He said American Samoa was an integral part of the United States.  The United States did not rule American Samoa or pass laws against its people’s will, since the people participated fully in their lawmaking process.  American Samoa had its own constitution and had had an elected legislature for over 40 years.


Chedmond Browne, Member of Parliament of Montserrat, said the Government and people of his territory were not pleased with their colonial condition and the activities of its administering Power, the United Kingdom.  Montserrat was still in  colonial status because the United Kingdom had claimed that the territory did not desire to pursue the direction of associated statehood.  The administering Power now proposed to give the remaining colonies British citizenship, thereby integrating them in the British Kingdom.  The people of Montserrat would not accept that manufactured integration and did not wish to remain a colony of the English.


The representative of Syria emphasized that one of the remaining vestiges of colonialism was settler colonialism adopted by the “Zionist racist ideology” and


was exercised by Israel through its aggression and expansion in the occupied Arab territories.  Those criminal actions represented grave violations of international law, international humanitarian law, and human rights.  “Indeed, these are war crimes, and crimes against humanity”, he said.


The Committee also heard statements from:  Eduardo Lara and Miguel Alvarez, experts from Puerto Rico; Ivette Garcia, expert from Cuba; Eni Faleomavaega, Member of Congress from American Samoa; Peter Caruana, Chief Minister of Gibraltar; Carl Gutierrez, Governor of Guam; Leland Bettis, Executive Director of the Guam Commission on Decolonization; Maurice Ponga, Minister of Government of New Caledonia; and Roch Wamytan, representative of the Front de liberation nationale Kanak socialiste New Caledonia (FLNKS).


The representatives of Morocco and Indonesia also spoke.


Experts


JUAN MARI BRAS, expert from Puerto Rico, addressing the political, economic and social developments in Puerto Rico, said next August 29 years will have passed since the first resolution on Puerto Rico.  Many resolutions had followed, the last one in July 2000, adopted by consensus in the Committee and by the General Assembly.  But, Puerto Rico had not had any constitutional developments to bring it out of the colonial category.  The United States had not recognized its right to self-determination; it had increased its unilateral authority.  He then described the history of Puerto Rico since the end of the nineteenth century.


He said the United States had acquired Puerto Rico as a colony through war booty and Congress had maintained that political outrage.  The legislative assembly of Puerto Rico had passed resolutions requesting changes in the relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States, but had never gotten a positive response.  The net result of Washington’s inaction had been that the United States had maintained colonial domination over Puerto Rico, deriving political, military and economic great benefit.  That and resulting in serious social problems for the Puerto Rican people.


Modernization of the Puerto Rican economy had been accompanied by a militarization of its archipelago, he continued.  It had become the main base for the United States Army and Navy in the Caribbean.  The Popular Party had tried to implement political and social reforms, but the armed forces of the United States had always been a barrier to adopting true measures of decolonization.


The 1950s had seen an exodus of Puerto Ricans to the United States, forced by unemployment and poverty, he said.  Puerto Rico was a divided nation, but united by a virtual airlift.  For the United States military-industrial complex, Puerto Rico was reduced to a military base and an economic enclave.  The United States Treasury Department had pointed out that the return on capital in Puerto Rico was five times larger than that in the United States.  It was also reflected in the difference between the gross domestic product (GDP) and gross national product (GNP).  The gap between owners and employees had been widening.  That Puerto Rico was costly to the United States was therefore, a myth.


Puerto Rico was today at a crossroads, he said.  It was forced to choose between social destruction or the path to national reconstruction.  One of the mechanisms for the decolonization of Puerto Rico was that of a constitutional convention, preceded by a referendum.  That would lead to a draft resolution on the political status, which then could be negotiated with the United States.  Three plebiscites had taken place, but the United States had never fulfilled the wishes expressed by the people.  The Governor had promised to appoint a Commission of Unity and Consensus.  He trusted she would fulfil that promise.  The Puerto Ricans did not have to wait for Washington D.C. to tell them what the options were.  International law recognized the right to take the initiative.


EDUARDO LARA and MIGUEL ALVARES, also from Puerto Rico, said in a joint statement that territories that had not yet achieved independence should take immediate measures to transfer powers to the people of the territories.  In order to organize a referendum, it was essential to transmit powers to the region.  Immediate measures must be taken to transfer all power to the peoples without conditions.  But the United States was not ready to do that.  Integration of the people should be decided by the people, after having achieved independence.  


Many resolutions had been adopted by the General Assembly and dozens of petitions had been submitted to the Special Committee.  All expressed the lack of satisfaction with the present colonial status.  Bombing of the inhabited island of Vieques had resumed.  That should be ended immediately, because of its implications for the people, the environment and the economic development of the island.  The area allowed for the population had been reduced to one fourth of the island.  Puerto Rico should be decolonized during the second decade.  One hundred three years had passed since the United States intervention.  A new millennium had been entered into without a colonization project for Puerto Rico.  The Committee should keep the issue under constant review, so that Puerto Rico could achieve its full sovereignty and independence.


IVETTE GARCIA GONZALES, expert from Cuba, speaking on developments in the Eastern Caribbean region, said a new century had arrived without having achieved decolonization.  It was, therefore, important to strengthen the work of the Committee.  The present-day realities of the British territories in the Caribbean area must be taken into account.


The right to self-determination was a legitimate one, independent of a territory’s size or natural resources, and in the transition to self-determination, there should be a commitment by the international community to lend assistance.  Establishment of new mechanisms by the administering Powers seemingly promoted self-determination, but were in fact a drawback.  It was often said that the people of the territories in question did not want independence, but she wondered if the people had enough information to make an informed decision.  It was important to bring attention to the Non-Self-Governing Territories, since the vulnerability of those territories went beyond the question of dependence or independence.


She said that in order to move the process of decolonization along, the essential priorities were:  guarantees of assistance to the territories; promotion of cultural exchange between civil society of the territories and others in the region; and raising the level of education concerning decolonization, putting forward the various options for non-self governing people.  United Nations missions to the territories to gather information among the peoples should also be increased.


Member States


OMAR HILALE (Morocco) said his delegation made a positive assessment of the last decade and of the work accomplished by the Committee.  Nearly half of the members of the United Nations had gained their independence after the creation of the Organization.  The first decade had been an important political framework for concerted action in support of the process of decolonization.


After the end of the Cold War and the advance of globalization, however it had become imperative to identify innovative and realistic approaches in order to respond to the expectations of he Non-Self-Governing Territories.  Resolution

1514 XV had established three options:  sovereign independent State; free association with an independent State; or integration with an independent State.  The sixth conclusion of the Marshall Islands seminar stipulated that “All available options for self determination are valid as long as they were in accordance with the freely expressed wishes of the people concerned . . .”  The people concerned meant the entire population, without discrimination or exclusion. 


Resolution 1514 had prevented any kind of jeopardy to the territorial integrity of the countries, in order to avoid further conflicts and problems, he continued.  His country, therefore, considered that decolonization and self-determination were two different concepts.  Self-determination was only one of the three mechanisms stressed by the resolution.  The United Nations had given priority to the principle of territorial integrity in that resolution.  It had done that to avoid tackling a situation by creating another problem, thus generating injustice and instability.  Respect for their principle was a real success story, in the sense that it favoured a peaceful, just and lasting solution and prevented many conflicts.


       CLOVIS KHOURY (Syria) said the cause of decolonization was a noble one, directly linked to one of the basic rights of the human being.  His country had made support of the work of the Special Committee one of its priorities.  He appreciated the efforts of the Special Committee to examine the implementation by Member States, and in particular the administering Powers, of resolution 1514 (XV) and other relevant resolutions on decolonization.


Special attention should be given to the small territories, as the majority of Non-Self-Governing Territories were small islands.  It was essential that the international community be sensitive to their needs and responsive to their requests for assistance.  The role of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the specialized agencies in that respect was of utmost importance.  He stressed the need to dispatch United Nations visiting missions to Non-Self-Governing Territories to facilitate the full implementation of the Declaration.


He emphasized that one of the remaining vestiges of colonialism was settler colonialism adopted by the “Zionist racist ideology” and was exercised by Israel through its aggression and expansion in the occupied Arab territories.  Those criminal actions represented grave violation of international law, international humanitarian law, United Nations relevant resolutions, international legitimacy and human rights.  “Indeed, these are war crimes, and crimes against humanity”, he said.


Non-Self-Governing Territories and Administering Powers


TAUESE P.F. SUNIA, Governor of American Samoa, said American Samoa abhorred colonization and hailed the United Nations mandate to eradicate colonization from the world.  As before, he asked that American Samoa be de-listed as a “colony” of the United States.  American Samoa was an integral part of the United States, and the United States did not rule it or pass laws against its people’s will, since the people participated fully in their lawmaking process.


He said American Samoa had its own constitution and had had an elected legislature for over 40 years.  The Governor and Lieutenant Governor had been elected since 1978.  It had a Congressman in the United States Congress and it did not pay federal taxes, among other things.  Under socio-economic development, he mentioned that American Samoans enjoyed free medical care and that American Samoa was the “tuna capital” of the world.  He disagreed with those who said that the Special Committee had only “independence” to offer.  There were three other models that could work.  “We have proven that our model has worked for 100 years”, he said.


ENI FALEOMAVAEGA, United States Congressman from American Samoa, said the United Nations had helped to eradicate colonialism throughout the world.  It was, however, disturbing that the United Nations had assumed that American Samoa was a colony.  Why had the Special Committee singled out American Samoa for special consideration?  He asked.  Contrary to criticism of the United States, the people of American Samoa had never had their rights suppressed.  Too often the Special Committee had been used as a platform to attack the United States and he resented that American Samoa was being manipulated for that reason.  The mischaracterization of American Samoa as a colony had been perceived as an insult and an outrage by the people of that territory.


If the Committee was serious about the eradication of colonialism, it should look at the situation of Western Papua Guinea, a clear example of colonialism.  He urged the Committee to put Western Papua Guinea on its agenda.  The people of American Samoa were opposed to any effort to categorize them as a Non-Self-Governing Territory.  He urged the Committee to respect the wishes of the people of American Samoa in that regard.


PETER CARUANA, Chief Minister of Gibraltar, reported that the economic and social situation in Gibraltar was good, as was its internal political situation. Gibraltar had a highly developed, thriving and stable political process, based on the adversarial political party system.  Gibraltar was, however, less well off when one considered its inalienable right as a colonial people to self-determination, and its relations with its neighbour, Spain, which persisted “with an anachronistic claim to recover the sovereignty of our homeland”.


He said the position of Spain was that the people of Gibraltar did not enjoy the right to self-determination, or any political rights.  It believed Gibraltar should be decolonized by the return to Spain, regardless of the wishes of the people of Gibraltar.  Spain further asserted that, under the Treaty of Utrecht of 1713, if the United Kingdom surrendered sovereignty of Gibraltar, it was obliged to offer it first to Spain.  The people of Gibraltar rejected all those Spanish contentions.


There was a fundamental misconception and abuse of the principle of territorial integrity when applied to the decolonization of Gibraltar, he said.  In the Western Sahara case, the International Court of Justice had declared that “Even if integration of a territory was demanded by an interested State, it could not be had without ascertaining the freely expressed will of the people”.  If self-determination was “a fundamental human right”, how could it be denied to the colonial people of a territory simply because the territory was subject of a claim by a third party? he asked.  Despite the clarity of those issues, the much greater influence wielded at the United Nations by Members States, in contrast to the influence of listed territories, sometimes resulted in contradictory statements.


The seminar in the Marshall Islands had concluded and recommended that “The Special Committee should continue to encourage the ongoing negotiations between the Governments of the United Kingdom and Spain within the Brussels process.”  That recommendation had resulted in Gibraltar’s exclusion from the Fourth Committee’s omnibus resolution.  Such bilateral dialogue was not compatible with the right of the people of Gibraltar to self-determination.  He proposed that the Special Committee dispatch a visiting delegation to Gibraltar and proclaim its belief in the existence of the inalienable right to self-determination of the people of Gibraltar.


CARL GUTIERREZ, Governor of Guam, said the people of Guam were Americans and viewed the United States interests in Guam as an integral part of their life.  Unfortunately, the Constitution was not written with small offshore islands in mind, and the people of Guam, therefore, did not have certain rights.  The United States represented real freedom in his homeland, but he wanted to educate fellow Americans about the people’s desire for more participation.  He supported regional military activities in Guam, as Guam enjoyed security and protection.  But, the military presence on the island had been greatly reduced, which had had a great impact.  Up to 10,000 people had left their homeland as a result. 


The United States military had acted in a way that met its interests, he said.  However, that demonstrated that the people of Non-Self-Governing Territories must be allowed to participate every day in the events that governed their lives.  He urged the Committee to keep the playing field level between the largest nations and the smallest territories.


LELAND BETTIS, Executive Director of the Guam Commission on Decolonization, said that like many of the other Territories that remained inscribed on the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories, Guam’s administering Power attempted to define rights and status of Guam as an internal matter, which was the exclusive subject of its constitutional system.  It was noteworthy that Guam’s status was defined as an “unincorporated territory” of the United States.  That meant that the island and its native people might be treated in a separate and unequal manner, distinct from other jurisdictions and other people who lived under the same Constitution.


He said Guam law had provided for a vote amongst eligible voters on the three sovereign statuses identified in a United Nations resolution:  independence; free association; and integration, or Statehood in the United States system.  The process of registering eligible voters was set to begin and a vote was to be held in September 2002.  He welcomed the continued encouragement and support of Member States for the expressed will of the people of Guam on the desired nature of their future political status.


DUPITO SIMAMORA (Indonesia), responding to the statement of the Congressman of American Samoa, said the remarks regarding Western Papua Guinea, or better Irian Jaya, were irrelevant to the work of the Special Committee. Irian Jaya was part of Indonesia, as it had been part of the Netherlands Indies before that.  Irian Jaya’s case had been settled in New York in 1962.  The results of those negotiations and the plebiscite had been recognized by both parties, Indonesia and the Netherlands, and accepted in General Assembly resolution 2504 in 1969.  He said Indonesia was in a transition to democracy and would respect human rights. His Government was in the process of finalizing a new law which would offer autonomy for Irian Jaya. 


CHEDMOND BROWN, Member of Parliament of Montserrat, said the Government and people of Montserrat were not pleased with their colonial condition and the activities of its administering Power, the United Kingdom.  The elected government of Montserrat had not been included in the seminars, because invitations had never been forwarded by the administering Power.  The United Kingdom was not in favour of its colonies attending such kinds of affairs. 


The Government and people of Montserrat were sympathetic with the positions represented by Bermuda and Anguilla.  The picture they painted was in stark contrast to that of the Governor of Gibraltar.  Montserrat was still in colonial status, because the United Kingdom had claimed that Montserrat did not desire to pursue the direction of associated statehood.  The administering Power now proposed to give the remaining colonies British citizenship, thereby integrating them in the British Kingdom.  The people of Montserrat would not accept that manufactured integration.  They did not wish to remain a colony of the English.  He suggested that if the administering Powers did not release the colonies, the United Nations should take steps to remove those colonies from the administering Powers and administer them on their path to full independence.


MAURICE PONGA, Member of the Government of New Caledonia, said the Government of New Caledonia had made a gradual systematic implementation of the Noumea Accord its priority and had set up an internal supervisory system for that purpose.  The French Government’s renewed ongoing support was a precious asset in that connection.  INCO, the world’s leading nickel producer, had announced its decision to build a nickel and cobalt production plant in New Caledonia.  On the regional scene, a close watch was being kept on what was happening in New Caledonia by all South Pacific countries.  The President and members of the New Caledonian government already took part in many international meetings.


ROCH WAMYTAN, President of Front de liberation nationale Kanak socialiste New Caledonia (FLNKS), said 1998 had been a pivotal year in the history of New Caledonia because in that year the Noumea Accord was signed by FLNKS, the Rassemblement pour la Caledonie dans la Republique (RPCR) and France.  The arrangement had been ratified by 72 per cent of the Caledonian population in a referendum.  Through that ballot, the Kanaks, who had been a minority in their country through an organized immigration policy, had shown a real commitment to turning the page on colonization.


He said the desire for a shared destiny was based on:  the rehabilitation of the Kanak people, the colonized indigenous people; the foundations for wanting to live with one another; and a gradual and irreversible process towards full sovereignty.  By restoring the Kanak identity to its original cultural foundations, which had been destructured by colonization, the prime goal of the Noumea Accord was to rehabilitate the indigenous people.  The Accord also provided for the continuation of land reform.  The gradual decolonization process set out by the Accord involved a stage-by-stage transfer of sovereignty powers over a

15-year period.


The intention of the signatories of the Accord was that collegial government should enable the Kanak people to be a marginalized people no longer, by participation in the various decision-making structures.  However, immediately after the establishment of the Government of New Caledonia in 2000, the principle of collegiality was spurned by both the RPCR and France.

Those new political circumstances had generated unfortunate consequences for the situation in New Caledonia, he said, and confidence had dropped.  The social atmosphere had been deteriorating and there were delays in implementation of the Noumea Accord.  The FLNKS remained vigilant on compliance with the spirit and the letter of the Noumea Accord.  After three years of unreliable implementation and economic and social difficulties, recent events, such as a rapprochement between the RPCR and FLNKS and economic developments, had given reasons for hope.


He said his country had been endowed with natural riches, such as nickel, cobalt and petroleum, which were coveted by major economic and financial powers. The natural and human resources are the foundation for emancipation, but they could also contribute to the demise of the people, if vigilance was not exercised.  As a partner in the Accord, France could not demur from its historic responsibility to conduct the country to full sovereignty and must not stand in the way of progress towards political emancipation, as had been the case in Africa.  Total freedom must be preserved in the choices that New Caledonia would be called upon to make.  The FLNKS remained vigilant and careful with respect to the fair application of the Noumea Accord.


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