04/06/2003
Press Release
GA/COL/3084



Special Committee on

Decolonization

4th Meeting (AM)


DECOLONIZATION COMMITTEE CONSIDERS SITUATIONS OF GIBRALTAR, CAYMAN ISLANDS


Rejecting the principle of joint sovereignty by the United Kingdom and Spain, the Deputy Chief Minister of Gibraltar this morning stressed that the future political status of that Territory could only be the result of the exercise of its people of their inalienable right to self-determination, as the Special Committee on Decolonization continued its session.


It could not be the product, continued the Deputy Chief Minister, Keith Azopardi, of a desire by others to settle by compromise Spain’s “anachronistic sovereignty claim”.  It was vital that no territory be delisted without an act of self-determination by its people.  Last year, the people of Gibraltar, in a public referendum, rejected the principle of shared sovereignty between the United Kingdom and Spain.


Spain’s response, he added, was to describe the referendum as “illegal”, while the United Kingdom Government described it as “a premature, local initiative and an eccentric waste of money”.  He urged the Committee to visit the Territory, and to “throw open the windows of the Gibraltar case, to let into it light and fresh air and truth”.


While reiterating his country’s sovereignty claim over Gibraltar, Spain’s representative expressed his willingness to reach an agreement with the United Kingdom that would grant the people of Gibraltar the highest level of self-government possible.  Referring to last year’s “public consultation” in Gibraltar, he stressed that the initiative had been carried out in spite of the General Assembly’s decision, which left the issue entirely in the hands of the Spanish and British Governments.  It was, therefore, legally invalid.


Asked why Gibraltar had declined invitations to attend meetings between the United Kingdom and Spain under the “Brussels Process”, the Chief Minister replied that the invitation extended to Gibraltar was not genuine.  It was an invitation to a bilateral dialogue, in which Gibraltar would have no genuine participation, and it had been extended on the basis that the United Kingdom and Spain reserved the right to agree to things over the objections of Gibraltar.  Gibraltar wanted a reasonable and genuine dialogue, in which all three parties relevant to the issue attended on equal footing. 


Also appearing before the Committee this morning was McKeeva Bush, Leader of Government Business of the Cayman Islands, who sought to tell the Committee how poorly the United Kingdom was treating the Cayman Islands.  The people of the Cayman Islands did not want independence, he stressed, but greater self-government.  Today, the Cayman Islands was being threatened by abusive measures by the United Kingdom that would potentially undo the economic advancement achieved, all for the sake of strengthening the European Union’s internal market.


The Cayman Islands, he stated, should be afforded a modernized constitution that addressed its needs.  The United Kingdom, which was currently involved in a constitutional review process for all its overseas territories, must go back to the “drawing board” and return with a draft that ensured greater self-governance for the Cayman Islands, he said.  The Cayman Islands had the inalienable right to be economically stable and to be independent of interference by the United Kingdom’s Treasury. 


Also this morning, the Committee acceded to the requests for a hearing of petitioners regarding the discussion on Puerto Rico, as contained in aide-memoire 11/03.


The other 14 Non-Self-Governing Territories covered by the Committee are:  American Samoa; Anguilla; Bermuda; British Virgin Islands; Falkland Islands/Malvinas; Guam; Montserrat; New Caledonia; Pitcairn; Saint Helena; Tokelau; Turks and Caicos Islands; United States Virgin Islands; and Western Sahara.


Statements were also made by the representatives of Papua New Guinea, Saint Lucia, Cuba, United Republic of Tanzania, Grenada, Bolivia and United Kingdom.  The Leader of the Opposition in Gibraltar also spoke.


The Committee, formally known 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, and commonly referred to as the “Special Committee of 24”, will meet again on Monday, 9 June.


Background


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 this morning to take up the questions of Gibraltar and Western Sahara.


For its consideration, the Committee had before it a working paper prepared by the Secretariat on Gibraltar (document A/AC.109/2003/3).  Outlining the political situation in the Territory, the paper states that the most significant political development in 2002 involved the United Kingdom and Spain agreeing on several principles, including that they should share power in Gibraltar.  However, a referendum conducted by the Government of Gibraltar resulted in 98.97 per cent of voters rejecting the concept of Anglo-Spanish joint sovereignty.  The referendum was subsequently condemned by the Spanish and British Governments, with the Spanish declaring it legally invalid.


Offering a summary of economic and social conditions in the Territory, the paper also notes United Nations involvement in the issue.  Specifically, it states that members of the Government of Gibraltar, as well as representatives of Spain and the United Kingdom, attended the Pacific regional seminar on small island Non-Self-Governing Territories, held in Fiji in 2002.


The Committee also had before it a working paper on Western Sahara (document A/AC.109/2003/14), which highlights the activities of the good offices of the Secretary-General, as well as consideration by the Security Council and the General Assembly of the issue, on which the United Nations had worked for nearly two decades in assisting the parties to find a solution.  In a letter to the Council dated 19 March, the Secretary-General pointed out that his Personal Envoy, James Baker III, had presented and explained to the parties a proposal for a political solution of the conflict in the Territory entitled “Peace plan for self-determination for the people of Western Sahara”. 


[The Council, on 30 May, extended the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) until 31 July to allow time for consideration of the latest peace plan.  The proposed plan (document S/2003/565, annex II) provides for a United Nations-conducted referendum on the final status of Western Sahara and for an interim authority until results of the referendum are implemented.


According to the Secretary-General’s report, if the parties cannot agree on an approach for a political solution and if the Council is not in a position to ask them to take steps that they do not perceive to be in their own interest, despite the fact that it may clearly be in the interest of the population of Western Sahara, the Council may wish to consider whether it wishes to remain actively seized of this political process.]


Created by General Assembly resolution 1645 of 1961, the Special Committee examines and makes recommendations on the application of the 1960 Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, and makes suggestions and recommendations on the progress and extent of the implementation of the Declaration.


For further background on the Special Committee, see Press Release GA/COL/3083 issued on 3 June.


Statements


ROMAN OYARZUN (Spain) said his Government’s claim of sovereignty over Gibraltar would not be waived.  Nevertheless, he was committed to respecting the decision that was adopted by the General Assembly each year, which called for negotiations to resolve the differences over Gibraltar.  In that context, he noted that his Government was currently enjoying a good relationship with its British counterpart and that the two parties had many common values.  He expressed his willingness to reach an agreement with the United Kingdom that would grant the people of Gibraltar the highest level of self-government possible.


Referring to last year’s “public consultation” in Gibraltar, he stressed that the initiative had been carried out in spite of the General Assembly’s decision, which left the issue entirely in the hands of the Spanish and British Governments.  It was, therefore, legally invalid.  Additionally, he noted that any attempt to disrupt the national unity and territorial integrity of a country was inconsistent with the United Nations Charter.


Stressing that his Government did not wish to reach an agreement over Gibraltar without the participation of the Territory’s people, he said both the Spanish and British Governments had repeatedly invited Gibraltar’s Chief Minister to assist in ministerial meetings under the Brussels Process.  Unfortunately, the Minister had declined the invitations.  Additionally, there had been no Gibraltarian representation at the recent regional seminar in Anguilla.  His Government, on the other hand, had attended the seminar, where it had declared that, since the Non-Self-Governing Territories all faced different circumstances, there should be no single solution offered for all of them.


KEITH AZOPARDI, Deputy Chief Minister of Gibraltar, speaking on behalf of Chief Minister Peter Caruana, said the Spanish representative’s assertion at the Anguilla Seminar that his Government would not allow the Committee, as provided for in United Nations resolutions, to visit Gibraltar, was indefensible.  The Spanish representative had described such a visit as “interference”.  The only party interfering in the work of the Committee was Spain.  The real reason why Spain did not want the Committee to visit the Territory was that it did not want the Committee to see the reality of Gibraltar and its people.  If the Committee came to Gibraltar and saw for itself the reality of Gibraltar, Spain’s arguments would be “blown out of the water”, and exposed for the factual and argumentative fraud that they were, he stated.


He said the collective frustration of the Gibraltarians was borne out of the fact that their arguments were not addressed; the position in international law of their case was not tested; and the true facts relating to Gibraltar and their worth as a people to enjoy and exercise the right to self-determination would not be independently verified.  He urged the Committee to “throw open the windows of the Gibraltar case, to let into it light and fresh air and truth”.  He also urged it to establish a seminar or working group specifically on the Gibraltar case. 


When the Chief Minister had addressed the Committee last June, the United Kingdom and Spain were engaged in bilateral negotiations with the stated objective of a joint sovereignty solution, namely joint sovereignty between those two Governments, he said.  Gibraltar was totally opposed to such an agreement because it did not want Spanish sovereignty.  In March 2002, practically the entire population of Gibraltar took part in a public demonstration denouncing the principle of sovereignty deals between the United Kingdom and Spain, against the people’s wishes. 


The Government of Gibraltar, he said, had organized a referendum on 7 November, in which the people of the Territory rejected the principle of shared sovereignty between the United Kingdom and Spain.  Spain’s response was to describe the referendum as “illegal”.  The United Kingdom’s response was to describe it as “a premature, local initiative and an eccentric waste of money”.


He stressed that the future political status of Gibraltar could only be the result of the exercise of the people of the Territory of their inalienable right to self-determination.  It could not be the product of a desire by others to settle by compromise Spain’s “anachronistic sovereignty claim”.  Gibraltarians would not “roll over and allow their political rights and aspirations to be trampled on”.  It was vital that no territory be delisted unless it was done following an act of self-determination by its people, namely a referendum.


JIMMY URE OVIA (Papua New Guinea) asked why Gibraltar had declined the invitation to attend the negotiations between the United Kingdom and Spain, known as the “Brussels process”.


Mr. AZOPARDI replied that the invitation extended to Gibraltar was not genuine.  It was an invitation to a bilateral dialogue, in which Gibraltar would have no genuine participation.  It was extended on the basis that the United Kingdom and Spain reserved the right to agree to things over the objections of Gibraltar.  How legitimate was that invitation?  The people of Gibraltar wanted a reasonable and genuine dialogue, in which all three parties relevant to the issue attended on equal footing. 


Mr. OVIA (Papua New Guinea) said that the invitation for the Committee to visit Gibraltar was an issue to which Committee would return in the future.


ORLANDO REQUEIJO GUAL (Cuba) regretted the absence of Gibraltar in Anguilla, which was not due to the fact that it was not invited or because the Seminar only focused on the Caribbean.  There were also delegations from other Territories, not in the Caribbean.  The Seminar was not limited or restricted.  Also, there was no pressure exerted on the drafting group by Spain, as referred to by Mr. Azopardi, in drafting the recommendations of the Seminar.  The drafting group worked with complete freedom, in a transparent manner and without pressure from anyone.


Committee Chairman EARL STEPHEN HUNTLEY (Saint Lucia) asked how much the question of the future of Gibraltar had figured in the 2000 election?  Did the parties campaign on the principles that both sides supported?  Had anyone questioned the legality of the elections in Gibraltar?


Mr. AZOPARDI replied that politics in the Territory tended to be dominated by foreign affairs, and the future of territory was a crucial issue.  The stance on foreign affairs was an important factor in local elections.  While it was an important factor, the electorate saw a degree of unity on certain fundamentals.  Therefore, the issue was less relevant in the last election.  Both the Government and the opposition were united on upholding the right to self-determination and seeing the future free of Spanish interference.  There was no party in Gibraltar that did not affirm the right to self-determination for the people of the Territory.  No one had questioned the legality of the Territory’s elections, held under the laws of its Constitution.


LIBERATA MULAMULA (United Republic of Tanzania) had regretted Gibraltar’s absence from Anguilla.  She wondered whether the people of Gibraltar understood the options available to them?  She appealed to the Gibraltar Government to educate their people on all the options available. 


Mr. AZOPARDI said that it was safe to assume that the people of Gibraltar were well aware of the options available to them under the relevant United Nations resolutions. 


JOSEPH JOHN BOSSANO, Leader of the Opposition in Gibraltar, said the Territory’s decolonization should be negotiated exclusively by Gibraltar and the administering Power.  The Spanish Government did not have the right to participate.  Although he did not necessarily agree with the reasons given by the Government of Gibraltar for boycotting the Brussels negotiations with the British and Spanish Governments, he was pleased that the Territory had not taken part.


He reminded delegates that, when the Committee first considered Gibraltar in 1964, it had affirmed that the declaration on granting independence to colonial countries and peoples applied fully to the Territory.  It also had invited the Spanish and British Governments to hold talks about the issue and, since then, Spain had attempted to turn the talks into a negation of the Committee’s initial conclusion that the people of Gibraltar were like any other colonial subjects.  He emphasized his total commitment to the International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism and his desire to work with the Committee and the administering Power to establish a path towards self-determination.


He noted that the Anguilla Seminar had demonstrated the difficulties of applying the three traditional modes of decolonization to the remaining 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories.  Nevertheless, the fourth mode, established by Resolution 2625 (XXV), provided that the emergence into any other political status freely determined by the people could be taken to signify that the people were implementing self-determination.  Noting that the Spanish Government had declared the fourth mode not applicable to Gibraltar, since the principle of territorial integrity was involved, he said the Spanish position was wrong.


He said that, in Anguilla, the British Government had expressed its support for missions visiting British Overseas Territories.  Spain, however, had dared to say they were against such official visits because they constituted “interference”.  He insisted that it was the Spanish Government that was interfering and invited delegations to come to Gibraltar, where they would see that there was no support for Spanish views in the Territory.  That lack of support had also been demonstrated by the referendum of November 2002, by which the principle of shared Anglo-Spanish sovereignty had been overwhelmingly rejected by the Gibraltarian people.


Mr. OYARZUN (Spain) said he disagreed with some of the viewpoints expressed by Mr. Azopardi and Mr. Bossano.  He added that his responses to their presentations could be found in the text of the statement he had already delivered.


LAMUEL STANISLAUS (Grenada) said both representatives of Gibraltar appeared to be speaking in one voice.  He then said the breakthrough at the recent Caribbean regional seminar, namely the United Kingdom’s decision to allow it to be held in a Non-Self-Governing Territory, was a sign of the Chairman’s diplomatic skills.  In that regard, he wondered why those same skills could not be used to help the United Kingdom, Spain, and Gibraltar reach an agreement.  He also remarked that he was not familiar with the fourth mode of decolonization, as referred to by Mr. Bossano, and requested an explanation.


Mr. BOSSANO responded that, in the annex to resolution 2625 (XXV) from October 1970, in the section dealing with decolonization, it said a colonial people may achieve decolonization by selecting independence, free association, integration with a sovereign State, or a fourth option, namely any other status that was freely expressed by the people.  He noted that, for example, if the European Union gave Gibraltar maximum self-government, without demanding its association with any other State, then that would constitute a possible fourth option.  Although the administering Power had not shared much information about other options, there were, in fact, many.  In other words, rather than discussing a “fourth” option, it was more helpful to explore 16 customized, territory-specific ones.


Chairman HUNTLEY told delegates that, despite recognizing the fourth option, the Committee had tended to promote the first three.


Mr. OVIA (Papua New Guinea) said the Committee had always held regional seminars in the Caribbean and the Pacific.  Nevertheless, he suggested that perhaps holding seminars in other locales, such as Gibraltar, would constitute a positive development.


ERWIN ORTIZ GANDARILLAS (Bolivia) said that, because there was little time left to conclude its work on self-determination in the 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories, the Committee should accelerate and deepen its efforts.  He then asked for several clarifications from the representatives of Gibraltar.  First, he requested more information about the constitutional developments referred to by Mr. Azopardi.  Second, he wished to know more about the current situation in the Territory, with respect to Spain and the United Kingdom.  Finally, referring to citizenship and passports, he requested information about the status of the population.


Mr. AZOPARDI responded that Gibraltar was a Non-Self-Governing Territory, whose people were British citizens and nationals of the European Union.  He added that Gibraltar had chosen to accede to the Union after the United Kingdom had done so.  With respect to the Territory’s constitution, he said the reality on the ground in Gibraltar was not adequately reflected in the actual text, which predated accession to the Union and did not denote the many powers that Gibraltar’s Government had gained over the years.


Turning to relations with the administering Power and Spain, he noted that Gibraltar was fully self-governing in all areas except defence and that relations with the United Kingdom were relatively good, except when it came to certain areas in foreign affairs.  Having had its own constitution and legislature for many years, the Territory had a unique identity, and he said he wanted the committee to protect that.  Turning to Spain, he said he coveted a better relationship.  First, however, there had to be mutual respect and trust, and the Spanish Government needed to show more understanding, be more flexible, and recognize Gibraltar’s right to self-determination as being irreversible and a legal fact.


Mr. BOSSANO added that Gibraltar’s constitution was completely outdated and gave theoretical powers to the Gibraltarian Government that had never been exercised.  In 1995, the administering Power had stated that it believed in a partnership of equals with its colonies.  While he appreciated those words, he said colonialism was still alive and that it was still important for the colonies to remain vigilant and not let the Powers get away with things, as they had in the past.


Referring to Spain, he said many Gibraltarians had friends and relatives there and that the many links between the people of Spain and Gibraltar needed to be addressed.  Turning to citizenship, he informed the Committee that Gibraltarians were now British Overseas Citizens.  Nevertheless, he had held on to his British Colonial Passport because he considered himself a colonial subject.  Concluding his remarks, he said Gibraltar viewed the Committee as a friend, ally, and defender of Gibraltarian rights, and he invited everyone present to visit the Territory.


MCKEEVA BUSH, Leader of Government Business of the Cayman Islands, wanted to tell the Committee how poorly the United Kingdom was treating the Cayman Islands.  The people of the Cayman Islands did not want independence, he stressed, yet it was being more colonialized today than ever before.  The colonial relationship with the United Kingdom dated back to the seventeenth century.  His Government had a mandate to safeguard the best interests of its people.  After extensive consultations with the people of the Cayman Islands, its Government had requested that the United Kingdom amend the constitution of the Cayman Islands to allow for greater self-governance.  In assessing its options, it was mindful of several factors, including the domestic human, economic and natural resources of the Islands.


The progressive development of free political institutions, he said, required the administering Power to facilitate and not frustrate.  Administering Powers, such as the United Kingdom, that frustrate the aspirations of colonial people for greater self-governance were not acting in the best interests of the people of the Territories.  Administering Powers had the duty to promote the economic interests of the Non-Self-Governing Territories.  Today, the Cayman Islands was being threatened by abusive measures by the United Kingdom that would potentially undo the economic advancement achieved, all for the sake of strengthening the European Union’s internal market.


Turning to the legal system of the Cayman Islands, he noted that the current constitution dated back to 1972, and major changes had taken place in the last 30 years.  The constitutional changes now contemplated would implement a system that enabled responsible governance, as ministers became subject to greater accountability.  Referenda should be reserved for serious national issues, and should not be applied to constitutional modernization.  The United Kingdom had sent his Government a draft constitution.  What concerned him was that discussions on that had been held without full disclosure of all options on constitutional modernization available to Non-Self-Governing Territories. 


The Cayman Islands, he stated, should be afforded a modernized constitution that addressed its needs.  The United Kingdom must go back to the “drawing board” and return with a draft that ensured greater self-governance for the Cayman Islands.  The Cayman Islands had the inalienable right to be economically stable and to be independent of interference by the United Kingdom’s Treasury. 


Mr. GUAL (Cuba) highlighted the importance of the visit of the Committee Chairman to the Cayman Islands last month.  He encouraged the authorities of the Cayman Islands to continue working with the Committee, and encouraged the representative of the Cayman Islands to attend the meetings of the Fourth Committee during the fifty-eighth session of the Assembly.


ADRIAN PISA (United Kingdom), speaking as an observer, said that many of the issues raised had already been addressed by the United Kingdom during the Anguilla Seminar.  The United Kingdom was currently engaged in a constitutional review process for all its overseas territories.  A representative of his Government would be meeting on 11 June with the authorities of the Cayman Islands.


Mr. OVIA (Papua New Guinea) said he was optimistic that, despite differences, an amicable agreement would be reached on greater self-governance for the Cayman Islands.


Mr. ORTIZ GANDARILLAS (Bolivia) asked whether the level of education and awareness of the people in the Cayman Islands was sufficient for them to be able to take a decision on self-determination.  Self-determination did not necessarily mean independence or just one option, he noted.


Mr. BUSH, Leader of Government Business of the Cayman Islands, said that an educational process was needed to sensitize his people regarding self-determination, and he would welcome assistance in that regard.  Talks in London were going on, and pressure was being put on the various British overseas territories in the Caribbean to accept what the United Kingdom wanted them to accept.


Ms. MULAMULA (United Republic of Tanzania) asked about the possibility of having a visiting mission to the Cayman Islands or a regional seminar being held there.


The representative of the United Kingdom indicated that it would be possible to hold a seminar in the Cayman Islands.


Mr. OVIA (Papua New Guinea) said he hoped that everything would be on the table for discussion when the United Kingdom representative visited the Cayman Islands on 11 June.


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