16/06/2004
Press Release
GA/COL/3103



Special Committee on                                       

 Decolonization                                            

7th Meeting (AM)


decolonization committee adopts resolutions welcoming progress


towards self-determination in tokelau, new caledonia


Also Hears Petitions from Cayman Islands


Noting Tokelau’s wider significance for the completion of the United Nations decolonization work, and describing it as a “case study” of successful cooperation for decolonization, the Special Committee on Decolonization welcomed substantial progress in the past year towards the devolution of power to Tokelau’s three village councils, by the terms of one of two draft resolutions adopted this morning.


Adopting the text on one of the smallest of the 16 remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories, the Special Committee welcomed, in particular, the delegation of the Administrator’s powers to the three village councils –- or “taupulega” -- with effect from 1 July 2004 and the assumption of each council from that date of full responsibility for the management of all its public services.


Recalling the signing in November 2003 by New Zealand and Tokelau of a Principles of Partnership joint statement, setting out for the first time in writing the rights and obligations of the two partner countries, the Special Committee noted that Tokelau remained firmly committed to the development of self-government and to an act of self-determination.


By the terms of the text, adopted without a vote and as orally amended, the Special Committee noted in particular the decision of Tokelau’s national representative body –- the General Fono -- in November 2003 to formally explore with New Zealand the option of self-government with free association, and the discussions currently under way in that regard.  It also noted the General Fono’s endorsement of a series of recommendations regarding its role, Tokelau’s Constitution, the judicial system and international human rights conventions.


Acknowledging Tokelau’s need for continued reassurance, the Special Committee, by other provisions of the text, also welcomed the establishment of an international trust fund to support Tokelau’s future development needs and urged all Member States and international and regional agencies to contribute to it.


The Administrator of Tokelau, Neil Walter of New Zealand, noting that Tokelau, a community of 1,500, had made amazing progress over the years, said the past 12 months had seen important milestones along Tokelau’s path to self-determination.  A new political structure based on the pre-eminence of the three village councils and reaffirming the traditional authority of the village councils, would soon take effect.  Public services were being strengthened and restructured.  Success in those key areas was critical for Tokelau’s continued viability as a community and a prerequisite to its further political evolution.


Also addressing the Special Committee, Faipule Patuki Isaako, Ulu o Tokelau, agreed that great progress had been made in 2003 towards reaching full self-government.  To ensure that Tokelau, New Zealand and the Special Committee would be ready to “cast the lure for the great fish”, the next period would be one of consolidation, including the strengthening of public services, the taupulega and the General Fono.  Work on the constitution would also be completed, and in that regard, he invited the Special Committee Chairman to attend the workshop of the Special Constitutional Committee to be held in late October 2004.


In other action this morning, the Committee adopted a draft resolution on the question of New Caledonia, by the terms of which it noted positive measures by the French authorities to promote New Caledonia’s political and socio-economic development and welcomed significant developments in that Territory.


By the terms of the text, also adopted without a vote, the Committee urged all parties involved to maintain dialogue “in a spirit of harmony” in the framework of the Noumea Accord, signed on 5 May 1998 by representatives of New Caledonia and the Government of France, the administering Power.  It also noted relevant provisions of that Accord aimed at taking more broadly into account the Kanak identity in the Territory’s political and social organization.


Also according to the text, the Special Committee invited all parties to promote a framework for the peaceful progress of the Territory towards an act of self-determination in which all options are open and which would safeguard the rights of all New Caledonians, especially the Kanak people, according to the letter and spirit of the Noumea Accord, which is based on the principle that it is for the people of New Caledonia to choose how to control their destiny.


The representative of Papua New Guinea, also on behalf of Fiji, introduced both draft resolutions.


Also this morning the Special Committee took up the question of the Cayman Islands, hearing a statement by the Co-Chairperson of the Cayman Islands Non-Governmental Organizations and Citizens Groups Constitutional Working Group.


At the beginning of today’s meeting, the Special Committee agreed to hear requests for hearings on the questions of the Cayman Islands, Guam and the Falkland Islands (Malvinas).


Participating in the discussion this morning were the representatives of Syria, Bolivia, Congo, Chile and Cuba.


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


The Special 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, will meet again at 10 a.m. Thursday, 17 June, to continue its work.


Background


The Special Committee on Decolonization met today to take up the questions of New Caledonia and small island territories, including Tokelau, Guam and the Cayman Islands.


New Caledonia


The working paper on the question of New Caledonia (document A/AC.109/2004/11) notes that New Caledonia’s political and administrative structures have been fundamentally altered by the Noumea Accord, signed in May 1998 by France, the administering Power, the pro-independence Front de libération nationale kanak socialiste (FLNKS) and the integrationist Rassemblement pour la Calédonie dans la République (RPCR).  Under the terms of the Accord, the New Caledonian parties opted for a negotiated solution and progressive autonomy from France rather than an immediate referendum on political status.  The transfer of powers from France began in 2000 and is to end in 15 to 20 years, at which time the Territory will opt for either full independence or a form of associated statehood.


Following the ratification of the Noumea Accord by the people of the Territory and the codification of its provisions into French law, New Caledonia is no longer considered an Overseas Territory.  Instead, the French Government describes it as a “community sui generis”, which has institutions designed for it alone to which certain non-revocable powers of State will gradually be transferred.  According to the administering Power, the institutions created under the Noumea Accord continued to function properly throughout 2003, and the pro-independence parties and the pro-integration parties continued to be committed to the Accord’s implementation.


Before the Special Committee was a draft resolution on the question of New Caledonia (document A/AC.109/2004/L.9), by the terms of which it would welcome the significant developments that have taken place in New Caledonia as exemplified by the signing of the Noumea Accord of 5 May 1998 between the representatives of New Caledonia and the Government of France.  Urging all the parties involved to maintain dialogue in a spirit of harmony, it would note the relevant provisions of the Accord aimed at taking more broadly into account the Kanak identity in the political and social organization of New Caledonia, and the provisions of the Accord relating to control of immigration and protection of local employment.


The Special Committee would also note the relevant provisions of the Noumea Accord to the effect that New Caledonia may become a member or associate member of certain international organizations, such as international organizations in the Pacific region, the United Nations, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the International Labour Organization (ILO).  It would further note the agreement between the signatories of the Noumea Accord that the progress in the emancipation process shall be brought to the United Nations’ attention.


By further terms of the draft, the Special Committee would welcome the fact that the administering Power invited to New Caledonia, at the time the new institutions were established, an information mission which was comprised of representatives of the Pacific region.  Calling upon the administering Power to transmit information regarding the Territory’s political and socio-economic situation to the Secretary-General, it would invite all parties to promote a framework for the peaceful progress of the Territory towards an act of self-determination in which all options are open and which would safeguard the rights of all New Caledonians, especially the indigenous Kanak people, according to the letter and spirit of the Noumea Accord, which is based on the principle that it is for the populations of New Caledonia to choose how to control their destiny.


By further terms, the Special Committee would welcome measures to strengthen and diversify the New Caledonian economy in all fields and encourage further such measures in accordance with the spirit of the Matignon and Noumea Accords.  It would also welcome the importance attached by the parties to greater progress in housing, employment, training, education and health care.  The Special Committee would also note the positive initiatives aimed at protecting the natural environment of New Caledonia, notably the “Zoneco” operation designed to map and evaluate marine resources within New Caledonia’s economic zone.


Also according to the draft, the Special Committee would welcome New Caledonia’s accession to the status of observer in the Pacific Islands Forum, continuing high-level visits to New Caledonia by delegations of Pacific region countries and high-level visits by delegations from New Caledonia to member countries of the Pacific Islands Forum.


Tokelau


Also before the Special Committee was the working paper on the question of Tokelau (document A/AC.109/2004/8).  A Non-Self-Governing Territory administered by New Zealand, the Territory consists of three small atolls in the South Pacific.  In August 2002, a mission of the Special Committee visited Tokelau and New Zealand at the invitation of New Zealand’s Government and the people of Tokelau.  It was the first mission of that kind since 1994.


According to the paper, the current process of constitutional development stems from the 1998 decision by the General Fono –- the national representative body –- to endorse a comprehensive report entitled “Modern House of Tokelau”, which addressed the core issue for Tokelau in creating a constitutional framework, namely, how to construct a self-governing nation based on the atoll or village structure.


The status of Tokelau’s government institutions and its constitutional and legal development were discussed during the Special Committee’s mission to Tokelau and New Zealand in 2002.  The first discussions on a new relationship framework were held in Wellington in December 2002.  Following further consultations, a Principles of Partnership statement was agreed upon by the June 2003 General Fono, and subsequently approved by New Zealand’s Government.  A formal signing ceremony was held in Tokelau in November 2003.  The document addresses the management of the partnership, self-determination for Tokelau, Tokelau’s language and culture, New Zealand citizenship, shared values, economic and administrative assistance, coordination of services to Tokelau, defence and security, foreign affairs and the Tokelau community in New Zealand.


In November 2003, the General Fono formally decided to “endorse self-government in free association with New Zealand” as the choice now to be actively explored with the New Zealand Government, the paper states.  Agreement was reached at the January 2004 General Fono on the steps to be taken to give effect to that decision.


The Committee had before it a draft resolution on the question of Tokelau (document A/AC.109/2004/L.10), by which it would welcome substantial progress made in the past year towards the devolution of power to the three taupulega (village councils), in particular the delegation of the Administrator’s power to the three taupulega with effect from 1 July 2004, and the assumption by each taupulega from that date of full responsibility for the management of all its public services.


By further terms of the text, the Special Committee would note, in particular, the decision of the General Fono in November 2003, following extensive consultations in all three villages and a meeting of Tokelau’s constitutional committee, to formally explore with New Zealand the option of self-government in free association.  It would also note that the General Fono has endorsed a series of recommendations of the special constitutional workshop held in Tokelau in October 2003, with the support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), relating to Tokelau’s Constitution, the role and functioning of the General Fono, the judicial system and international human rights conventions.


Acknowledging Tokelau’s initiative in devising a strategic economic development plan for the period 2002-2004 to advance its capacity for self-government, the Special Committee would also acknowledge the continuing assistance that New Zealand has committed to promoting Tokelau’s self-government, as well as the cooperation of the UNDP.  It would further acknowledge Tokelau’s need for continued reassurance, given the cultural adjustments that are taking place with the strengthening of its capacity for self-government, and -- since local resources cannot adequately cover the material side of self-determination -- the ongoing responsibility of Tokelau’s external partners to assist Tokelau in balancing its desire to be self-reliant to the greatest extent possible with its needs for external assistance.


By further terms of the draft, the Special Committee would welcome the establishment of an international trust fund to support Tokelau’s future development needs, and urge all Member States and international and regional agencies to contribute to the Fund, thereby lending practical support to assist the emerging country in overcoming the problems of smallness, isolation and lack of resources.


It would welcome assurances by the New Zealand Government that it will meet its obligations to the United Nations with respect to Tokelau and abide by the freely expressed wishes of the people of Tokelau regarding their future status.  In the context of its ongoing constitutional evolution, the Administering Powers and United Nations agencies would be called upon to continue to provide assistance to Tokelau as it further developed its economy and governance structures.


Guam


The working paper on Guam (document A/AC.109/2004/5) notes that the Pacific island was administered by the United States Department of the Navy until 1950, when the United States Congress enacted the Guam Organic Act, which established institutions of local government and made Guam an organized Territory.  Since then the Territory has been administered by the Department of the Interior.  As an unincorporated Territory, in United States law Guam is a “possession of the United States but not a part of the United States”.


In 2002, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service decided to designate some 25,000 acres of Guam -– or about 19 per cent of the island -– as a critical habitat for the island’s endangered bird and bat species.  While the land did not change ownership, all federally funded projects on the land have to be reviewed to ensure they do not affect the species’ native habitat.  In October 2003, the Government of Guam was given more time to present an alternative solution.  The Service will decide by June 2004 on whether to accept the alternative in part or in whole.


Regarding the Territory’s future status, the working paper notes that the issue of the island’s political status has not been addressed since the new Governor took office in January 2003.  However, in a letter addressed to the United Nations Department of Political Affairs, the Governor informed the Organization that Guam will be holding a plebiscite on 2 November 2004 to determine its future political status.


Cayman Islands


The working paper on the Cayman Islands (document A/AC.109/2004/15) explains that the Territory’s Constitution of 1959 was revised in 1972, 1992 and 1994.  In March 1999, the United Kingdom issued a White Paper entitled “Partnership for Progress and Prosperity:  Britain and the Overseas Territories”.  The legislation proposed the extension of British citizenship to the citizens of the Territories, while at the same time requiring the Territories to conduct a constitutional review and to amend their local legislation, particularly on human rights and on the regulation of financial services, to meet international standards.


According to the paper, the Constitutional Review Commission submitted the report of the constitutional modernization review commissioners in May 2002, together with a draft constitution, which intended to bring into effect a new or amended constitution prior to the 2004 general election.


Addressing the Territory’s future political status, the working paper notes that issues of contention between the Territory and the United Kingdom relate to some of the provisions in the constitution, the degrees of self-government and control over local affairs by elected officials, the role of the Governor, the impact of compliance by the Territory with the United Kingdom’s international obligations, and Territory’s participation in international affairs that affect its interests.


New Caledonia


JIMMY URE OVIA (Papua New Guinea) introduced the draft resolution on New Caledonia on behalf of Fiji and his own delegation.  The draft was similar to that of last year with a few updates.  The Governments of France and New Caledonia did not have major difficulties with the resolution.  Following territorial elections in New Caledonia there had been some changes to the composition of the Government.  Given time constraints, he suggested that resulting changes to the text be reflected in the draft to be adopted by the Fourth Committee later in the year.  New Caledonia continued to be an observer at the Pacific Island Forum, which every year sent a visiting mission to the Territory to witness economic, social, political and constitutional changes in the Territory.  Developments were going on as agreed by the Noumea Accord.  There was a need, however, for balanced economic and social development in the Territory’s three territories, he added.


Acting without a vote, the Committee then adopted the draft resolution.


Tokelau


The Ulu o Tokelau, FAIPULE PATUKI ISAAKO, said 2003 had been a momentous year for Tokelau, which included the formal signing of the Principles of Partnership.  Full budget responsibility had been transferred to Tokelau, with a draft agreement setting out economic support with a guaranteed annual 4 per cent increase for the next three years almost completed.  Many important pieces of legislation had also been approved.  The unanimous resolution of the General Fono to investigate the development of a status of free association with New Zealand pointed the way forward to an early and positive engagement with the Government of New Zealand on key matters of Tokelau self-government.  Tokelau had also been chosen as a case study for the Madang seminar.


He presented two key documents, one on constitutional consultations in May-July 2003 and the other on the constitution and law-making sessions of the General Fono in November 2003, saying they were evidence of Tokelau’s constitutional and political evolution towards full internal self-government, leading to an act of self-determination.  Legal changes to implement the transfer of the delivery of certain public services by the councils had been enacted.  By 1 July 2004, the councils would be responsible for public services on the atolls.  All three villages had celebrated the return of the “pule” –- or authority -– in their own way.  The General Fono had also passed resolutions related to important elements of the Tokelau Public Service Manual and Code of Conduct including appointments and appeals provisions.  Other constitutional and political development resolutions included taupulega remuneration and allowances and the national symbol, the traditional fishing box.


Asking whether Tokelau, New Zealand and the Special Committee were ready to “cast the lure for the great fish”, he said the next period would be one of consolidation, including the strengthening of public services, the taupulega and the General Fono.  In the next period, the constitution would be completed.  In that regard, he invited the Special Committee Chairman to attend the workshop of the Special Constitutional Committee to be held in late October 2004.  The details of the Principles of Partnership would also be significantly advanced leading to a possible free-association treaty between Tokelau and New Zealand.


Regarding Tokelau’s economic situation, he noted that a trust fund had been established, with the current level of some 6.4 million New Zealand dollars.  He called on the Special Committee and the United Nations family to promote the Tokelau trust fund or make contributions to it.  He thanked the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Tokelau’s second major donor, for the sensitive, flexible and creative ways in which it managed financial assistance for the people of Tokelau.  He also thanked the Government of New Zealand for its ongoing support, both materially and morally.  It was not Tokelau’s intention to cast New Zealand under the dark shadow of a so-called colonial Power.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Great progress had been made towards reaching full self-government.


FAYSSAL MEKDAD (Syria) said the presence of the Tokelau representative reconfirmed the seriousness with which the people of Tokelau regarded their situation and the seriousness with which the Committee was considering the issue.  The Tokelau representative had outlined for the Committee the aspirations of the people of Tokelau.  The Committee had always welcomed the full participation of the people of Tokelau and the work done by the Government of New Zealand to support the aspirations of those people.


He said Tokelau had sustained its movement towards self-determination and the international community was determined to help the people of Tokelau march towards completing the self-determination process.  The Committee recognized Tokelau’s need for financial support to achieve that end and was committed to supporting the people of Tokelau in that respect.


ERWIN ORTIZ GANDARILLAS (Bolivia) said that following his visit to the Territory some two years ago, he had a special feeling about Tokelau.  From the time of the Special Committee’s visit, Tokelau was no longer just a point in the ocean.  It had taken on very special meeting.  He had seen the aspirations of the people of Tokelau, as well as the cooperation of New Zealand’s Government.  He was pleased with the Ulu’s presence in the meeting.  He was also pleased to see that Tokelau’s delegation had been accompanied by New Zealand’s ambassador.  They were an extraordinary team and were providing an example for all the Territories before the Committee.


He said he was also happy that progress was being made towards the time that the people of Tokelau could adopt a decision on its right to self-determination.  Whether they were ready to “catch the big fish” was for the people of Tokelau and the New Zealand Government to determine.  The Special Committee would help in the process of self-determination.  He hoped Tokelau would, in the near future, be able to exercise that right.


The representative of the Congo said the ongoing activities in Tokelau were reassuring.  He praised the both the people of Tokelau and the administering authority.  The voice of the people of Tokelau with respect to self-determination was on the rise.  The Committee was engaged and ready for the accomplishments of Tokelau with respect to self-determination.  His delegation wished the people of Tokelau great success on its path to self-determination and pledged its full support to them.


CLAUDIO ROJAS (Chile) also congratulated Tokelau for its report to the Committee.  It was interesting to note that the series of events mentioned in the report were part of efforts to give support to the process.  Tokelau’s interest in participating in the Pacific Island Forum was also encouraging, as it gave it a regional dimension to Tokelau’s initiative.


ORLANDO REQUEIJO GUAL (Cuba) also expressed great satisfaction at the way in which the process had taken place and the way in which the Special Committee and the United Nations had worked.  The decolonization process had advanced, receiving not only the participation of the people of the Territory, but also the administering Power.  He was pleased that the process was going ahead.  The timetable of work was clear and he hoped the process would soon be concluded.


NEIL WALTER (New Zealand), Administrator of Tokelau, said New Zealand had always seen it as its responsibility to encourage and support territories along the path to greater political self-reliance and had always taken the view that it was for the people of the territories themselves to determine the direction and pace of their political evolution.


He noted that Tokelau had over the past three decades put in place its own legislative body, Executive Council and judicial system, adding that work was now well advanced on a constitution.  Other achievements included Tokelau’s management of its own budget and public services and the full role it played in regional affairs.  All of these were significant advances for a community of only 1,500 people.


He said the past 12 months had seen important milestones along Tokelau’s path to self-determination.  A new political structure, based on the pre-eminence of the three village councils and reaffirming the traditional authority of the village councils, would soon take effect.  Public services were being strengthened and restructured.  In November 2003, Tokelau and New Zealand had signed a document that set out in writing, for the first time, the rights and obligations of both partner countries.  Work would continue in the areas of shipping, health and education services, telecommunications, and economic development.  Success in those key areas was critical for Tokelau’s continued viability as a community and a prerequisite to its further political evolution.


Special Committee Chairman, ROBERT GUBA AISI (Papua New Guinea), said it was important to state that many in the Committee looked to the process in Tokelau with great interest as it proceeded towards its logical end.  He acknowledged the efforts of the Administrator and the New Zealand Government.  He thanked the Ulu for the invitation to attend the Special Constitutional Committee, noting that he would refer the matter to the Secretariat.


Introducing the draft resolution on behalf of his delegation and Fiji, Mr. OVIA (Papua New Guinea) said the text included some amendments reflecting developments in the Territory in the last 12 months.  The draft had been the result of wide consultations between the Government of New Zealand and the people of Tokelau.  Both agreed on the draft, reflecting positive changes that had taken place.  The working paper also provided an update on developments in Tokelau.  The Committee was heartened to witness that Tokelau was a positive story, both for the Committee, the United Nations as a whole, its administering Power and the people of Tokelau.


He was optimistic that the people of Tokelau, in the months ahead, would take their full and final decision reflecting the aspirations of the people of Tokelau.  He was pleased to note the timetable of activities to be carried out in the months ahead.  New Zealand’s cooperative approach must be commended.  He hoped the other administering Powers would do the same.  On the regional front, the eminent persons group chaired by his country had made positive recommendations, which he hoped would be endorsed by the Pacific Islands Forum this year.


Making an oral amendment to the text, he suggested that the draft resolution include an operative paragraph 12 bis, which would note the invitation by the Ulu o Tokelau for the Chairman of the Special Committee to attend the Special Constitutional Committee in Tokelau in 2004.


The Special Committee then adopted the draft resolution, as orally revised, acting without a vote.


Cayman Islands


Pastor AL EBANKS (representing the non-governmental organization and Citizens Groups Constitutional Working Group of the Cayman Islands said that preserving the socio-economic position of the Cayman Islands was of paramount importance, being that it enjoyed one of the highest standards of living in the hemisphere.  Its Constitutional Working Group -- which included non-governmental organizations and citizens groups -- was fully committed to the mission of informing the people of the Cayman Islands about their fundamental human right of self-determination and of raising awareness of the building blocks of democracy.


He noted that the United Kingdom had continued to flex its muscles of parliamentary sovereignty, with threats of exercising its “nuclear option” of imposing legislation by Order in Council.  The United Kingdom’s role in the debacle of the Euro Bank trial and the alleged questionable conduct of the former Attorney-General had sent fears throughout the Cayman Islands as to the United Kingdom’s intentions regarding the economic welfare of the Islands.  He added that the Working Group was also greatly concerned about recent moves by the United Kingdom to maintain its colonial power structure through its insistence that the Governor retain the power to wiretap telephone lines without consent of the judiciary.  That development highlighted the need to revisit the process of self-determination and constitutional change in order to protect the reputation of the Cayman Islands.


He said the recent suspension of the constitutional talks provided the Committee with the perfect opportunity to assist the Working Group in educating the people of the Cayman Islands on all options for self-determination.  He stressed the importance of a constitutional referendum in any democratic modernization process and the need for a comprehensive public education campaign to fully inform the people of Overseas Territories of their inalienable right to self-determination.  He urged the Committee’s active participation in moving forward the constitutional status of the Cayman Islands, in keeping with the Committee’s stated objective of eradicating colonialism by 2010.  The people of the Cayman Islands were unshakable in their commitment to developing a democratic constitution, while exercising their fundamental human right to self-determination.


Mr. REQUEIJO GUAL (Cuba) said he had noted several points in the Cayman Island’s statement, including serious complaints of manipulation and flagrant violations of fundamental freedoms by the administering Power.  He wished to hear the opinion of the administering Power on those very serious accusations.  He also asked the petitioner to provide more information on the dissatisfaction in the Territory on the speed of constitutional review as compared to other Territories.  Regarding the Committee’s lack of response in sending a visiting mission to the Cayman Islands, he said he was unaware of an invitation from the local government of the Cayman Islands to the Committee.  He believed that the administering Power was not opposed to the visit.


Concerning the September meeting in the Cayman Islands, he said the Committee had not received an official invitation to that meeting.  It was the first time that it had heard of the meeting, which he believed would be an important event.  He also asked the petitioner to comment further on errors in the working paper.  Such criticisms and analyses would be useful for improving the Committees’ work.  The Cayman Islands should not be concerned that it would be removed from the list until due process ensured that total and full self-determination had been achieved.  The Cayman Island’s concerns would be taken into account in that regard.


Responding to concerns expressed by the representative of Cuba, Mr. EBANKS said the constitutional review process in the Cayman Islands had taken place in the absence of the knowledge of the various options regarding self-determination as described by various United Nations resolutions.  For the people to enact a new constitution at this stage, without understanding all the options available to them would place them at a serious disadvantage.  The Working Group was, therefore, calling for a public education drive to better inform the people about their options.


Regarding concerns that the Committee had not yet received an invitation from the local government of the Cayman Islands for a visiting mission, he said the Working Group had written its own government urging such an invitation, but had not yet received a response.  He further clarified that the conference planned for September had not been publicized prior to today’s meeting.


Regarding the errors and omissions in the Committee’s working paper, he said he would forward a point-by point response on this matter.


Turning to the Working Group’s concerns about the possible removal of the Cayman Islands from the Committee’s list of remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories, he said he looked forward to his people’s active engagement in discussions regarding the future status of the Cayman Islands as an exercise of their right to self-determination.


Mr. ORTIZ GANDARILLAS (Bolivia) thanked the petitioner for the information he had provided, as well as for his clarifications.  To what degree were the people of the Cayman Islands informed about the three options, namely independence, integration and free association? he asked.


Responding to questions raised by Bolivia, Mr. EBANKS said the Working Group had been heartened to hear that there were three, possibly four, options available to the Cayman Islands.  However, less than six months later, a press release issued by the head of the foreign commonwealth office suggested the third and fourth options were not really available.  It said the United Kingdom did not vote for United Nations resolution 1541 and was, therefore, not bound by it.  The Working Group was disturbed that the United Kingdom seemed to be saying that only two options were available to the Cayman Islands:  either maintain the status quo, or become independent.  That was a violation of the rights of the people of the Cayman Islands.  The level of confusion existing in the Cayman Islands made it difficult to proceed towards realizing its right to self-determination.


* *** *