20 June 2012
General Assembly
GA/COL/3242

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Special Committee on Decolonization

9th Meeting (AM)


Special Decolonization Committee Approves Consensus Omnibus Draft Resolution


on Non-Self-Governing Territories

 


Hears Petitioners from Anguilla, Turks and Caicos, Guam


The 24-member Committee that monitors implementation of the 1960 Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples in 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories approved by consensus today an omnibus draft resolution on the questions of American Samoa, Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands,  Cayman Islands, Guam, Montserrat, Pitcairn, Saint Helena, Turks and Caicos Islands and United States Virgin Islands.


By the terms of the draft text, the Special Committee on Decolonization would urge Member States to contribute to the efforts of the United Nations to usher in a world free of colonialism within the context of the International Decades for the Eradication of Colonialism.  It would have the Assembly call upon the administering Power to assist the territorial Government of Anguilla in strengthening its commitments in the economic domain, call upon the administering Power of Guam to continue to recognize and to respect the political rights and the cultural and ethnic identity of the Chamoru people of Guam and call for the restoration of constitutional arrangements providing for representative democracy in Turks and Caicos through an elected territorial Government as soon as possible.


The Committee also heard from petitioners on the state of the Non-Self-Governing-Territories and was told that the international community should provide oversight of the activities of administering Powers, to ensure that they did not place their own interests above those of the inhabitants of the territories.


Josephine Gumbs-Connor, the petitioner on Anguilla, said that there was a litany of examples of actions by representatives of the administering Power, which Anguillans felt were contrary to their interests and which were contrary to statements of the standards which the administering Power said it embraced.  Those included allowing the national debt to rise in excess of $200 million in Eastern Caribbean currency and the budgetary deficit to exceed $70 million as of 2009.  It had also allowed inflation in the number of members of the civil service, but now insisted that 30 per cent of the civil servants be relieved of their positions.


Ms. Gumbs-Connor insisted that unless there was a watchful eye over the affairs of the colonized, the administering Power would seek to give primacy to its own interests, instead of those of the colonized territory.  Oversight of the actions of the administering Power would make the people free to give the fullest expression to the autonomy which they sought.


Speaking in a similar vein, Alpha Gibbs, the petitioner on Turks and Caicos Islands, said that the United Nations should provide some oversight of the activities of the interim Administration in that territory and should hold the United Kingdom accountable for its obligations, as that country was failing to discharge them.


He said that alleged wrongdoers of local origin were, in some instances, dealt with according to the letter of the law, but favoured expatriate perpetrators of United Kingdom origin tended to be given preferred treatment.  The former United Kingdom-appointed governor, who presided over the Cabinet during an era of high corruption, had not been sought for questioning or charged with any crime, and neither had the United Kingdom-appointed attorney general, he stated.


The administering Power had also removed all the parliamentarians in the Turks and Caicos from office on 14 August 2009, even though no such action had been taken in the United Kingdom in matters of malfeasance by British parliamentarians, he stated.  That extreme action was evidence of the failure of the administering Power in the discharge of its obligations, he added, warning that without oversight, a United Kingdom-appointed governor would ignore the best interests of the people of the territory; their human rights would be violated, and they would be marginalized in the land of their birth.


On the subject of who constituted the appropriate electorate for a self-determination plebiscite in Guam, Julian Aguon, representative of the Guam Coalition for Peace and Justice, emphasized that only those persons and their descendants living on the island on the date of onset of colonization could be considered victims of colonization.  The United States, as Guam’s administering Power, could not exploit its control over Guam’s immigration to flood the island with its own non-colonized expatriates and then claim that every person residing in Guam was entitled to vote in a decolonization plebiscite.


The Special Committee will meet again at 10 a.m., Thursday, 21 June, to continue its session.


Background


The Special Committee on Decolonization met today to take up the questions of American Samoa, Anguilla, Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Guam, Montserrat, Pitcairn, Saint Helena, Turks and Caicos Islands and United States Virgin Islands.  In that context, it was expected to take action on a draft resolution relating to those questions (documents A/AC.109/2012/L.8), and hear petitioners on the questions of Anguilla, Guam, and Turks and Caicos Islands.


For its debate, the Special Committee had before it 11 related working papers, which provided both background information and updates on the latest constitutional, legal and political developments, as well as economic and social conditions in the Non-Self-Governing Territories (documents A/AC.109/2012/2-11,  and 13).


Petitioner on Anguilla


JOSEPHINE GUMBS-CONNOR, Anguilla Professional Complex, said that Anguilla was the last remaining territory of the United Kingdom to engage in its constitutional advancement process.  A Constitutional and Electoral Reform Committee consisting of a cross section of society, including the opposition, was established by the current Administration with a view to settling policy positions held by the Anguillan people.  Those settled positions were then to be used as a basis for proceeding with the commissioning of a draft of Anguilla’s constitution.  Based on the expressions of the people, it was becoming a stark reality that they would be considering a comprehensive overhaul of the principles in the constitution, in particular, a serious reduction in the powers of the governor. The administering Power had, however, indicated that it perceived the current constitution as “being fit for purpose” and, therefore, would not be amenable to any other arrangements that sought to reduce its powers.  As a result, the people of Anguilla saw themselves as being on a direct collision course with the administering Power.


There was a litany of examples of actions by the representatives of the administering Power which Anguillans felt were contrary to their interests and contrary to the statements of the standards which the administering Power said it embraced, she continued.  Under the watch of the administering Power, the country of 15,000 persons had a debt in excess of $200 million in Eastern Caribbean currency and a budget deficit in excess of $70 million as at 2009.  The administering Power allowed inflation in the number of members of the civil service, but, under the current Administration, was insisting that 30 per cent of those civil servants should be relieved of their posts and saying that it would not approve the budget because Anguilla had not implemented that initiative.


The request of the people of Anguilla was, therefore, for the Special Committee to establish a more direct link with the territory, so that the spirit of decolonization expressed in the Declaration on decolonization would pervade into, and impact on, the actions of the administering Power, she said.  Unless there was a watchful eye over the affairs of the colonized, the administering Power would seek to act and give primacy to its own interests, as opposed to those of the colonized territory.  A constitution that was by the people from the people was a first step.  It was important that there be oversight of the actions of the administering Power so that the people would be free to give respect to the fullest expressions of the autonomy which they sought.


Petitioner on Guam


JULIAN AGUON, Guam Coalition for Peace and Justice, stated that he belonged to the indigenous group of Chamoru of Guam and was an international law scholar schooled in the subject of self-determination, and wished to comment on the “pressing and misrepresented” issue of “who constitutes the appropriate electorate in any self-determination plebiscite now or in the future held in Guam”.


Some had sought to racialize and so prejudge the issue, he stated, by phrasing the question as:  ”Is it impermissibly racist or otherwise illegal to limit the electorate to ‘native inhabitants’ as that term is presently envisioned in Guam law, i.e., those persons who became United States citizens by virtue of the authority and enactment of the 1950 Organic Act of Guam and descendants of those persons?”  The correct approach required the understanding that, for purposes of self-determination, “native inhabitant” was a history-based, not race-based, designation.  International law was not concerned with blood and ancestry, but with providing a people with a remedy for the historic wrong of having been denied by others the right to exist on their own terms.


The legally significant question, he added, was:  Who had been harmed by colonization, so as to be entitled to the prescribed cure of decolonization?

Thus, only those persons and their descendants living on the island on the date of onset of colonization might be considered victims of colonization.  The assertion that the United States Constitution required a colour-blind compilation of the electorate was ignoring the fact that the anticipated self-determination act fell under the aegis of international law, not United States domestic law.  Further, the United States, as Guam’s administering Power, could not first exploit its control over Guam’s immigration to flood the island with its own non-colonized expatriates, or even third-party settlers, and then claim that every person residing in Guam was entitled to vote in a decolonization plebiscite.  In conclusion, he recommended that Guam remain on the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories until its people had the opportunity to exercise their inalienable human right to political self-determination.


Petitioner on Turks and Caicos Islands


ALPHA GIBBS, Turks and Caicos Forum, said that the administration of justice in the pursuit of correcting wrongs against the people of the Turks and Caicos appeared inequitable.  Alleged wrongdoers of local origin were, in some instances, being dealt with according to the letter of the law, while favoured expatriate perpetrators of United Kingdom origin tended to be given preferred treatment.  As an example, the former United Kingdom-appointed governor, who presided over the Cabinet during an era of high corruption, had not been sought for questioning.  He had not been charged with any crime and neither had the United Kingdom-appointed attorney general of the same era.  A member of the British House of Lords was known to have had significant financial interest in the companies which facilitated some of the corrupting activities, but again, no investigative action had been heard of in that direction.


Mr. Gibbs also spoke against the removal from office of all parliamentarians in the Turks and Caicos on 14 August 2009 by the administering Power.  That action, he said, was not consistent with the action taken in the United Kingdom in matters of malfeasance by British parliamentarians.  That extreme action was evidence of the failure of the administering Power in the discharge of its obligations.


He requested the Special Committee to demand improved explanation from the United Kingdom on its assault on human rights and denial of access to parliamentary democracy of the people of Turks and Caicos and of its retardation of the progress of the territory towards self-determination.  The Special Committee should also persuade the United Kingdom to restore to the people of the territory the economic value they lost during the period of maladministration, both during the prior Government and during the current interim Administration.


Mr. Gibbs also called on the United Nations and its various organs to establish a monitoring team to investigate issues of human rights violations in the Turks and Caicos Islands and to provide some oversight of the activities of the interim Administration.  It should, in addition, hold the United Kingdom accountable for its obligations to the territory.  Without such oversight, a United Kingdom-appointed governor would ignore the best interest of the people of the territory; their human rights would be violated, and they would be marginalized in the land of their birth, he said.


Action on Draft Resolution


The meeting then turned to the 18-page omnibus draft resolution A/AC.109/2012/L.8 on the questions of American Samoa, Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Guam, Montserrat, Pitcairn, Saint Helena, Turks and Caicos Islands and United States Virgin Islands, submitted by the Chair.  By the text of this draft resolution, the Committee would have the General Assembly urge Member States to contribute to the efforts of the United Nations to usher in a world free of colonialism within the context of the International Decades for the Eradication of Colonialism and request the territories and the administering Powers to take all measures necessary to protect and conserve the environment of the territories against any degradation.


It would have the Assembly call upon the administering Power to assist the territorial Government of Anguilla in strengthening its commitments in the economic domain and request the administering Power to assist the Territory of Bermuda by facilitating its work concerning public educational efforts.  The Committee would also have the Assembly call upon the administering Power of Guam to continue to recognize and to respect the political rights and the cultural and ethnic identity of the Chamoru people of Guam and call for the restoration of constitutional arrangements providing for representative democracy in Turks and Caicos through an elected territorial Government as soon as possible.


Further, it would also have the Assembly request the administering Power of the United States Virgin Islands to facilitate the process for approval of the proposed territorial consultation in the United States Congress and its implementation, once agreed upon in the territory.


The Committee approved the draft resolution without a vote.


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