SEMINAR RECOMMENDATIONS MUST HAVE FOLLOW-UP ACTION, SPECIAL DECOLONIZATION COMMITTEE TOLD19990527 Caribbean Regional Seminar Continues; Situation in Falklands/Malvinas, East Timor, Puerto Rico Discussed
(Received from UN Information Officer.)
CASTRIES, Saint Lucia, 26 May -- Recommendations from regional seminars formed a comprehensive policy statement with respect to the successful completion of the decolonization process, an expert from the United States Virgin Islands said this morning, as the Special Committee on the Situation with Regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples met to continue consultation on its substantive issues.
The fact that those recommendations emanated from the people of the territories themselves was especially critical, he said. If the recommendations from seminars were not translated into a General Assembly resolution with follow- up implementation, then ammunition was being given to those who criticized the relevance and usefulness of the seminars. The seminars must not be regarded as "a talk shop", with no follow-up action.
The representative of Argentina said his Government had repeatedly expressed its disposition to resume negotiations to reach a peaceful and long- lasting solution to the question of the Malvinas/Falkland Islands. The United Kingdom, however, had been unwilling. His Government had also offered to restore air links between the islands and the continent and to put at the disposal of the islanders all the medical facilities available on the mainland. Unfortunately, the inhabitants of the islands had not responded positively and persisted in avoiding any kind of contact with the mainland.
The representative of Portugal said that it was crucial that the Peace and Stability Commission, which had been given a considerable role by the New York Agreements on East Timor, became operational. That Commission, in cooperation with the United Nations, would elaborate a code of conduct, by which all parties should abide during the period prior to, and following, the consultation, and
ensure the laying down of arms. Although it had been charged with those tasks, the Commission had not been able to convene because some of its members remained imprisoned, as was the case with Xanana Gusmao, whose participation in the reconciliation process was vital.
The representative of the Colegio de Abogados de Puerto Rico, said the United States Congress had been ruling the peoples under its administration through the so-called "Territory Clause" of its Constitution. However, the permanent application of the Clause to the overseas Territories and peoples constituted a serious violation of peremptory norms of international law. The right to self-determination of the Puerto Rican people -- a norm of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights -- should be respected by the United States, as it had recently ratified that international treaty.
The Committee will meet again today at 3 p.m. to continue its consideration of its substantive issues.
(For background, see Press Release GA/COL/2998, issued 19 May 1999.)
CARLYLE CORBIN, expert from the United States Virgin Islands, gave participants a detailed history and analysis of the United Nations involvement with the decolonization process, beginning with the Organization's evolution from the League of Nations, through the original mandate of the United Nations to current involvement in the decolonization process. His analysis charted the Organization's involvement over three periods: the period prior to the 1960 Declaration on Decolonization (resolution 1514 (XV)); the post Declaration period; and the post-cold war period and decolonization disengagement.
However, he went on to say, a most important provision of the resolution -- one which seemed to be ignored, and appeared inconsistent with unilateral application of administering Power laws to most Territories -- was that "immediate steps shall be taken ... to transfer all powers to the peoples of those Territories without any conditions or reservation, in accordance with their freely expressed will and desire".
He said the implementation of the transfer of powers doctrine was questioned some 30 years later in connection with the relationship of the Declaration to political status referendums, specifically the unilateral application to some Territories of administering Power laws governing residency requirements for voting. That was a major issue in the United States Virgin Islands' political status referendum in 1993 and caused the results to be declared null and void by the laws of the Territory.
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He observed that from a list of some 64 Territories in 1963, only 18 remained by 1990. The majority of those were small island Territories in the Caribbean and the Pacific, under differing constitutional arrangements, none of which met, nor did they presently meet, the requirement of full self- government as defined by resolution 1541 (XV). Those remaining Territories were seen as not being interested -- nor prepared if they were interested -- for independence. That was a somewhat simplistic rationale, which was being used in recent years to convince some that the present non-self-governing arrangements were somehow legitimate, because there had been no popular expression by the people for independence.
Turning to the post-cold war period, he noted that the idea of self- determination for the remaining non-self-governing Territories was seen with less urgency than in the past, since ideological rivalries had abated. A prevailing view was that the people of the Territories had expressed no interest in independence -- an assumption which was somehow translated to mean that they were satisfied with the status quo, and that those Territories were too small to be sustainable sovereign States. He said review of some of the key United Nations resolutions was useful in light of the involvement of Member States in the decolonization process. One key administrative decision with respect to resolutions on decolonization as a result of the cold war review was to consolidate the individual resolutions on the small island Territories into one omnibus resolution.
That review, he continued, precipitated the elimination in 1995 of language that had previously reiterated that it was the responsibility of the administering Power to create such conditions in the Territories as would enable their people to exercise freely and without interference their inalienable rights to self-determination and independence. The omission raised the question, was that no longer a responsibility of the administering Power? Similarly, by 1991, new language was, added to resolutions on political education in reference to the exercise of self-determination and, as in the case of resolutions on preparations on self-determination, provisions calling for political education programmes had not been implemented.
He said recommendations from regional seminars formed a comprehensive policy statement with respect to the successful completion of the decolonization process. The fact that they emanated from the people of the Territories themselves was especially critical. If those recommendations from seminars were not translated into a General Assembly resolution with follow-up implementation, then ammunition was being given to those who criticized the relevance and usefulness of those seminars. There was a need to prevent the seminars from being regarded "as we say in the Caribbean -- a talk shop", with no follow-up action. The Committee must find a way to reflect those views of the people in the process, and not just take note of recommendations. The best way for that to be realized was for the Committee to "approve the report of the seminar and the conclusions and recommendation contained therein".
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MATEO EXTREME (Argentina) said the question of the Malvinas/Falkland Islands had been classified by the General Assembly and resolutions of the Special Committee as a special and particular form of colonialism. The specificity of the question derived from the fact that the United Kingdom used force to occupy the islands in 1833 and expelled the Argentine population. It, therefore, did not dominate or subjugate the original population, as in other colonial cases. Rather, it established its own population on the islands in a process that was never accepted by Argentina. In 1833, a discriminatory immigration policy was also adopted, by which Argentinians were not allowed to settle again in the islands or own land. Under that policy, Argentinians were not even allowed to visit the islands. Through a series of resolutions, the Assembly had clearly recognized the non-applicability of the principle of self-determination in the particular case of the Malvinas/Falkland Islands.
In this colonial case, he continued, the Assembly adopted the position that the principle of territorial integrity must prevail in order to prevent any attempt to break the national unity and territorial integrity of his country. It was clear that inhabitants of the islands were the descendants of settlers who were transplanted illegally into the Territory by the occupying Power, after expelling the Argentine population. The current population of the islands is made up of British citizens, with a right to establish themselves in the United Kingdom. Granting those British citizens the right to self-determination meant they became arbitrators in a territorial dispute.
He said that, since the 1970s, the Argentine Government had offered guarantees and safeguards aimed at preserving the characteristics and the way of life of the islanders. Argentina was open to discussing those, with a view to updating them in accordance with the necessities and interests of the population of the islands. His Government had repeatedly expressed its disposition to resume negotiations to reach a peaceful and long-lasting solution to the question. The United Kingdom, however, had been unwilling. His Government had offered to restore air links between the islands and the continent and to put at the disposal of the islanders all the medical facilities available on the mainland. Unfortunately, the inhabitants had not responded positively and persisted in avoiding any kind of contact with the mainland.
CARLA GRIJO (Portugal) said that, since the last regional seminar, there had been major developments regarding the question of East Timor. The East Timorese were now in a position to either choose to accept or to reject a proposed framework for special autonomy. While the acceptance of that special autonomy would signify integration in Indonesia, rejection would entail a process of transition towards independence. The proposed ballot, which the Secretary-General was mandated to organize, would also include East Timorese in exile. The developments were a major breakthrough, as they represented the recognition of the right to self-determination of the East Timorese and set out an appropriate framework for the exercise of that right. That framework,
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however, required that the appropriate security conditions be established in the ground.
She said the New York arrangement had charged Indonesia with the responsibility of maintaining law and order and of ensuring a secure environment for consultation. Unfortunately, Indonesia's discharge of that responsibility so far had been negligible. Attacks by armed militia on the civilian population had caused thousands of people to flee their homes in search of safety. The United Nations had detected the involvement of the Indonesian military in the training of those militias.
"We have also had reports of civil servants being forced to sign written statements in favour of autonomy", she continued. That behaviour blatantly ignored agreements and could only be read as an attempt to bias the consultation through terror and intimidation. Determined and immediate action must be taken by the appropriate Indonesian security authorities, in order to curtail violence and ensure freedom of expression and association of all political forces.
She said that it was also crucial that the Peace and Stability Commission, which had been given a considerable role by the New York Agreements, became operational. That Commission, in cooperation with the United Nations, would elaborate a code of conduct by which all parties should abide, during the period prior to, and following, the consultation. It should also, in cooperation with the Organization, ensure the laying down of arms and take the necessary steps to achieve disarmament. Although it had been charged with those tasks, the Commission had not been able to convene because some of its members remained imprisoned, as was the case with Xanana Gusmao, whose participation in the reconciliation process was vital. The establishment of a visible United Nations presence at the earliest possible date would also contribute to the building of confidence, she added.
FERMIN L. ARRAIZA NAVAZ, Colegio de Abogados de Puerto Rico, said the United States Congress had been ruling the people under its administration through the so-called "Territory Clause" of the United States Constitution. However, the permanent application of the Clause to the overseas Territories and peoples constituted a serious violation of peremptory norms of public international law. The right to self-determination of the Puerto Rican people -- which was a norm of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights -- should be respected by the United States, as it had recently ratified that international treaty. The United States had the obligation to decolonize the Territory of Puerto Rico through the transfer of all sovereign powers and authority to the Territory. Any other action would be contrary to resolutions of the Special Committee, which up until last year reaffirmed the right of the self-determination and independence of Puerto Rico.
He said the alternative of "statehood", as a federated State of the United States, did not constitute an alternative of integration, but of annexation and
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destruction of culture, language and collective identity. Puerto Rico had been occupied by the United States for 101 years. The United States Government had never adopted legislation for the holding of a plebiscite in the Territory that fulfilled recognized international law and resolutions. Internally, since 1953, Puerto Rico had organized three referendums, and in all of them the alternative of annexation had been rejected.
He said, "We cannot allow the subsequent holdings of plebiscites for a hundred more years until fraudulent consent is obtained from the peoples concerned." It was illegal and immoral that the international community stood witness as the United States empire promoted subsequent plebiscites which tried to obtain the fraudulent consent of the people of Puerto Rico. In the plebiscites held in Puerto Rico, the voters were North American citizens, instead of Puerto Rican nationals. That was why the United States Government denied the recognition of the Puerto Rican citizenship already recognized by the Puerto Rican Supreme Court.
Question and Answer
RONALD F. RIVERA, of Guam, said there was need for the peoples of Non-Self-Governing Territories to have access to United Nations bodies and programmes. If that access did exist, then he wanted more information on it.
YASHVARDHAN KUMAR SINHA (India) asked for clarification about the role of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in good governance. Regarding East Timor, he said there should be no comments to upset the progress of present developments.
Mr. CORBIN, of the United States Virgin Islands, said there was a long legislative authority governing the participation on Non-Self-Governing Territories in bodies and programmes of the United Nations. The Economic and Social Council was also involved with resolution to that effect. However, there were long lists of repetitive directives in the resolution. He cited the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) as agencies that came readily to mind in terms of access by Non-Self-Governing Territories. The regional economic commissions of the United Nations also allowed associate membership by non-independent Territories.
He said that access, however, could be further improved and perhaps that was where the Special Committee could assist. Addressing the UNDP and their involvement in good governance, he said the Non-Self-Governing Territories were moving towards full self-government. One issue being addressed by the heads of government of those Territories was the "devolution" of power from central society to civil society. The UNDP was looking into that, as it had country development programmes with most of the Territories.
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JUAN EDUARDO EGUIGUREN (Chile) said the people of the Non-Self-Governing Territories had no information on the United Nations resolutions pertaining to decolonization. Why was that the case? he asked.
ERMINE PENN, from the British Virgin Islands, wanted to know if any colony of the United States had ever become independent in the true sense of the word. Responding to the previous question raised by Chile, she said yesterday the importance of education as a formal process had been stressed. For those who were still colonized, there was need for the entire society to be inculcated with the idea that they should govern themselves, be responsible for themselves and that nobody should take care of them. She noted that there was an element of indignity in being looked after by someone else, as was the case in the Non-Self-Governing Territories. No more bureaucracy was needed; the Committee needed to be more revolutionary, and it had to play a more prominent role.
BRUNEL B. MEADE, of Montserrat, said his Territory, in the wake of continued volcanic eruptions, had also witnessed deepening colonialism. Presently, in Montserrat the emergency and crisis management systems and recovery programmes were heavily sponsored by the United Kingdom. There was deepening social and economic dependency. However, the people of Montserrat, both at home and abroad, were still interested in independence. He, therefore, solicited the help of the Commission to assist in an education programme to create awareness of self-determination and independence.
CASEY S. GILL, of the Cayman Islands, said "we are quite happy with our current situation". With a small population of 35,000, the Cayman Islands had become the fifth largest financial centre in the world. The voice of the people of Cayman was a very different one and very limited to Cayman's perspective. It was more important for Caymanians to earn a living rather than subscribe to something that might leave them at the bottom of the pile.
MENALAOS TZELIOS, of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization, wanted to know why the regional meetings on decolonization were held in independent countries. Was it not possible for them to be held in Non-Self- Governing Territories?
FAYSSAL MEKFAD (Syria) said the Committee had always supported the struggles of those who wanted to exercise their legitimate right to self- determination. While the Committee was composed of countries that were committed to self-determination, it never imposed itself where it was not wanted. Many statements had been made of the role and support of the Committee. There were a lot of complications in the international situation right now which had an impact on colonized Territories. It was up to the colonized to say what they wanted. If a child did not cry, then its mother would not feed it. He asked if a plebiscite had been conducted in the Cayman
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Islands. If that had taken place, then the wishes of the people of that Territory had to be respected.
Mr. MEADE said the view that none of the British Territories wanted independence was not broadly shared by the elected representatives of Montserrat, and three had been on consultations on the idea. While consultations with the colonial Government had resulted in paper, the idea of independence might have been inferred, but was not mentioned outright.
Ms. PENN asked if the ideas of plebiscites was one that the Special Committee would pursue.
Mr. CORBIN, responding to the statement made on the situation in the Cayman Islands, said there was a need to ascertain the views of the people as whole and not take make a judgement based on an individual view.
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