SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON DECOLONIZATION CONCLUDES CONSIDERATION OF TOKELAU, GUAM

29 June 1999
GA/COL/3013

SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON DECOLONIZATION CONCLUDES CONSIDERATION OF TOKELAU, GUAM

29 June 1999

Press ReleaseGA/COL/3013

SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON DECOLONIZATION CONCLUDES CONSIDERATION OF TOKELAU, GUAM

19990629

New Zealand and United Nations agencies were called upon to continue their assistance to Tokelau as it further develops its economy and governance structures, under the terms of a resolution adopted, without a vote, this morning by the Special Committee on the Situation with Regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples.

Also by the text, the Committee noted Tokelau's desire to move at its own pace towards self-determination and further noted the inauguration in 1999 of a national government based on village elections. It commended Tokelau's ongoing work in charting a distinctive constitutional course, reflecting its unique traditions and environment. The Committee also welcomed the assurances of New Zealand that it would meet its obligations to the United Nations with respect to Tokelau and abide by the freely expressed wishes of the people of Tokelau with regard to their future status.

During its consideration of Tokelau, the Committee heard a statement by the Titular Head of Tokelau, Aliki Faipule Pio Tuia. He said that the path of decolonization was a new one for Tokelau, and he appealed for the continuing support of the New Zealand Government and the United Nations, guided by the wishes of the people of Tokelau. In 1994, Tokelau had expressed a preference for a status of free association. However, it did not want to dismiss other options, such as integration. Tokelau wished to have more information on both options.

The New Zealand Administrator of Tokelau said Tokelau's special traditional and historical features had made any judgement about political advancement very difficult. Such concepts as self-government and self-determination tended to be seen as belonging to the outside world, and traditional leaders, in particular, did not see them as relevant. Tokelau was on track to self-determination, but its special features could mean that it might not be ready in the near future.

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Also this morning, the Committee considered the question of Guam. The Governor of Guam said the full self-government of the Territories could only come about if those people attained equality with those administering Powers. Independence was certainly not the only form of self-government that established equal status. Somewhere between independence and integration was the equal status of shared sovereignty or free association. He reiterated his Government's invitation to the Committee for Guam to serve as the site for the next regional seminar of the Committee and to hold its Year 2000 Seminar in Guam.

The Vice-Chairman of the Guam Commission on Decolonization said that, during the past year, the laws of the United States had continued to undermine the process that would lead to Guam's self-government. The administering Power's legal immigration system allowed thousands of new settlers and immigrants into Guam. That was rapidly changing the Territory's demography, thus putting stress on Guam's social and law enforcement infrastructure, as well as affecting its financial means. The United States was protecting only its own interests in Guam.

The Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. Thursday, 1 July, to take up the question of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas).

Committee Work Programme

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 begin its considerations of the questions of New Caledonia, American Samoa, Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Guam, Montserrat, Pitcairn, St. Helena, Tokelau, Turks and Caicos Islands and United States Virgin Islands. The Committee will also have before it the relevant working papers prepared by the Secretariat on those questions. (For background information see Press Release GA/COL/3012 of 28 June).

Statements on Guam

CARL T.C. GUTIERREZ, Honourable Governor of Guam, said that through the Special Committee's intercession last year, satisfactory agreements were reached between the administering Power and the Territory on language. He added that, in spite of the attempt by the United States to end tripartite discussions, the Special Committee considered the views of the people of Guam and that was important to the success of last year's agreements.

He noted that from the perspective of Guam, full self-government could only come about if the people of the Territories attained equality with their administering Powers or with their political system. Independence was certainly not the only form of self-government that established equal status. Somewhere between independence and integration is the equal status of shared sovereignty or free association.

He reiterated his Government's invitation to the Committee for Guam to serve as the site for the next regional seminar of the Special Committee and to hold its Year 2000 Seminar in Guam. It would be of special significance for the Committee to conduct a seminar in a Non-Self-Governing Territory, since those Territories were being discussed.

RONALD F. RIVERA, Vice-Chairman, Guam Commission on Decolonization, said that following the expenditure of more than $14 million to engage the administering Power, Guam was still not self-governing and was not even on a path towards self-government. According to the laws of the administering Power, Guam was but a possession whose rights were pursuant to the laws and Constitution of the administering Power. The process of a Non-Self-Governing Territory attaining full self-government required the efforts of more than just one entity.

The Committee and the decolonization process must deal directly with the administering Power's attempts to make decolonization an exclusively internal matter, he continued. During the past year the laws of the United States had continued to undermine a process leading to Guam's self-government.

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The immigration problem in Guam continued to deteriorate, since the administering Power's legal immigration system allowed for thousands of new settlers and immigrants to Guam. That was rapidly changing the Territory's demography, thus putting stress on Guam's social and law enforcement infrastructure, as well as affecting its financial means. In order to curtail immigration, the people of Guam, in 1987, had democratically called on the United States Government to terminate its status as a point of entry into the United States for purposes of naturalization. Furthermore, the problem had resulted in a new menace -- illegal immigration and the trafficking in illegal immigrants by transnational criminal syndicates.

He said that the failure to attain self-government in the process of decolonization was sometimes a direct result of the administering Power's continuing colonial practices and its inability to implement a decolonization process. A responsible approach to decolonization required the participation of all parties, so that self-government could occur in a sustainable manner. He requested that the Special Committee and Member States make administering Powers more responsible for their continuing actions and to their sacred trust under the Charter.

Questions on Guam

BERNARD TANOH-BOUTCHOUE (Côte d'Ivoire) said the Committee believed that the information received from administering Powers was not always verifiably true and that was the case in Guam. It was, therefore, important to directly contact the population. He asked if the administering Power, the United States, agreed with the invitation?

Mr. GUTIERREZ said there had been a visitation by the Committee in the past and he was sure that the United States would approve of such a visit.

JIMMY OVIA (Papua New Guinea) said that often times the Committee heard from administering Powers that the people of a territory was self-governing and should be taken off the list of questions to be considered by the Committee. But, this morning the Committee heard from Guam that there were still things that needed to be done before Guam had completed the decolonization process. He hoped the invitation for the Committee to visit Guam would be taken seriously and approved by the United States.

TUVAKO MANONGI (United Republic of Tanzania) said Mr. Gutierrez had asked that Guam have direct access to the International Court of Justice to resolve disputes. Did that mean Guam would seek status of statehood and total independence?

Mr. GUTIERREZ said the people of Guam had not yet spoken on what direction they would choose in the self-determination process. The people had not yet chosen complete independence. However, the International Court of

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Justice would be a means of last resort for the people of Guam to resolve its disputes.

Mr. TANOH-BOUTCHOUE (Côte d'Ivoire) said that last year there was a great deal of discussion on the situation of the indigenous people of Guam, known as the Chamorro people. In Guam, 47 per cent of the people were Chamorro. What was the current situation of that population?

Mr. GUTIERREZ said that recently there were over 600 Chinese immigrants who entered Guam seeking United States citizenship. Such immigration had lowered the percentage of people considered Chamorro. Guam asked the United States to set a different immigration policy for small Territories, such as Guam.

JUAN EDUARDO EGUIGUREN (Chile) asked what steps were still needed to achieve the decolonization of Guam.

Mr. GUTIERREZ said a vote was planned for December of this year to decide on the direction of self-determination efforts. The procedure and details of that vote had yet to be decided.

Mr. OVIA (Papua New Guinea) asked how consideration of Guam was proceeding in Washington.

Mr. GUTIERREZ said the relationship and dialogue with the United States to address concerns and problems continued. However, the issue of self- determination still needed to be addressed.

Mr. TANOH-BOUTCHOUE (Côte d'Ivoire) said the position of the United States was that the people of Guam should be looked at as a whole and not separated as Chamorro and non-Chamorro.

Mr. GUTIERREZ said that the Chamorro people were those who were in Guam prior to 1950. "They are the ones we speak of when we talk about self- determination" he said.

Mr. MANONGI (United Republic of Tanzania) asked a question in regard to land ownership arrangements between Guam and the United States.

Mr. GUTIERREZ said the people of Guam had lost about one third of the island for military purposes during the Second World War. While it was happy to offer its land to help win the war, too much land was taken. While the process for the return of that land was in place, it was taking much too long. Decades later, a large amount of land had not been handed back.

Mr. TANOH-BOUTCHOUE (Côte d'Ivoire) said the United States referred to self-determination and self-government for all people of Guam. However,

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Mr. Gutierrez had stated that self-determination would be for the Chamorro people. How did that use of language affect the rights of people on the island.

Mr. GUTIERREZ said that the United States believed that all the people of Guam had the right to vote on the self-determination issue. However, the Chamorro were the indigenous people that should decide on self-determination.

Committee Chairman, PETER DONIGI (Papua New Guinea), asked about the status of the new immigrants to Guam who wished to enter the United States.

Mr. GUTIERREZ said that immigration, particularly the recent Chinese immigration, did have an impact on its resources. Guam was a gold mine for people in Asia seeking asylum and that was causing many problems.

FAYSSAL MEKDAD (Syria) said that immigration to Guam would impact on its population and that would also influence any referendum taken on self- determination.

Questions

Mr. TANOH-BOUTCHOUE (Côte d'Ivoire) said that the administering Power had given the Committee the impression that the status of the citizens of Guam and their equality as United citizens had been resolved. However, there was a stipulation in United States laws, according to a reference in Mr. Rivera's statement, that raised questions on that issue.

Mr. OVIA (Papua New Guinea) said that in the light of the statement, he hoped that the process that was taking place in Washington, D.C. would take into account the difficulties highlighted in the statement. He noted that there was a greater role for the administering Power, the greatest democracy, to assist Guam in the process towards self-government.

RAFAEL DAUSA CESPEDES (Cuba) requested more information on the treatment of the specific issue of Guam in the United States Congress. What had been the attitudes there on the part of both the Republican and Democratic sides? he asked.

Mr. RIVERA noted that Cuba might have been referring to the recent difficulty that Guam had experienced in their election, where the governor of the Territory, although democratically elected, was not recognized by the United States. That was an example of the way the administering Power hampered the process towards self-government. The United States Government had spurned all the Territory's attempts at self-government. They were only interested in preserving their own interests in Guam.

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Mr. GUTIERREZ said that the people of Guam did not have a Constitution of their own making. The Organic Act was the Territory's Constitution, which could be removed at any time by the United States without the permission of the people of Guam. He added that the vote for the plebiscite would be delayed until next year, so that the public information and education aspects could be in place. Referring to the Chamorro people, he noted that the systematic influx of immigrants had an impact on the citizens. The Organic Act allowed for the legality of these immigrants. The assimilation of those immigrants was not a racial, but a political one. Further, the definition of Chamorro was strictly political.

Mr. MANONGI (United Republic of Tanzania) asked a question regarding the referendum and who would be able to vote.

Mr. RIVERA said there had been many efforts to ensure that only those who were considered Chamorro were registered to vote and that the process was taken very seriously by all involved.

Mr. OVIA (Papua New Guinea) asked if the referendum would be open for observation by the Committee or the United Nations to ensure that the vote was fair.

Mr. RIVERA said he hoped the administering Power would invite the United Nations to observe the vote.

Mr. TANOH-BOUTCHOUE (Côte d'Ivoire) asked if the Governor of Guam had decision-making powers. He asked if refugees from Kosovo were taken to Guam? Also, he asked what was attitude of the Democratic and Republican parties in the United States towards Guam.

Mr. GUTIERREZ said United States President William Clinton had been the most forthcoming on providing Guam with self-determination. However, Guam was being administered in the United States by mid-level bureaucracy and was not considered important enough by those with more authority. As for his position as Governor, he was given the full authority of the office of Governor. He said the island had not been used for refugees from Kosovo.

Mr. EGUIGUREN (Chile) asked if non-Chamorro people would be able to vote in the election.

Mr. GUTIERREZ said that non-Chamorro people would not be able to vote on the self-determination process.

Mr. DAUSA CESPEDES (Cuba) asked if the United States armed forces had reduced their numbers and closed bases in Guam and had there been a negative impact from that on Guam's economy.

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Mr. GUTIERREZ said such closures had an impact. Most of the ship armed forces facilities in the port of Guam had been closed. About 2,500 civilian jobs were lost -- nearly 10 per cent of the workforce.

Statements on Tokelau

ALIKI FAIPULE PIO TUIA, Ulu O Tokelau, said that the New Zealand Government had this year agreed to terminate its control of the Territory's national public service in 2000. Also, during this year, Tokelau was establishing the necessary national and village systems to take over the present public service functions. The Government of Tokelau and the Government of New Zealand had also agreed on a long-term financial plan, a major part of which was the creation of a Trust Fund intended to move the Territory closer to its goal of self-reliance.

He pointed out that the path of decolonization was a new one for Tokelau and appealed for the continuing support of the New Zealand Government and the United Nations, guided by the wishes of the people of Tokelau. The process needed the combined and concerted action of the three partners. However, although there could be differences on emphasis, timing and perceptions, he noted the willingness of the New Zealand Government and the United Nations to cooperate with the wishes of the Territory.

In 1994, he stated, Tokelau had expressed a preference for a status of free association. Since then, that Territory had focused on governance- related issues and its political status had, therefore, been placed in the background. The preference for free association did not mean that Tokelau wished to dismiss other options, particularly that of integration. He said that Tokelau wished to have more information on the possibilities under the integration option, as well as under the option for free association.

LINDSAY WATT, New Zealand's Administrator of Tokelau, said the colonial period for Tokelau brought a break with tradition. It gave external agents formal responsibility for the needs of Tokelau at the national level. Consequently, a management approach was introduced that was unfamiliar. It meant that decisions for Tokelau were no longer being made in the traditional consensus environment. New Zealand could not be seen here as a colonial power in the classic sense. The switch from United Kingdom to New Zealand oversight at the end of 1925 was made primarily for reasons of United Kingdom convenience.

Tokelau's special traditional and historical features had made any judgement about political advancement very difficult, he said. For example, self-government and self-determination could only have meaning in Tokelau if there was a viable local authority able to make decisions on behalf of Tokelau. Yet, the pattern of a central adminstration was contrary to Tokelau tradition. Such concepts as self-government and self-determination tended to

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be seen as belonging to the outside world. Tokelau's traditional leaders especially did not see them as relevant.

Therefore, there was a need to work to bring the local perceptions and the international reality closer together, which in this decade had coloured the way New Zealand's administrative responsibility had been discharged. To New Zealand, Tokelau was on track to self-determination, but its special features -- dealing with history and culture -- could mean that it might not be ready for self-determination in the near future.

He said Tokelau could be seen to be on track to self-determination, essentially because it had recognized that a century or more of contact with the outside world had given it a new set of modern needs that traditional codes could not address. There had been much home-generated work on governance arrangements, including work on a constitution, and thinking on the function of the national representative body, called the General Fono. New Zealand sought, through quality interaction with Tokelau, to help it stay the present course.

Questions on Tokelau

Mr. TANOH-BOUTCHOUE (Côte d'Ivoire) noted that the speaker from Tokelau had informed the Committee that his people had chosen the option of free association with the people of New Zealand, but that the process might evolve over a period of time. Concerning political education, in many cases the population of Non-Self-Governing Territories were unprepared for independence or any form of self-government. As a result, they would experience great problems in their adjustment, even for those who wished to have liberation. However, when they were prepared, they were in a much better position to make that adjustment to the process of self-determination.

Mr. TUIA said that the people of Tokelau, under the New Zealand administration, had not desired change. That desire had only occurred when the United Nations mission visited the Territory in 1994 and enlightened the people of Tokelau. The administration of the Territory just wished to understand the process, so that its citizens would not be lost in that process towards self-determination. In that light, they saw the need for political education. That had occurred, but the option of self-determination still needed testing and the option of integration with the administering Power needed more investigation.

Mr. MEKDAD (Syria) said the Committee appreciated the cooperation between the people of Tokelau and wondered what additional role did Tokelau wish the United Nations to play in assisting the Territory in the fulfilment of the process.

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Mr. TUIA stated that the administration of Tokelau wished that the United Nations would always be on the side of its people, since the administering Power always seemed to have the upper hand in the discussion of the process towards the realization of self-government.

SAKIUSA RABUKA (Fiji) noted the close partnership and cooperation between the Territory of Tokelau and the administering Power. He hoped that the lessons learned in Tokelau would influence the work of the United Nations and the Fourth Committee.

ALBERTO SALAMANCA (Bolivia) said that his country had learned the meaning of different cultures. Colonization had always meant exploitation -- both economic and political. The case of Tokelau was more one of administration, than of cultural and political exploitation. He reiterated that the focus should be placed on the excellent partnership between the United Nations, New Zealand and Tokelau and examples should be drawn from it.

Adoption of Resolution on Tokelau

The Committee adopted, without a vote, a resolution on the question of Tokelau (document A/AC.109/1999/L.7), by which the Committee called upon the administering Power and the United Nations agencies to continue their assistance to Tokelau, as it further develops its economy and governance structures within the context of its ongoing constitutional evolution.

Also by the text, the Committee noted Tokelau's desire to move at its own pace towards self-determination and further noted the inauguration in 1999 of a national Government based on village elections by universal adult suffrage. It commended Tokelau's ongoing work in charting a distinctive constitutional course, reflecting its unique traditions and environment.

The Committee acknowledged Tokelau's need for reassurance, given that local resources cannot adequately cover the material side of self- determination, and the ongoing responsibility of Tokelau's external partners to assist it in balancing its desire to be self-reliant, to the greatest extent possible, with its need for external assistance. It also acknowledged the attention being given to broader matters of governance, including the upgrading of financial regulations, to establish clear local channels of responsibility in national and village government.

The Committee welcomed the assurances of the Government of New Zealand 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 with regard to their future status. It also welcomed the Statement on Official Development Assistance Cooperation between New Zealand and Tokelau, setting out the direction and broad structure of that assistance, to better meet new development and governance needs in the medium-term.

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For information media. Not an official record.