SPECIAL DECOLONIZATION COMMITTEE ADOPTS TWO TEXTS RELATED TO NON-SELF-GOVERNING TERRITORIES
SPECIAL DECOLONIZATION COMMITTEE ADOPTS TWO TEXTS RELATED TO NON-SELF-GOVERNING TERRITORIES
SPECIAL DECOLONIZATION COMMITTEE ADOPTS TWO TEXTS RELATED TO NON-SELF-GOVERNING TERRITORIES19990706
The damaging exploitation and plundering of the marine and other natural resources of the Non-Self-Governing Territories is a threat to the integrity and prosperity of those Territories, the Special Committee on the Situation with Regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples reiterated this morning as it continued its review of the situation of non-self-governing small island Territories.
By one of two draft resolutions adopted this morning, the Special Committee also reaffirmed its concern about any activities aimed at the exploitation of the natural resources that are the heritage of the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories, including the indigenous populations, in the Caribbean, the Pacific and other regions, as well as their human resources, to the detriment of their interests, and in such a way as to deprive them of their right to dispose of those resources.
The Committee reaffirmed the responsibility of the administering Powers under the United Nations Charter to promote the political, economic, social and educational advancement of the Non-Self-Governing Territories, and reaffirmed the legitimate rights of their peoples over their natural resources.
By the second text, the Special Committee deplored the continued alienation of land in colonial and Non-Self-Governing Territories, particularly the small island Territories of the Pacific and Caribbean regions, for military installations. The large-scale utilization of the local resources for this purpose could adversely affect the economic development of the Territories concerned. Also by that text, the Committee reiterated its concern that military activities and arrangements by colonial Powers in Territories under their administration might run counter to the rights and interests of the colonial peoples concerned, especially their right to self-determination and independence. It once again called upon the administering Powers concerned to terminate such activities and to eliminate such military bases in compliance with the relevant General Assembly resolutions.
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Further, the Special Committee reiterated that the colonial and Non- Self-Governing Territories and adjacent areas should not be used for nuclear testing, dumping of nuclear wastes or deployment of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction.
As the Committee began considering its decision of 11 August 1998 concerning Puerto Rico, and hearing petitioners on the subject, the President of the Statehooders Organizations of New York, Inc., said that resolutions adopted on Puerto Rico in the past had been exclusive, one-sided and limiting. Any considerations on Puerto Rico required a clarification of the blurred semantics that hampered discussion. Examination of Special Committee resolutions on the issue showed that they had focused on the island's right to self-determination and independence in conformity with Assembly resolutions.
Though this was legitimate, he continued, it should be noted that election results in Puerto Rico and status referenda of 1967 and 1992 had shown that less than 5 per cent of the electorate had opted for independence. Moreover, in the recently held plebiscite of December 1998, only 2.5 per cent had done so.
The representative of Congreso Nacional Hostosiano said that, in 1989, the United States had caused the death of David Sanes and wounded four others in Vieques. The United States Navy had yet to issue a report on those responsible. A special commission of the Puerto Rican Government had also requested the Navy to provide information and had met with similar reticence.
In 198O, the Special Committee had adopted a resolution condemning naval manoeuvres by the United States, she said. That text had been adopted by the General Assembly. However, from 1980 to now, the United States had not only continued military activities, but had also stepped them up. Vieques was also now leased out to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) for its own military manoeuvres. It was estimated that the United States was generating some $80 million a year by such actions. Meanwhile, the population of Vieques had a cancer rate 26 per cent greater than the rest of Puerto Rico.
Other petitioners spoke on behalf of: Colegio de Abogados de Puerto Rico, Commission of the Churches on International Affairs, Frente Socialista, Causa Comun Independentista-Proyecto Educativo Puertorriqueño, Puerto Rican Independence Party, Comité Pro Rescate y Desarrollo de Vieques, National Advancement for Puerto Rican Culture, and Partido Nacionalista de Puerto Rico. A statement was also made by the Governor of Puerto Rico, Pedro Rossello.
The Special Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. today to continue hearing petitioners and to take action on a draft resolution concerning Puerto Rico submitted by Cuba.
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 Bermuda, Cayman Islands, United States Virgin Islands, British Virgin Islands, Guam, and Puerto Rico. The Committee will also have before it the relevant working papers prepared by the Secretariat on those questions and two draft resolutions and a decision on: economic and other activities which affect the interests of the people of the Non-Self-Governing Territories; military activities and arrangements by colonial Powers in Territories under their administration; and the Special Committee decision of 11 August 1998 concerning Puerto Rico.
The Secretariat's working paper on Bermuda (document A/AC.109/1999/3) states that Bermuda is the United Kingdom's oldest colony. Governors are appointed by the Queen and the Government of the United Kingdom after consultation with the Premier of Bermuda. The United Kingdom remains responsible for defence, external affairs and internal security. Addressing the future political status of Bermuda, the paper states that an independence referendum was held in August 1995. According to the administering Power, 58.8 per cent of registered voters participated, and the results were as follows: 25.6 per cent in favour of independence; 73.7 per cent against it; and 0.7 per cent abstained.
Detailing the position of the administering Power, the paper states that the United Kingdom in 1998 reviewed its stewardship of the dependent Territories to modernize its relationship with them. The result of that review was a White Paper to the British Parliament entitled "Partnership for Progress and Prosperity; Britain and the Overseas Territories." Included among the key recommendations of the White Paper are the following: in future, the Territories would be known as United Kingdom Overseas Territories; and British citizenship (and so the right of abode) would be offered to those people of the Overseas Territories who did not already enjoy it and who met certain conditions.
The White Paper also proposes a number of recommendations in the area of good governance. Included among those are: improved regulations of the financial industries in the Overseas Territories to meet internationally acceptable standards and to combat financial crime and regulatory abuse; measures to promote greater cooperation with international regulators and law enforcers so as to share information and improve worldwide financial regulation; and reform of local legislation in some Territories to comply with the same standards of human rights as those existing in the United Kingdom with regard to capital punishment, judicial corporal punishment and consensual homosexual acts. If local action is not taken, the British Government would then enforce the necessary changes.
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Conveying the position of the territorial Government, the Secretariat working paper states that, in September 1995, following the referendum, David Saul, the then Premier of Bermuda, said that independence was an issue that would not be raised again during the life of the current parliamentary session. According to the paper, however, with the publication of the British White Paper, the issue had again resurfaced. There had been no official reaction to the document, but it was being debated and discussed in the public media and the press. There was some concern that if Bermudians did not choose to accept what was being offered, the United Kingdom would effect the changes anyway. According to some, the White Paper was a tremendous threat to the social and moral fibre of the community and a retrograde step that would now put the independence issue back on the table.
Describing action by the General Assembly, the working paper states that in December 1998 that body adopted a resolution which, among other things: requested the administering Power, bearing in mind the views of the people of the Territory ascertained through a democratic process, to keep the Secretary- General informed of the wishes and aspirations of those people regarding their political future. It also called upon the administering Power to continue its programmes for the socio-economic development of the Territory; and requested the United Kingdom to elaborate, in consultation with the territorial Government, programmes specifically intended to alleviate the economic, social and environmental consequences of the closure of the military bases and installations of the United States in the Territory.
The Secretariat working paper on the Cayman Islands (document A/AC.109/1999/4) states that the present Constitution of the Cayman Islands, which came into effect in August 1972, provides for the Government of the Territory as a colony under the sovereignty the United Kingdom. Under the revised Constitution of 1994, the Governor, who is appointed by the British Monarch, is responsible for external affairs, defence, internal security and public service. The Governor is the Chairman of the Executive Council. Constitutionally, the Executive Council is responsible for the adminstration of government.
Conveying the position of the administering Power, the Secretariat states that the administering Power advocated a position consistent with the overall recommendations contained in its March 1999 White Paper on the relationship between the United Kingdom and its Overseas Territories. Conveying action by the General Assembly, the Secretariat paper states that in December 1998 that body adopted, without a vote, resolution 53/67 B, section IV, which concerns the Cayman Islands.
By the terms of that text, the Assembly requested the administering Power, bearing in mind the views of the people of the Territory ascertained through a democratic process, to keep the Secretary-General informed of the wishes and aspirations of those people regarding their political future. It
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also requested the administering Power, the specialized agencies and other organizations of the United Nations to continue to provide the territorial Government with all the required expertise to enable it to achieve its socio- economic aims. The Assembly called upon the administering Power and the territorial Government to continue to cooperate to counter problems related to money laundering, smuggling of funds and other related crimes, as well as drug trafficking.
The Secretariat working paper on the United States Virgin Islands (documents A/AC.109/1999/7 and Corr.1) states that the United States Virgin Islands are an organized unincorporated Territory of the United States. It is administered under the authority of the Office of Insular Affairs, a unit of the United States Department of the Interior.
The paper states that, following the adoption of the Organic Act of the Virgin Islands (1936), last revised in 1954, the Territory was granted a measure of self-government over local affairs. Addressing the future political status of the Territory, the paper notes that no significant action on the political status of the Territory had been taken since a referendum was held in 1993. In that ballot, 83.3 per cent of voters supported the existing status, 14.2 per cent voted for full integration with the United States, and 4.8 per cent voted for an end to United States sovereignty. Only 27.4 per cent of registered voters voted on the question, while the requirement for the referendum to be considered valid was 50 per cent.
Conveying the position of the territorial Government, the paper observes that in a statement made before the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) at the fifty-third session of the Assembly, the representative of the United States Virgin Islands had noted that independence was not the only legitimate political option for Non-Self-Governing Territories, but if other political alternatives were to be recognized as legitimate, they needed to provide a minimum level of political equality.
The paper goes to say, that in a statement made before the Fourth Committee also during the fifty-third session of the Assembly, a representative of the United States said that his country fully supported the right of people in Non- Self-Governing Territories to a full measure of independence, but noted that there was no single standard of decolonization. In particular, residents of a Territory should not have to choose one of three possible changes in status if they were happy with their current status.
Conveying action by the General Assembly, the paper states that in December 1998 that body adopted a resolution which, among other things, requested the administering Power to bear in mind the views of the people of the Territory and to keep the Secretary-General informed of the wishes and aspirations of the people regarding their political future. It also requested the administering Power to continue to assist the territorial Government in
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achieving its political, economic and social goals, and to facilitate the participation of the Territory, as appropriate, various organizations, in particular, the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).
The Secretariat's working paper on the British Virgin Islands (document A/AC.109/1999/9) states that the British Virgin Islands is a United Kingdom Overseas Territory. Under the 1977 Constitution, the administering Power appoints as its representative a Governor responsible for defence, internal security, external affairs and public service. The Governor retains legislative powers as necessary to exercise special responsibilities. It is reported that the United Kingdom, in consultation with the Government of the British Virgin Islands, has appointed a consultant for the redrafting of the Territory's Constitution. Addressing the position of the territorial Government, the paper notes that, according to information received from the administering Power, in September 1998 the Governments of the United Kingdom and the British Virgin Islands signed a "Memorandum of Cooperation and Partnership". In that document, the territorial Government stated that its objective was to achieve economic independence. The administering Power stated that it shared that objective and it remained committed to a policy of assisting its Overseas Territories to full independence, when and if it was the clearly and constitutionally expressed wish of the people.
According to the Secretariat paper, the administering Power advocated a position consistent with the overall recommendations contained in its March 1999 White Paper on the relationship between the United Kingdom and its Overseas Territories. Conveying action by the General Assembly, the Secretariat paper states that in December 1998 that body adopted, without a vote, resolution 53/67 B, section IV, which concerns the British Virgin Islands.
By the terms of that text, the Assembly requested the administering Power to keep the Secretary-General informed of the wishes and aspirations of the people of the Territory regarding their political future. It also requested the administering Power, the specialized agencies and other organizations of the United Nations to continue to provide the territorial Government with all the required expertise to enable it to achieve its socio-economic aims. The Assembly called upon the administering Power and the territorial Government to continue to cooperate to counter problems related to money laundering, smuggling of funds and other related crimes, as well as drug trafficking.
The Secretariat working paper on Guam (document A/AC.109/1999/14) states that Guam is an unincorporated Territory of the United States, since not all provisions of that country's Constitution apply to the island. The United States Congress enacted the Guam Organic Act in 1950 that established institutions of local government and made Guam an organized Territory. Guam is administered by the United States Department of the Interior.
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The Territory, southernmost and largest of the Mariana Islands in the Pacific, has a locally elected government that comprises separate executive, legislative and judicial branches. In 1972, a new law enabled Guam to have one non-voting delegate to the United States House of Representatives.
With regard to the position of the territorial Government, the Secretariat working paper states that, in a statement submitted by the Guam Commission on Self-Determination to the United States House of Representatives Committee on Resources on 29 October 1997, the Commission defined Guam's process of decolonization. The statement noted that the Territory's Commonwealth Act created a mechanism where the administering Power would approve of the Territory's Constitution. It also included a provision which recognized the right of the Chamorro (persons or descendants of persons born in Guam prior to 1 August 1950) to select an ultimate political status. Therefore, Guam's decolonization would result from the implementation of a status selected by the Chamorro people.
In their statements to the Fourth Committee in October 1997, the representatives of Guam emphasized that Commonwealth status for the Territory was an interim measure, as it did not meet the internationally recognized standards for decolonization. It was neither independence nor free association nor full integration. They stressed that the administering Power had rejected their proposal for a framework for decolonization and had rejected providing Guam with more autonomy.
According to the working paper, on 20 October 1997 the United States Interior Deputy Secretary clarified the constitutional and policy parameters of what the Administration could and could not support in Guam's Commonwealth proposal. He noted that Commonwealth negotiations had resulted in a creative and pragmatic approach towards the United States. However, the Administration could not support certain key concepts underlying the original bill. Those are concepts that would legally bind the Congress or the Executive Branch to seek the consent of the Commonwealth Government before modifying the act creating the Commonwealth and concepts that would transfer federal control over the adoption and enforcement of immigration and labour policies to the Commonwealth Government, among others.
In his statement to the Fourth Committee, the United States representative supported the right of the people of Guam to seek full self- government. He noted that that country also supported the stable development of all forms of economic activity by all residents of Guam, regardless of how long they had been permanent residents on the island.
The Secretariat working paper noted that the General Assembly, on 3 December 1998, adopted, without a vote, resolution 53/67 B, section VI, on Guam. By the terms of that resolution, the General Assembly requested that the administering Power continue to assist the elected territorial Government
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in the achievement of its political, economic and social goals. It also requested that the administering Power continue to recognize and respect the political rights, and the cultural and ethnic identity of the Chamorro people and continue to transfer land to the people of the Territory. The General Assembly also requested that the Special Committee continue to examine the question of Guam and report to it at its fifty-fourth session.
Draft Resolution on Economic and Other Activities Which Affect Interests of People of Non-Self-Governing Territories
By the terms of a draft text submitted by its Chairman (document A/AC.109/1990/L.9), the Committee would decide to follow the situation in the Non-Self-Governing Territories so as to ensure that all economic activities in those Territories are aimed at strengthening and diversifying their economies in the interest of their peoples, including the indigenous populations, and at promoting the economic and financial viability of those Territories.
Also, the Committee would urge the concerned administering Powers to take effective measures to safeguard and guarantee the inalienable right of the peoples of Territories to their natural resources and to establish and maintain control over the future development of those resources, and requests the administering Powers to take all necessary steps to protect the property rights of the peoples of those Territories. Further, the Committee would call on the administering Powers concerned to ensure that no discriminatory working conditions prevail in the Territories under their administration and to promote in each Territory a fair system of wages applicable to all the inhabitants without any discrimination.
It would also call once again on all governments that have not yet done so to take, in accordance with the relevant provisions of General Assembly resolution 2621 (XXV) of 12 October 1970, legislative, administrative or other measures in respect of their nationals and the corporate bodies under their jurisdiction that own and operate enterprises in the Territories that are detrimental to the interests of the inhabitants of those Territories, in order to put an end to such enterprises.
The Committee would also invite all governments and organizations of the United Nations system to take all possible measures to ensure that the permanent sovereignty of the peoples of the Territories over their natural resources is fully respected and safeguarded. In addition, it would appeal to the mass media, trade unions and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), as well as individuals, to continue their efforts to promote the economic well-being of the peoples of the Territories.
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Draft Decision on Military Activities and Arrangements by Colonial Powers in Territories under Their Administration
By the terms of the draft decision submitted by its Chairman (document A/AC.109/1999/L.10), the Committee would reaffirms its strong conviction that military bases and installations in the Territories concerned could constitute an obstacle to the exercise by the peoples of those Territories to their right to self-determination. It would reiterate its strong views that existing bases and installations, which are impeding the implementation of the Declaration of the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, should be withdrawn. The Committee would also urge the administering Powers concerned to take all the necessary measures not to involve those Territories in any offensive acts of interference against other States. It would reiterate its concern that military activities and arrangements by colonial Powers in Territories under their administration might run counter to the rights and interests of the colonial peoples concerned, especially the right to self- determination and independence. The Committee would once again call upon the administering Powers concerned to terminate such activities and to eliminate such military bases in compliance with the relevant resolutions of the General Assembly.
The Committee would reiterate that the colonial and Non-Self-Governing Territories and areas adjacent thereto should not be used for nuclear testing, dumping of nuclear wastes, or deployment of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction. It would deplore the continued alienation of land in colonial and Non-Self-Governing Territories, particularly in the small island Territories of the Pacific and Caribbean regions, for military installations. The large-scale utilization of local resources for this purpose could adversely affect the economic development of the Territories concerned.
Draft Resolution on Special Committee Decision of 11 August 1998 Concerning Puerto Rico
By the terms of a draft submitted by Cuba, the Committee would reaffirm the inalienable right of the people of Puerto Rico to self-determination and independence in conformity with General Assembly resolutions 1514 (XV) and the applicability of the fundamental principles of that resolution to the question of Puerto Rico. It would reiterate that the Puerto Rican people constitute a Latin American and Caribbean nation that has its own and unequivocal national identity. The Committee would reaffirm its hope and that of the international community that the Government of the United States will assume its responsibility of expediting a process that allows Puerto Rican people to fully exercise their inalienable right to self-determination and independence, in conformity with Assembly resolution 1514 (XV) and the resolutions and decisions of the Special Committee.
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The Committee would encourage the Government of the United States, in line with the need to guarantee the Puerto Rican people their legitimate right to self-determination and the protection of their human right, to order the halt of its armed forces' military drill and manoeuvres on Vieques Island. It would also express its hope that the President of the United States will favourably consider the request before him to release the Puerto Rican prisoners serving sentences in United States prisons on cases related to the struggle for the independence of Puerto Rico.
Action on Draft Texts
RAFAEL DAUSA CESPEDES (Cuba), Acting Chairman of the Special Committee, introduced the draft resolution on economic and other activities which affect the interests of the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories (document A/AC.109/1999/L.9).
The Committee then adopted that draft without a vote.
The Acting CHAIRMAN then introduced draft resolution on military activities and arrangements by colonial Powers in the Non-Self-Governing- Territories (document A/AC.109/1999/L.10.), which the Committee also adopted without a vote.
Special Committee Decision of 11 August 1998 concerning Puerto Rico
The Acting CHAIRMAN called for consideration of the Special Committee's decision of 11 August 1998 concerning Puerto Rico (document A/AC.109/1999/L.6), as well as a report by the Rapporteur.
The Acting CHAIRMAN then invited petitioners to make their statements.
PEDRO ROSSELLO, Governor of Puerto Rico, said that the purpose of his appearance was to provide information about why the relationship between the United States and Puerto Rico merited the Special Committee's attention. If there was any consensus among the people of Puerto Rico today, it was that the island's present status did not fulfil the Puerto Rican people's aspirations.
He said the United States has previously conveyed information on Puerto Rico to the Special Committee. Based on that information, the General Assembly had concluded that the adoption of the 1952 Constitution had given the Puerto Rican people the status of an autonomous entity with sovereignty attributes and, therefore, the United States could stop transmitting information. Today, those resolutions had lost all political legitimacy. It was clear that Puerto Rico could not be proclaimed to be self-governing, while they had no vote in the system that governed them. The Clinton Administration had been consistent on
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the right of Puerto Ricans to exercise their right to self-determination, but the United States Congress had failed to exercise its constitutional responsibility to provide a valid process for them to exercise that right. The Special Committee should include Puerto Rico on the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories.
SAKIUSA RABUKA (Fiji) said that the voices of those affected by the actions of the administering Powers must be heard. Was it possible for the judicial process to determine the final status of Puerto Rico?
Mr. ROSSELLO said the judicial branch of the United States Government had often stated its position on the relationship between the United States and Puerto Rico. The Supreme Court had established clearly that, under the Constitution, Puerto Rico was an unincorporated territory. In international terms, it was a jurisdiction that did not participate in international decisions -- essentially a colonial territory.
BERNARD TANOH-BOUTCHOUE (Côte d'Ivoire) asked the legal and political difference between the relationship of Guam vis-à-vis the United States and that of Puerto Rico vis-à-vis the United States. Why should Guam and not Puerto Rico be on the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories? What had been the reaction to the Governor's statement in the United States Congress?
Mr. ROSSELLO said that the situation in Guam and Puerto Rico were similar in the context of the Constitution -- they were territories, but not States. They were different in terms of the powers of the internal government, but the legal and constitutional relationship was essentially that of United States territories which did not participate in decisions taken on their future. The House of Representatives had reacted positively by adopting a plebiscite resolution, but the Senate had adopted a "sense of the Senate" resolution without proposing a specific measure by which the people of Puerto Rico could exercise their right to self-determination.
RODOLFO ELISEO BENITEZ VERSON (Cuba) said Cuba had noted the petitioner's request that Puerto Rico be included on the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories and hoped the United States would take a cooperative, rather than a confrontational, position towards that request.
EDUARDO VILLANUEVA MUÑOZ, on behalf of the Colegio de Abogados de Puerto Rico, said there was no equality between Puerto Ricans living in Puerto Rico and those living in the United States. No non-colonial situation existed in which the government of one country wielded so much power over the government of another country. The Puerto Rican people were subject to a colonial regime which had denied them for decades the right to self-determination. The Colegio de Abogados had not advocated any particular political formula, but was asking the United States to provide the Puerto Rican people with a process by which they could determine their own political status.
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Mr. TANOH-BOUTCHOUE (Côte d'Ivoire) asked what percentage of the Puerto Rican population wanted independence and what percentage did not.
Mr. VILLANUEVA MUÑOZ said 70 per cent of the 2 million authorized voters had taken part in political status elections. In the most recent vote, a colonial formulation of vote had been presented, demonstrating that only 1 per cent wanted independence.
EUNICE SANTANA, speaking on behalf of the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs, said the history of Puerto Rico showed a people who were tired of war games and tired of living with the fear that some accident would deprive them of life, while they were under the control of others. Puerto Ricans were also tired of lacking the means to earn a living, and to enjoy the basic rights to work, health, enjoyment of natural resources and happiness. It was a story of power -- the abuse of power, tensions, arrests, detention and death.
She said the case of Puerto Rico was the story of a people that would not give up. But it was also the story a Latin American and Caribbean people who were tired of being invisible. There was now a consensus in Puerto Rico on the presence of the United States Navy in Vieques. Another issue concerned the release of men and women -- members of pro-independence factions who were being held in prisons in the United States. The President of the United States, William Clinton, had been called upon to act based on the justness of the claims by Puerto Ricans.
JORGE FARINACCI GARCIA, Frente Socialista, said Puerto Rico has not received the rights set out in Assembly resolution 1514 (XV). Today, vast sectors of the Puerto Rican population were carrying out a historical demonstration against the actions of the United States Navy. On 4 July, thousands of protesters demanded the immediate withdrawal of the Navy from the island of Vieques. Puerto Ricans now felt that the United States must relinquish control of that small island.
Continuing, he stressed that if the Navy did not adhere to that demand, there would be a confrontation by a people who were tired of the abuse of their brothers and sisters. The obstinacy of the United States Government was provoking tensions in the country. Tomorrow in Chicago, Professor Jose Solis, a freedom fighter, would be sentenced in that city. He urged the present forum to speak clearly and firmly against the stubborn insistence of the United States in ignoring international law, while maintaining its hegemony over Puerto Rico.
Mr. DAUSA CESPEDES (Cuba) Acting Chairman, wanted to know what the specific charges were that had been made against Jose Solis?
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Mr. GARCIA said Mr. Solis, a university professor of education, had been accused in Chicago, a city that was renowned for its harassment of Puerto Ricans, particularly those who were part of the pro-independence movement. Tomorrow, Mr. Solis was facing sentences of up to 15 years for planting bomb. To date, there had been no proof to corroborate that charge, and a number of other university professors knew that the charge was a fabrication.
JUAN MARI BRAS, speaking on behalf of Causa Comun Independentista- Proyecto Educativo Puertorriqueño, said that for the first time in the history of Puerto Rico a broad national consensus was beginning to emerge in relation to the manifest destiny of the people. That consensus demanded that the United States Navy leave the island of Vieques and cease once and for all its operations there. The island was not uninhabited as was falsely claimed by the United States. It had been a part of Puerto Rico for a long time and had once been populated by 20,000 people. That figure had now been reduced to 9,000. The rest of the former inhabitants were now living in exile in St. Croix and the United States. The remaining civilian population had been reduced to living on one third of the island of Vieques because the United States Navy had taken over two thirds of it.
He said the constant bombing had destroyed the fauna and flora and affected the health of all the people. The cancer rate in Vieques was double the average of that terrible disease in the rest of Puerto Rico. The outrage being committed by the United States could no longer be tolerated. It had also been demonstrated that there was broad national consensus that the President of the United States should free all Puerto Rican prisoners in United States jails. He asked the Committee to admonish the United States to take measures to recognize two principles: that Puerto Rico was a Latin American and Caribbean nation with its own national identity and sovereignty. If the current resolution before the Committee was adopted, then by next year, Puerto Rico would be able to report to the Committee about concrete terms that would end the colonial domination by the United States.
Mr. BENITEZ VERSON (Cuba) requested clarification on a report of 25 June prepared by the Special Committee of Vieques on recommendations and conclusions.
Mr. BRAS said the report represented the national unity of Puerto Rican people after a century of United States domination. The report was the broadest possible interpretation of Puerto Rican opinions and included the views of the main political parties, the Church, representatives of civil society, and the Vieques fishermen, who were most directly affected by the military presence. The report had achieved consensus and stressed the need for the United States to depart from Vieques.
FERNANDO MARTIN, representative of the Puerto Rican Independence Party, said the draft resolution on the Special Committee decision of 11 August 1998
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concerning Puerto Rico reaffirmed the jurisdiction of the Committee over the colonial issue of Puerto Rico. Any decolonization decision must recognize Puerto Rican sovereignty and the right to self-determination. Decolonization was not a United States decision under international law, he stressed. Secondly, while the draft resolution took note of the initiatives taken by the United States on Puerto Rico on the last 10 years, it had still not been possible to develop a decolonization process. The Committee must recognize that, and the United States must open dialogue with the Puerto Rican people.
The Acting CHAIRMAN asked if there were any issues concerning Puerto Rico before the United States Senate at the moment.
Mr. MARTIN said there was no formal initiative at present bearing on Puerto Rico. The initiative taken last year, irrespective of its merits or virtues, represented an attempt by the Congress to tackle the Puerto Rican issue. It had been passed by the House of Representatives, but defeated in the Senate, which had failed to propose an alternative.
ISMAEL GUADALUPE, on behalf of the Comité Pro Rescate y Desarollo de Vieques, said that the presence of the United States Navy was the result of a situation in which decisions affecting Puerto Rico were taken in another country. Military activity had been growing in alarming proportions. The prevalence of cancer in Vieques was intimately related to pollution from toxic substances which came from explosions conducted by the Navy. The people of Puerto Rico demanded the demilitarization of Vieques, the return of their land, decontamination and development. Puerto Ricans had the right to reject the presence of an army that did not represent their interests.
Mr. TANOH-BOUTCHOUE (Côte d'Ivoire) asked whether there was any economic benefit to be gained by Vieques from the military activities there. What economic impact would the closure of the naval base have?
Mr. GUADALUPE said the Navy's presence accounted for only about 100 jobs, and precarious ones at that. Far from creating a crisis, the Navy's departure would solve the problems of Vieques. The Navy had acted as an accomplice in strangling the local economy.
Mr. BENITEZ VERSON (Cuba) expressed concern about the impact on the health of the Vieques population of radiological weapons. Had anything been done to mitigate that impact?
Mr. GUADALUPE said he was unaware of any petitions by the Government of Puerto Rico, but his organization's petitions had consistently been denied by the United States Navy. In 1994, the organization had obtained evidence that uranium-capped bullets were being used to penetrate the armour of tanks, but the Navy had denied using such ammunition. The bullets produced a compound on impact which, if breathed by humans, caused cancer.
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MOWAFAK MAHMOUD AYOUB (Iraq) said the same ordnance had been used by the United States in his country. The same impact had been seen in the population, particularly in the south where cancer had risen.
WILFRID SANTIAGO-VALIENTE, President of the Statehooders Organizations of New York, Inc., said the resolutions adopted by the Special Committee on Puerto Rico over the past 38 years had been exclusive, one-sided and limiting. Any politically meaningful and constructive text should recall and acknowledge, in addition to Assembly resolution 1514 (XV), its companion text, 1541 (XV). Secondly, any considerations involving the case of Puerto Rico required a clarification of the blurred semantics that, on many occasions, hampered discussion. The concept of autonomy as a distinct status on par with the options of independence and statehood and the scope of the principle of self- determination as it pertained to Puerto Rico were cases in point.
A quick examination of the United Nations Special Committee resolutions on Puerto Rico showed that resolutions had focused on the island's right to self-determination and independence in conformity with Assembly resolution 1514 (XV). Though this was a legitimate issue and concern, it should be noted that the general election results in Puerto Rico and the status referenda held in 1967 and 1992 showed that less than 5 per cent of the electorate had opted for independence. Moreover, in the recently held plebiscite of December 1998, only 2.5 per cent had done so. There was no inevitable conflict between politics and culture in Puerto Rico.
He said, as it was in the United States, politics was an important component of the Puerto Rican culture. As a State of the Union, Puerto Rico would be fully integrated as an equal in the political processes and power structures of the United States and in the concomitant system of free concurrence and exchange which coordinated economic and social processes. Rightly understood, the full integration in conditions of equality would strengthen, not weaken the island's cultural expression and strengthen the richness and variety of American culture, as well. That, in fact, was occurring now even under conditions of political subordination.
WILMA REVERON, speaking on behalf of Congreso Nacional Hostosiano, said that in 1989, the United States had caused the death of David Sanes and wounded four others in Vieques. The United States Navy had yet to issue a report on those responsible. There was need for an investigation to determine whether it had been a homicide. A special commission of the Government of Puerto Rico had also requested the Navy to provide information and, in so doing, had met with similar reticence. There had also been reports of ecological destruction, environmental pollution and fatal consequences. The death of the civil guard David Sanes, to quote Gabriel Garcia Marquez, was "a Chronicle of Death foretold".
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She said that, in 198O, this Committee had adopted a resolution which condemned manoeuvres by the United States Navy. That text had been adopted by the Assembly, as well. However, from 1980 to the present, the United States had not only continued its military activities, but had also stepped them up. Vieques was also now leased out to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) for its own military manoeuvres. It was estimated that the United States was generating some $80 million a year by such actions. In the meanwhile, the population of Vieques had a cancer rate 26 per cent greater than the rest of Puerto Rico. The environmental toll was a factor that related to the serious health problem afflicting the people of Vieques today. Those problems were forcing them to emigrate in search of education and employment.
NILDA LUZ REXACH, Executive Director of National Advancement for Puerto Rican Culture, said that more than 97 per cent of Puerto Rico's population had rejected independence, which would be a tragedy for the island. Like other Caribbean nations freed from Spain by the United States, Cuba had been politically unstable since independence. Today, many Cubans came to the United States by raft to escape the hell of their homeland. If Puerto Rico's independence party, which liked to intimidate people, ever took control of the island, they would treat Puerto Ricans in the same manner, but on larger scale.
Mr. BENITEZ VERSON (Cuba) said the issue before the Special Committee concerned Puerto Rico. The petitioner was speaking on a subject that had nothing to do with that issue.
The Acting CHAIRMAN asked the petitioner to confine her comments to the issue and to refrain from offending delegates.
Ms. REXACH said she had no intention of offending anybody and had merely stated the reality. She said that the day the Americans had liberated Puerto Rico from the cruelty of the Spanish Government had been a blessing. Puerto Rico had been ceded to the United States pursuant to the Treaty of Paris which had recognized the authority of the United States Congress to provide for the political status of the territory's inhabitants. Puerto Ricans demanded to be treated with equality.
Puerto Rico had been a state of the United States since 1917 under the Jones Act, and the United States Supreme Court recognized it as a state of the union. The status of Puerto Rico should be only the declaration of statehood, with the equality that had been denied. The solution was not to expel Puerto Rico from the union, but to give all Puerto Ricans all the rights that, as American citizens, they deserved not only by history, but even by the sacrifice of their blood.
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MARISOL CORRETJER, representing Partido Nacionalista de Puerto Rico, said that, in the year since the last resolution on Puerto Rico, the administering Power had once again expressed its scorn for the Special Committee's work of decolonization. The Committee should recognize that it was time for Puerto Ricans to carry out a true act of self-determination. The people of one country could not be free when the military forces of another dictated where they could live, walk and fish. All that was being demanded was that the United States Navy leave Vieques. No Puerto Rican accepted the reduced uranium bombs, the radar and the climate change caused by the Navy's military testing. Due to its colonial status, Puerto Rico could not prevail on the Navy to leave the two thirds of Vieques that it had occupied.
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