16 June 1997


16 June 1997

Press Release



The Special Committee on Decolonization this morning asked the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom to resume negotiations, as soon as possible, towards a peaceful solution to the sovereignty dispute over the Falkland Islands (Malvinas).

Approving by consensus a draft resolution on the islands, sponsored by Bolivia, Chile, Papua New Guinea and Venezuela, the Special Committee reiterated that a peaceful and negotiated settlement was the way to end the dispute. It also reiterated its firm support for the mission of good offices of the Secretary-General to assist the parties to comply with the General Assembly resolutions.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs of Argentina, Guido Di Tella, said in cases of contested sovereignty, territorial disputes should be resolved first, with the applicability of the self-determination principle being addressed at a later stage. He hoped the new British Government would enter into dialogue. There was now a new opportunity for two friends to resolve a colonial anachronism.

Statements on the draft resolution were made by the representatives of Paraguay, Fiji, Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, China and Sierra Leone. Two representatives of the Falkland Islands' Legislative Council and two petitioners from Argentina also spoke.

Also this morning the Special Committee began consideration of the question of East Timor with the representatives of Indonesia, Portugal, and Sao Tome and Principe making statements. Petitioners representing the Timorese Democratic Union, the East Timor Alert Network and the East Timor Action Network also spoke.

At its next meeting at 3 p.m. today, the Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples will continue its consideration of the question of East Timor.

Special 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 consider the question of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) and the question of East Timor. It had before it Secretariat working papers on political, economic, social and other developments in those Territories, as well as a draft resolution on the Falkland Islands (Malvinas).

By the draft on the question of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) (document A/AC.109/L.1863), the Special Committee would ask the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom to consolidate the process of dialogue and cooperation by resuming negotiations, as soon as possible, towards a peaceful solution to the sovereignty dispute over the Territory, in accordance with relevant General Assembly resolutions. The draft resolution is sponsored by Bolivia, Cuba, Chile, Papua New Guinea and Venezuela.

The working paper on the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) (document A/AC.109/2083) states that the Government of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) participates in activities of the British Commonwealth and is a member of the British Dependent Territories Association. It also took part in the work of multilateral organizations concerned with the exploitation and preservation of marine resources in the South Atlantic.

With respect to the Territory's future status, the paper states that at a meeting of the Special Committee in July 1996 the Foreign Minister of Argentina said the solution to the sovereignty controversy over the Territory should come out of negotiations between Argentina and the United Kingdom. Such a solution was the only way to end the colonial situation. He said Argentina rejected the applicability of the right of self-determination there and renewed its commitment to preserving the way of life of the population.

The position of the United Kingdom is also presented in the paper. In a statement at the 1996 session of the Assembly, the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs of the United Kingdom said his Government had no doubt about Britain's sovereignty over the Falkland Islands and the other British territories in the South Atlantic. Nevertheless, he hoped the increasing cooperation between Argentina and the United Kingdom would be further developed. The elected officials of the islanders had stated their belief in their right to self-determination and had reiterated that they did not want to be part of Argentina.

According to the paper, revenues from fishing license allocations to foreign companies continued to be a major source of economic welfare of the Territory. The number of local companies operating in the fisheries sector also continued to grow. At a November 1996 meeting of the South Atlantic

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Fisheries Commission, the British and Argentine delegations expressed their commitment to the conservation of fish stocks in the South Atlantic. They also agreed to recommend to their Governments the continued cooperation, so as to reach a greater level of scientific understanding of the most significant off-shore species.

The draft would have the Committee express regret that, despite widespread international support for negotiations on the Territory's future, the implementation of the Assembly resolutions on the question has not yet started. It would also have the Committee reiterate that the way to end "the special and particular colonial situation in the question of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas)" is a peaceful and negotiated settlement of the sovereignty dispute between the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom.

The working paper on East Timor (documents A/AC.109/2079 and Add.1) states that Indonesia has continued to maintain its military presence in the Territory, whose 1995 population was estimated at 814,000. The 1980 census had recorded a total population of 555,350 persons. At the end of 1996, Indonesian sources estimated the number of their soldiers stationed in East Timor at about 3,000. Other sources estimated that Indonesia had about 7,000 to 10,000 troops there. The paper cites an Indonesian commander as stating that, as of November 1996, the number of separatist guerrillas in the Territory was less than 100 persons.

According to the paper, the East Timorese resistance to Indonesian rule has continued. Several incidents occurred in 1996, a year in which the Nobel Committee awarded its Peace Prize to East Timorese Roman Catholic Bishop Felipe Ximenes Belo and to resistance activist and spokesman Jose Ramos Horta "for their sustained and self-sacrificing contributions for a small but oppressed people".

In 1997, international media reported escalating violence in East Timor around the time of the Indonesian general elections, on 29 May, the paper states. Numerous attacks by pro-independence guerrillas took place in Dili, Baucau, Ermera and Los Palos. On 27 May, rebel forces attacked a polling station, injuring nine civilians. On 28 May, an armed group carrying M-16 rifles attacked a police post in the outskirts of Dili, as a result of which -- according to Dili authorities -- five guerrillas were killed and five police officers injured. In another incident, rebels launched a grenade attack on a truck carrying 27 Indonesian military and police personnel, killing 18 persons and injuring nine. About 130 persons were arrested in various districts of the Territory and were being questioned in connection with the attacks.

On 30 May, the Government of Portugal issued a statement which questioned the validity to the electoral act of 29 May in East Timor, the

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paper goes on to say. On 6 June, the Spokesman for the Secretary-General of the United Nations said that the Secretary-General had called upon all parties to exercise restraint. The spokesman had also recalled that the Secretary- General was scheduled to meet with the Foreign Secretaries of Indonesia and Portugal on 19 and 20 June in New York on the question of East Timor.

With respect to the human rights situation in the Territory, the paper cites various sources -- including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and a United States congressman -- as stating that conditions continued to be grave. There were reports of arbitrary detention, torture, disappearances and political killings, the paper states.

Falkland Islands (Malvinas)

WILLIAM LUXTON, of the Legislative Council of the Falkland Islands, said the people of those islands had 160 years of unbroken parliamentary democracy behind them. Outlining the history of the Territory from the time of its discovery by the British in 1592, he said the destruction and havoc caused by the Argentines during their short occupation of his homeland would be catastrophic had it not been for the generous assistance from the United Kingdom.

Oil exploration was about to begin in the Falkland Islands, with the possibility of a huge source of future income, he said. The Territory was completely self-governing with respect to internal matters, and the Executive Council was composed solely of elected members. The Territory had an active defence force of its own, even though Britain continued to be responsible for defence and foreign affairs. The British Government consulted the Islanders on foreign affairs matters of concern to them.

The people of the Falkland Islands demanded that the world acknowledge their absolute right to determine their own future, he said. That was their inalienable right under the United Nations Charter. Argentina was the colonialist Power, and it wished to impose its alien systems and way of life on the Falkland Islands against the will of its people.

"We have had a brief taste of Argentina's colonial rule; we did not like it", he said. The most memorable monument to Argentina's short occupation of his homeland was the murderous legacy of land-mines they left scattered at random over some of the finest wildlife areas. The people of the Falkland Islands were free again, thanks to Britain, and they intended to stay that way. They did not think of themselves as a British colony. They had chosen to be an independent Territory. The main reason for that was that they had to depend on Britain for their long-term security while Argentina continued to threaten them. It was Argentina's colonialist ambitions that prevented any change in the constitutional position of the Falkland Islands.

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Commenting on the draft resolution before the Committee, he expressed concern that it did not include "the right of peoples to self-determination". His countrymen demanded that right, he said.

S. HALFORD, a member of the Falkland Islands Legislative Council, said that regardless of Britain's and Argentina's interpretation of the past, the historical reality was that the Falkland Islands had been permanently settled and occupied by the British for well over 160 years. Throughout their history -- apart from the 10 years prior to 1982 -- the Islanders had had no contact with the Argentine mainland. Against their wishes, communications had been established between the Islands and Argentina in 1972, which, instead of leading to a better understanding, had culminated in a war.

She said she had been privileged to participate in a meeting between the Foreign Ministers of both the United Kingdom and Argentina. That meeting had shown very clearly that, despite the geographic proximity, the Falkland Islands and Argentina were worlds apart culturally. The only thing they had in common was that both their populations had grown out of immigrants. That was where the similarities ended. Unlike the Argentineans, the ancestors of the Falkland Islanders had not wiped out an indigenous people in settling the land they now lived on.

While the people of the Falklands were prepared to discuss issues of mutual benefit and reach some agreement, sovereignty was not and never was likely to be on any agenda, she said. The Falkland Islanders would welcome a peaceful end to the dispute, and sooner rather than later. They hoped that a democratic Argentina would demonstrate its maturity by relinquishing its unfounded claim to the Falkland Islands.

She asked Committee members how they could condone the suggestion that the Falklands should relinquish its association with the United Kingdom only to become a colony of Argentina. Was it not time the Special Committee recognized that the Falkland Islands belonged to the Falkland Islanders and that they, like any other democratic peoples, should be allowed the right to determine their own future?

ALEJANDRO JACOBO BETTS, a petitioner from Argentina, said he was born in the Falklands and was the great-grandson of Falkland Islanders. However, he had left the colony 14 years ago to settle in the Province of Cordoba, Argentina. It was misleading to say that the Falklands were British. The fundamental issues before the Committee included the British claim of sovereignty over the Falklands/Malvinas, the recent inconsistency in British application of the principle of self-determination and the illegal British occupation.

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The British policy with respect to self-determination was limited, he said. There were special circumstances in the Falklands/Malvinas situation. Argentina insisted on direct diplomatic negotiations, including on the sovereignty issue. Argentina was prepared to address the interests of the Territory's inhabitants, and to guarantee their right to their lifestyle, culture, property and other material interests. However, the lifestyle of the Islands had been totally transformed during the past decade, through a rapid and disproportional change in their demographic composition.

The United Kingdom could not continue to ignore the United Nations call for negotiations aimed at resolving the sovereignty issue, he said. Neither could it unilaterally grant independence to the Islands, in open violation of the principle of territorial sovereignty. The two parties were on the threshold of a decisive moment. Forms existed to arrive at a definitive, satisfactory and mutually acceptable agreement between.

JUAN SCOTT, a petitioner from Argentina, said the Falklands/Malvinas represented not only an Argentine problem, but also a hemispheric and a global issue. For Argentina, it was an unrecovered Territory, unlawfully seized by force, disrupting the territorial integrity of the country, and resulting in strife that would not end until a reasonable and feasible solution to the sovereignty dispute was found. A main objective of Argentine policy since 1833, when Malvinas was usurped, had been to restore them to the national patrimony.

Argentine Governments had consistently pointed out the illegal and continuing occupation of the islands, he said. That occupation represented the anachronistic persistence of military colonialism, not an issue of self- determination as described by the Falklands lobby in London. The question of sovereignty has always been central to Argentina's claim.

The Assembly, in its resolution 2065 (XX), had invited Argentina and Great Britain to negotiate the question with the intention of finding a peaceful solution, he said. That resolution had reinforced Argentine confidence in the rightness of its case and weakened Britain's position in maintaining the right of self-determination for the Islands. To grant self- determination to people illegally occupying territory belonging to another State was to endorse usurpation and threaten respect for the territorial integrity of States.

A substantial effort must be made by the Governments of Argentina and Great Britain if the people of the Islands were to be convinced that there could be an acceptable and workable solution. The Islanders clearly had a role to play and should be consulted. However, they should not be allowed to impede any progress towards a solution.

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JUAN SOMAVIA (Chile), introducing the draft resolution on the Falkland Islands (Malvinas), said it had also announced the addition of Bolivia, Cuba, Papua New Guinea and Venezuela as co-sponsors. He said the draft represented a new contribution to resolution of the issue between two countries with which his country had friendly relations. A peaceful resolution of the dispute was the only path that should be taken. The draft was not intended to change the essence of resolution 2065 (XX) adopted by the General Assembly last year, but to complement it. It was hoped it would be approved without a vote.

GUIDO DI TELLA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Argentina, said that in cases of contested sovereignty, territorial disputes should be resolved first. Only at a later stage should the applicability of the self-determination principle be addressed. The restitution to China of Hong Kong on 1 July and of Macao in 1999 to China demonstrated that change was possible through dialogue and negotiation. Resolution 2065 (XX) had established that there was a sovereignty dispute between his country and the United Kingdom regarding the Malvinas. In view of the peculiarities of the case, the Malvinas question must be settled through negotiations between Argentina and the United kingdom. To proceed otherwise would cause the territorial disruption of his country.

The United Kingdom had granted the population of the Islands full British citizenship since 1983, he said. To grant a right to self- determination to them would mean accepting that a group of 2,000 British subjects could be the arbiters of a territorial controversy to which their country was a party. The applicability of the principle of self- determination, which had been proposed by the British and rejected by the Assembly, could not be reopened. Nevertheless, both countries continued to make progress in cooperation with respect to environmental issues and should be able to find solutions if dialogue was resumed on the sovereignty question.

He said that Argentina's Constitution guaranteed respect for the lifestyles of the islanders, as well as recovery of that Territory by peaceful means. Argentina was not threatening that population. He appreciated the strength with which they had presented their case and wanted to win their hearts. If they got together with the Argentinians, he was certain an agreement could be reached that would surprise both parties. Change could not be stopped, as demonstrated by the change in Hong Kong's status.

Although there was currently a lack of communication between the parties, it was difficult to believe that dialogue could not take place, he said. It was hoped that the new British Government would enter that dialogue. There was now a new opportunity for two friends to resolve a colonial anachronism. The Malvinas question, which had been on the United Nations agenda for 30 years, lay deep in the hearts of Argentina. He welcomed the fact that the draft resolution urged dialogue.

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RAMON A. DIAZ-PEREIRA (Paraguay), speaking on behalf of the Common Market of the Southern Cone (Argentina, Bolivia, Chile and Paraguay), said that at a conference in Argentina in June 1996 those countries had reaffirmed the sovereign right of Argentina over the Malvinas/Falkland Islands. They had also expressed the hope that the dispute over the islands would be resolved in conformity with relevant United Nations resolutions.

POSECI W. BUNE (Fiji) said that, in considering the current draft resolution, the Special Committee should remember its mandate. The Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples called for an end to colonialism when the peoples of colonized territories exercised their right to self-determination. The process of self- determination should be evolutionary, not be imposed on the people. It was for the people to exercise that right when the time was ripe.

The draft resolution should be viewed in that light, he said. Instead, it focused more on the issue of sovereignty, an issue which should be dealt with in another forum. The Special Committee's mandate had nothing to do with sovereignty issues. Should it consider the issue to be one of sovereignty rather than self-determination, it should consider deleting the Territory from its list. He said the draft also failed to take account of recent developments which had led to the omnibus resolution A/RES/51/224 of 11 April. The climate was now right for direct dialogue and negotiation by the parties, with the assistance of the Special Committee. He urged them to move speedily towards that end.

OSCAR R. DE ROJAS (Venezuela) reaffirmed his country's position that peaceful negotiations were the only way to resolve the dispute over the islands. It was hoped the draft resolution would be approved without a vote.

PEDRO NUÑEZ-MOSQUERA (Cuba) reaffirmed his country's total support for Argentina in its dispute with Britain with respect to sovereignty over the islands. That dispute could be resolved peacefully. Cuba had co-sponsored the draft, in the hopes that it might contribute to a peaceful resolution of the issue.

EDGAR CAMACHO OMISTE (Bolivia) expressed his country's solidarity with Argentina and hoped the parties would find a solution in keeping with General Assembly and Special Committee resolutions. The auspicious climate now existing should contribute to such a solution.

LIU JIEYI (China) said his Government had always advocated peaceful settlement of disputes. It was hoped that Argentina and the United Kingdom would implement the General Assembly resolution on the issue as soon as possible and negotiate a settlement.

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The draft resolution on the question of the question of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) was approved without a vote.

OTTO DURING (Sierra Leone), speaking in explanation of position, said while efforts by the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom to solve the issue by peaceful means were praiseworthy, significance should be given to the wishes and interests of the people of the islands. The resolution should have made appropriate reference to the important and relevant question of self-determination for the islanders. There was no alternative to that principle.

East Timor

MARTY MULIANA NATALEGAWA (Indonesia) said his country rejected consideration of the question of East Timor by the Special Committee. It rejected the use of that forum for a campaign against Indonesia.

ANTONIO GAMITO (Portugal) said his country was the administering Power of the Non-Self-Governing Territory of East Timor. The United Nations had not recognized the territorial integration of East Timor into Indonesia. As a result, the Security Council and the Secretary-General had taken certain actions on the matter.

Mr. NATALEGAWA (Indonesia) said his country's views on the issue was well known, and he reserved the right to state them again at a later stage.

Special Committee Chairman UTULA U. SAMANA (Papua New Guinea) said the reservations expressed by the representative of Indonesia would be reflected in the records of today's meeting.

DOMINGOS AUGUSTO FERREIRA (Sao Tome and Principe), speaking on behalf of Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau and Mozambique, said that since the Committee's last meeting, the situation in that Territory had not improved. Violent events had occurred during the recent elections in East Timor -- elections which the administering Power did not recognize. The Government of Indonesia did not want to allow the people of the Territory to express themselves on a matter on which only they could make a final decision.

He supported the Secretary-General's good offices and requested the Government of Indonesia to change its position to facilitate a common ground for a final solution in its negotiations with Portugal as the administering Power. The agenda for the dialogue between Portugal and Indonesia must change in order to solve the problem of the universal rights of the people of the Territory, including the exercise of their rights to self-determination and independence. All Timorese should be involved in those ongoing negotiations, under the auspices of the United Nations, with a view to reaching a

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comprehensive and internationally accepted solution to the question of East Timor.

All Member States had an obligation to promote and protect human rights, he said. Fundamental rights and freedoms were principles which did not exist in East Timor. In that connection, he made reference to alleged extrajudicial killings, torture and arbitrary detention and called on the Indonesian Government to respond positively to the requests from all organizations in the field of human rights. The Indonesian Government should allow the rapporteurs and the working groups of the Human Rights Commission to go to East Timor to obtain a first-hand assessment of the situation. The Indonesian National Commission also had the task to investigate human rights in East Timor.

The Group of Five, which he represented, called the attention of the Special Committee to the continuing exploitation of East Timor's natural resources, which was illegitimate and against the interests of the people of the Territory and its future. Such exploitation should cease. The Group did not support the option of settling conflicts by force and strongly believed that a constructive dialogue would prevail once again.

Mr. NATALEGAWA (Indonesia) again objected to reference to any issues that should be discussed at other forums.

After an exchange between the Committee Chairman and the representative of Portugal, the Committee decided to limit each petitioner's statement to 10 minutes. The Committee CHAIRMAN said that its officers had taken the decision.

HELENA PIRES, of the Timorese Democratic Union, said despite the contention by the East Timorese that their Territory was occupied, each year Indonesia insisted that East Timor had already exercised its right to self- determination. Indonesia propagated a number of myths which included the issue of self-determination. The Government had claimed that East Timorese had exercised the right to self-determination. Such claims were unfounded, she said.

She noted that there had been some infrastructural development, but such development did not benefit the East Timorese who did not use the Indonesian- run hospitals. The roads facilitated military access and control. For the East Timorese, there had been no structural changes. They had the lowest per capita income and lowest standard of living in Indonesia. Referring to the more privileged position of "transmigrants" in East Timor, she said the East Timorese had been displaced from their lands which had been exploited by the migrants and the military. The question of sustainable development was not important to the Indonesian Government whose policy reflected the pillage of East Timor.

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There was a climate of fear in East Timor because of the military presence there, she continued. Referring to violations of human rights and crimes, including rape, she said the forced annexation could not mask the gross systematic violation of human rights. Her organization called for a referendum on the status of East Timor. The people of the Territory would honour the results if the referendum was fair. Welcoming recent attempts at talks and the award of the Noble Peace Prize to two Timorese as positive attempts to resolve the problems faced by East Timorese, she stressed that the Committee should not listen to Indonesia's false claims with respect to East Timor.

ISABEL GALHOS, of the Canadian-based East Timor Alert Network, said there was tremendous support for the East Timor people in Canada. She had participated in a demonstration in East Timor in August 1994 during which Indonesian troops had opened fire. She was among the few who had survived this massacre and had eventually managed to leave the Territory in August 1994. She had been speaking out in Canada on the situation in her country, appearing before church groups, labour organizations, student groups and others. The Indonesian Ambassador to Canada had visited her mother to warn her about her activities.

On 11 December 1996, members of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Canada had adopted a resolution condemning the Indonesian Government, she recalled. In May 1996, she had spoken at the Canadian Labour Organization convention at which a resolution expressing support for the people of East Timor had been adopted. The convention had also called for self-determination for the East Timorese people.

Mr. NATALEGAWA (Indonesia), speaking on a point of order, said the Special Committee should not allow petitioners to make references to meetings which could not be verified.

Mr. SAMANA (Papua New Guinea), Chairman of the Special Committee, said petitioners should be allowed to make their statements, to which the representative of Indonesia could respond if it so wished.

Ms. GALHOS urged the Special Committee to recommend an international arms embargo against Indonesia. She also said Indonesia should organize a referendum to determine the will of the people of East Timor.

CHARLES SCHEINER of the East Timor Action Network/United States, said the problem of decolonization of East Timor had been a bloodstain on the world for two decades. Far too many, East Timorese and the Indonesian people had died to satisfy the territorial desires of the dictatorial Suharto regime.

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Mr. NATALEGAWA (Indonesia) said his delegation could not sit idly by in the face of offensive language by petitioners.

The CHAIRMAN urged petitioners to refrain from using such language.

Mr. SCHEINER said, over the last three weeks, violence in the Territory had escalated to its worst level in many years. To protest Indonesia's imposition of its sham election on an occupied country, the East Timorese resistance had chosen 29 May to disrupt the balloting process and to attack several military targets. The military had responded with a massive troop build-up, huge numbers of arrests and widespread retaliatory killings. The situation was critical and yet neither the United Nations nor the people of the world could find out what was going on.

He said the Territory should be opened up immediately to observers from the United Nations, human rights non-governmental organizations and the international media. He urged the United Nations to promptly send an independent monitor to East Timor to observe the situation and ensure that human rights were respected. An independent presence could provide some protection to the civilian population from being terrorized by Indonesian troops and by police searching for guerrillas.

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For information media. Not an official record.