United Nations Press Release
Special Committee on Decolonization
8th Meeting (PM)
Omnibus Draft Resolution on Non-Self-Governing Territories Approved by Consensus in Special Committee on Decolonization, amid Proposals to Treat Cases Separately
Text Also Approved on New Caledonia, as Petitioner Seeks Training For Islanders; Turks and Caicos Petitioner Warns ‘No One Overseeing the Overseers.’
Noting the importance of positive measures being pursued in New Caledonia by the French authorities to promote political, economic and social development, the Special Committee on Decolonization today invited all parties to continue advocating a framework for an act of self-determination in which all options were open and which would safeguard the rights of all sectors of the Territory’s population, in line with the 1998 Nouméa Accord.
Approving a consensus text on the Question of New Caledonia, submitted by Fiji and Papua New Guinea, the 24-member Committee would have the General Assembly urge all parties involved to maintain their dialogue in a spirit of harmony, welcoming the unanimous 2008 agreement on the transfer of powers to New Caledonia in 2009. It would have the Assembly note the relevant provisions of the Nouméa Accord aimed at taking more broadly into account the Kanak identity in the political and social organization of New Caledonia and welcome in that context the 18 August 2010 adoption of the law on the anthem, the motto and banknote designs.
By a related provision, however, the Assembly would note the ongoing difficulties regarding the question of the flag and the ensuing Cabinet crisis. It would acknowledge the provisions of the Nouméa Accord relating to control of immigration and protection of local employment, while noting the concerns expressed by a group of indigenous people in New Caledonia about their under-representation in governmental and social structures. Further, it would call on the administering Power to continue to transmit to the Secretary-General information as required under Article 73 e of the United Nations Charter.
Before that action, Victor Tutugoro of the Kanak and Socialist National Liberation Front (FLNKS) — the only petitioner to take the floor on the issue — stressed that there were only three years until 2014, when the decolonization of New Caledonia was to be completed, under the terms of the Nouméa Accord. France must quickly implement measures to ensure the full transfer of jurisdiction, especially as training for future leaders was still lacking: there were two doctors, no judges and no lawyers, he said.
In that connection, he voiced concern at the lack of preparation for the transfer of responsibilities and asked the United Nations to clarify its assistance policies for colonized people, especially for professional training, health, environmental management and addressing national disasters. He appealed to the United Nations for special grants to train diplomats and to the Special Committee for legal expertise to clarify the foundation of the draft constitution put in place in 1997.
Also today, the Special Committee heard two petitioners on the Question of Turks and Caicos, whose self-government had been suspended in 2009 by the United Kingdom, the administering Power, on charges of ministerial corruption. “The situation is grave in this Territory,” declared Benjamin Roberts, on behalf of the Turks and Caicos Forum. The administering Power, after a long absence, had re-inserted itself into the Territory, and the problem was that “no one is overseeing the overseers”.
The Interim Government had made almost no effort to draw from the skilled Turks and Caicos professionals living abroad in the so-called rehabilitation of the Territory, he said. Worst of all had been the British Government’s decision last week to invite a Turks and Caicos delegation to London to make the final changes to a draft constitution — as it was the British alone who decided with whom they wanted to meet. He urged the Special Committee to ensure that the administering Power abided by its obligations to usher Turks and Caicos forward in a progressive manner “out of its slumber of colonialism into a fruitful era of nationhood”.
The Special Committee also approved by consensus today its 17-page “omnibus” resolution on the Questions of American Samoa, Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Guam, Montserrat, Pitcairn, Saint Helena, Turks and Caicos Islands and the United States Virgin Islands (document A/AC.109/2011/L.8).
Speaking before action, Saint Lucia’s representative, seconded by the representative of Papua New Guinea, pressed the Special Committee to disaggregate the Territories under consideration in the text. “We need to re-examine how we proceed in our work,” he said, urging that each Territory be given the attention it deserved. He further noted that the information provided on Turks and Caicos in the text, for example, was severely outdated. While he would support the draft this year, its passage next year “might not be so easy”.
In final business today, the Special Committee adopted the draft report of the Caribbean Regional Seminar, held in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines from 31 May to 2 June, annexing to it the Special Committee’s report to the sixty-sixth session of the General Assembly.
Also speaking today on the Question of New Caledonia were the representatives of Papua New Guinea and Saint Lucia. The observer for Solomon Islands (on behalf of the Melanesian Spearhead Group) also spoke. Speaking on the Question of American Samoa and other Territories was the representative of Saint Lucia. Papua New Guinea’s representative spoke in explanation of position after action on the related text. Speaking after the adoption of the regional seminar report was the representative of Chile, who had acted as Chair of the Drafting Group for that report.
The Special Committee on Decolonization met today to take up the Questions of New Caledonia, as well as American Samoa, Anguilla, Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Guam, Montserrat, Pitcairn, Saint Helena, Turks and Caicos Islands and the United States Virgin Islands. In that context, it was expected to take action on two draft resolutions relating to those Questions (documents A/AC.109/2011/L.12 and L.8), and hear petitioners on the Questions of New Caledonia, and Turks and Caicos Islands.
For its debate, the Special Committee had before it 11 related working papers, which provided both background information and updates on the latest constitutional, legal and political developments, as well as economic and social conditions in the Non-Self-Governing Territories (documents A/AC.109/2011/2, 4-12, and 15).
Introduction of Draft Resolution
LUKE DAUNIVALU (Fiji), introducing the draft resolution entitled “Question of New Caledonia” (document A/AC.109/2011/L.12) on behalf of Fiji and Papua New Guinea, said that the Special Committee had heard, time and again, appeals for the complete elimination of colonialism. However, at times it seemed to be too focused on political independence, without placing enough emphasis on the social and economic sectors of the Territories in question. The Special Committee could play a more active role in that respect. In addition, he noted that, due to challenges arising from the legal status of those Territories and the lack of information available on them, gaps existed and hindered the progress that those Territories deserved.
He said that those issues, among others, were relevant to the question of New Caledonia. Recalling a decision by the Melanesian Spearhead Group leaders to carry out annual monitoring and assessments of the Nouméa Accord, he hoped that work — alongside the help of the Special Committee and the administering Power, France — would lead to New Caledonia’s independence. He commended France for its support and commitment, adding that the continued dialogue aimed at improving cooperation between France and the Special Committee were “of utmost importance”.
Statements on New Caledonia
ROBERT G. AISI (Papua New Guinea), a co-sponsor of the draft, said the Group remained mindful that more remained to be achieved as the Territory progressed towards determining its future status. He highlighted a decision recently taken by the Melanesian Spearhead Group — of which Papua New Guinea was a member — that the Group’s leaders, in consultation with the parties, would complement the work of the Special Committee through annual monitoring and assessment of the Nouméa Accord. That initiative would help the people of New Caledonia to freely determine their political status and pursue their own economic, social and cultural development.
He said his delegation welcomed the efforts of all parties, including the administering Power, towards addressing sensitivities through consultation and dialogue. It strongly encouraged the parties to maintain that momentum, but reiterated the call for a stronger focus on skills training in professional, technical and management areas, along with legal training, capacity-building, transfer of competencies and an emphasis on development across all sectors and parts of the Territories.
COLIN BECK, observer for Solomon Islands associating with Fiji and Papua New Guinea, and speaking on behalf of the Melanesian Spearhead Group, said the Melanesian countries had been mandated to work with all stakeholders to ensure that New Caledonia was administered in the best interests of the Kanak people. The Kanak and Socialist National Liberation Front (FLNKS) had championed the right to self-determination for the last 25 years. The Melanesian people comprised 90 per cent of those living on small island developing States in the Pacific. “We have found strength in our diversity,” he said.
The resolution spoke to the significant progress made under the Nouméa Accord and identified what must be done going forward, he said, urging that the Special Committee be updated on implementation of that agreement. He was pleased that the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous People had visited earlier this year and that gains had been made on nation-building tools like the anthem, bank notes and the motto. The same could not be said about flags and the under-representation of indigenous people in government and social structures.
He joined the call of paragraph 12 to encourage the administering Power to provide the Secretary-General with information as required under Article 73 e of the United Nations Charter. The Solomon Islands also supported the request for the Special Committee to continue examining the Question of New Caledonia and report back to the Assembly in 2012. He urged that the text be adopted by consensus.
DONATUS KEITH ST. AIMEE (Saint Lucia), recalling that he had chaired the Special Committee’s regional seminar in the Pacific, said that the manner in which the Special Committee had been received by New Caledonia and the administering Power had lent a sense of hope to the work at hand. “I have not seen that kind of purposefulness in other places,” he said, noting that the entire region was involved in the decolonization process of one of its members. That support, especially in the formative years, was very important, and he commended the region for the assistance it had provided to New Caledonia. “You must build a nation first before you get independence,” he said. From there, independence would follow. It would be a real sign of progress if another Territory were to follow along that path.
Petitioners on New Caledonia
VICTOR TUTUGORO, Kanak and Socialist National Liberation Front (FLNKS), said he was committed to the decolonization process, which was to be completed by 2014, allowing his country to attain sovereignty. Last year, FLNKS had noted a delay in the implementation of the Nouméa Accord, notably on the signs of identity; agreement had been reached on the hymn, currency, motto and banknotes, but not on the flag. In a symbolic move, the Prime Minister of France, the administering Power, last December had raised the FLNKS flag beside the French flag and requested that the same be done in all public offices.
Noting that the country was three years away from 2014, he urged France to quickly implement measures to ensure the full transfer of jurisdiction. Training for future leaders was still lacking, and it was hard to say whether New Caledonia would be able to fully exercise its responsibility for teaching, which was to be transferred by 1 January 2012. Guidelines set out by the Committee of Signatories urged the continued transfer of responsibilities, a stock-taking of the political results of the Nouméa Accord, a start to negotiations on industrial development, and facilitation of discussions on the country’s future after the Nouméa Accord.
Indeed, the way forward defined by the Committee of Signatories had been delayed by the fact that the Government of New Caledonia had been in crisis for almost four months, he said, noting that “far-reaching” consultations had allowed for a solution to exit the crisis. The fourth Government had been in place for a week. The Melanesian Spearhead Group was the primary source of support in the region and, for the first time, had visited New Caledonia to assess political progress. In a similar vein, he hoped to see regular visits of United Nations bodies to evaluate the effectiveness of public policies.
New Caledonia had been under administration for 158 years, he said, and as a result, had few professionals. There were two doctors, no judges and no lawyers. He also voiced concern at the lack of preparation for the transfer of responsibilities and asked the United Nations for clarity on its assistance policies for colonized people, especially for professional training, health, environmental management and addressing national disasters. On the issue of training, he appealed to the United Nations for special grants to train diplomats and to the Special Committee for legal expertise to clarify the foundation of the draft constitution put in place in 1997.
The Special Committee then adopted by consensus the draft resolution on the Question of New Caledonia (document A/AC.109/2011/L.12).
Question of American Samoa and Other Territories
In a general comment on the matter of American Samoa and other Territories, DONATUS KEITH ST. AIMEE (Saint Lucia) expressed concern about the large number of disparate Territories that were lumped together in the “cluster” resolution currently before the Special Committee. Despite the fact that many of those Territories were very small, the resolution removed the kind of emphasis and serious consideration that should be given to them on a case-by-case basis. “The Committee needs to look again at this grouping”, he said, adding that it might be doing the disparate group of Territories a disservice by including them all in one resolution.
Petitioners on Turks and Caicos
The Special Committee then turned its attention to the question of Turks and Caicos Islands, hearing first from ALPHA GIBBS, on behalf of the Turks and Caicos Forum. He said he was appearing before the Special Committee in order to discuss the “blatant unchecked, unmonitored failures” of the islands’ administering Power, the United Kingdom. Since the United Nations special mission to the Turks and Caicos in April 2006, the circumstances of the islands had changed for the worse. In that light, he invited the Special Committee to strongly consider executing another special mission in the very near future, noting that the deteriorated governance conditions and political uncertainty of the Territory required an impartial assessment.
In the past years, he said, at least five British parliamentarians had been tried and convicted of fraud while in office, as well as two peers from the House of Lords and three parliamentarians from the House of Commons. It was noteworthy that neither the indictments nor the convictions had resulted in the suspension of parliamentary democracy, as had a similar situation in the Turks and Caicos. In contrast, as a result of the suspicion of guilt on the part of a few parliamentarians in the Turks and Caicos, the islands were now subjected to an “interim dictatorship”, presided over by the British.
Under that arrangement, the Governor had failed to provide good governance and oversight, which were required under the prior constitution of Turks and Caicos, he went on. Among examples of poor governance were the lack of access of citizens of Turks and Caicos to any avenue of redress for grievances against the interim government; the lack of ability for citizens to voice any dissent; and the lack of transparency in processes for the allocation of Government resources and benefits; among others. The citizens of Turks and Caicos still felt marginalized as they had not been adequately represented by the Constitutional and Electoral Reform Adviser to the Turks and Caicos.
He said that in light of the current situation, the Turks and Caicos Forum requested the Special Committee to inquire of and demand that the United Kingdom provide an improved explanation of its “assault on human rights” in that Territory. It further requested that the Special Committee persuade the United Kingdom to present a definitive timetable with meaningful benchmarks for the achievement of the milestones promulgated by the Minister of Overseas Territories. It also called on the United Nations, through its various organs and committees, to establish a monitoring team to provide oversight and hold the United Kingdom accountable to its obligation in the Turks and Caicos.
BENJAMIN ROBERTS, Turks and Caicos Forum, a non-governmental organization, said that in 2009, a “damning” Commission of Inquiry, called for by the Crown, had uncovered the probability of corruption in the islands’ governance. But the British Governor and the British-provided Attorney General had not been subjected to that inquiry and, thus, had been allowed to “hit the exits”. The situation had worsened from there, as for the first time, Turks and Caicos citizens now faced layoffs, taxation and the shutdown of longstanding lucrative avenues of income generation. The Interim Government and the British advisers it employed made decisions at will, using favouritism, bias and “quiet deception”.
Moreover, he said, the Interim Government had made almost no effort to draw from the skilled Turks and Caicos professionals living abroad in the so-called rehabilitation of the Territory. Worst of all had been the British Government’s “shocking” decision last week to invite a Turks and Caicos delegation to London to make the final adjustments to a draft constitution — as it was the British alone who decided with whom they wanted to meet.
He went on to say that the principals had included leaders of both political parties, the head of the Consultative Forum, a member of the Advisory Council, a minister of the gospel, a youth ambassador and the head of the All Party Commission — none of whom, except the last member, had met with the public to share their views on the document. One could not help but ask on what grounds the British concluded it was their prerogative to host a negotiating team of their choice.
“The situation is grave in this Territory,” he declared. The administering Power, after a long absence, had re-inserted itself into the Territory, and the problem was that “no one is overseeing the overseers”. He again urged the Special Committee to ensure that the administering Power abided by its obligations to usher Turks and Caicos forward in a progressive manner “out of its slumber of colonialism into a fruitful era of nationhood”. He recommended that it deputize a group — such as his forum — to serve under the Special Committee’s auspices as an observer to catalogue the concerns of Turks and Caicos residents and present them to members for review, which would help guard against abuse by an unquestioned administering Power.
Draft Resolution on American Samoa and Other Territories
The Chair said that the text (document A/AC.109/2011/L.8) was the result of a long and detailed consultation among all interested delegations.
Also on that draft resolution, Mr. ST. AIMEE (Saint Lucia) issued another general comment urging the Special Committee to take a decision to disaggregate the Territories under consideration in the current resolution. “We need to re-examine how we proceed in our work,” he said, calling on the Special Committee to give each Territory the attention it deserved. He further noted that the information provided on Turks and Caicos in the draft text, for example, was severely outdated. He concluded that his delegation would support the draft resolution this year, but that next year, its passage “might not be so easy”.
Acting without a vote, the Special Committee then adopted the draft resolution, entitled “Questions of American Samoa, Anguilla, Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Guam, Montserrat, Pitcairn, Saint Helena, the Turks and Caicos Islands and the United States Virgin Islands” (document A/AC.109/2011/L.8).
Speaking in explanation of position, the representative of Papua New Guinea said that his delegation had supported the resolution so as not block its consensus adoption. However, he agreed with the concerns raised by the representative of Saint Lucia on the need to separate the territories contained in that resolution.
In other business, the Special Committee also adopted, without a vote, the draft report of the Caribbean Seminar, held from 31 May to 2 June in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and annexed it to the report of the Special Committee to the sixty-sixth session of the General Assembly.
Following that adoption, JOSE ANTONIO COUSINO (Chile), who had acted as Chair of the Drafting Group for that report, said that the document accurately reflected the discussions held at the Seminar, as well as the opinions of its participants.