22 November 2009

Deposed Premier Condemns Climate of Fear in Turks and Caicos Islands

Premier Gilley calls for Unity

Turks and Caicos Weekly News
13 November 2009

By Rebecca Bird

FORMER Premier Galmo Williams hit out at Governor Gordon Wetherell this week accusing him of setting the country back 50 years. In a fiery press statement the PNP leader called again for a public uprising against the British-led government.

He said that Mr Wetherell has yet to inform the country of his plans for moving the country forward or “how he intends to empower TC Islanders.”

“I always believed and still do today, that the British Government does not have a plan for this country.

“It appears that their main aim is to cripple this country’s economy by stifling development and marginalising Turks and Caicos Islanders.”

Mr Williams claimed that the British have created their own ‘climate of fear’ over the past three months and said that people are afraid to speak out against the Governor’s actions for fear of victimisation.

He added: “I would like to make a final appeal to all Turks and Caicos Islanders, whether you are a PNP or PDM, persons residing in this country, those of you who care about and love this country, to let us come together as one and demand our country back - history has proven that there is strength in unity.”

In Wednesday’s statement Mr Williams also accused the Governer of hypocrisy in his actions. He challenged him to explain the “influx” of British advisors after criticising the former PNP government of appointing their own advisors.

The PNP veteran said that Islanders are being “shoved to the side” and earning “meagre” salaries. “Today I am disheartened at the fact that so many of our Turks and Caicos Islanders are being marginalised and being replaced by persons from the UK whose qualifications and experience still remains a mystery.

“Our PNP Government did not spend $18m dollars annually educating Turks and Caicos Islanders to be placed on the back burners making meagre salaries, whilst persons coming from the UK are in the frontline making huge salaries along with many benefits.

"Turks and Caicos Islanders, those of you who say you love this country, you must speak out. “You must let your voices be heard.”

Mr Williams also accused the Governor and his advisors of trying to “frustrate” TC Islanders into quitting their jobs. He cited former Registrar of Lands Kendle Williams and former Director of Tourism Lindsey Musgrove as examples.

Governor Gordon Wetherell was not available for comment up until press time.


Editor's Note:
In the wake of the 'colonial coup' undertaken by the British Government in the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) earlier this year with the abolishment of the elected government of the territory and the imposition of direct rule by the London-appointed governor, the United Nations (UN) made but a few minor adjustments to the language of the TCI section of the resolution when the UN Fourth Committee adopted its text. These changes insufficiently reflected the seriousness of the extraordinary development that had taken place, and the political crisis which has been created, and which continues as evidenced by the comments of the deposed Premier (see above article).

A request from activists in the territory for a separate resolution to address the complexities of the issue, similar to the UN resolution in the case of the coup in Honduras, was not heeded. The Honduras resolution, of course, elicited no action on the ground in Honduras, since the coup government remains in place, and the dutifully elected president remains in the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa - but at least the UN stated its position on principle. No such luck for a non self-governing territory such as the Turks and Caicos Islands which has no voice in the political bodies of the UN. Ironically, both coups took place in the Western Hemisphere where democracic governance is a priority.

Since the UN General Assembly meets in early December to complete its work on decolonisation for the year, there is still time for it to express its indignation with what has taken place. The following is a draft of a resolution which the UN might consider:

Draft Resolution on the Suspension of Democratic Governance in the Non Self-Governing Territory of the Turks and Caicos Islands

The General Assembly,

Deeply concerned that in reaction to the findings of a Commission of Inquiry on the administration of the Turks and Caicos Islands, the administering power of the territory has suspended major provisions of the Turks and Caicos Islands constitution, and in the process, has abolished the Premiership, Cabinet and House of Assembly, trial by jury and other provisions of the constitution, and has replaced democratic governance with direct rule by the governor acting on behalf of the administering power,

Noting with interest repeated requests made by the elected Premier, including in his statement to the May 2009 Caribbean regional seminar of the Special Committee on Decolonization held in St. Kitts and Nevis, calling for new elections to resolve the political crisis, and Noting with regret the subsequent rejection of these requests by the Government of the United Kingdom, the territory's administering power;

Taking into account the stated position of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) which emphasized that the imposition of direct rule was a regrettable forced step backward; that the democratic process could not be strengthened by removing representative democracy from the citizens of the territory; and that it would have been far more beneficial, and the results more sustainable, to involve the people of the territory through their elected representatives in the efforts required to strengthen the good governance and public administrative processes in the territory;

Also taking into account the position of the Non Aligned Movement Coordinating Bureau at its 2009 ministerial meeting that called for the urgent restoration of the constitutional government in the territory pursuant to the Constitutional Order of 2006;

Bearing in mind Article 73(b) of the United Nations Charter which recognizes, inter alia, the responsibility of member States which administer non self-governing territories to develop self-government, to take due account of the political aspirations of the peoples, and to assist them in the progressive development of their free political institutions;

Also bearing in mind Article 1 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and other relevant human rights instruments, which affirm that “all peoples have the right to self-determination (and) by virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development;”

Recalling the Inter American Democratic Charter of the Organization of American States (OAS) which, inter alia, "recognizes that representative democracy is indispensable for the stability, peace, and development of the region, and that one of the purposes of the OAS is to promote and consolidate representative democracy,"

Further recalling Article 1 of the Inter American Democratic Charter which states that "Democracy is indispensable for the effective exercise of fundamental freedoms and human rights in their universality, indivisibility and interdependence, embodied in the respective constitutions of states and in inter-American and international human rights instruments,"

Confirming that the unilateral abolishment by the administering power of the elected government of the territory violated recognized principles of democratic governance, and was inconsistent with the international treaty obligations of an administering power as contained in the United Nations Charter and relevant human rights conventions,

1. Calls for the restoration of constitutional government, as a matter of urgency, pursuant to the Turks and Caicos Islands Constitutional Order of 2006 in order to facilitate the conduct of new elections in the territory, and requests the administering power to facilitate relevant electoral assistance to the territory in the conduct of the elections consistent with relevant resolutions of the United Nations General Assembly,

2. Further calls for the creation of a timetable for the self-determination and subsequent decolonization of the territory in accordance with the freely expressed wishes of the people of the Turks and Caicos Islands, and in conformity with the legitimate political status options clearly defined in Resolution 1541 (XV).

3.  Requests the Secretary-General to report to the General Assembly in three months on the implementation of the present resolution.

20 November 2009

United Nations Action on Decolonisation Resolutions

OTR has recently completed its analysis of the vote in the United Nations Special Political and Decolonisation Committee (Fourth Committee) which adopted its 2009 resolutions on the remaining 16 non self-governing territories last month. Whilst a number of the resolutions were approved by consensus, the usual vote was required on others, as several of the countries which administer or occupy territories, or those which have sovereignty disputes over territories, vote against or abstain from specific resolutions.

In the case of the United Kingdom (UK), the usual explanation was given for their position, even as the explanation is inconsistent with its responsibilities under the United Nations Charter. France and the United States (US), however, provide no insight at the Fourth Committee on their negative votes.

In the case of the U.S., the vote by the Obama Administration was strikingly similar to that of the Bush Administration – in fact, it was identical. It appears that the policy’ ‘change’ has not yet filtered down to the issue of decolonisation of the remaining territories – an issue which apparently is of a lesser priority. The recent legislation authorizing U.S. support for a self-determination process for the U.S.-administered territories recently adopted by the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources should hopefully serve to stimulate some new thinking on this matter.

OTR offers the following excerpts from the United Nations press release, with substantive commentary in italics.

Draft resolution I, on information from Non-Self-Governing Territories transmitted under Article 73 e of the Charter of the United Nations  was approved by a recorded vote of 140 in favour to none against, with 4 abstentions (France, Israel, United Kingdom, United States).

Explaining his position after the vote, the representative of the United Kingdom said that, as in previous years, his delegation had abstained. The Government did not take issue with the resolution’s main objective, and continued to meet its obligations in that regard. His Government believed, however, that a decision as to whether a Non-Self-Governing Territory had reached a level of self-government was ultimately for the government of the Territory and the administering Power concerned, and not the General Assembly.

Taking up draft resolution II, on economic and other activities which affect the interests of the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories, the Committee approved the text by a recorded vote of 146 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with 2 abstentions (France, United Kingdom)

Speaking after the vote, the representative of Argentina said the applicability of the resolution in a given Territory depended on whether the right to self-determination was applicable to that Territory. Thus, it was relevant to bear in mind that certain General Assembly resolutions noted that, in cases where there was a sovereignty dispute, such as in the Malvinas Islands, South Sandwich Islands and surrounding maritime areas, a negotiated solution was the only path to resolving the dispute, and not self-determination. The resolution, therefore, was not applicable to the Malvinas Islands and the surrounding archipelagic areas. The situation prevailing in this archipelago, belonging to the national territory of a country, resulted in the unilateral exploitation by the United Kingdom of the natural resources of the Malvinas Islands and surrounding marine areas. That ran counter to the Assembly’s decisions in that field, and was a brazen violation.

The representative of the United Kingdom said that the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands was well-known, as the United Kingdom had expressed in the right of reply in the general debate on decolonization. There was no doubt about that Territory’s sovereignty and there could be no negotiation about those issues unless and until such time as the islanders so wished.

(Editor's Note:  The Falklands Islands and the Malvinas are different names for the same island...)

The Committee then approved draft resolution III on implementation of the (Decolonisation) Declaration by the specialized agencies and the international institutions associated with the United Nations by a recorded vote of 98 in favour to none against, with 50 abstentions.

Speaking in explanation of vote on behalf of the European Union, Sweden’s representative reaffirmed support for the specialized agencies of the United Nations in their efforts, particularly those in the technical and educational fields. The Union favoured careful compliance with those agencies’ statutes. It had therefore abstained from the vote. The U.S. did not speak on this resolution, but did address the same issue during its consideration by the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) last August. Accordingly, OTR reported in August that:

“The objections of the various member states to the resolution on assistance to the territories from the UN system are virtually identical to their objections for over a decade. Thus, the US representative continues to articulate to ECOSOC that any assistance to, or participation in, UN programmes for the non self-governing territories must be confirmed by the UN member State which controls the foreign relations of the territories concerned. This is a but a re-statement of the practice which is already in place, and has always been a requirement of the rules of procedure of any UN agency which provides for assistance or participation for these territories. The resolution, even in its present form, makes this clear.

A second objection by the US representative suggests that the resolution somehow “infringes upon” the internal constitutional arrangements of the United States. Yet, the longstanding US practice provides the delegation of authority to the territories, on a case by case basis, to participate in international organisations and activities.

In virtually all cases, it is only the state which controls the international relations of the territory which can make a request for the affiliation of the territory in any given UN body. If the delegation of authority is freely given by the administering power to the territory to participate in a given international organisation or activity, how can it be, at the same time, an infringement on the administering power’s control?”

The representative of Argentina stressed that the resolution should be in line with the previous resolutions and decisions of the General Assembly and the Special Committee on Decolonization.

It was unclear what was meant by this position.

Following that, the Committee took up draft resolution VI, on the 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 approving it without a vote.

But will the provisions be implemented?

Speaking in explanation after the vote, the representative of the United Kingdom said that his delegation had joined consensus on the last resolution, which reflected its full support for the right to self-determination. However, his delegation regretted the outdated approach of the “Committee of 24” (Special Committee on Decolonization), which failed to take full account of the way that the relationship between the United Kingdom and its Overseas Territories had been modernized in a way acceptable to both parties. The resolution did not fully reflect that modern relationship, he said, and the United Kingdom did not accept the assertion that self-determination did not apply where there existed a sovereignty dispute.

This was a repetition of the statement from previous years.

The representative of Argentina expressed full support for the right of people who were still subjected to colonization, and for the right to self-determination of the 11 Territories in the resolution just adopted. At the same time, as had been expressed in a letter to the Secretary-General distributed on 7 July. the annual resolution adopted by the General Assembly on the 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, and the considerations contained therein, were strictly related to the Territories referred to in those questions. The question of the Malvinas Islands was subjected to separate treatment in specific resolutions that gave due consideration to the special and particular features inherent in it, which were derived from the existence of a sovereignty dispute between the Argentine Republic and the United Kingdom.

The Committee next approved draft resolution VII on dissemination of information on decolonization by a recorded vote of 150 in favour to 3 against (France, United Kingdom, United States) with 1 abstention (France).

Speaking in explanation of vote, the United Kingdom’s representative said his delegation had voted against the text because it remained of the view that the obligation it placed on the Secretariat to disseminate information represented an unwarranted drain on the Organization’s resources. As such, the resolution was unacceptable to the United Kingdom.


The representative of Argentina said his delegation wished to express support for the right of self-determination. Despite that, the text should be interpreted and implemented in keeping with pertinent General Assembly resolutions and the various resolutions and statements of the Special Committee on Decolonization, which recognized the existence of a sovereignty dispute between his country and the United Kingdom over the Malvinas Islands.

(Everything appears to be seen through the prism of the Malvinas sovereignty dispute).

Next, the Committee approved draft resolution VIII on the implementation of the (Decolonization) Declaration  by a vote of 152 in favour to 3 against (Israel, United Kingdom, United States), with 2 abstentions (Belgium, France).

Speaking in explanation of vote after the vote, the representative of Argentina stressed that, regarding operative paragraph 7, visiting missions proceeded only in cases where self-determination was applicable, specifically those for which there was no sovereignty dispute.

(Everything appears to be seen through the prism of the Malvinas sovereignty dispute).

The representative of the United Kingdom said his delegation had voted “no” because it continued to find some parts of the text unacceptable.

(Which parts, may we ask?)

Nevertheless, the Government of the United Kingdom remained committed to modernizing its relationship with its Overseas Territories, while taking fully into account the views of the peoples of the Territories.

(The usual refrain...).

Following that, the representative of Guinea said that his delegation had intended to vote in favour of draft resolutions I, II and III, and requested that that be duly noted in the record.

Singapore’s representative said that his delegation had wished to vote in favour of the resolutions pertaining to item 35, on information from Non-Self-Governing Territories transmitted under Article 73 e of the United Nations Charter, and on item 36, on economic and other activities which affect the interests of the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories.

The representatives of Pakistan and Chile said that their delegations had wanted to vote in favour of resolutions concerning item 35, and item 37, on implementation of the (Decolonization) Declaration  by the specialized agencies and the international institutions associated with the United Nations. The representatives of Sierra Leone and Burkina Faso said they had wished to vote in favour of the resolutions concerning item 35.

On 3rd October, OTR wrote that “how the United Nations deals with decolonization has become “a sterile exercise, a game of pretense played to avoid what is meant to be achieved." We indicated that we would “nevertheless… cover the 2009 session of the Fourth Committee, not because we harbor any illusions that the process will change, but rather because our readership demands to be kept abreast.”

In any event, the General Assembly will take the final vote in December. We'll be there...

18 November 2009

US Congressional Committee Approves Self-Determination Assistance to Territories

Pacific News Center
Guahan (Guam)
19th November 2009

Guam - The House Committee on Natural Resources has approved a bill that would authorize the Secretary of the Interior to extend technical assistance grants and other assistance to facilitate a political status public education program on Guam. It will now go onto the full house for approval. The bill was sponsored by Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo.

In a release, Bordallo says the full committee approved her amended bill that would allow for Interior to also extend assistance to American Samoa and the U.S. Virgin Islands for their own political status education programs.

The amended version of H.R. 3940 was voted on by unanimous consent.
The mark up of H.R. 3940 comes two weeks after Congresswoman Bordallo chaired a hearing on the bill in the Subcommittee on Insular Affairs, Oceans, and Wildlife.
H.R. 3940 may be taken up for consideration in the near future.

In a release, “The full committee’s approval of H.R. 3940 signals that political status education for non-self-governing territories is a priority for the committee that has jurisdiction over the territories."

"The amended bill now includes authorization for political status education grants for Guam, American Samoa and the U.S. Virgin Islands at the request of Congressman Eni Faleomavaega of American Samoa and Congresswoman Donna Christensen of the U.S. Virgin Islands."

"While each territory may approach this issue in a manner appropriate to their circumstances, we can all agree that there is a federal responsibility to assist the territories in self-determination, and that this process cannot be successful without a robust political status education component."

"I also appreciate the testimony of our local leaders including Governor Felix Camacho, who testified in person at the hearing, and Speaker Judith Won Pat and Senator Ben Pangelinan who provided written testimonies. This bill was also supported by a coalition of ten organizations on Guam that support decolonization. The testimonies provided by our local leaders and our indigenous rights community representatives helped to make the case of the importance of a path to decolonization for the people of the U.S. territories that are still listed by the United Nations as non-self-governing." (emphasis added)

"The Obama Administration’s support for this political status education bill was also encouraging, and I will be requesting Assistant Secretary Tony Babauta’s leadership to help Guam and the other non-self-governing territories with this process. I will continue to work with my colleagues in Congress on the issue of political development for our community, and I am hopeful that this bill will help to provide resources to Guam and the other non-self-governing territories for political status education.”

Editor's Note: The Bordallo legislation was also supported by organisations of civil society in Guahan (Guam) which forwarded collective testimony to the US Congress in favour of the measure. Their presentation in support of the bill provides important context to this initiative, and should serve as a guide to the implementation of the measure.

It is to be noted that a number of their recommended amendments have been included in the final version of the bill adopted by consensus in the House Natural Resources Committee, such as the expression of support for the inclusion of the other two US-administered territories presently on the United Nations List of Non Self-Governing Territories, namely American Samoa and the US Virgin Islands. This broader focus is highly commendable, and also has the effect of  heightening its importance as the measure proceeds further through the legislative process in Washington. Congress may now recognise that Puerto Rico is not the only US-administered territory in need of  a self-determination process.

The active participation of civil society sector in the territories is critical to the successful implementation of this measure to ensure an unbiased and fair process of self-determination based on the legitimate status options of political equality confirmed year after year by the United Nations with United States concurrence. The recent forum held in St. Croix by the United Nations Association of the Virgin Islands last month (October) initiated an important public dialogue in that Caribbean territory - for the first time in over a decade - on the political future of that US-administered territory, and  American Samoa's political status commission report completed several years ago and the subsequent initiatives being undertaken by the Governor of that territory, are  further illustration.

OTR will shortly publish the relevant excerpts of the United Nations Fourth Committee resolutions concerning the self-determination of the territories adopted as recently as last month (October).  

The joint testimony of the Guahan (Guam) civil society follows:

Joint Testimony in Support of H.R. 3940
November 11, 2009On behalf of the following organizations:

Chamorro Studies Association
Chamoru Cultural Development and Research Institute
Commission on Decolonization: Independence Task Force
Guahån Coalition for Peace and Justice
The Guahån Youth
Guam Community College's Center for Civic Engagement
I Nasion Chamoru
National Association of Social Workers: Guam Chapter
Taotaomo’na Native Rights Group

The political and social climate of Guam is changing rapidly, yet the island’s people have yet to determine whether or not this change is the future they desire. With an unresolved political status, the people of Guam have been denied the human right to determine their future. This human right to self-determination can no longer be ignored. Therefore, our non-governmental organizations have come together to support H.R. 3940, which “authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to extend grants and other assistance to facilitate a political status public education program for the people of Guam.” We support this bill for the following reasons:

• As noted by Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo in her remarks introducing this bill, the political status of Guam remains unresolved. Over the course of Guam’s 111-year relationship with the United States, only few significant changes have been made with regards to the island’s political status. These changes, however, have not been sufficient, as Guam remains in an ambiguous political position, without a path to self-determination. Guam is an organized, unincorporated territory – it belongs to the United States, but it is not a part of the nation.

• The people of Guam have expressed their desire for a new political status in the past; however, our aspirations have not been realized despite efforts by Guam’s representatives, the administration and Congress. H.R. 3940 could provide an important catalyst in terms of reinvigorating the process of self-determination on Guam; first by helping to educate its people about the options available to them in their political evolution, and secondly by placing the issue of self-determination itself back on the Federal agenda in Washington D.C.

• To our knowledge this is the first time that a Guam Delegate has sought to clarify the role and responsibility of the Department of Interior to ensure the economic, social and political development of Guam. As Bordallo notes, federal funding for political status education is not without precedent. We support this bill because federal assistance for political status education has never been provided to Guam despite the legal and moral responsibility of the United States, as a signatory to the United Nation’s charter, to support the movement of its non-self-governing territories towards full self-government via a referendum consistent with international standards for decolonization.

• In recent years the United States Federal government has drifted towards disengagement and silence as to its position on territorial self-determination, and has both metaphorically and physically removed itself from its seat of obligation in the United Nations. This bill can be an important step towards helping the United States towards charting a clear and transparent course of action in order to fulfill its legal and moral responsibility as the administering power of a number of non-self-governing territories as mandated by the United Nations.

• To this end, we recommend that the bill be revised so that the Department of Interior may extend such funding and assistance to American Samoa and the US Virgin Islands, whose political status also remains unresolved.

• At present, the Guam initiated Commission on Decolonization for the Implementation and Exercise of Chamorro Self-Determination (1GCA Chapter 21) has yet to undertake its mission due to a lack of funding for a public information program.

• We believe that the unprecedented military buildup which has been initiated in Guam poses a serious threat to the realization of political self-determination. The plans contained in the bilateral agreement signed by the United States and Japan to relocate US Marines from Okinawa to Guam by 2014 makes the need for political status education funding necessary for this purpose, and a realistic time table for a self-determination plebiscite more critical than ever.

• We believe that the exercise of our human right to self-determination can only be achieved through the concerted and coordinated efforts of the people of Guam, our elected leaders, the federal government and the United Nations. To this end, we are mobilized and committed as non-governmental organizations to seek and support such multilevel action.

• While it is the obligation of the United States, as the administering power that placed Guam in its current political status, to fund a political status education program, it is important to note that the materials and parameters of the program must be made and decided by the people of Guam. The U.S. is mandated under international law to monetarily support and respect the self-determination of the peoples of its non-self governing territories; however, the U.S. must not impose its desired path on the people. Instead, we recommend that Congress make funding for this program available to an unbiased institution like the University of Guam, which can design and carry out an effective and relevant education program.

We commend Congresswoman Bordallo for placing this issue on the Congressional agenda at this critical moment in the shared history of the United States and our island.
We also urge Congresswoman Bordallo and all members of the Committee on Natural Resources to take every opportunity to impress upon all members of Congress the essential links between any plan for increased militarization of our island and the unresolved issue of political status.

In his 2008 campaign, President Barack Obama committed to supporting “full self-government and self-determination for the people of Guam, American Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the Virgin Islands, and their right to decide their future status.” While we believe that this bill can be a crucial first step towards realizing this commitment, as the United States moves to increase its military presence in this region of the world, it is imperative that the issue of self-determination and political status remain front and center, not an afterthought.

We believe the success of any plan to position Guam as “The Tip of the Spear” for US forward defense in the region must follow, not precede, resolution of Guam’s political status, and the fulfillment of the United States’ legal and moral obligation to promote the inalienable right to self-determination of the people of Guam. This will ensure that any militarization which takes place in Guam or other territories will be based on the principles of genuine security, and on respect for human needs and rights.

Si Yu’us Ma’åse

17 November 2009

Governance Expert Discusses Guam’s Future Self-Determination

Analysis by Maria Rodriguez, International Correspondent
Washington, D.C., Nov 16 (OTNS)

International Advisor on Democratic Governance Dr. Carlyle Corbin advised the Chamoru people of Guam (Guahan) that the political evolution of the remaining sixteen non self-governing territories, including the US-administered territory of Guam, should continue to be examined within the context of international law and principles, and is no different than the case of any other territory formally listed by the United Nations.

Corbin offered this assessment during the keynote address on “Self-Determination, Globalization and Militarisation: Thoughts on Non Self-Governing Territories in the 21st Century” delivered last week at the University of Guam Lecture Hall in Mangilao, Guam. Corbin, an international advisor on governance, was formerly the US Virgin Islands Minister of State for External Affairs and the territory’s representative to the United Nations. The President of the University and former Guam Delegate to Congress Dr. Robert Underwood provided the formal introduction to the evening event.

In his address, Dr. Corbin indicated that Articles 1 and 55 of the United Nations Charter serve to confirm the inalienable right of peoples to self-determination, while Article 11 provided the international legal mandate for decolonisation. He noted that “relevant international conventions, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR); the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, along with the International Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples are among the applicable international instruments in the decolonisation process."

The governance advisor, who has served as an independent expert to the annual United Nations decolonisation seminars in the Pacific and Caribbean since the 1990s confirmed that the resolutions of the United Nations General Assembly provided further legislative authority for political and constitutional evolution. He has referred to the lack of progress in decolonisation implementation as the “Achilles heel of the United Nations.”

Corbin’s intensive ten-day lecture tour in Guam focused on the political and constitutional evolution of the US-administered territories. The visit coincided with the introduction of legislation introduced in the US House of Representatives by Guam Delegate to the US Congress Madeleine Bordallo which seeks US funding for a public education program on self-determination for the territory. Delegate Bordallo is the Chair of the US House of Representatives Subcommittee on Insular Affairs, Oceans, and Wildlife.

The visit by the international expert followed a trip to Guam and the neighboring Northern Mariana Islands by a Congressional delegation last August when the Chairman of the full House Committee on Natural Resources Nick Rahall expressed support for a self-determination process for Guam. Delegate Bordallo’s proposed measure for federal funding would have to be approved by the full US House of Representatives and Senate as a separate bill, or attached to another legislative proposal, and subsequently signed by the US President Barak Obama.

Corbin was the independent expert to United Nations missions to the Atlantic/Caribbean territories of Bermuda, and to the Turks and Caicos Islands in 2005 and 2006, respectively, but the visit to Guam was not directly related to any specific United Nations activity. He did indicate that he would offer any relevant findings on the state of the self-determination process in the territory to the relevant United Nations bodies, as appropriate.

He explained in an extensive interview immediately before his departure from the Pacific that a major function of his visit to Guam was to provide some insights on the United Nations self-determination and decolonisation processes through a series of lectures at the University of Guam, and to engage students and faculty in Social Justice and History classes of the university in interactive discussion. He described the dialogue with the undergraduate students and faculty as “intellectually stimulating given their heightened sense of awareness of the need for the future political evolution of Guahan, as well as other territories in the wider Pacific region.”

During his visit, the international advisor also met with Acting Governor Judith Won Pat and members of the Guam Legislature, along with Delegate Bordallo’s Senior Policy Advisor Joaquin Perez, for informal discussions on the international procedures on self-determination, and on various means by which the territory could accelerate the process in view of the Congressional legislation and planned US military build-up in the territory.
Corbin indicated that “further militarisation should not be permitted to distract the territory from pursuing self-determination which remains an inalienable right under international law, and recognised by all member states of the United Nations.”

Corbin also regarded favourably the move by Virgin Islands Delegate to Congress Donna Christensen who has asked for Virgin Islands inclusion in the self-determination legislation which provides assistance for public education in the area of self-determination. The Virgin Islands interest in the measure comes as that territory awaits a decision of its territorial court on whether its draft constitution adopted last May by its Fifth Constitutional Convention would be permitted to go forward to the US Congress for consideration following objections to certain provisions of the draft by the territory’s present elected governor. The President of the Convention requested United States and United Nations assistance for a public education on the territory’s draft constitution during a presentation to the United Nations Special Political and Decolonisation Committee last October.

Corbin, who served as the international advisor to the Virgin Islands Fifth Constitutional Convention, noted that the issue of a permanent political status for the Virgin Islands would remain unresolved even if the territorial court ultimately provides for Congressional review of the draft constitution. “This is the case,” he indicated, “since the constitution to replace the territory’s Revised Organic Act of 1954 would be based on the present territorial status, and it is precisely the democratic deficiencies inherent in the prevailing status which do not provide for a full measure of self-government.” He noted that the territory of Guam is governed by a similar Organic Act, and a constitution based on that status would be viewed in a similar light.

Corbin went on to call for the inclusion of American Samoa in the legislation, as well, especially since that territory “was engaged in a proactive approach in addressing political status and constitutional evolution following its 2007 report of the American Samoa Future Political Status Study Commission of American Samoa.” He recalled that the full Committee on Natural Resources of the US House of Representatives has already adopted the Puerto Rico Democracy Act of 2009 last July providing for a “federally-sanctioned self-determination process for the people of Puerto Rico,” a US-administered commonwealth of Puerto Rico in the Caribbean.

Corbin indicated that the measure regarding Puerto Rico was introduced by Commonwealth Resident Commissioner to the US House of Representatives Pedro Pierluisi, and “sets forth that if the territory votes in referendum to remain in the present status it would have to be consulted again at regular intervals.” The measure is now before the full House of Representatives for consideration.

The advisor noted that under the legislative proposal “if Puerto Ricans vote for a decolonizing option, then the people would vote on the alternatives of independence, free association with the United States or becoming an integrated state of the United States.” He suggested that this approach was consistent with the 2005 and 2007 White House reports on Puerto Rico which called for a similar referendum process, and which identified and provided “parametres for the options, even as the supporters of the legitimacy of the status quo option argue vociferously against the measure which they feel denigrates the prevailing commonwealth status which has been in effect since 1952.”

According to Corbin, “the autonomy exercised by Puerto Rico in its commonwealth status - even as it has been re-defined by successive Washington administrations as lesser autonomous than originally envisaged - was an important interim step in acquiring the necessary capacity to assume real self-government under a valid free association arrangement as defined by Resolution 1541 (XV) of the United Nations General Assembly - if the people choose to go that way.”

He also indicated that key to the Bordallo legislation for Guam self-determination “is the very fact that international law and principles serve as its backdrop and political rationale – a recognition which is usually absent in the rationale for earlier proposed measures on self-determination for the territories, but is nevertheless consistent with the Pierluisi legislation on Puerto Rico self-determination.”

A featured activity of Dr. Corbin’s stay in Guam was a day-long strategic planning workshop on “Chamoru Self-Determination” which was convened by the Guahan Coalition for Peace and Justice in conjunction with the Division of Social Work of the University of Guam. The session examined in detail the United Nations review process of each territory undertaken at UN headquarters in New York, as well as through its human rights/self-determination component in Geneva.

He advised during the workshop that the UN General Assembly had consistently confirmed that the self-determination process leading to decolonisation was a fundamental human right, “even as many territories may not be as aware of this fact as much as they might.” In this connection, the workshop had benefit of the legal analysis of Chamoru attorney Julian Aguon on a dual legal strategy for the achievement of self-determination encompassing the decolonisation and indigenous rights areas of focus, as set forth in Aguon’s 2008 University of Hawaii Law Review article. The workshop also utilised the United Nations declarations on Decolonisation, and on the Rights of Indigenous peoples, respectively, as key components of the legislative authority for self-determination. Corbin regarded the session as “very dynamic and necessarily interactive in its approach.”

Regarding the future status of the remaining territories, Corbin surmised that a number of them may be well prepared to move towards full independence, or political integration with their present administering power “assuming on the one hand the larger country would agree to the integration of a smaller and culturally distinct jurisdiction, and on the other hand assuming that the people of the territory are willing to agree to an irreversible political arrangement which may have the effect of subordinating their culture to that of the larger country in which it would integrate.” He emphasised that political integration was, in fact, one of the three United Nations-recognised status options of political equality providing for the full measure of self-government for the people of the territory, but he posed the question of whether “cultural subservience” would be worth the price.

Corbin offered that the model of political integration of some territories with a neighboring independent country - where cultural norms might be more compatible - had not been sufficiently explored “owing perhaps to political rivalries and the result of external factors.” “Ironically,” as he stated “remaining in the existing dependency status has its own implications for cultural, as well as political, minoritisation.”

He also referred to the “possibility of integration between two neighboring territories, as has been recently suggested for Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands. He noted that such an approach “would certainly meet culturally affinity considerations,” and indicated that “the exact form of the political status of the merged entity would have to be addressed to ensure that the new arrangement would be “politically valid and sustainable.”

On the whole, Corbin suggested that, in most cases, “as many territories evolve politically from dependency governance to more autonomous arrangements, new models of shared autonomy will necessarily have to be created, perhaps building on existing autonomous modes of governance like Greenland and the Faroe Islands, in self-governing political status arrangements with Denmark; the Cook Islands and Niue in free association with New Zealand; or even the former United Nations trust territories of the Pacific Islands which emerged into a particular free associated statehood model with the United States largely with a distinct military strategic dimension.”

In moving forward, the advisor cautioned that territories should be wary of the “sustainability of arrangements” such as the commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands in what turned out in the end as a “far less autonomous political status than originally envisaged by the islanders in the Commonwealth agreement.”

On the issue of militarization of the territories, the self-determination expert submitted that “the necessary negotiating power to influence its nature and extent, as well as in determining just compensation for land use, toxic clean-up and the like, is lacking in a politically deficient non self-governing territorial status where the authority by an administering power is exercised unilaterally, even as varying degrees of consultation might be possible.” He cited the aftermath of the military departure from the islands of Vieques and Culebra (Puerto Rico), as well as from the British territory of Bermuda, as examples of territories where the environmental and other impacts continue to be addressed years after.

On the issue of globalisation, Corbin pointed to “the need for more political autonomy of the territories in order to engage the international marketplace, as well as to access international technical and other assistance such as that offered through borrowing membership in regional development banks.” He pointed to the British territories in the Caribbean which have a certain degree of integration in regional economic and other institutions as evidence of their capacity to more effectively engage the international system, even as their political dependency arrangements are subject to unilateral abolishment, as in the case of the Caribbean territory of the Turks and Caicos Islands whose government was “unilaterally dismantled by the British through extra-constitutional means.” He noted that the United States is significantly less flexible in providing sufficient political space for the territories under its administration to join regional and other international institutions, “even as the terms of reference of many of these bodies provide for the participation of territories.”

“In the final analysis,” Corbin indicated, “each territory has the right to make its own decision in exercise of the right to self-determination based on its own unique set of conditions, which in the case of Guam is quite immediate in view of the immense demographic changes on the horizon as a result of further militarisation.” In other cases,” he said, “the scenario may appear less immediate, but gradual erosion of political power coupled with steady population growth make the situation no less uncertain.”

To address the issue of the future self-determination of the non self-governing territories comprehensively, the international expert called for an independent review of any progress which has been made in each of the remaining Pacific and Caribbean territories, and recommended that the territorial universities be intricately involved since the United Nations had not fulfilled its mandate to undertake such analyses.


09 November 2009

Guam Delegate Introduces Self-Determination Bill

HON. Congresswoman Bordallo's Website

ON H.R. 3940

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Today, we convene to discuss an issue of great importance to the people of Guam and to the jurisdiction of the Committee on Natural Resources: that of appropriately enabling the Executive Branch to help resolve the question of Guam’s political status in a manner that would be consistent with the aspirations of the people of Guam.

The “territorial clause” in Article Four of the United States Constitution vests with the Congress the power to dispose of and make all needful rules and regulations respecting the territories of the United States. Recommendations as to the exercise of such plenary authority by the Congress rest with this Committee.

As a member of the United Nations, the United States also assumes by virtue of Article 73 of the United Nations Charter the international obligation to develop self-government and to take due account of the political aspirations of the people of her territories.

Mindful of these responsibilities we resume today a discussion that involves the political history and future of Guam.

The people of Guam call home an island that now has been under the United States Flag as an unincorporated territory for over 111 years. Guam, like her sister territory Puerto Rico, was ceded to the United States from Spain upon the signing of the Treaty of Paris settling the Spanish-American War in 1898.

For the first 45 years of United States rule, the Department of the Navy administered Guam. Shortly after United States Armed Forces returned to regain control of Guam ending a 32-month occupation by Imperial Japan during the Second World War, administrative authority for the territory was transferred to the Department of the Interior where it remains today.

In 1950, Congress also passed the Organic Act of Guam conferring United States citizenship on the people of Guam and providing the territory with a limited form of self-government. It is under the Organic Act that the Secretary of the Interior exercises his administrative authority for Guam.
Today, Guam, like American Samoa and the United States Virgin Islands, is listed by the United Nations as a non-self-governing territory, and its political status remains a matter for Congress to address.

After over a decade of earnest and diligent effort toward defining a new political relationship between Guam and the United States that gained the attention of the Executive Branch and that took the form of legislation introduced in the 100th through the 105th Congresses, the political aspirations of the people of Guam for such status were never realized. As a result, a plebiscite affording the people of Guam an opportunity to express their views on status was authorized by local law but remains unscheduled.

I introduced H.R. 3940 for the purposes of best positioning the Department of the Interior to help the Government of Guam in its process of preparing for such a plebiscite. H.R. 3940 would authorize the extension of grants and other forms of assistance by the Department of the Interior to the Government of Guam for the express purpose of facilitating a public education program regarding various political status options.

The education of the public as to viable status options is essential to the exercise of self-determination and to the expression of a people’s political aspirations. My bill is not meant to steer the course in one direction over another with regard to any particular status option nor is it meant to assert direct Congressional involvement in this process. Ultimately, Congress should remain ready and obligated to respond to the desires of the people of Guam on the question of status.

I remain committed to and ask my colleagues to join me in supporting the efforts of the Governor of Guam and the Guam Legislature in providing for an opportunity for the people of Guam to express their desired political status. Through the testimony and discussion today we can gauge where the Government of Guam is in this process and assess the views of the Administration as to the role it believes is appropriate for it to assume in this process and for which it may be capable of fulfilling.

Lastly, I thank my colleagues representing each of the other territories for cosponsoring H.R. 3940. Mrs. Christensen of the Virgin Islands has already requested my support for amending this bill, should it move forward in the legislative process, to also authorize such assistance for the Government of the Virgin Islands.

Following this hearing, we shall continue our efforts with respect to this subject area and evaluate amending H.R. 3940 to encompass the other non-self-governing territories based on our discussion today. With that, we look forward to hearing and reviewing the testimony that will be formally submitted today.

04 November 2009

Guam Delegate to the US Congress Asks US to Fund Political Status Education

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – November 2, 2009 – Washington, D.C.

Congresswoman Madeleine Z. Bordallo, Chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Insular Affairs, Oceans, and Wildlife, on Tuesday, October 27, 2009, introduced H.R. 3940, a bill that would authorize the Secretary of the Interior to extend grants and other assistance to facilitate a political status public education program on Guam.

A hearing on this bill has been set for Thursday, November 5, 2009 in the Subcommittee on Insular Affairs, Oceans, and Wildlife. Governor Felix Camacho, Assistant Secretary of Interior Tony Babauta, and Speaker Judith Won Pat have been invited to participate in this hearing. Other interested parties who would like to submit testimony that will be included in the record should submit their testimony to the Congresswoman’s District Office by Thursday, November 12, 2009.

“This bill reaffirms the federal government’s responsibility of advancing the political development of the U.S. territories,” Congresswoman Madeleine Z. Bordallo said today.

“H.R. 3940 clarifies that the U.S. Department of the Interior is authorized to provide funding in support of a comprehensive political status education program for the territories, including Guam.

This bill helps to address political development by providing federal assistance for a political status education program that could be part of a self-determination effort.

I look forward to hearing from the witnesses at the hearing for H.R. 3940, and I will continue to work with my colleagues on this issue.”

The text of the bill is below:

1st Session

H. R. 3940

October 27, 2009

Ms. BORDALLO introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Natural Resources


To authorize the Secretary of the Interior to extend grants and other assistance to facilitate a political status public education program for the people of Guam.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,


Congress reaffirms that it is the responsibility of the Secretary of the Interior to advance the economic, social, and political development of the Territories of the United States.


The Secretary of the Interior may, in exercise of the administrative authority granted under section 3 of the Organic Act of Guam (48 U.S.C. 1421a), extend to the Government of Guam and its agencies and instrumentalities assistance, including assistance in the form of grants, research, planning assistance, studies, and agreements with Federal agencies, to facilitate a public education program regarding political status options for the Territory of Guam.