23 June 2010

Speakers at United Nations Address Self-Determination, Militarisation Issues In Island Territories

General Assembly

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York
Special Committee on Decolonization

7th Meeting (AM)

Special Committee on Decolonisation Urged toVisit Guam as Petitioners Deplore Militarisation of Non Self-Governing Territory

 US Virgin Islands Constitutional Convention President Updates Committee on US Response to Proposed Constitution for the Territory

Turks & Caicos Islands Speakers Express Urge Constitutional Restoration

Speaking out against the militarization of Guam by the United States, several petitioners today called upon members of the Special Committee on Decolonization to visit the Non-Self-Governing Territory and see the situation for themselves as soon as possible.

Many called attention to the release of an 11,000-page draft environmental impact statement by the United States, which the people of Guam had been given 90 days to study and comment on. Hope A. Cristobal Psy.D of the Guahan Coalition for Peace and Justice urged the Special Committee to study the document, which was “in direct violation of various international human rights instruments, including United Nations resolutions and declarations”.

Rima Ilarishigh Peter Miles, speaking on behalf of Women for Genuine Security, noted that United States Navy activities carried out on the island had gravely impacted the environment, human health and the welfare of the territorial government. Considering such challenges, she stressed the position that “the United States does not care what it destroys as long as no one knows about it”.

Asserting that the United Nations must not allow negative impacts to further block the process of decolonization, many petitioners requested that the Special Committee declare the militarization of Guam to be a major impediment to Guam’s exercise of its right to self-determination. They also requested that the Special Committee ensure that United States congressional appropriations and other United States military projects be put on hold until past injustices were remedied, current adverse impacts were negated and the potential for future adverse impacts completely removed.

The Special Committee — known also as the Special Committee of 24...also heard petitioners on the Non-Self-Governing Territories of Western Sahara, New Caledonia, Turks and Caicos Islands and the United States Virgin Islands.

On the question of New Caledonia, Caroline Machoro-Reignier of Front de libération nationale kanak socialiste underscored major challenges that remained despite progress made in the wake of the landmark 1998 Nouméa Accord. Those included serious economic and social imbalances between the Territory’s Northern and Southern Provinces. Emphasizing the inevitably of New Caledonia’s independence, she called for United Nations support, particularly legal assistance in developing a constitution.

As the Special Committee turned to the question of the Turks and Caicos Islands, two petitioners voiced deep concern about the process by which a new territorial constitution was to be created. Wendal Swann, Chairman of the All-Party Commission on the Constitution and Electoral Reform, said that the Government of the United Kingdom had appointed a constitutional consultant to catalogue the views of the Territory’s people — after deciding to suspend specific portions of the current charter.

Benjamin Roberts of the Turks and Caicos Forum said the appointment had incited fears among the Territory’s people that their interests would not truly be heard, and that the United Kingdom would impose a decree on the islands if they ratified a constitution that did not reflect the administering Power’s views.

The President of the US Virgin Islands Fifth Constitutional Convention Luz Anwar James updated the Special Committee on Decolonization on the process of  administering Power review of the proposed constitution for the territory (OTR)

Also taking part in today’s proceedings were representatives of Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Chile, Fiji and Papua New Guinea.

The Special Committee reconvened at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 23 June, to hear a statement presented by an Independent Expert who had consducted an analysis of  the implementation mandate during the Second International Decades for the Eradication of Colonialism. 


The Special Committee on Decolonization met today to hear petitioners on the questions of Western Sahara, New Caledonia, Guam, Turks and Caicos Islands, and the United States Virgin Islands.

Question of Western Sahara

PEDRO NUÑEZ MOSQUERA (Cuba) said that in light of the Saharan people’s struggles over 40 years to gain independence, the conflict in the Territory should be included on the General Assembly’s agenda as a direct responsibility of the United Nations. The Special Committee had a key role to play in fulfilling that aim, he said, noting that the people of Western Sahara were the only ones who could choose their future freely and without pressure or conditions. The United Nations had adopted more than 40 resolutions since 1963, when Western Sahara had been added to the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories, and several rounds of discussion had taken place on the issue, he said, emphasizing that all parties involved must step up their determination to continue their efforts.

The self-determination of the Saharan people must be guaranteed within the framework of the United Nations Charter and resolution 1514 (XV), he said, stressing further that they needed the support of the entire international community. To that end, Cuba had contributed as much as possible to the development of the Saharan people, particularly in the area of education, he said, affirming that his country would continue to support the development of a just and definitive solution to the situation of Western Sahara, whose people would always be able to count on Cuba.

JORGE VALERO BRICEÑO (Venezuela), stressing his country’s solidarity with and commitment to the self-determination efforts of Western Sahara, said his country’s Constitution enshrined the principles of respect for the inalienable rights to independence, territorial integrity and self-determination, to which strict adherence must be exercised. On the basis of those principles, Venezuela had extended diplomatic recognition to the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, and therefore reiterated its request for similar United Nations support.

He called for the strict implementation of resolution 1514 (XV) and urged the Special Committee to consider the situation with more determination, taking into account the need to promote justice and the human rights for the Saharan people. Expressing hope that negotiations would ensure the implementation of relevant appropriate resolutions, he said they could only succeed if carried out within the framework of the Charter and resolution 1514 (XV). In addition, Venezuela reaffirmed, as per resolution 1514 (XV), the necessity of eliminating colonialism, racial discrimination and human rights violations, and called upon administering Powers to take the necessary action to ensure the exercise of self-determination.

AHMED BOUKHARI, Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro (Polisario Front), said 18 years had passed since the United Nations had endorsed, in 1991, the plan for a self-determination referendum in Western Sahara, which was still to be held. The process had been deterred by Morocco on the basis of friendships it had forged in the Security Council, particularly with France, which would provide it with impunity to continue its destructive efforts. Morocco still believed that it could involve the Council in gravely altering the Saharan people’s fundamental basic right to self-determination. None of the endeavours carried out, from the 1997 Houston Agreement to the 2003 Baker Plan, to efforts by Christopher Ross, the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy, had managed to overcome the intransigence of the occupying Power, he said.

Morocco had incorporated new arguments and pretexts to create new alliances within the Council in exchange for hopes of realizing the final annexation of Western Sahara, he continued. That would signify the introduction of a new and curious doctrine that would enable all those participating in it to annex neighbouring territories, he warned. That pseudo-solution of “autonomy of Moroccan sovereignty”, which Morocco had formulated in 2007 and set as a precondition for advancing the current negotiations, implied forcing the Saharan people to renounce the option of independence and integrate into the occupying Power. It would not be difficult for members of the Special Committee to consider that pseudo-solution as a grave rejection of the principle of self-determination, established by the United Nations in resolution 1514 (XV) and defined in resolution 1541 (XV).

Morocco continued to negate the 1991 United Nations decision, he said, adding that it also continued illegally to exploit Western Sahara’s natural resources and to violate the Saharan people’s human rights under the eyes and ears of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO). There was no indication that Morocco would change its position in the near future, he said, noting that the United Nations would fail to address the situation of the last African territory on the Special Committee’s agenda. The Moroccan case could have represented success on decolonization, but instead, it had become a symbol of protracted failure. No one could resign themselves to a fait accompli predicated on false and territorial appetites, he stressed.

He said Morocco was continuing the expansionist policies of Mohamed Allal al Fassi, leader of the Istiqlal Party, who had sought, since independence in 1956, to forge a “Greater Morocco” extending into Senegal and swallowing up all of Western Sahara, Mauritania and parts of Algeria and Mali. The region had seen no peace since 1975, and had even moved further away from it due to Morocco’s decision to base its demands on ancient history. Failure to follow the road to peace, as instructed by the United Nations, should not be permitted, he said, adding that the Special Committee could play a large role in replacing injury and violence with a complete process for the peaceful decolonization of the last African colony on its agenda.

More than ever, the Special Committee had the chance to find out for itself what was happening in the Territory, he said, recalling that its last visit to Western Sahara had taken place 35 years ago. There was no valid or convincing reason to object to a second visit until the question of decolonization was resolved. The Special Committee had a right to request and receive true and appropriate information about the situation in the Territory, but Morocco was refusing to provide it, claiming that it had no colonies, only “provinces”. Sooner or later international law would prevail in Western Sahara, he said.

Calling for a pooling of efforts to convince Morocco to cooperate with the United Nations on ending the unsustainable colonial situation that had handicapped the future of the entire region, bringing instability and insecurity, he said all countries of the region had been subjected to European colonization, and had subsequently spent years building their own independent futures. “We cannot be an exception to the general rule,” he emphasized, denouncing Morocco for trying to return to times of injury, violence and territorial bullying based on ancient history. The only way forward was through a democratic solution in which the Saharan people would be masters of their own destiny, he said.

When asked by the representative of Bolivia about a solution to the conflict, Mr. BOUKHARI said all the parties concerned had agreed on a solution “a long time”. The consensus had been that the Saharan people could decide whether they preferred to remain part of Morocco or to become independent. However, there had been a deviation from that process towards attempts to legitimize an unacceptable situation, he said, noting that, during informal negotiations, Morocco had taken “a step back”. In light of that, Mr. Ross hoped to consider a new negotiating round in efforts to move forward. The only solution was to apply the already agreed-upon principle of self-determination for Western Sahara, he said, noting that any other method could lead to “a dead end”.

Responding to a question by the representative of Nicaragua about the Special Committee’s role, he said that, as long as the decolonization process continued in the Territory, the Special Committee would remain involved and use all the means at its disposal. He said he did not understand the rationale behind objections to the Special Committee visiting Western Sahara in order for members to view the situation for themselves. It should visit, since preventing such a visit would not help to strengthen the competence of its work.

Asked by the representative of Venezuela about the difficulties of the decolonization process, he said the current situation in Western Sahara was the result of destruction that had begun in 2009. Considering the risk that a lack of action could become a shield for the status quo, he urged the United Nations to take another look at the situation in Western Sahara so as to avoid a tragedy that would take place in the Organization’s name.

DONATUS KEITH ST. AIMEE (Saint Lucia), Chair of the Special Committee, said it was not possible to have two separate solutions, adding that he would seek to move the process forward through talks between the parties concerned. He expressed concern that the approaches taken thus far had not produced results and he would work towards a different approach, if needed.

The representative of Chile said it was important to keep the matter on the agenda in the interest of the right to self-determination. The Special Committee must also raise the question of beginning a third International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism.

The representative of Nicaragua supported Chile’s proposal.

Question of New Caledonia

CAROLINE MACHORO-REIGNIER, Front de lib é ration nationale kanak socialiste, said the Kanak people were on the path towards achieving their destiny. While it had been difficult and bloody in light of revolts, war and assassinations, the Kanak people had also experienced victories, noting that New Caledonia was becoming financially autonomous and economically viable. The 1998 Nouméa Accord towards a transfer of power from France to New Caledonia had led to a territorial government based on solidarity and dialogue, she said.

Despite the positive progress made, however, major issues remained, she said, highlighting the substantial economic and social imbalances that had led to the overdevelopment of the Southern Province and the underdevelopment of the Northern Province. Moreover, high unemployment rates had begun to attract private interests that could potentially call into question certain policies aimed at emancipating the Territory’s indigenous people, she said, noting that considerable migration, primarily of people from Europe, could lead to social destabilization. Such issues could have a negative impact, particularly on the transfer of competencies and the related training, and on the establishment of the people’s citizenship and employment priorities.

Expressing concern that the Nouméa process was not moving as rapidly as expected, she underscored the Territory’s willingness to confront all challenges, including the need for regular evaluation of public policies conducted within the Nouméa framework. An independent New Caledonia was inevitable, she stressed, expressing hope that the United Nations would continue to support the Territory and to help it achieve its goals. She requested legal assistance from the Special Committee to help the Territory develop a constitution.

Responding to a question from the representative of Cuba concerning economic and social imbalances, she cited several examples, noting that 85 per cent of total mining revenue was generated in the South. In that social context, 85 per cent of households in the south had access to running water, as compared to 65 per cent in the north, she said, adding that efforts were being made to reduce those serious geographical imbalances.

Also making statements on the question of New Caledonia were the representatives of Fiji and Papua New Guinea.

Question of Guam

RIMA ILARISHIGH PETER MILES, Women for Genuine Security, called for immediate United Nations action to advance the protection and fulfilment of the right to self-determination of Guam’s Chamoru people. That right was currently under threat in light of the continuing avoidance of the issue on the part of the United States, as well as recent actions which contradicted the terms of that administering Power’s obligation to the Chamoru people.

She said the presence of the United States Navy in Guam had brought about extremely negative impacts, including environmental deterioration, the drying up of major freshwater sources and a population boom of 80,000, which had created a financial burden for the territorial government. Such challenges warranted the Special Committee’s support in demanding that the United States take no further action in militarizing the Mariana Islands, she said.

“The United States does not care what it destroys as long as no one knows about it,” she stressed, noting that the militarization of Guam was a direct impediment to the right of self-determination. As for the severe health implications of militarization for the Chamoru people, she tearfully called upon the United Nations to send a visiting mission to survey the situation and to challenge protocol in such matters when the administering Power was non-cooperative. It was critical, to protect Guam’s land and resources, and to help the Territory achieve the highest possible level of economic self-reliance, environmental protection, as well as social and educational development, she said.

HOPE A. CRISTOBAL, Psy.D. Guahan Coalition for Peace and Justice, said Guam’s indigenous people continued to suffer social, cultural and environmental annihilation at the hands of their United States oppressors. The Chamorro people were dying and suffering at disproportionate rates in comparison with their United States counterparts, she said, noting that their health concerns were similar to those in New Caledonia, which suffered “an overrepresentation” of depression, anxiety, alcohol and drug use, and violence. Guam had some of the world’s highest suicide rates, and the hyper-militarization plans of the United States would exacerbate those problems. As the administering Power for more than six decades, the United States must bear responsibility for Guam’s tragic invisibility, which had resulted in inadequate public-health resources.

She recalled that, in 2005, the people of Guam had been notified through the media that some 7,000 United States marines were being transferred to the Territory from Okinawa, Japan. The United States Department of Defense had refused to give any further information on the matter, citing its plans as “tentative” until the release of a draft environmental impact statement. The people of Guam had been given only 90 days to study and comment on the 11,000-page document, she said. Six months after its release, the territorial government was struggling to get United States funding to deal with the anticipated impact on water, power and sewer infrastructure, as well as seaport facilities contained in the plans.

Emphasizing that it behoved the Special Committee to study the document, which was in direct violation of various international human rights instruments, including United Nations resolutions and declarations, she said the United States was making plans to dredge 287,327 square metres of coral reefs in Apra Harbour, Guam’s only natural deep-water harbour, which already contained high traces of arsenic, lead, copper, mercury and tin, among other harmful chemicals.

She went on to say that traditional lands comprising a recently designated national historic preservation site and sacred areas near Mount LamLam had been scheduled for land takeovers through coercive procedures or outright purchase. There was no indication that the United States would adhere to its responsibilities under United Nations resolutions and treaties, and Guam’s people would suffer irreparable damage as a result, she added.

She asked the Special Committee to declare, unequivocally, that the militarization of Guam was a major impediment to the Decolonization Declaration, and that Guam’s separate and distinct status under the United Nations Charter should exist until the Chamorro people had exercised their right to self-determination, without external interference. She asked the Special Committee to request a United Nations visiting mission to Guam as soon as possible.

JULIE GILGOFF, a Guam journalist, read out a statement on behalf of Senator Vicente Cabrera Pangelinan, saying that the people of Guam wanted to resolve their political relationship with the United States before ceding any more control of their lands and oceans, or the rights of the people. The Special Committee must advance the self-determination process immediately, because recent decisions by the administering Power diluted that right daily. The decision to increase the population base in Guam, a Non-Self-Governing Territory, contravened the principles of decolonization, and was being carried out in a disingenuous, secretive manner. In the United States own words, the planned increased military presence was the most massive military undertaking in the movement of military personnel since the Second World War.

She said that, in the past couple of years, the Senator’s office had been registering native inhabitants and their descendants. In an effort to increase the number of eligible voters for a decolonization plebiscite, the Senator had sponsored legislation and public law 30-102 to accept the registration rolls of participants in the land trust programme, which had the same eligibility criteria as the decolonization registry. Guam was seeking financial and technical resources from the administering authority to implement an education campaign to adequately inform the Chamorro about the plebiscite vote, she added.

Calling on the United Nations to give the petition to Member States, particularly the United States, and to demand the administering Power’s compliance with it, she said Guam’s inalienable right to self-determination must be upheld in the face of the threat posed by military expansion. The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) must immediately seek the full support of its Members and the international community. It must be allowed to send a visiting mission to Guam to affirm the wishes of the Chamorro people for a decolonization plebiscite and attest to the urgency of those wishes.

TRESSA DIAZ, Fuetsan Famalao’an, expressed concern about the impact of militarization on the island’s social infrastructure and the livelihood of its women and children. The United States Department of Defense was working behind closed doors to prepare a final impact statement, with view to adopt it at the end of August. Congress had refused to hold an open hearing to air the concerns of people whose lives would be affected forever by the military expansion, she said.

Emphasizing that the United States military had long since displaced generations of Chamorro families and replaced much of their agricultural, hunting and ranching activities with Government and military employment, she said many local people were unaware that Guam’s land, water and food were still contaminated. Mustard gas, PCBs and radiation continued to plague the area and its food supply, especially the waters off Orote Point in southern Guam and the surrounding Cocos Islands, due to military dumping. She urged the Special Committee to conduct a hearing on Guam to see the substandard living conditions of the island’s people. The United Nations must not allow more negative impacts to precede determination of the island’s political status.

Congressional appropriations and more military projects should be put on hold until past injustices were remedied, current adverse impacts were negated and the potential for future adverse impacts completely removed, she stressed, calling on the Special Committee to give top priority to the Chamorro people’s right to self-determination. It should investigate the administering Power’s compliance or non-compliance with its Charter obligations under Article 73 to promote the socio-economic development and preserve the cultural identity of Non-Self-Governing Territories. She also asked the Special Committee to recommend that the General Assembly pass a resolution authorizing a United Nations visiting mission to examine the impact of the military on the Special Committee’s work, as well as a resolution reaffirming that the Question of Guam was one of decolonization that remained to be completed.

ANDREA SANTOS, We Are Guahan, said her organization was deeply alarmed by the injustices proposed under United States militarization plans. The Guam Environmental Protection Agency had given the military’s impact statement its lowest possible rating, calling it the most poorly constructed impact statement it had ever evaluated. Noting that United States plans had rendered the people of Guam powerless over their destiny, she said: “The political freedom, environmental safety and cultural legacy we leave to future generations is one that is ultimately decided by those who view their home as nothing more than a gas station or military training ground in the Pacific.”

The basic necessities for maintaining or creating a self-sustaining, empowered, healthy population were threatened by the United States plans, she said, adding that militarization would create a water shortfall of 2.3 million gallons per day for people living outside the properties controlled by the Department of Defense. The island’s already underfunded and understaffed education system would not be able to absorb the projected influx of 8,000 students.

According to local economists, United States projections of economic gains due to militarization had been inflated by more than 118 per cent, she said. Projected tax revenues would not be enough to support the 80,000 new residents who would arrive in 2014. Moreover, already low living standards would deteriorate further, and the predicted housing shortage through 2014 would drive up house prices while increasing homelessness and overcrowding. The impact on the coral reefs protecting the island from storms and earthquakes would be impacted in an unprecedented way, she said, adding that noise and pollution would also increase. The decolonization of Guam should take place without the administering Power and with the cooperation of the United Nations, she stressed, calling for an investigation into the administering Power’s compliance with the Charter.

The representative of Bolivia asked the extent to which the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People was known among Guam’s population.

Ms. CRISTOBAL said only a few people were aware of it, and for decades Guam’s residents had had a “colonial mindset”. They had only become aware of their island’s true status when the United States had announced plans for hyper-militarization, she said, emphasizing that it was imperative that the United Nations establish a presence in Guam and show its people that there was international concern to decolonize the Territory.

Mr. ST. AIMEE (Saint Lucia), Special Committee Chair, said United Nations agencies could disseminate information on the Declaration, adding that they had a mandate to provide assistance to local populations, such as the inhabitants of Guam.

Question of Turks and Caicos Islands

BENJAMIN ROBERTS, Turks and Caicos Forum, noted that, while the islands had experienced unprecedented growth in the last 40 years, rapid development had led to increased crime, social ills and corruption. Financial challenges had been caused by a lack of accountability on the part of elected officials and civil servants, as well as “horrendous oversight by the British”, he said, noting that since the administering Power’s installation of an interim territorial government, more people had experienced financial hardship and felt disempowered.

However, the United Kingdom was not entirely to blame, he stressed, pointing out that the administering Power had taken the necessary actions to remedy the Territory’s situation, as it had initially proposed. Recently, the interim territorial government had contracted a constitutional consultant to catalogue the people’s ideas for constitutional reform. The resulting document would be a constitution that would in turn become the law of the land prior to the end of the two-year interim government period, making way for fresh elections, he said.

He said major concerns had emerged about the United Kingdom’s use of a constitutional consultant, with many fearing that she would answer only to her employer rather than champion the islanders’ interests. The United Kingdom could then simply decree the document, which would be a blatant violation of the people’s human rights. The document must not become law until it had been ratified by the elected territorial government, ensuring the consent of the people, he stressed.

WENDAL SWANN, Chairman of the All-Party Commission on the Constitution and Electoral Reform, Turks and Caicos Islands, said certain challenges facing the islanders were a result of the current constitutional state of affairs. The Governor was considered a “constitutional dictator”, holding all authority on the basis of a decision by the United Kingdom. By the same decision, parts of the Turks and Caicos constitution had been suspended, he said, adding that Robin Auld — a former Chief Justice appointed by the administering Power to conduct a Commission of Inquiry into possible ministerial corruption — had recommended the suspension without citing any perceived constitutional failures.

Following that recommendation, the United Kingdom had appointed Kate Sullivan to run consultations with the people, he continued. Referring to certain provisions of the constitution that would definitely be changed, Ms. Sullivan had excluded the media from her meetings, thus proving the process of consultation to be “more a sham than anything reliable”. He stressed that, unless such a process was challenged, its acceptance by the administering Power as a legitimate consultation with the people would nullify their voices. To prevent that, the Territory’s political leaders had appointed an independent commission to reflect the views of the people. The Governor did not and could not represent the interests of the people, he emphasized, pointing out that the suspension of the constitution had only served to make the people leaderless.

When asked how elections could be held without a constitution, Mr. Swann reiterated that public consultations were being held, and it was to be hoped that afterwards, the United Kingdom would consider the independent Commission’s report as well as Ms. Sullivan’s. Noting that the current constitution was simply an order in Council, he said he hoped all parties involved could eventually accept a new one. With regard to the elections, he called on the Special Committee to provide the Territory with assistance to ensure that the new constitution was ratified by the people. The Special Committee’s support in that matter could help prevent an undesired decree by the United Kingdom, he said.

Question of United States Virgin Islands

GERARD LUZ AMWUR JAMES, President of the Fifth Constitutional Convention of the United States Virgin Islands, updated the Special Committee on the Territory’s constitution-making efforts, saying it was making its fifth attempt to draft a locally written charter to replace the 1954 Revised Organic Act, which had been written by the administering Power and served as the governing document in lieu of a constitution. The proposed constitution had been adopted by the Fifth Constitutional Convention last May following extensive fact gathering in public meetings throughout the Territory.

The proposed constitution had been adopted by the required two-thirds majority vote, and had been forwarded in December to the administering Power, he said. Written under the present non self-governing territorial status, the document was not intended to alter that status, but rather to organize “internal governance arrangements”, he said, adding that he had recently led a delegation to Washington, D.C., to present the document to two congressional committees, followed by a presentation of the administering Power’s views. Congress had asked the Convention to reconvene and consider the administering Power’s objections, he said.

He recalled that, during his statement to the United States Senate’s Energy and Natural Resource Committee, he had noted that the proposed constitution had been drafted by and for the people of the United States Virgin Islands, and was not a proposal to govern other people. Several negative comments had been made about certain provisions of the document, he noted, by people who had not “worn the shoes” of those who had suffered the indignity of being externally governed. They had not examined the evidence that had led the Convention to adopt the necessary provisions to maintain generations of local people working hard to own property that would provide life for themselves and their descendants.

The critics had not reviewed the evidence that showed that those with Virgin Islands ancestry, primarily people of African descent, had been devastated by the administering Power’s lack of support, he continued. For example, half of the local population had left the Territory, an exodus that must stop, he said, stressing that the extinction of the native people was not an acceptable option. Young people were leaving because their parents could not afford to pass on to them homes and businesses that had been in the family for decades. Home values had increased exponentially due to external factors, causing tax hikes well beyond the ability of local families to pay.

One of the objections to the proposed constitution had been over any meaningful reference to the native population, he recalled. However, such recognition should not cause suspicion or be challenged as improper, since it was the administering Power that had recognized and defined the native population, pursuant to the 1917 treaty transferring the Territory from Denmark to the United States. Subsequent citizenship and nationality laws of the administering Power imposed in 1927 and 1940 confirmed that recognition, he said, adding that the provisions of the proposed constitution granting certain benefits to the native population were consistent with policies, agreements and treaties executed by the administering Power. The document went further, however, by embracing all those born in the Territory, including the children of people born elsewhere who had made the Virgin Islands their home.

A key area of difference between the Convention and the administering Power had been over the local people’s ownership of the Territory’s marine resources, he recalled, noting that the administering Power regarded the islands’ natural resources as its own. That was inconsistent with relevant General Assembly resolutions and with the Law of the Sea, which had affirmed for decades that the ownership, control and disposal of natural resources, including marine resources, lay with the people of the Non-Self-Governing Territory in question. That inconsistency must be reconciled as a matter of priority in the United Nations.

US Virgin Islands Constitutional Convention President Updates United Nations

Statement by Gerard Luz Anwar James II
Fifth Constitutional Convention of the U.S. Virgin Islands
to the United Nations Special Committee on Decolonization
United Nations Headquarters
New York, N.Y.

22nd June 2010

Mr. Chairman, Excellencies, members of the Special Committee,

I am Gerard Luz Anwur James II, President of the Fifth Constitutional Convention of the U.S. Virgin Islands. It is my distinct honor to address this Committee to provide an update to the United Nations on the drafting of the Constitution of the U.S. Virgin Islands since I addressed the Fourth Committee on behalf of the Constitutional Convention last October.

As the Committee is aware, this is our fifth attempt to draft a locally written Constitution to replace the Revised Organic Act of 1954 which was written for the territory by the administering Power, and serves as the governing document of the territory in lieu of a Constitution. The present proposed constitution was adopted by the Fifth Constitutional Convention last May following an extensive fact gathering process included public meetings throughout the territory where testimony was presented from hundreds of persons, and formal presentations, background documents and position papers were reviewed.

Following this extensive process, our proposed Constitution was adopted by the required two/thirds majority vote of the 30 delegates, and presented to the elected governor of the territory who expressed misgivings with certain provisions of the text. Contrary to law, the Governor initially refused to forward the proposed Constitution to the administering Power, and only complied last December following a decision of our courts. Needless to say, this delayed the process significantly, along with the insufficiency of territorial government resources available to the Convention which did not allow for adequate public education. We acknowledge, once again, the UN resolutions on the US Virgin Islands which support such assistance from the administering power and relevant United Nations bodies, and remain hopeful that such assistance will be forthcoming.

It is important to emphasize at this point that a Constitution written by the territory under the present non self-governing territorial status is not intended to alter that status, but merely meant to organize our “internal governance arrangements.” This was accurately reflected in the Omnibus Resolution on the small territories adopted by the General Assembly last December, and hopefully the resolution of this Committee can be further updated with the information we are providing to you today. As I pointed out to the Fourth Committee last October, a constitution adopted by the people of the territory in referendum, under our present political status, would not serve as a basis for removing the territory from the United Nations list, since the status of the territory would not have changed.

Our proposed Constitution acknowledges this fact explicitly, stating that the adoption of the constitution “shall not preclude or prejudice the further exercise by the people…of the right to self-determination regarding the attainment of a permanent political status.” Consistent with this understanding, our proposed constitution has a relevant provision which would create a political status mechanism to examine future political status options, to convene following the entering into force of our Constitution.

Mr. Chairman,

It is within this context that our proposed Constitution was submitted to the administering Power which has the authority to determine what additional powers and competencies are allowable under our present non self-governing status. Since the submission, the administering Power has issued a memorandum outlining its views on our proposed Constitution, including its objections to specific provisions which would grant additional autonomy to the territory in a number of areas. Our Convention subsequently issued a reply to the administering Power memorandum addressing the objections raised, and providing sound historical and legal precedent for the retention of the provisions in the proposed constitution.

In this light, I had the honor to lead a delegation of the Fifth Constitutional Convention to Washington this Spring to present the proposed Constitution before two U.S. Congressional committees. A presentation by the administering Power expressing its views was also made at that time. I have held subsequent consultations with U.S. Congressional officials since that time, and most recently, the Convention has been asked by the Congress to re-convene to consider the administering Power objections. I will endeavor to keep the United Nations informed of new developments.

Mr. Chairman,

I wish to emphasize several points which I had made during my May 19th statement to the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on behalf of the Convention:

* The proposed constitution was drafted by the people and for the people of the US.Virgin Islands. It is not a proposal to govern any other people. A number of negative comments have been ade on certain provisions of the document by people who have not worn the shoes of those who have suffered the indignation of being governed externally. They have not examined the evidence that led the Convention to adopt provisions in this constitution that are so necessary to keep life going for those whose parents, grandparents, and great-grand parents have worked hard in order to own property that would provide life for themselves and their future generations. The critics have not reviewed the evidence that shows that those whose ancestry lies in the Virgin Islands, primarily of African descent, have been devastated by the lack of support. A few examples illustrate the context in which I address you today:

* Half of the population of the U.S. Virgin Islands has left the territory. This exodus must stop, or the Virgins Islands’ life blood will cease to exist. Extinction of the native people of the Virgin Islands is not an acceptable option.

* The life blood of any people lies in its young. The young people of the Virgin Islands are leaving because their parents cannot pass on to them the home or business that had been in their family for decades. The values of the homes in the Virgin Islands have vastly increased due to external factors, causing the taxes on the ancestral home to be well beyond the ability of many families to pay. Their homes, as well as their businesses, have been subsequently taken from them.

* One of the objections to our proposed Constitution opposes any meaningful reference to the native population. Such recognition should not bring suspicion or challenge as being improper, however, since it was the administering Power itself which recognized and defined the native population, pursuant to the 1917 treaty transferring the territory from Denmark to the United States. Subsequent laws of the administering Power in 1927 and 1940 dealing with citizenship and nationality confirmed this recognition, and other laws conferred a distinct legal status with certain rights, which have yet to be realized.

Thus, the provisions in our proposed Constitution that afford certain benefits to the native population is consistent with- and in accordance with- policies, agreements and treaties executed by the administering Power which are designed to provide for self-government, and preservation of culture and land of native populations under its administration. Even as we are confident that our position is on sound legal ground – that, in fat, we are “a recognized people” - the provisions in our proposed Constitution embrace all persons born in the territory, including the children born of parents born elsewhere, and who have made the US Virgin Islands their home.

Mr. Chairman,

My final point relates to the provisions of our proposed constitution which provide for the ownership by the people of the territory of their marine resources. This is one of the key points of difference between our Convention and the administering Power, which regards the natural resources as their own. This is inconsistent with the relevant resolutions of the General Assembly, and of the Law of the Sea, which have reaffirmed, for decades, that the ownership, control and disposal of the natural resources, including marine resources, lie with the people of the non self-governing territory.

This issue of natural resources is but one of a number of inconsistencies between the resolutions of the General Assembly and the unilateral applicability of administering Power laws to the territories. This inconsistency must be reconciled, as a matter of priority of the United Nations.

In conclusion, on behalf of the Fifth Constitutional Convention of the U.S. Virgin Islands, I wish to thank the distinguished members of the Special Committee on Decolonization for this opportunity to update you on developments in our constitutional process.

I am prepared to answer any questions which the distinguished delegates may wish to pose.

Mental Health Ramifications of Colonialism in Guam Examined

Statement by
Hope A. Cristobal, Psy.D.
before the
United Nations Special Committee on Decolonisation
June 22, 2010


Hafa adei! Your Excellency Mr. Chairman and Members of the Special Committee on Decolonization, seminar delegations, UN staff and seminar attendees. Dangkolu na si Yu’os ma’ase’ for this opportunity to speak before the Special Committee. I am Dr. Hope Antoinette Cristobal. I am a Chamorro and a professional psychologist. Our delegation, here today, represents the second generation of Chamorros who have sought the assistance of the United Nations for over two decades to decolonize our home island and to protect our people’s right of self-determination.

We congratulate the UN for convening the Pacific seminar on decolonization in New Caledonia last month. We especially thank the Special Committee for its past work in decolonizing almost 100 non self-governing territories. It is our fervent hope to share in this same experience in the 21st century – a reality that is wrought with challenges and obstacles primarily due to Guam’s military strategic importance to the U.S. administering power.


It is well documented in the literature that colonized and marginalized communities suffer from a range of mental health issues resulting from their socio-political and socio-cultural oppression. Your Excellency, if the mental health and physical health of a people are direct indications of the health of a nation, I am here to testify that the indigenous people of Guam continue to suffer social, cultural, and environmental annihilation at the hands of our American oppressors.

As U.S. citizens in Guam, my Chamorro people are dying and suffering at disproportionate rates as compared to our U.S. counterparts. Our senior citizen rate is at a mere 5% in comparison to the U.S. standard of 12%. Your Excellency, the health concerns in Guam are not unlike those you are aware of with the Kanaky people of New Caledonia, where there is an over representation in problems related to depression, anxiety, alcohol, drug use, and violence, especially among the poorest male youths when compared to the larger French population. Most importantly, researchers note that these problems did not exist before their colonization (Goodfellow, Calandreau, Roelandt, 2010).

In Guam, Chamorros suffer from these same maladies (Rapadas, 2001; Untalan, 1991). It was found that young Chamorros, when compared to the general population, experienced the highest rates of alcohol and drug abuse; reported more gang involvement; committed more crimes overall; and made up the majority of criminal recidivists (Rapadas, 2001). We have some of the highest rates of suicide in the world (Booth, 1999; Rubinstein, 2002) with 15 completed suicides for every 100,000 people in Guam. In addition, when considering suicide, 50% of Chamorro and Filipino youths in Guam were more likely to seek help outside their family or with nobody at all (Rubinstein, 1983; Schwab, 1998). Robust research suggests that these aggregate problems in our communities are a result of the cultural and social deterioration of our families and neighborhoods; the same families and neighborhoods that had previously sustained our health for generations prior to colonization (Hezel, 1987; Rubinstein, 1983; Schwab, 1998).

The hyper militarization plans for Guam will exacerbate these problems, above and beyond what is already considered to be of serious global concern. As the administering power of Guam for over six decades, the United States must bear responsibility for our tragic invisibility resulting in inadequate public health resources to assess or respond to our particular needs as a colonized, marginalized island society.


In 2005, our people were notified through the media that some 7,000 Marines were being transferred to Guam from Okinawa Island. The U.S. DOD (Department of Defense) refused any further information citing their plans as tentative until the release of their Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) last November (2009). We knew nothing of what or how to prepare for this hyper militarization. The U.S. administering power had five years and over 85 million dollars to prepare their 11,000 page document detailing the destruction of our human and physical environment and thus our demise as a people of the land. Successively, our small resource-poor non self-governing island people were given exactly 90-days to respond. Today, six months after release of the military’s DEIS, the local government is struggling simply to get U.S. commitment of funds for anticipated impacts to our water, power, and sewer infrastructure and seaport facilities contained in the plans.

Your Excellency, it behooves the Special Committee to study this singular document that the U.S. plans for its irreversible destruction to Guam’s human and physical environment and its direct violation of numerous international human rights instruments including your UN Resolution 64/104 A and B; the UN Charter; the 1966 Human Rights Covenants (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights); the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples; the Declaration on Principles of International Law Concerning Friendly Relations and Cooperation among States in Accordance with the UN Charter [Resolution 2625 (XXV)]; and the recent Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Clearly, subjection of non self-governing territories to injustice, domination, and exploitation especially by the administering power’s military, constitutes a denial of our people’s fundamental human rights and is an affront to world peace and cooperation.

While the administering power is mandated to promote, strengthen, and diversify an independent economy as well as to promote the social development of the people of the territories, its already initiated militarization plans will further bind and embed Guam’s economic dependence on its administering power. Furthermore, the already initiated transfer of close to 80,000 new residents within the next four years directly threatens, rather than promotes, the social and cultural development of our people.

The UN mandates that all necessary measures be taken to protect and conserve the environment against degradation and requests specialized agencies to continue to monitor and assist with environmental concerns. Meanwhile, the U.S. is making plans to dredge 287,327 square meters of coral reef in Apra Harbor, Guam’s only natural deep harbor. Apra Harbor already has high traces of arsenic, lead, copper, mercury, tin, and PCBs (Szyfres, 2007) and disturbance of these chemicals will have devastating effects on our human environment.

While UN mandates clearly state that the U.S. is to continue to transfer land to the original landowners, in addition to transferring surplus Federal lands back to the Government of Guam, the U.S. military claims it needs 40% more land, private and public – this, in addition to the one-third of our island they already hold. Traditional lands that comprise a recently deemed National Historic Preservation site, the ancient village of Pagat, and sacred areas near Mount LamLam are scheduled for land takings through coercive procedures or outright purchase.


Despite the U.S. EPA’s (Environmental Protection Agency) lowest rating of the military DEIS and its basic rejection of DOD’s militarization plans, there is no indication for change. By the same token, there have been no indication nor plans that the U.S. will adhere to its responsibilities under the above stated UN resolutions, conventions, and treaties. However, without the Special Committee’s effective say and action on the key issue of Guam’s hyper militarization, Guam will remain a colony and the Chamorro people will continue to suffer irreparable harm as a consequence of our colonial status.

We offer the following recommendations:

That the Special Committee unequivocally declare that the militarization of Guam now underway constitutes a major impediment to the implementation of the UN Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples.

• That the Special Committee unequivocally declare and reaffirm that as a non self-governing territory, Guam has, under the UN Charter, a status separate and distinct from the territory of the administering power and such separate and distinct status under the UN Charter shall exist until the Chamorro people of Guam have exercised their right of self-determination.

• That the Special Committee reaffirm that the Chamorro people of Guam have the right freely to determine, without external interference their political status and to pursue their economic, social, and cultural development, and that the U.S. administering power has the duty to respect this right in accordance with the provisions of the UN Charter.

• That the Special Committee take affirmative formal steps to interface with

the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in reference to the

decolonization process for Guam (seeing as the UN Economic and Social

Council formally recommended that a seminar be held to specifically examine

the plight of the indigenous peoples of the remaining non-self-governing


• That the Special Committee take affirmative formal steps to request a UN

visiting mission to Guam as soon as possible in view of the active U.S.

hyper militarization now underway.

Si Yu’os ma’ase’ and thank you. I will be happy to respond to questions or comments that you may have.

Turks & Caicos All Party Commission Chairman Updates UN on Status of Constitutional Restoration

Address to the United Nations Special Committee on Decolonisation
by Wendal Swann
Chairman of the All-Party Commission on the Constitution and Electoral Reform
Turks and Caicos Islands
General Assembly Hall, United Nations Building
New York

22nd June 2010

Mr. Chairman, thank you for the absolute honour and privilege extended to me to have this opportunity to address your committee today. I appear as Chairman of the Commission on the Constitution and Electoral Reform established by the two major political parties in the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Mr. Chairman, on behalf of the people of the Turks and Caicos Islands who are aware of the work your committee does on our behalf, please be assured of our gratitude for that work. I recognise that we do not provide sufficient support or information to assist you in that work. And so I pledge that from today, in the absence of any official designation of a representative of the Islands, if you desire, beyond the scope of my mandate here today, I would be a permanent point of contact for the Committee in regard to the issues surrounding the Turks and Caicos Islands.

My initial exposure to the working of the United Nations was the 1992 seminar in Bridgetown, Barbados. Being ignorant of proceedings, I had intended just to observe. There was an English professor there who spoke as an expert on the Turks and Caicos Islands. The professor had never visited the Islands, but was a voice acceptable to the functionaries at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office in London. After listening to the professor, I had to speak up to complain about the number of factual inaccuracies in his presentation. I said then, that Turks and Caicos Islanders were fed up with the so-called experts on the Turks and Caicos Islands who knew nothing of the Turks and Caicos Islands.

I fear that we are in fact back there again. We see much in the epistles concerning the Turks and Caicos Islands on the internet that are incorrect; that are written by persons who either know nothing about the Turks and Caicos Islands or are deliberately misleading their audience. And so I hope that I will bring some balance to the reports this Committee might have received as regards the Turks and Caicos Islands and specifically as they relate to the suspension of the constitution.

207 months ago I came to this building and addressed the Subcommittee on Small Territories. I left with that subcommittee a report I had compiled on the conditions in the Turks and Caicos Islands. Much of that report remains relevant today. I can reprint it without too much editing and it would be as true today as when I wrote it in 1993. The central theme of the report was the neglect of the Islands by the administering power, the UK Government. Of course, the world economic downturn has affected us in the Turks and Caicos Islands as well. Many Belonger businesses will close before the end of the year. But this is not just the natural and inevitable result of the world economic crisis.

We have a few problems as a result of the current constitutional state of affairs, where our Governor is in fact a constitutional dictator. You are well aware of the decision of Her Majesty’s Government, effected last year, which suspended parts of the Constitution of the Turks and Caicos Islands and concentrated all authority in the Islands in the hands of just one man.

The committee would be aware that there would have been constitutional crises in what are now known as the ‘developed countries’. Notwithstanding those crises and regardless of the causes of those crises, none of those countries suffered the suspension of their constitutions. So the people of the Turks and Caicos Islands are asking, “what parts of our Constitution failed?” And no one has answered that question; not the Governor, not the visiting delegations from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office in London, not the members of the Advisory Council or the Consultative Forum.

Sir Robin Auld, former Chief Justice in the Turks and Caicos Islands was appointed by HMG to conduct a Commission of inquiry into possible corruption on the part of Ministers and Members of the Legislature in the Turks and Caicos Islands. Before he concluded his report, he recommended that the Constitution be suspended. But in the section setting out the reasons for the appointment of his Commission, he did not offer one constitutional failure. He cited inappropriate activities by Turks and Caicos Islands’ Ministers, weakness of the Governor, indifference of the functionaries at the FCO and general neglect by the British Government; all of which in the opinion of the Commission, could have been remedied without the suspension of the Constitution.

HMG has now ordered a review of the Constitution and electoral processes of the Turks and Caicos Islands. It appears that they have already decided what the new Constitution would look like. They have appointed Ms Kate Sullivan, an “expert”, to run the consultation with the people of the Turks and Caicos Islands. Governor Wetherell announced that the process will not involve negotiation. I have been told that Ms Sullivan has made reference to certain provisions of the Constitution that will ‘definitely be changed’. The process of consultation then, would appear to be more a sham than anything reliable. Ms Sullivan excludes the media from her meetings.

If this process was allowed to stand without challenge, its acceptance by the British Government as legitimate consultation with the people of the Islands will nullify our voices. So, the leaders of the political parties in the Islands, recognizing the danger of the circumstances and appreciating the desire of the British functionaries to reduce the influence of political parties in the Islands and having come together in March to call for a return of democratically elected government, thought to appoint an independent Commission to seek the views of the people of the Turks and Caicos Islands.

The Commissioners are: Mrs. Cheryl Astwood-Tull, LLB, University of Hertfordshire in England, former member of the Legislative Council, youngest woman to have stood for election to the Legislature in the Turks and Caicos Islands, first woman elected to the Legislature representing Providenciales, represented the Turks and Caicos Islands on behalf of women and children at the Conference on Women in Beijing, China, Former Deputy Chairman of the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians Steering Committee and a Public Relations Professional; Mr. Clayton Been, officer of the Turks and Caicos Islands Investment Agency; Mr. Beryn Duncanson, attorney/real estate developer; Pastor Conrad Howell, former Public Service Commissioner and advisor to Government.

The Commission is asked to consult the people of the islands as to their views on the Constitution as well as their ideas for the improvement of the system of elections we enjoy in the Turks and Caicos Islands. The Commission is only half way through its public meeting stage of its consultation process, but already it is clear to the Commission that the view of the majority of those giving their input so far is that the constitution has not failed us and therefore, there was no need to suspend the Constitution.

The Governor announced the appointment of a Team Leader, but he has never announced the appointment of the rest of the team. It appears from certain public pronouncements made by different persons connected with the suspension, that certain decisions have already been made. The Governor has said that after the elections in 2011, there will be greater British presence in the islands. This without consultation with the people of the Islands. Ms Sullivan has announced that certain provisions in the 2006 Constitution definitely will change. This before she started the process of her consultation with the people of the Islands.

By stating that there will be greater British presence in the islands post election, the powers that be admit that the British functionaries in the Islands were weak. And if the weakness was the fault of the British, why ought the people of the Turks and Caicos Islands now pay the price?

The Foreign Affairs Committee of the UK House of Commons, as bad as it might be in terms of recognizing the aspirations of the people of the Turks and Caicos Islands, insists that the British Government pay the price for the reconstruction of the islands. So far, that notion has been staunchly resisted. We hope that with the change of the political directorate in the UK and sufficient agitation by the politicians in the Islands as well as international organisations like yours, that that will change and soon. And so, our Commission would wish this committee to take a keen interest in the process of constitutional and electoral reform in the Turks and Caicos Islands, because, Reform by the British is just re-colonization by the British.

The Governor has cut civil service pay this year by ten percent and plans to repeat that early in the next half of the year. And the civil servant asks, “How are we to survive, when the Governor has absolutely no control over the price of bread?” How, for example, does a young woman, employed by Government, who is currently making $1,100/month, pay for urgent dental work that costs three times her monthly salary? And the two new hospitals do not provide the answer.

Those who might be in position to make an investment in the Islands are awaiting the inevitable changes that will come post elections. There are young Turks and Caicos Islanders who were given title to land through the normal channels who have built their houses with assistance from banks, who have now been told that they can’t exercise the normal right of residence on their land, because it is located within the boundaries of the National Park. the Governor does not say ‘in the circumstances, we will purchase your land at market value’, but simply, ‘since your house is within the National Park, you must comply with the law governing national parks’; knowing full well that that is impossible for those persons to do. The Governor indicates a willingness to grant the persons affected parcels of land elsewhere, but a refusal to consider the value of their houses.

Interested parties in the financial sector are complaining about the arrogance of the Managing Director of the Financial Services Commission. It appears from the complaint, that the FSC is not concerned to bring itself within the law, but that the MD operates as a law unto himself.

This trend is Deleterious to the interests of the people of the Turks and Caicos Islands. In the circumstances, the Governor does not and cannot represent the interests of the people of the Turks and Caicos Islands. Sir Robin Auld remarked that we were leaderless and therefore the constitution ought to be suspended.

By the suspension of the Constitution, we have been made even more leaderless, as the Governor, as well-meaning as he may be, cannot and does not speak for the people of the Turks and Caicos Islands.

And so, we call upon you to come to our aid, and to do so soon.