31 May 2019

Wamytan elected as New Caledonia Congress president


The pro-independence politician Roch Wamytan has been elected as the president of New Caledonia's Congress.

Wamytan of the Caledonian Union secured 29 of the 54 votes after getting the backing of the three members of the new Pacific Awakening party.

He defeated Magali Manuhoalalo of the anti-independence Caledonia Together party who won 25 votes.

Pacific Awakening was tallied as being part of the anti-independence bloc after the provincial elections 12 days ago.

However, the party, which represents mainly ethnic Wallisians and Futunians, decided to endorse Wamytan over Manuhoalalo, who is also an ethnic Wallisian.

The Congress vote has gone against this week's deal struck within the anti-independence camp which had earmarked the Congress presidency for Philippe Michel.

This was agreed after the big winner of the provincial election, Sonia Backes of the Future with Confidence, assumed the presidency of the southern province.

The deal also provides for the presidency of the collegial government to go to Future with Confidence.

United Nations chief concerned nuclear 'coffin' leaking in Pacific

Suva (Fiji) (AFP)
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres raised concerns Thursday that a concrete dome built last century to contain waste from atomic bomb tests is leaking radioactive material into the Pacific.
Speaking to students in Fiji, Guterres described the structure on Enewetak atoll in the Marshall Islands as "a kind of coffin" and said it was a legacy of Cold War-era nuclear tests in the Pacific
"The Pacific was victimised in the past as we all know," he said, referring to nuclear explosions carried out by the United States and France in the region.
In the Marshalls, numerous islanders were forcibly evacuated from ancestral lands and resettled, while thousands more were exposed to radioactive fallout.
The island nation was ground zero for 67 American nuclear weapons tests from 1946-58 at Bikini and Enewetak atolls, when it was under US administration.
The tests included the 1954 "Bravo" hydrogen bomb, the most powerful ever detonated by the United States, about 1,000 times bigger than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
Guterres, who is touring the South Pacific to raise awareness of climate change issues, said Pacific islanders still needed help to deal with the fallout of the nuclear testing.
"The consequences of these have been quite dramatic, in relation to health, in relation to the poisoning of waters in some areas," he said.
"I've just been with the President of the Marshall Islands (Hilda Heine), who is very worried because there is a risk of leaking of radioactive materials that are contained in a kind of coffin in the area."
The "coffin" is a concrete dome, built in the late 1970s on Runit island, part of Enewetak atoll, as a dumping ground for waste from the nuclear tests.
Radioactive soil and ash from the explosions was tipped into a crater and capped with a concrete dome 45 centimetres (18 inches) thick.
However, it was only envisaged as a temporary fix and the bottom of the crater was never lined leading to fears the waste is leaching into the Pacific.
Cracks have also developed in the concrete after decades of exposure and there are concerns it could break apart if hit by a tropical cyclone.
Guterres did not directly address what should be done with the dome but said the Pacific's nuclear history still needed to be addressed.
"A lot needs to be done in relation to the explosions that took place in French Polynesia and the Marshall Islands," he said.
"This is in relation to the health consequences, the impact on communities and other aspects.
"Of course there are questions of compensation and mechanisms to allow these impacts to be minimised."

29 May 2019


Amata Cosponsors College Access Act

Press Release
Washington, DC – Thursday, Congresswoman Aumua Amata announced she has teamed up with Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (CNMI) for the introduction of the bipartisan Northern Mariana Islands and American Samoa College Access Act to provide tuition assistance to students in the islands.

The Northern Mariana Islands and American Samoa College Access Act would authorize tuition assistance grants to cover the difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition costs for Northern Marianas and American Samoa community college graduates wanting to go on and attend a four-year public university, or seek to complete a four-year degree program.

“We have many good students that study at our accredited community college. That’s a great start, but our students deserve the same access from that point to a four-year University degree that students in the 50 States have because of in-State tuition opportunities,” said Aumua Amata. “This bill would help correct that major financial disadvantage, and give our students better opportunities to pursue goals for higher education.”

Congresswoman Amata with Congressman Sablan
Congresswoman Amata with Congressman Sablan during Committee work this week

This bill, introduced by Rep. Sablan this week with Rep. Amata as the original cosponsor, emphasizes the importance of education for the future of both Territories, the local economies, and our students, and their ability to compete in the modern, interconnected job market throughout the country.

“Thank you to Congressman Sablan for introducing this important effort for our students,” continued Congresswoman Amata. “In-State tuition ensures many students in every State have a chance to complete a four-year college education that they might otherwise not be able to afford. That’s a wonderful concept, and this bill would extend an equivalent possibility to our students from American Samoa and the Northern Marianas.”

The need is clear. Household incomes in the Northern Marianas are less than half the national median, while American Samoa is geographically and economically isolated, causing poverty concerns and the need for more jobs and better jobs.

According to the College Board, nonresident students end up spending $14,480 more on average just to cover out-of-state tuition and fees. Currently, that’s a cost our students can’t avoid. Students in the Marianas and American Samoa also face the significant added expenses of flight tickets to even the nearest State, Hawaii.

The bill is based on the precedent of Public Law 106-98, the DC College Access Act, which allows students residing in the District of Columbia to apply for grants to help pay the cost of attending colleges outside DC, however, this bill does not cost nearly as much as the DC Act that it’s modeled after.

28 May 2019

A New UN Permanent Forum on People of African Descent Advances

May 24, 2019

A multi-stakeholder consultation on the modalities, format and substantive and procedural aspects of the new United Nations Permanent Forum on People of African Descent took place at Palais des Nations in Geneva, Switzerland on May 10, 2019. The meeting provided an opportunity for civil society organizations and other interested stakeholders from around the world to present their views on the new Forum.

Prior to the consultation, an International Coalition of PAD leaders and organizations developed a Consensus Proposal on the Permanent Forum which was presented to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The proposal was signed by 118 NGOs from across Europe, Latin America, the Caribbean, the Indian Ocean, and North America. The US Human Rights Network was among the lead organizations that contributed to the development of the proposal and supported its submission.

During the consultation, USHRN Board Member and co-founder of Black Voters Matter LaTosha Brown took the floor to support the submission of the proposal and comment on the process. A number of civil society statements made during the consultation highlighted the need for the new forum to be democratic and empowering to people of African descent. Additionally, several interventions focused on the critical issue of inclusivity of all interested stakeholders, whether or not they hold NGO consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) or not. A vote on the Permanent Forum for People of African Descent will take place in June 2019.

20 May 2019


Testimony of Melvin Won Pat Borja (Guam)
Executive Director - Commission on Decolonization
2019 United Nations Regional Seminar
St. George, Grenada
May 2-4, 2019

"We look forward to building strong relationships with both the United Nations and our Administering Power to forge ahead on our path to restorative justice and the true liberation of Guåhan and her people."

Håfa Adai Your Excellency Chairman of the committee, distinguished delegates, and representatives from our fellow non-self governing territories. Guåhu si Melvin Won Pat-Borja.  I am the Executive Director of the Guam Commission on Decolonization, I represent the Honorable Lou Leon Guerrero, i Maga’hågan Guåhan.

Today I will be providing updates on decolonization efforts in Guam and I will discuss some critical issues that impact our ability to move forward efficiently in this process.

In 2011, a retired U.S. Military captain sued the Government of Guam after his unsuccessful attempt to register as a voter in Guam’s decolonization plebiscite as he did not meet the “native inhabitant” requirement. The Chief United States District Judge ruled that Guam’s Plebiscite Law was unconstitutional and discriminated against the plaintiff and his civil rights as a U.S. citizen.  My colleague, Dr. Michael Lujan Bevaqua, eloquently elaborated in his discussion paper for the 2017 Regional Seminar, “a process of decolonization that must follow the rules of the colonizer is not decolonization: it is an extension of colonization.”

Although the voter eligibility case is being appealed to the 9th Circuit Court, the implications of this case are divisive and counterproductive to the nature and essence of the UN Charter and Resolution 1514.  Regardless of the outcome, the case can be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court - a scenario that exhibits the reality in which the United States Judicial system is utilized to influence the terms of our decolonization and ultimately dictate the outcome.

In September of 2017, the U.S. Federal Government sued the Government of Guam for implementing a local law which created the CHamoru Land Trust Commission (CLTC).  The Federal Government contends that the local program is racially discriminatory and therefore violates the Federal Fair Housing Act.  Similar to the voter eligibility case, this suit against the CLTC is yet another example of our Administering Power’s use of its federal system to impede our progress toward native inhabitant recognition and decolonization.
In December of 2018, a federal judge ruled that at this time, the US Government failed to prove that the CLTC amounts to a racially discriminatory policy. This ruling was a victory - but how many more hoops must we jump through for the U.S. to honor its commitment under the Treaty of Paris to help advance the civil rights and political status of the people of Guam?  Why must we constantly justify and defend the validity of this fundamental human right?

The  aforementioned cases serve as reminders that Guam is a spoil of war, its people remain colonized, and that their self-determination is not prioritized by the U.S..   Worse is that laws passed by a legislative body, elected at large, are cast as racial with no recognition or critical examination of the racism inherent in our continued colonization.  In fact, many indigenous and native inhabitants  on Guam have a strong sense of patriotism and loyalty to the U.S. despite this history. No amount of patriotism, however, should warrant a blind eye to the inequity of our current unincorporated territory status.

Guam believes that self-determination must reflect the international community’s recognition that decolonization is realized through a choice for; 1) Independence, 2) Integration, or 3) Free Association.  Further, we believe upholding the Treaty of Paris means to respect the local law defining native inhabitant as an individual and their descendants who gained U.S. citizenship resulting from the enactment of the 1950 Organic Act of Guam, which is ironically a federal law.

Guam is eager and willing to pursue decolonization and to proclaim our political desires to the international community.  We believe, like the majority of you here, that a decolonization process which adheres to the norms and expectations of the international community is the road that should be traveled.

With the election of Guam’s first woman Governor, along with her commitment to Guam’s decolonization, we believe that our journey has been reinvigorated.  Add to this, that each branch of our republican form of government; the executive, legislative, and judicial, are led by women. This is not only a historical achievement for Guam, but a first for any State or Territory in the history of the United States.  We are actively engaging our government, and our political leadership is a manifestation of our desire to address the inequities of our current situation and political status.

Given the theme of this year’s Regional Seminar, the United Nations and Guam’s Administering Power can assist in this endeavor by supporting our efforts to educate all members of our community.  We are not blind that choices made for our island’s future will have an effect on anyone who has made Guam their home. Thus, all should understand the opportunities and challenges that lay ahead of us.  Because of this, Guam is making a concerted effort to launch a sustained political status education campaign.

This year, the Commission on Decolonization will reignite its plans to conduct a Self-Determination Study, host a Regional Self-Determination Conference, and launch a Media Education Campaign. The Commission is able to fund these projects through the generosity of the Department of the Interior; they are the principal advocates and champions for U.S. territories in our relations with the federal government and we are committed to building deeper understanding between us in order to see this through.

The Self-Determination Study will be compiled in collaboration with the University of Guam and will assess Guam’s current political status and paint an accurate political portrait of the level of self-governance on Guam under the Status Quo.  Further, it will analyze the three recognized political statuses to predict how each would impact various aspects of life on Guam to include the economy, trade, social services, education, defense, international relations, and others. The Self-Determination Study stands to be one of our most powerful tools to educate our community because it will answer many of the common questions and concerns of our people.  

The Self-Determination Regional Conference will welcome regional leaders and decolonization experts to promote community conversation around the topic of decolonization.  It will draw on the experiences and knowledge of other communities who have embarked on similar quests for decolonization. The conference will be open to the public and will be televised.

The Media Education Campaign will focus on developing educational content for mass media and social media distribution.  We are working with the Public Broadcasting Station and the University of Guam to create a marketing plan that will leverage the educational content and allow us to engage with a large audience.  These materials will also be repurposed for traditional educational texts.

There is a clear need for more resources if we are to conduct a sustained comprehensive and effective educational campaign on Guam.  Our challenges are vast and we are working against over 450 years of colonial conditioning. However, we are a resilient and determined people.  We will continue to be unrelenting to achieve our fundamental and basic human right to make a choice.  

We urge the United Nations to uphold its annual commitment to support our cause and extend assistance to our efforts to educate our island and we invite and welcome a visiting mission to Guam to bear witness to 454 years of uninterrupted colonization by both Spain and the United States.  We also invite our Administering Power to join us in reaffirming the principle that governments derive their just powers only from the consent of the governed.

We look forward to building strong relationships with both the United Nations and our Administering Power to forge ahead on our path to restorative justice and the true liberation of Guåhan and her people.

Saina ma’åse for your time and the opportunity to speak before the committee.

14 May 2019


"Both islands (Sint Eustatius and Bonaire) in their respective referendum of 2014 and 2015 rejected this illegally imposed colonial status, and both island parliaments as representation of their peoples ratified these as legal democratic decisions of the peoples."  
- James Finies, President of  Foundation We Want Bonaire Back 



To:                       State-Secretary of Kingdom Relations Mr. Raymond Knops
                            2500 EA The Hague, The Netherlands

James Finies, President of  Foundation We Want Bonaire Back

Date:                   May 14, 2019

Subject: autonomy or self-governance is not a choice- it is the most fundamental inalienable right of the peoples 

Honorable Mr Knops,

We took note of your recent press media communications that you don't see the BES-islands, Bonaire, Saba and Sint Eustatius in the future as autonomous self-governing islands. Reason given that they are too small. I would like to remind you that Bonaire is a nation and according to UN General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV) of December 14, 1960; - “that inadequacy of political, economic, social or educational preparedness should never serve as pretext for delaying our fundamental inalienable right to self-governance”

Further on, you declared that your undemocratic intervention, coup d'etat, overthrowing the legitimate democratic elected government in Sint Eustatius in February 2018, had a disciplinary effect on the Bonaire government, as your recent visit to Bonaire, the government spoke much more friendly. This is evident as the leaders of government of Bonaire, both commissioners Mr Tjin-Asjoe and Mrs Den Heijer, with their subservient vision, publicly voiced, that “we cannot eat bread with autonomy”. 

Firstly we recognize and respect your right of expression so you may have a personal opinion on our current illegal state-structure. However we herewith want to bring to your attention that neither you nor your government and your Bonaire friendly local government possess any legal rights nor power to deny the peoples of Bonaire and the other BES-islands, principally Sint Eustatius,  the right to self-determination and self-governance. Both islands in their respective referendum of 2014 and 2015 rejected this illegally imposed colonial status and both island parliaments as representation of their peoples ratified these as legal democratic decisions of the peoples. 

Instead of assisting our islands in enhancing their autonomy, your government, a member of the UN Security Council, has limited the development towards more autonomy and now declares that we will never regain back our autonomy. This constitutes a grave violation of the Charter of the Kingdom based on the agreements signed with the United Nations Organization in 1954. Your government continued irresponsible and undemocratic decisions and actions have caused a setback in the governing of the islands which has led to a re-colonization that violates the Charter of the United Nations especially Article 73 Chapter XI, Article 103 Chapter XVI, and resolutions 742, 747, 945, 1514 and 1541, all of which address the sacred rights of the Peoples of Bonaire and Sint Eustatius. 

Our mutual colonial history, which you voiced to me personally that you don't know and don't care of, is a very dark one, with your government legalizing crimes and inhumanity, your laws to piracy, smuggling (drugs), slave-trading, making you the worlds history cruelest colonizers. We may have expected you with time to have grown out of this horrific barbaric culture, to civilize, but your recent declarations exposed your truth again, that nothing changed throughout the centuries, and you have put a suit over the plunderer of the defenseless Bonaire peoples. 

Our response is by quoting Ghandi: “ that throughout history the way of truth has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they seem invincible, but in the end , they always fall”.

We the peoples of Bonaire maintain our hopes high that “we shall overcome” and you shall respect, protect and comply with our inherited and acquired rights. We possess the same rights as you, to be as free and as equal and as human as yourself and all European-Dutch citizens of the Kingdom. We urge the international community to be aware of this illegal colonial status where our peoples find themselves in.

Respectfully yours, James Finies 
Foundation We Want Bonaire Back



Premier Andrew Fahie traveled to Georgetown, Grenada from May 2-4 to meet with other regional leaders about the political status of the Virgin Islands and 16 other “non-independent countries” at a United Nations Caribbean regional seminar on decolonisation.

Mr. Fahie was the first VI head of government to attend the annual seminar, which examines issues of self-determination in the remaining period of the UN’s Third International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism (2011-2020), according to Government Information Services. In his remarks, he called for the VI to look beyond its relationship with the United Kingdom.

“Our relationship requires the international accountability that is provided for by the UN decolonisation framework,” he said. “This Caribbean regional seminar is an integral part of that process.”


IMG Academy Caribbean Cup Tennis Series to be held in St. Croix

Press Release

United States Virgin Islands Department of Tourism

Under-18 Tournament Starts May 13 at the Landmark Buccaneer Hotel

ST. CROIX, U.S. Virgin Islands (May 11, 2019) - Hundreds of junior tennis players, coaches and tournament officials begin arriving on the island of St.. Croix this weekend for the first-ever USVI Cup, an International Tennis Federation (ITF)-sanctioned tournament.

Organizers estimate more than 200 tennis players will participate in both boys and girls (under-18) back-to-back tournaments, taking place May 13 to 18 and May 20 to 25 at the landmark Buccaneer hotel.

"St. Croix will be brimming with parents, players and coaches, hailing from international destinations like Mexico, Spain, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Brazil, China and The Netherlands," said award-winning Canadian tennis coach Nima Naderi, who is acting as the IMG Academy Caribbean Cup Tennis Series tournament director.

Naderi has more than 20 years of coaching experience and, as an industry expert, is the co-host of the Tennis Connected podcast and frequent contributor to tennis-related outlets such as TennisPro magazine and Tennis View Magazine. Joining Naderi as president of the IMG Academy Caribbean Cup Tennis Series is Jamaican Karl Hale. Hale is an international tennis player and coach and is the tournament director of Rogers Cup in Canada.

"The main purpose for the event is to develop a cadre of local players and provide an opportunity to play a professional junior event," said Naderi. "Our aim is to develop the infrastructure of Caribbean tennis and help build a brand and grow the game."

Joseph Boschulte, Commissioner nominee in the USVI Department of Tourism, noted the importance of such events and sports tourism to the Territory. "We are getting back into the game as we share with the world that we are open for business, and look forward to welcoming these talented athletes to our Territory," he said.

The IMG Academy Caribbean Cup Tennis Series kicked off recently in Jamaica and continues on St. Croix, the Cayman Islands and then later in the year in Barbados, Curaçao, Anguilla, Antigua and the Bahamas.

"The tournament will help to expose travelers to the beauty of the Caribbean ... and visitors traveling to St. Croix will help boost the local economy. Hopefully they will enjoy their experience, spread the word and make this a bigger and better series next year," commented Naderi.

The Buccaneer has partnered with the event as the official tournament hotel.. Naderi reported that close to 450 room nights have been booked on St. Croix, at the host hotel as well as at surrounding accommodation facilities.

08 May 2019




Statement of Judith L. Bourne, Esq. 
to the Caribbean Regional of the United Nations Special Committee on Decolonization 

2 - 4 May 2019 
St. George’s, Grenada 

Ms. Chair, 

I thank the Special Committee for this opportunity to present my views on this most important matter which impacts my home of the US Virgin Islands as well as the mostly small island dependencies on the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories. 

I also thank the government and people of Grenada, for the gracious Caribbean hospitality that they have extended to me and to all of the participants at this seminar. 

The theme of this seminar contains three significant concepts - accelerating decolonization, renewed commitment and pragmatic measures. I will focus on these three concepts as they relate to the NSGTs that are not the subject of sovereignty disputes, which require a different analysis.


In this 29th year of a specific focus by the UN on the eradication of colonialism, the penultimate year of the Third International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism, why are we talking about increasing the speed of this process? 

We do so because within this almost generation and a half, there has been one territory decolonized and one territory returned to the jurisdiction of the Committee on the recognition that it has not been effectively decolonized, leaving a grand total of zero percent change in the number of NSGTs. 

To be perhaps uncomfortably frank, if Administering Powers felt that it was in their interest to encourage self-determination in the NSGTs that they administer, we would be in an entirely different situation.


An initial examination of this concept calls for immediate clarification: a renewed commitment to what by whom? I maintain that the only correct response is a renewed commitment to the actualization of the right of self-determination as set forth in U.N. Resolutions 1514(XV) and 1541(XV). 

Commitment to anything not rooted in these first principles encourages the erosion of the distinction between principles and ideals. And the commitment is not simply that of this Committee, but that of the UN as a whole. The responsibility for decolonization was recognized as that of the international community and was accepted by its foremost organization, the United Nations, which simply delegated to this committee the authority to directly oversee the process. 


The invocation of pragmatism is both encouraging and worrying. Encouraging because it is almost invariably useful to base courses of action on reality. Worrying because the call for “pragmatic measures” implies that there has been a focus on some idealized path and that we now need to deal with the ‘real world’. 

As the original of the UN document setting the theme and agenda of this seminar is in English, I have looked at the meaning of the word “pragmatic” in what I believe to be the leading dictionaries of the UK and the USA, which have been described as two countries divided by a common language. The OED gives the meaning as “Dealing with things sensibly and realistically in a way that is based on practical rather than theoretical considerations”. Miriam Webster defines it as “relating to matters of fact or practical affairs often to the exclusion of intellectual or artistic matters : practical as opposed to idealistic”. 

In fact, for the last 29 years, the Committee, as a political body composed of member states of the UN, has not seen itself as able to address the apparent fact that the major obstacles to decolonization are the nations who maintain the NSGTs as colonies - their fellow member states. This is neither surprising nor appalling; it is simply one of many implicit but normally unspoken facts of international relations. However, that reality should not, and must not, undercut or weaken the fundamental right to self-determination or seek to re-define it out of effective existence. 

Pragmatism calls for an examination of what factors would influence the Administering Powers to re-evaluate their interest in encouraging self-determination amongst their NSGTs. 


The early history of the successful decolonization of more than 80 territories, most of which are now member countries of the UN, was propelled by the expressed will of the colonized population. 

In February 1806, Frederic Tudor of Boston shipped a cargo of natural ice to Martinique believing that the people of that tropical island would welcome cool drinks and make him a fortune. What he did not realize was that, having no experience of ice-cooled anything, his potential customers had no interest in his ice, and it melted away unbought. 

Similarly, many of the people of the NSGTs, having little or no knowledge of the three self-determination options, or of how a choice might affect their lives or their futures, and demonstrate no generalized impulse towards self-determination. This should not be seen as a lack of desire, but as a lack of information. I described examples of the confusion caused by this lack of information in the U.S. Virgin Islands in my presentation at the 2017 Regional Seminar in St. Vincent, copies of which I have available, both on paper and electronically, for those who may desire to read it. 

What does this mean with respect to pragmatic measures? 

The first aspect of the reality that must be addressed is not to assume that the people of the NSGTs do not want significant changes in their status. The reality is that they do not have sufficient accurate information to even begin to think about what options exist and what those options might mean for them. 

The second aspect of this reality is that the Administering Powers that are not actively assisting their NSGTs in internationally recognized self-determination efforts are not likely to undertake such activities of their own volition. This is, of course, a politically sensitive assessment. 

Thirdly, and as a consequence of the first two conclusions, the pragmatic method to manifest a renewed commitment to the principle of self-determination and to decolonization, and to move that commitment forward, must be a process which directly addresses the need for education in the NSGTs, which includes providing them with more regular contact with the international community, which does not depend on action by the Administering Powers and which is in concord with resolutions adopted by the General Assembly. 

Fortunately, such measures have previously been set forth in detail in the “Plan of Implementation of the Decolonization Mandate 2006-2007" found in U.N. Document A/60/853; E/2006/75. This Plan of Implementation was presented by the then Chairman of this Special Committee, compiled and organized from the myriad of resolutions, statements and reports of the General Assembly, the Secretary-General, other U.N. bodies and this committee itself which speak to “innovative strategies [which] are necessary in order for the United Nations to fulfil its obligations to ensure the successful self-determination and subsequent decolonization of the remaining non self-governing territories through the assumption of a full measure of self-government.”[1] This Plan was welcomed and recognized as “important legislative authority” by the General Assembly in December 2006.[2]

While there may be differences of opinion about the causes of the lack of significant progress in the decolonization effort over the past 29 years, the theme of this seminar is evidence of a general agreement that such progress has not occurred. This more-than-a-decade-old plan remains sharply relevant and such commonly heard reasons for non-implementation as the lack of budgetary resources can be readily overcome by including the necessary resources in the budgetary process and advocating for their funding in accord with paragraph 20 of General Assembly resolution 73/123. 

I urge this seminar to exhort the Committee to go “back to the future”, to reach back to this well-grounded, well-developed Plan of Implementation that was endorsed by the General Assembly twelve years ago and to have its staff begin implementation as a matter of utmost urgency. 

Thank you.

[1]Introduction to Plan of Implementation of the Decolonization Mandate 2006-07


07 May 2019




Presented by TREGENZA A. ROACH, Esq. 

Lieutenant Governor 
United States Virgin Islands 

To the Caribbean Regional Seminar 
of the United Nations 
Special Committee Decolonization 

May 2, 2019 

St. George’s, Grenada 

Greetings Madame Chair, to all the members of your Committee, to all the representatives of other Non Self Governing Territories, to all the experts gathered here, ladies and gentlemen. I greet you as well on behalf of my Governor Albert A. Bryan, Jr. who was elected with me in November 2018 and inaugurated on January 7, 2019.

I thank the Government and the people of Grenada for their gracious hospitality, and I thank this Committee for the invitation to speak on the critical issue and noble endeavor, eradication of colonialism. 

Although this will be my first time engaging many of you, this is actually the fourth time that I will be addressing this Committee on this topic. In fact, it has been exactly one decade since my last presentation in 2009 when the seminar was held in Basseterre, St. Kitts and Nevis.

At that time, I presented shortly after the conclusion of a University project, a program of public education in support of the Territory’s Fifth Constitutional Convention. An expected outcome of the Convention was a constitution drafted locally, which would replace the United States federal Organic Act which first organized a Government for the Virgin Islands when the Territory and its people were purchased from the Kingdom of Denmark in 1917. The year 2017 marked the 100th Anniversary of that acquisition.

That purchase, and the identification of the United States Virgin Islands, or actually the Virgin Islands of the United States, a title which fully confirms a possessory status, keep us on the agenda of this Committee, because they confirm the absence of either full integration, or full self government.

I want to return to the purchase because it is essentially the reason why we are here and why the status of the Virgin Islands is a very different matter than our closest US neighbor in the Caribbean, the island of Puerto Rico whose relationship with the United States has its origins in the Spanish American War. We reference Puerto Rico because we want to be specifically on the alert for those in the United States who might suggest that our status issue might be resolved together. The status of Puerto Rico with its unique history and culture and with a population of more than 3 million to our 105 thousand and more people than several US states, and the status of the US Virgin Islands require separate treatment.

Our present status, though it was acquired more than one hundred years ago, represents the shameful act of the purchase of land and people in the relatively modern era, many decades after the Emancipation in all the territories framed by European slavery. In fact, it took 15 years after the purchase before the United States fully conferred its citizenship on the people of the Virgin Islands. These people had essentially been left stateless during this period, having neither the citizenship of the previous colonial power, nor the new.

And the identification of the Virgin Islands as an Unincorporated Territory of the United States—one in which the United States Constitution does not apply automatically, but only by action of the Congress of the United States—demonstrates the continued infirmities in that citizenship.

When the Congress passed Public Law 94-584 authorizing a locally drafted constitution, as referenced earlier, that law also provided that any Constitution adopted by the people of the Virgin Islands would require the approval of the Congress of the United States.

In its efforts to address the eradication of colonialism, the United Nations has provided in Resolution 1541 guidance by which this body would evaluate any movement by a territory to the path of being fully self governing.

You have said, through this Resolution, that a Non Self Governing Territory can be said to have reached a full measure of Self Government by:

1. Emergence as a sovereign independent state;
2. Free Association with an Independent State;
3. Integration with an Independent State;

In the context of this Resolution, the adoption by a NSGT of a constitution which would first have to approved by the administering power, would not be endorsed as a movement to more self government. 

The present Government of the United States Virgin Islands recognizes the need for the Territory to embark on a new and meaningful conversation regarding its status which should culminate in a status referendum within this four year term.

However, we are mindful of critical issues to which we must speak. One such issue which we have avoided and continue to avoid, despite the fact that it rears its head every time we arrive at a juncture such as this, is identity. Questions of constitutions, status, self government, are inextricably bound to the issues of identity.

Throughout the Constitution project, there was a sentiment that Native Virgin Islanders should be entitled to special recognition “because they represent the ones who were colonized, who did not have the opportunity to define and determine their destiny as a people and as a self-governed entity.” 

That position, is clearly not shared by all. An opposing sentiment is raised by large numbers of migrants from the Eastern Caribbean who believe that living and raising families in the Territory for the previous four or five decades or more entitle them to play a part in the political fate of the Territory. 

It is echoed as well by large numbers of United States Citizens who have moved to the Virgin Islands from the continental United States and who trumpet their rights under the United States Constitution and controlling federal law.

Despite opposition to the idea of a special treatment for the group of persons who identify as native and who can trace their presence in the Territory back to Danish times and to the acquisition by the United States, it is an important issue which demonstrates the question of identity which confronts a place as it wrestles with both the idea of self determination and self government. The issue will not go away for a place which has witnessed tremendous demographic and political change, dating largely to the decades beginning with the 1960s.

Looking at the latest 2010 Census data, for example, we learn that our population reflects just about 70 percent native born with the remainder coming from the Eastern Caribbean Islands, the Greater Antillean Islands, several of the countries of North and South America, several European Countries, several nations of the Middle East, Israel, Palestine, African nations and others.

Second is the challenge of public education about the United Nations’ decolonization imperative. How do you even manage a conversation which in any way suggests a disassociation with the behemoth United States whose Government and culture have made significant impacts on the culture of the Territory since the imposition of its rule?

We would welcome the presence of the UN as an objective and credible voice regarding the decolonization process which extends not just to land, but to mind and body. We would also welcome your financial and other resources which can serve to advance the dialogue.

With the last constitutional effort in 2008, the funding devoted to public education was provided by the local government. That should not be the case, As a member state, and as an administering power, the United States should support financially status discussions and further pursuit of self government.

Madame Chair, I close by observing the paradox in which we find ourselves, a decade for decolonization has morphed into three, and from some perspectives, so much more is left to be accomplished with regard to the eradication of colonization. Yet the colonization of which we speak did not happen in a day, did not happen in three decades, but has in fact persisted for hundreds of years. The task is daunting, but it is pregnant with meaning. We must stay the course.

I thank you for the opportunity to engage on this topic. I look forward to spirited and valuable dialogue.

05 May 2019


SAN JUAN – Politicians and citizens said their final goodbyes on Friday to Rafael Hernandez Colon, who served three terms as governor of Puerto Rico.

Hernandez Colon, 82, died Thursday at his home in the southern coastal city of Ponce after a battle with leukemia.

Relatives, friends and politicians, including former governors Carlos Romero Barcelo, Sila Maria Calderon, Anibal Acevedo Vila, Luis Fortuño, Alejandro Garcia Padilla and incumbent Ricardo Rossello, gathered for an emotional ceremony at the Capitol in San Juan.

“I am here as a citizen who was forged by the actions he took. Today we bid farewell to one of the greatest leaders in the history of Puerto Rico, a Puerto Rican icon, a treasure of our island,” Rossello said.

Rossello, the son of former Gov. Pedro Rossello, said that his “consciousness of politics and leadership began to establish itself under the influence of Rafael Hernandez Colon,” considered the second most-important figure in the Popular Democratic Party (PPD) after Luis Muñoz Marin, known as the father of modern Puerto Rico.

One of the most moving eulogies came from Romero Barcelo, who praised the human qualities of Hernandez Colon.

“I regret the death of a great Puerto Rican hero, who was, on occasion, my tough and difficult adversary. We achieved a relationship of friendship and mutual respect,” Romero Barcelo said of the man with whom he often butted heads in the political arena.

Hernandez Colon was elected governor in 1972, only to be defeated four years later by Romero Barcelo, who also prevailed in 1980.

In November 1984, Hernandez Colon won back the governorship and he was re-elected four years later.

“I appreciate his selfless service to the country, but, more than anything, his iron defense of the Spanish language and our ‘Puertoricanhood,’” said Sila Maria Calderon, the island’s first and – so far – only woman governor.

Following the ceremony in the Capitol, the remains of Hernandez Colon were taken to the Cathedral of San Juan for a Mass officiated by Archbishop Roberto Gonzalez.

Hernandez Colon will be laid to rest in his native Ponce.