30 March 2010

UN Decolonisation Committee Approves Pacific Seminar Participation

United Nations Press Release

The General Assembly’s Special Committee on Decolonization approved today the partial composition of its official delegation to attend the 2010 Pacific Regional Seminar -- to be held in Nouméa, New Caledonia, from 18 to 20 May –- and endorsed the list of experts and non-governmental organizations that will be invited to the event.

Chairman Donatus Keith St. Aimée (Saint Lucia) said the official delegation would comprise the Bureau and one Special Committee member from each regional group: Africa; Asia; Latin America and the Caribbean; and Eastern Europe. As such, the official delegation would consist of eight representatives, he said, adding that the United Nations would bear the cost of the delegation’s travel.

Following those announcements, the Special Committee agreed to the following composition of its official delegation to the Seminar: Saint Lucia, Cuba, Sierra Leone and Syria (Bureau members); and the Russian Federation (Eastern Europe). The Chairman said negotiations were continuing to determine who would represent the African, Asian and Latin American and Caribbean Groups.

Chairman St. Aimée then announced that, as in previous years, the Bureau planned to invite three experts and three representatives of non-governmental organizations to speak at the Seminar, all six of whom would be funded by the United Nations. The list of proposed participants had been drawn up and e-mailed to all members of the Special Committee last week and, thus far, the Bureau had received no feedback from the membership.

He went on to say that the Secretariat had informed him that the participation of the first non-governmental organization participant, who was from New Caledonia, the host Territory, would entail no travel costs, and the savings realized would allow the Special Committee to fund another civil society participant, from American Samoa, representing the Future Political Study Commission.

Noting that the Territory was currently undergoing constitutional transformation regarding its future political status, he proposed that the Special Committee invite the American Samoa representative to participate in the Seminar, asking: “Who best can inform us about the situations we are concerned with than those that are working on the ground?”

The Special Committee approved that proposal, as well as the list of participating experts and non-governmental organizations earlier circulated among the membership. It also approved a request that the Secretariat proceed accordingly, including with the necessary travel arrangements.

Chairman St. Aimée added that the Bureau would, in accordance with the Special Committee’s earlier decisions, invite all elected and appointed officials of the Non-Self-Governing Territories to the Seminar. Invitations would also be extended to other Member States, administering Powers, United Nations specialized agencies and some regional organizations. Those representatives would participate at their own cost, he said.

Before the Special Committee wrapped up its work, Cuba’s representative announced that consultations were underway to determine who would represent the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States at the Seminar. The Group had set a deadline of 1 p.m. today, and would transmit a note verbal to the Special Committee once a decision was made.

In the second meeting of its current session, the Special Committee -- informally known as the “Committee of 24” -– approved the plans for its 2010 Pacific Regional Seminar on 18 March, when it also decided, in keeping with its tradition, that the Week of Solidarity with the Peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories would be celebrated during that event. Additionally, the Special Committee approved the Guidelines and Rules of Procedure (document A/AC.109/2010/18) for the Seminar, and decided to authorize the Chair to finalize the list of selected experts, non-governmental organizations and others to be invited (Please see Press Release GA/COL/3201).

Established by the General Assembly in 1961, the Special Committee  (on Decolonization) was mandated to monitor implementation of the (Decolonization) Declaration and to make recommendations on its application.

29 March 2010

UN Pacific Decolonisation Seminar to Review Progress in Decolonisation

The United Nations (UN) Special Committee on Decolonisation is set to convene its 2010 seminar to assess the implementation of the international decolonisation mandate. The seminar is scheduled to be held in the French – administered territory of New Caledonia from 18th to 20th May 2010.

This is only the second time in the almost two decades since the seminars have been held that one of the sixteen non self-governing territories will be the venue. Only the British – administered territory of Anguilla has previously hosted one of the sessions, in 2003. In both cases, the United Kingdom and France, respectively, concurred with the request of the territorial governments concerned to host the seminars. The other major administering power, the United States, has been less flexible, declining earlier requests to host similar seminars.

Non Self-Governing Territories formally listed by the United Nations (2010)


British Virgin Islands
Cayman Islands
Falkland Islands (Malvinas)
St. Helena
Turks and Caicos Islands
United States Virgin Islands

Western Sahara


American Samoa
New Caledonia

The decolonisation seminar mechanism was adopted by the Special Committee, and endorsed by the UN General Assembly, as part of the identical plans of action of the first and second International Decade(s) for the Eradication of Colonialism (IDEC). The purpose of the seminars over the years has been to bring together representatives of the elected governments of the non self-governing territories, administering powers, United Nations agencies, international decolonisation experts, and non-governmental organisations in order to examine ways and means to bring about decolonisation in the remaining territories.

Documentation for the 2010 seminar includes the annual UN working papers for each territory which are available at the UN website together with other relevant material. This is the final regional seminar under the Second IDEC which terminates at the end of 2010. The success of the sessions through the exchange of experiences and information, coupled with the realisation that the decolonisation process continues, should be taken into account in the development of future UN plans to deal with what has been described as the “unfinished business of the UN.”

                Agenda of the 2010 Decolonisation Seminar

1. The role of the Special Committee in facilitating the decolonization of the Non-Self-Governing Territories within the framework of the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism:

(a) Analysis of results, ongoing processes and prevailing trends at the end of the Second Decade;

(b) Assessments and lessons learned;

(c) What comes next?

2. The perspectives of the Special Committee, the administering Powers and territorial Governments, as well as the views of experts and civil society, on the resolution of the remaining challenges:

(a) In the Pacific region Non-Self-Governing Territories;

(b) In the Caribbean region Non-Self-Governing Territories;

(c) In other Non-Self-Governing Territories.

3. The role of the United Nations system in providing developmental assistance to Non-Self-Governing Territories:

(a) Presentations by the United Nations Development Programme and others;

(b) Perspectives of the Special Committee, the administering Powers and territorial Governments, as well as the views of experts and civil society.

4. Way forward: advancing the decolonization process with all concerned.

26 March 2010

Legislation in US Congress Could Move Political Status of US Territories

A number of legislative measures have been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives which could affect the political status of the U.S. territories. These measures include a bill to fund educational programs on political status options in American Samoa, Guam and the US Virgin Islands. This proposal has already been adopted by the US House of Representatives and has been submitted to the US Senate for consideration.

A companion measure aimed specifically at Puerto Rico is set for a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives. This legislation would authorise a federally-sanctioned self-determination process for the people of Puerto Rico leading to a referendum on temporarily retaining the status quo, or selecting one of the permanent status options of independence, free association or integration.

Another proposal, which has routinely been introduced in various forms over the last three decades would extend the vote for the US president to the territories. The latest proposal would take the form of a constitutional amendment similar to that previously extended to the District of Columbia. Legislation to examine potential modalities for greater territorial representation in the U.S. House of Representatives has also been introduced.

Major principles of the measures are as follows:

The Guam/American Samoa/US Virgin Islands bill, as amended, would provide for pubic education programmes on political status options in the three territories. The options would “include but not (be) limited to internationally-recognised options of independence, integration and free association." It also implies that other options – undefined in the bill – would also be the subject of the educational programme (which could impact the effectiveness of the political education).

The bill confirms the statutory responsibility of the US Department of Interior to assist the territories in public education, but does not make reference to any referendum (this could come later under the 1979 Carter Adm. mandate to deal with political status that is still in effect). 

By contrast, the Puerto Rico legislation creates a two-step referendum process. The first step would have people vote in favour or against retaining the status quo. If the people choose to remain the same, then they would have to be consulted again in about eight years since the status is not considered as permanent.  Under the bill, if the people of Puerto Rico choose to change the status in the first round of voting, then they vote again shortly thereafter with the choices being the three internationally-recognised options (integration, free association and independence).

Neither  proposed measures provide for new budget authority. For the legislation aimed at the three territories of American Samoa, Guam and the US Virgin Islands, the US Congressional Budget Office estimated the cost at about $2 million during the period 2010-2014 (presumably from the existing Interior Dept. budget).

On the other hand, the Puerto Rico bill makes it clear that the referendum activities would be funded from Puerto Rico Government resources. The Puerto Rico bill does not address educational costs. In Puerto Rico, political education is usually carried out by the respective political parties. None of the other three territories have such experience of political party advocacy for a political status preference.

The three - territories bill was originally introduced by the Delegate of Guam for Guam-only, and was later amended to include American Samoa and the US Virgin Islands. The House Report on the measure (111-357), in the section on “Background and Need for Legislation,” makes specific reference to the relevancy of international law including the United Nations Charter as the basis for the self-determination process. The House Report also makes reference to the “limited form of self-government in the territories under the Territorial Clause."

The Guam Delegate to Congress made reference in her formal statement to the House Natural Resources Committee hearings to the international obligation under the United Nations Charter "to develop self-government” in the territories, and acknowledged that the three territories are on the UN list of NSGTs.

In a similar way, the Puerto Rico measure also refers to the limits of Puerto Rico authority under the Territorial Clause. In the “Background and Need” Section of the House Report on the Puerto Rico legislation the issue of voter eligibility is addressed by explaining that the legislation can permit Puerto Ricans born in Puerto Rico but residing outside of Puerto Rico to participate in the referendum.

The two measures appear to be moving along separately, and appear to be regarded as entirely separate matters, even as they go through the same committees, albeit at different times. It will ultimately be up to the Senate as to whether either or both of the bills will pass.

Several other measures have been introduced in the House which would have the effect of modifying the political status of a number of the US - administered territories. These bills are essentially focused on achieving more political involvement in the US political system under the present status. One would be acieved by  amending the US Code so as to enable presidential voting rights for territories, whilst the second bill would study the possibilities of greater representation in the House for the non-voting delegates to Congress from these territories.

The presidential vote measure has been introduced in various forms dating back to the tenure of Virgin Islands Delegate to Congress Ron de Lugo.  More recently, various strategies have been employed to gain a vote for the territorial delegates in the House (Guam Legislature in 2009 passed a resolution requesting a vote on matters strictly related to the militarisation of the territory).

Fundamental Questions

A number of fundamental questions have been raised in relation to the self-determination legislation:

On the bills aimed at a self-determination process, the Puerto Rico measure"cuts to the chase" and provides for a referendum on the clear options recognised by international law, whilst also providing a temporary alternative to remain in the dependency status.

Meanwhile, the measure for American Samoa, Guam and the US Virgin Islands has no referendum component, and is also not as specific on the definitions of the options. The measure could be improved by borrowing from the Puerto Rico measure, and would also be consistent with the draft US Virgin Islands proposed constitution which contains a section on a political status mechanism on the three permanent options.

The measures aimed at more political participation of the territories in the US system also raise some issues:

Could more territorial participation in the US political system affect the financial relationship, specifically the balance of taxation and representation? In other words, could a vote in the U.S. House reduce the ability of the territory to retain excise and income taxes?

Also, would this increased participation in the US political system constitute a fundamental change in the political status of the territory, moving towards a form of ‘partial integration.’? If so, should the people be given the opportunity to decide on this in a referendum knowing the implications of such changes?

And finally, what would be the impact of a move toward a ‘partial integration’ before the people determine their political future. If they chose an autonomous status, would the increased participation be reversed?
As the proposals introduced in 2009 wind their way through the US Congress in 2010, it is hoped that further clarity would be forthcoming.

21 March 2010

Who Owns the Falkland Islands (Malvinas)?

by Noah Tucker
21st Century Socialism
March 5th 2010

In the morning of 2nd April 1982, people in Britain listened to the news with bewilderment. UK territory was being invaded by a foreign power- and, even more astonishing, the invading country was Argentina. How on earth had a third class military power, in the southern hemisphere and on the other side of the Atlantic, managed to land its troops on a part of the British Isles? The experience of Steve Cahill, an Englishman who contributed his memory of that day to a BBC article on its twentieth anniversary, was typical:

"My first thought at the time was 'Where are the Falklands?' Like the majority of my generation at the time, I had never even heard of them. A quick look at an atlas confirmed that they were not just off the coast of Scotland, as I first imagined."

Unlike the people of Argentina, the majority in the UK had no previous awareness that Britain still maintained a remnant of empire off the south east coast of Latin America; but nevertheless within a very few days they were roused to militaristic fervor on behalf of the 1,820 inhabitants of that outpost, who were nearly all of British descent and wanted to remain subjects of Britain, not Argentina.

907 people, most of them very young men, were killed in the war that followed- equivalent to almost half the number of those on whose behalf the war was supposedly fought- a futher 1,965 were injured, many of them permanently disabled. Hundreds more of the combatants have since succumbed to mental illness, drug or alcohol addiction, and suicide, as a result of the psychological scars which they received. A report in the Independent on 25th March 2007 included the following paragraphs:

Mr McNally, then a gunner in the Royal Artillery, is still consumed by the events of 25 years ago on rain-sodden islands 8,000 miles from Britain. As the anniversary of the Argentinian invasion of the Falkland Islands approaches next week, an act that prompted "Maggie's Army" to steam from England to the South Atlantic, Mr McNally lives day and night with the horrors of war. And he is not alone.

"We, like most people, didn't have a clue where the Falkland Islands were," said Mr. McNally. "I assumed they were somewhere off Scotland. We didn't take it seriously because we didn't have a clue what was going on. You are a soldier, but you don't envisage that you would actually have to go to war."

Like thousands of British service personnel who have fought in the Falklands, Iraq and Afghanistan, he has battled mental health problems for years, triggered by guilt over the moment his missile system malfunctioned and he was unable to prevent the death of his comrades on bombed and blazing ships.

"Soldiers were jumping in the water, their clothes on fire," Mr McNally said. "Many had limbs missing. The ship was in flames. All I could do was watch. I felt ashamed, embarrassed and guilty."

Stephen Rawlins, a proud squaddie, with a happy smile, was another who was never the same after he returned from the Falklands. On Remembrance Day 2000, he attended the memorial service at his local Cenotaph. Then he went home and killed himself. He was 38. His father David, 68, found him hanged at their home in the village of Llanbradach, in south Wales.

"He went to the war as a boy and he came back a man," Mr Rawlins said. "But as a man he thought that all of his emotions could be bottled up. He would not talk to me, but he'd sit up all night confiding in his mother. He would be screaming men's names in his sleep, shouting to them to get out."

More than 300 Falklands veterans have committed suicide since the end of the war. One of them, Charles "Nish" Bruce, an SAS veteran and freefall expert who served in the conflict, plunged 5,000 ft from a plane without a parachute in 2002.

A small minority in Britain opposed the war, arguing that the UK establishment wanted to hang on to the Malvinas / Falklands at least partly for strategic and economic reasons including the possibility of future oil extraction, and that Margaret Thatcher was keen for a military conflict to enhance her Conservative government's electoral prospects. Were the issue truly about the UK's duty to the colonists that they should have the right to be British, then this could be assured by offering them relocation to England, Scotland or Wales- with generous financial compensation terms which, given their small number, would be very affordable to the mother country.

The unprinciple of self-determination

Almost three decades later, new advances in petroleum prospecting and extraction technology have made drilling for oil in the area potentially profitable; the UK's justification for authorising drilling, however, is fundamentally similar to that which was used to win support for the war in 1982: the population of the Falklands (now risen to 3,140 civilian residents, plus 500 British soldiers) regard themselves as British, so the hydrocarbon resouces under the sea bed which surrounds the colony must therefore belong to Britain. Noting the unanimous support for Argentina's position by the 32 counties of South and Central America and the Caribbean at the 'Rio Group' meeting on 24th February, the BBC reported on the British response:

Its [the UK's] minister for the region, Chris Bryant, said that Britain had "no doubt about our sovereignty over the Falkland Islands".

"It is underpinned by the principle of democratic self-determination. Falkland Islanders want to remain British," he added.

Earlier, Argentina had imposed a new requirement for shipping to get permission to go from there to the islands.

This was in response to the start of drilling for oil off the Falklands, within the exclusive economic zone claimed by the Falkland Islands government, with the support of the UK.

Were 'democratic self-determination' a genuine right for the inhabitants of the small but strategically important outposts around the world that Britain managed to retain in the twilight of its empire, one would suppose that it would be accorded universally to those inhabitants by the UK government. The sad fate of the Chagos islanders proves otherwise.

By the mid-1960s, the population of Britain's main remaining colonies were demanding that 'Britain must go'; and it was clear that the UK would have no choice but to allow Mauritius- as with the other countries that it controlled- to achieve independence. So the British government decided to detach the Chagos island archipelago- hitherto a part of Mauritius under the colonial administration- and hold onto it as British territory, insisting that the Mauritians would be allowed to leave the empire only on condition that Britain kept its ownership of the Chagos Islands.

The Chagos Islands became, like the Falkands and a dozen other small remnants of the British Empire around the world, a Crown Colony. (Later, in a terminological manoevre to deal with the fact that the tide of world opinion had turned against colonialism, the British Crown Colonies were re-named by an act of Parliament as the British Dependent Territories; and they were subsequently re-named again as the British Overseas Territories.)

In the process which followed, which was that of the forced expulsion of the population of the Chagos from the islands, the islanders were offered no recourse to self-determination. Dispossesed of their homes and their means of livelihood, the democratic choice offered to the Chagossians was to become slum-dwellers on the Mauritius mainland. For the inconvenience of having to accommodate these refugees, the government of Maurituis was compensated with the princely sum of three million pounds.

Like the Falklanders, the Chagossians were approximately two thousand in number. Unlike the Falklanders, they were dark skinned and not of British ancestry- they were the descendants of the African slaves and Indian workers who had been brought to the islands in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to labour on the coconut and copra plantations; and unlike the Falklanders, the perceived strategic interest of the British state lay not in keeping them in their homes but in expelling them from their homes. In the early 1970s, having accomplished the programme of cleansing the land from its population, Britain made good on a deal which it had negotiated with the United States of America, and the USA began constructing its naval and air force base on the largest of the Chagos islands, Diegio Garcia; by which the United States has since maintained its strategic command of the Indian Ocean.

No property rights

The Chagossians, who call themselves the Ilois people, did not give up their struggle for the right of return; and eventually the English courts agreed that they should be allowed to go back to the Chagos Islands, though not to Diegio Garcia, where most of them and their parents and grandparents had lived. But in 2008, the UK government successfully appealled that decision, persuading the highest lords of the English legal system that, despite the "unattractive aspects" of the dispossession of the Chagossians from their islands, the British financial and political interest, and even more imporantly, the USA's military interest, must prevail. Duncan Campbell noted in the Guardian in July 2008:

Islanders seeking to return to the homes from which they were removed to make way for a US military base nearly 40 years ago have no right to return, the law lords were told yesterday. Allowing the Chagossian islanders to go back to their Indian Ocean homes would be a "precarious and costly" operation, and the United States had said that it would also present an "unacceptable risk" to its base on Diego Garcia, the law lords heard.

The Foreign Office is appealing this week to the House of Lords against earlier judgments which have granted the Chagossians the right to return to the islands in the British Indian Ocean Territory. A group of islanders have arrived from Mauritius, where most of them have lived since being evicted, to hear the final chapter in their legal battle. Both the divisional court and the court of appeal have already found in favour of the Chagossians.

While there were "undeniably unattractive aspects" to what had happened to the islanders in the 1970s, that was no longer what the case was about, Jonathan Crow QC, for the foreign secretary, told lords Bingham, Hoffmann, Rodger, Carswell and Mance.

Democratic rights did not figure in the argument of Jonathan Crow QC, the lawyer representing the British government. Rather, he pointed out that the dispossessed islanders did not possess any property rights. Therefore, to allow these evicted people to return to their homes would be to concede to an act of "mass trespass":

The issue now was whether the government had been entitled in 2004 to issue orders in council forbidding the return of the islanders, he said. Britain took the Chagos islands from France in the Napoleonic wars and, under a 1971 immigration ordinance, removed the inhabitants compulsorily so that the main island in the archipelago, Diego Garcia, could be used as a US base.

Crow said that it had been regarded by the US since 9/11 as a "defence facility of the highest importance ... a linchpin for the UK's allies".

Although the judgments being contested do not grant the islanders the right to return to Diego Garcia itself, repopulation of the other islands would present an "unacceptable risk", the US believed.

"It has financial implications, political implications and defence implications," said Crow. "The Chagossians do not own any territory ... They have no property rights on the islands at all. What is being asserted is a right of mass trespass."

Today, the Chagos Islands have a population of about 3,200, comprising 1,650 US military personnel, 50 British military personnel, and 1,500 privatised military 'civilian contractors'. The name of the USA's military base on Diegio Garcia is Camp Justice.

Marriage of inconvenience

Despite the British government's steadfastness in preventing the return of the Chagossians, and the UK's many other actions in support of the US global strategic interest, there is no quid pro quo from the United States in the form of open endorsement of Britian's claim to the Falkland / Malvinas Islands. In an article entitlted 'Hillary Clinton slaps Britain in the face over the Falklands' in the web edition of the Daily Telegraph on 2nd March, Dr Nile Gardiner cited the following from the transcript of Secretary of State Clinton's joint Press conference with President Kirchner of Argentina, held the previous day:

QUESTION: (In Spanish) And for the Secretary, it’s about the Falklands. The – President Fernandez talked about possible friendly mediation. Would the U.S. be considered – would the U.S. (inaudible) consider some kind of mediation role between the UK and Argentina over the Falklands? Thank you.

PRESIDENT DE KIRCHNER: (Via interpreter) (Inaudible) what we have (inaudible) by both countries as a friendly country of both Argentina and the UK, so as to get both countries to sit down at the table and address these negotiations within the framework of the UN resolutions strictly. We do not want to move away from that in any letter whatsoever, any comma, of what has been stated by dozens of UN resolutions and resolutions by its Decolonization Committee. That’s the only thing we’ve asked for, just to have them sit down at the table and negotiate. I don’t think that’s too much, really, in a very conflicted and controversial world, complex in terms.

SECRETARY CLINTON: And we agree. We would like to see Argentina and the United Kingdom sit down and resolve the issues between them across the table in a peaceful, productive way.

QUESTION: (In Spanish) Interpreter: The journalist was just asking how the U.S. intends to negotiate to get the United Kingdom to sit at the table and address the Malvinas issue.

SECRETARY CLINTON: As to the first point, we want very much to encourage both countries to sit down. Now, we cannot make either one do so, but we think it is the right way to proceed. So we will be saying this publicly, as I have been, and we will continue to encourage exactly the kind of discussion across the table that needs to take place.

Dr Gardiner, who is a true believer in the US-UK special relationship, boiled with rage about the 'betrayal' of the British interest by its US ally:

Hillary Clinton’s statements at this press conference are highly significant, as they demonstrate a clear shift in US policy from neutrality (last week’s position) towards siding with the Argentine position of pressing for negotiations over the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands at the United Nations.

The Secretary of State, a highly skilled political operator, knows exactly what she is doing here. She is giving her full support for the official stance of Buenos Aires, despite the fact that Great Britain has made it clear that the sovereignty of the Falklands is non-negotiable. She makes no reference at all to the fact that Argentina recently threatened a blockade of the Falklands, or that its close ally Venezuela has been threatening war against Britain.

Hillary Clinton’s dire performance in Buenos Aires was not only an appalling display of appeasement towards a corrupt and authoritarian anti-American regime, which barely has the support of 20 percent of the Argentinian people. It was also an astonishing betrayal of the United Kingdom by her closest ally, and yet another slap in the face for Britain from the Obama administration.

These inaccurate and immoderate remarks reveal Nile Gardiner's frustration that his idealised concept of the US-UK relationship is revealed as as an illusion as soon as the strategic interests of the United States diverge from those of Britain. The USA, which already finds itself losing political and economic hegemony in the American continent, would succumb to further isolation should it identify itself with the UK's 'non-negotiable' position on the Falklands, because all the countries of South and Central America endorse Argentina's position of a negotiated transfer of sovereignty to Argentina. And beyond pure strategy, there is also history and ideology. The United States won its own independence from Britain, its European colonial ruler, by military means; and after having done so, proclaimed with pride that only itself, to the exclusion of any European power, had the right to interfere in and dominate the affairs of the southern part of the Americas.

Dr Gardiner, who is the Director of the Heritage Foundation's Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom, based in Washington, USA, ended his article with a lurid battle-cry:

Clinton has demonstrated, not the first time, strikingly poor judgment as Secretary of State. While currying favour with a third rate kleptocracy in Latin America, she is alienating America’s most loyal and valuable friend at a critically important time. She also underestimates the resolve of the British people, who will never negotiate the future of the Falkland Islands. If the Argentines want the Falklands they will have to fight for them, and if they choose to do so they will be emphatically defeated, just as they were in 1982. Hillary Clinton can cry for Argentina if she wants to, but the Falklands will be forever British.

But the truth is that the British, through their experiences as the USA's special ally in Iraq and Afghanistan, have had enough of war; and the Latin Americans, for their part, intend to persue political and diplomatic, rather than military means.

Hair of the dog

That the Latin Americans unanimously back Argentina in the dispute over the Malvinas is no wonder. For all that the islands were uninhabited by indigenous people when the Europeans- in turns French, British and Spanish- occupied, abandoned, re-took and fought over them during the period of European colonial expansion (though discovered artefacts prove that they had been visited by people from the South American mainland before the Europeans arrived); they are South American islands, not European Islands. When, after1776, the Malvinas were ruled by the Spanish, they were not ruled directly from Spain as a separate entity- they were administered from Buenos Aires as part of the Viceroyalty of the Rio de la Plata. After it won its independence from Spain, the nascent Argentinian state asserted that the Malvinas were part of its territory and established a settlement there; but Britain sent a naval expedition, which seized the islands from the Buenos Aires government in 1833.

Might was right in those days- and to a large extent this is still considered to be the case; the fact that the current inhabitants of the Falklands are descendants of British, rather than Latin American settlers, and therefore assert their 'Britishness', is owed entirely to that invasion of 177 years ago, and the subsequent maintennance of British control by the relatively superior military prowess of the UK; allied to Britain's superior status within the international community, represented by its position as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. MercoPress reported the observations of Brazil's president Lula da Silva on 24th February:

“Our attitude is one of solidarity with Argentina,” said the Brazilian president adding the question: “What is the geographical, political and economic explanation for England to be in the Malvinas?”

“What is the explanation for the United Nations never having that decision? It is not possible that Argentina is not the owner while England is, despite being 14,000 km away.”

For the Brazilian leader the reason this happens is the fact that Britain is a permanent member of the Security Council. He used the occasion to once again call for the admission of more members to the council, increasing its representativeness. Brazil wants to be one of the new members.

“Is it possible that Britain can do everything and while others can do nothing?” Lula da Silva went on. “We need to start pushing so that the UN Secretary reopens this debate.”

UN Security Council members respect international rulings “only when they are functional to their own interests,” he emphasized.

The 33 presidents present in Cancun, including Lula da Silva, signed a document supporting the Argentine position, recognizing Argentina’s sovereignty claim over the Falklands and condemning the current oil drilling round by British companies.

But what about the Falklanders? One would not wish them to suffer a similar fate to that of the Chagossians; and the fact that Britain upholds the 'principle of democratic self-determination' for the inhabitants of its small remaining colonies only when that accords with the UK's economic and strategic interests does not by itself prove that the claim of the people living on the Falklands / Malvinas islands should be given no moral or political credence. But what is that claim? They do not assert that they wish to be an independent nation- what they want is to be British subjects. Following from this, they have no special right which would trump a British decision on what to do with the land on which they live, and the natural resources which surround it- any more than do the people who live in the way of a proposed railway line, airport or power station. Their democratic position is that they, like any other group of a few thousand- or many more- UK citizens, have to accept the decisions of the elected British government.

For sure they have the right to campaign, or to seek recourse through the courts, but in the end they, if they insist on being British, must therefore abide by whatever choice is made by the British people as a whole, through their elected government. Should Britain decide to concede its colony off the coast of Argentina to the Argentinians, those who currently live there could choose to remain on the islands as 'ex-pat' Brits, or to relocate to England, Scotland or Wales with whatever financial compensation terms would be on offer; a small number of them might even decide to apply to become citizens of Argentina. That would be for them to decide, in the context of a negotiated solution.

Is the 60 million strong British bulldog really being wagged by its miniscule Falklands tail- or more precisely a hair on the tail, given that there are only 3,140 Falklanders? In the 21st Century, can a European power hide its colonial claim to the oil resources under the sea bed of South America by sheltering behind the 'rights' of its colonists?

Britain must go, and in the end it will have to go; the issue is one of how and when.

18 March 2010

US Virgin Islands Presents Constitution to Congress

The President of the Fifth Constitutional Convention of the US Virgin Islands led an official delegation of four to present the territory's proposed constitution to the United States Congress. Convention President Gerard L. James II was accompanied by other convention members, Professor Lois Hassell Habtes, Adelbert M. Bryan and Gerard Emanuelall of whom made presentations before the body. Also testifying on the measure from the territory was the elected governor John P. de Jongh and Minority Leader of the US Virgin Islands Legislature Raymond Usie Richards. Additional members of the Convention testifying were Douglas Brady and Eugene M. Petersen.

The specific Congressional body which conducted the hearing was the Subcommittee on Insular Affairs, Oceans and Wildlife of the House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources. The Subcommittee is chaired by Madeline Bordallo, the non-voting delegate to the US Congress.

Under the territory's dependency status, the proposed constitution must be submitted to the U.S. Government which would review the text and assess its consistency with the unilateral applicability of US law to the territory. The proposed constitution can be either amended by the US Congress, or returned to the territory unchanged, before it goes to the voters in the US Virgin Islands in a referendum. The political status of the territory would not be altered by adoption of the constitution.
            Statement by Gerard Luz Amwur James II, President

         Fifth Constitutional Convention of the U.S. Virgin Islands
            to the Congressional Subcommittee on Insular Affairs

Good Morning Chairperson Bordallo, Committee members and all others present. My name is Gerard Luz Anwur James II. I am the President of the Fifth Constitutional Convention of the US Virgin Islands, elected at large by the people of our four island paradise which we proudly call home. It is my distinct honor to address this Committee regarding the adoption last May by our Convention of the proposed constitution for consideration by Congress.

I must first emphasize that the Convention is fully aware that our proposed constitution is not designed to usurp the sovereignty or supremacy of federal law and that the passage of our constitution will not, nor is it intended to, alter our political relationship with the United States. It represents a further step along the path toward a full measure of self-government.

This is our fifth attempt to attain greater self government since Congress passed PL 94-584 in 1976 which granted us the authority to draft our own constitution. When passed by referendum of the voters of the Virgin Islands it will replace the Revised Organic Act of 1954. The Organic Act has served as the governing law of the Virgin Islands for fifty six years with no input from the population it governs.

On June 12, 2007, a special election was held to select delegates from throughout the territory to draft the constitution. The keen interest of Virgin Islanders in this process was evident from the inception when voters elected delegates from a field of 135 candidates. Seventeen ran at large with the remaining candidates running from their respective jurisdictions. Thirty delegates were elected, and served as drafters of the constitution. The elected delegates were composed of a former Governor, four former senators, two sitting senators (elected during the term of the convention), a former District Court Judge, three practicing attorneys, farmers, professors, teachers and political activists.

Upon convening in December of 2007, the Convention formed twelve committees which were charged with conducting public hearings on the areas which are now part of our proposed constitution. The Convention was initially mandated by enabling Virgin Islands legislation to finalize a draft constitution by October 6, 2008, but the period was later extended.

The work of our Convention was impeded at the outset for six months by a court challenge to the results of the election by an unsuccessful candidate, and further delayed in mid-stream as the convention awaited the balance of the operating funds appropriated by the Legislature. The level of funding was itself an impediment with the Fifth Constitutional Convention receiving significantly less funding then the Fourth Constitutional Convention which met some thirty years ago.

This caused several inordinate delays in the drafting process and necessitated an extension of the time frame for submission to our governor. Despite these constraints, the Convention conducted a series of well publicized public hearings, committee hearings and plenary sessions comprising hundreds of hours of testimony and debate and many volumes of transcribed records. These meetings were attended by Virgin Islanders from all walks of life including but not limited to students, political activists, several religious leaders, as well as private citizens. We also consulted with representatives of a wide range of leaders of several local organizations and institutions including the President and department heads of the University of the Virgin Islands.

Unfortunately, insufficient resources and time constraints resulted in our inability to conduct an adequate public relations campaign. Also, the hard work of the Convention was often sensationalized and marginalized by the media’s focus on specific issues and individuals, rather than on our substantive work.

Through it all, we are proud to report that at the end of this protracted process, in May of last year, the convention was able to reach the required majority consensus and our proposed constitution passed with a two-thirds vote of 20 delegates. The document was transmitted to our Governor on May 31, 2009, meeting our extended deadline.

A major area of public discussion during this process was extensive debate on the crafting of the definition of a Virgin Islander. According to the 1917 treaty, through which the territory was purchased by the United States from Denmark, the political rights and citizenship of the inhabitants of the territory at the time of transfer would subsequently be determined by the US Congress. The citizenship of the islands’ population at the time of the transfer, which was predominately comprised of former enslaved Africans and their descendents, was not determined until ten years later. Article III of the proposed constitution defining Ancestral Native Virgin Islander was based on federal law emerging from that period (See Section 306 INA (8 U.S.C. 1406). It is also consistent with the definition of native populations in the constitutions of other un-incorporated territories.

The proposed constitution provides a broader definition of a Native Virgin Islander as a person born in the territory, or a descendent of a native. The delegates felt that theinclusion of this definition was imperative for several historical reasons.

From the early seventies we have experienced a dramatic decline of our native-born population. According to a 2007 study conducted by the University of the Virgin Islands as of 2005 the percentage was approximately 51.3 %. This decline has significant implications for the self-identity of our people.

The proposed constitution also provides that only Ancestral or Native Virgin Islanders are eligible to serve as governor and lieutenant governor, and as members of a proposed future political status advisory commission. These provisions address the unique culture and political backdrop of our islands.

Additionally, a provision to exempt Ancestral Virgin Islanders from paying property tax has been included. This provision is designed to protect the disenfranchised native population from significant externally motivated commercial land speculation which continues to result in the erosion of natives’ ability to retain and purchase property. It is also consistent with several relevant General resolutions, most recently operative paragraph 9 of the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 63/108, which mandates that all necessary steps be taken to protect the property rights of the peoples of the territories on the United Nations list of non self-governing territories. The Virgin Islands, along with American Samoa and Guam, remain on that list today.

Similar native rights provisions are part of the constitutions of other U.S. administered territories, specifically those of American Samoa and the Northern Marianas, both of which have a comparable island geographical make up, and the same unincorporated political status as the U.S. Virgin Islands.

We strongly feel that these provisions are not discriminatory, and do not violate federal law as it is presently applied to the Virgin Islands and supports a compelling state interest. My fellow delegates’ testimony will address these issues in greater detail. Further elaboration is contained in our response to the Department of Justice analysis which has been submitted for your consideration and review. Throughout out history our shores have remained open to people of all cultures and ethnicities. The Virgin Islands has long been known as the ‘American Paradise.” The proposed constitution is our sincere effort attempt to insure that our beloved territory remains our “Virgin Islands Home.”

Thank you again for your time and your thoughtful review of our Constitution.

16 March 2010

Amer. Samoa Governor Supports Free Association

As discussions intensify in American Samoa on the process of political and constitutional evolution, the territory's elected Governor Togiola T.A. Tulafono has expressed his preference for the development of free association as a future political status option. In a statement to a United States Congressional Subcommittee a the end of February, the Governor suggested that a formal agreement between the territory and the United States may be required to provide the territory with the neccesary flexibility to engage the international system. OTR provides the relevant excerpts from Governor Tulafono's Congressional testimony.
In March at a Constitutional Convention forum in the territory, the Governor indicated that he favoured the political status of free association which would provide American Samoa with the authority to move forward. A Samoa News article on Governor Tulafono's position on the future political development is also provided below.
Presentation by H.E. Togiola T.A. Tulafono

Governor of American Samoa
to the Committee on Natural Resources
Subcommittee on Insular Affairs, Oceans and Wildlife
Committee on Natural Resources
House of Representatives
United States Congress,
February 24, 2010


Comments on issues important to our fiscal future but not necessarily large fiscal items themselves

This brings me to my final point, and that is that the Federal Government must begin giving more serious thought to the political status of several of its territories. It has already made a start at this with passage of HR 3940 clarifying the authority of the Secretary of the Interior to assist the US non-self-governing territories (colonies) of American Samoa, Guam, and the United States Virgin Islands. This would take the form of grants, research, planning assistance, studies, and agreements with Federal agencies, to facilitate public education programs regarding political status options for their respective territories the United States. This bill passed the House of Representatives December 7, 2009. The Senate has yet to address the matter. American Samoa’s political status concerns are as follows:

1. The US Congress is now applying Federal laws to these territories. In some cases these laws concern issues that would be part of a political status

2. These Federal laws are often passed without consultations with the territories.

3. These Federal laws often ignore consideration of the economic or social
impacts upon the territories, often with devastating results (e.g., the
federalization of the minimum wage and immigration).

Therefore, the US Congress is arbitrarily determining the political status of US territories one law at a time without giving these territories any voice in their own self determination. Furthermore, the United States has an obligation to negotiate a modern agreement with American Samoa. The argument that the US Congress can do anything it wants with American Samoa is based in part on the notion that American Samoa willingly gave itself to the US. This is false. The treaties in fact state that Germany, Great Britain, and the United States seized control of the Samoan Islands because of “dissensions, internal disturbances and civil war.”

American Samoa is not just a piece of property (real estate) owned by the US. It is a political entity joined to the US by special circumstances and deserves to be taken seriously in considering the terms of that relationship with the US, its political status. This is based on events suggesting that Congress is gradually establishing that political status on a piecemeal basis.

I am not questioning, the US Congress’ constitutional authority over the territories. However, there are international considerations as well. The UN is obligated by its charter to identify and decolonize territories throughout the world. American Samoa is currently one of only sixteen colonies remaining in the world. The UN recognizes three methods by which territories may become decolonialized. They may become:

1. A sovereign independent state (Independence).
2. Freely associated with an independent state (Compact)
3. Integrated with an independent state (Incorporation).

Presently, American Samoa fits none of the three and is a colony by this definition. This may require some formal agreement between the US and American Samoa, not entirely unlike that of the covenant between the US and the CNMI. Or, the UN might be satisfied with the political status quo if it is approved by the people of American Samoa through a democratic process (i.e., a vote of the people or the legislature.)

In fairness, neither party has been anxious to change the status quo since the
arrangement seemed mutually agreeable to both, and especially since American Samoa had some serious catching up to do in education, self-government and other areas since 1900.

Much has changed over the years. American Samoa has become virtually self-governing in the process, becoming modernized with much assistance from the United States. However, American Samoa’s government remains a creation of the US executive office and exists at the pleasure of that office and the Congress.

I do not want to be misunderstood on this. We are Americans. We have been
Americans for over a century. We have defended America with our service and our lives. Our dedication to our country is not diminished because we raise the issue of our political relationship or the need for due process in the formalization of that relationship.

Again and again, in political status commissions over the last five decades
American Samoans have expressed a preference for the status quo in its
relationship with the US. I am convinced that they would agree that at this stage of our relationship some formalization of our relationship is necessary as a matter of basic fairness and to meet our international obligations. This is especially the case today as Congress continues to address territorial issues on an ad hoc basis.

I thank you for your kind attention and consideration.


Togiola says American Samoa should have same relationship with US as Palau
Samoa News
By Tina Mata’afa
March 15, 2010
Gov. Togiola Tulafono believes the best political status for American Samoa is to have the same relationship with the United States as Palau does, noting American Samoa’s current status does not allow us to seek foreign aid outside the US. Togiola made the statement when he spoke at the American Samoa Community College Constitutional Convention forum last week.

Called “the million dollar question” by moderator Tapaau Dr. Daniel Aga, Togiola was asked: “What form of political status do you believe is best for the people of American Samoa?”

The Governor noted that is not the opinion of his office, but his own personal belief that “an autonomous governance” with the benefit of US passports and federal dollars such as those enjoyed by Palau “would be the best for us.”

“The second thing that I need to say about that choice ... from my perspective is the fact that we are resisted from seeking assistance from other countries because we are not allowed under our structure with the United States to do so,” he added. He said when he managed the Mini Games in 1997, he wanted to solicit assistance from Taiwan, but the US State Department told him he couldn’t do it.

“It’s one of those things because we are small territory of the United States and these are policies that are handed to us,” Togiola stated. “If we have self governance ... autonomy, we can do what we want and we have access to foreign aid that is far greater and broader than what our United States government give us.” He said he suggested that the Future Political Status Study Commission (FPSSC) look at the Palau agreement with the US.

“I think that’s the best agreement of all these self governing states,” Togiola said. “That agreement allows Palauans to have free access to the United States” as they do not need visas and hold US Passports but are afforded protection by the US.

Palau gained independence from the United Nations trusteeship administered by the United States on Oct. 1, 1994 and entered a Compact of Free Association with the United States, explains Wikipedia.com.

The Compact of Free Association between the United States and Palau sets forth the free and voluntary association of their governments, and is primarily focused on the issues of government relations, economic relations, and security and defense relations, adds Wikipedia.

Palau has no independent military, and relies on the US for its defense and under the Compact, the US military has been granted access to the islands for 50 years.

Togiola pointed out that under the agreement, Palau and the US every 15 years, negotiate a structure of fiscal assistance “where they will agree how much assistance Palau will need over the next 15 years.” He said those monies are put into a trust fund from which the Palau government draws funds to supplement local revenue.

“And they have total access to the military ... they enter the military of the United States and can go as far as they want,” the Governor added. “A structure like that is beneficial for us ... at the same time Palau asked Japan to build them a bridge ... Japan built a bridge free of charge in Palau because of foreign aid.” He said it was a $10 million bridge that even rivals the Golden Gate Bridge of San Francisco.

Togiola said there would also be control of educational resources and access to the European Union with such an agreement with the US. He put the question back to students and told them to ask themselves what kind of political status would be best for American Samoa.

FPSCC, in its Recommendation No. 1 said “American Samoa shall continue as unorganized and unincorporated territory and that a process of negotiation with the US Congress for a permanent political status be initiated.”

In responding to questions on the process by which American Samoa would negotiate its permanent political status, Togiola explained that the Constitutional Convention set for June will determine “what changes will go into the present constitution.”

The students’ question was: the FPSSC Recommndation No. 1 states that “American Samoa shall continue as unorganized and unincorporated territory and that a process of negotiation with the US Congress for a permanent political status be initiated.”

a) Please explain the “process of negotiation” for a permanent political status;
b) After the Constitutional Convention, what happens next?
c) How will the people of American Samoa participate in the process?


The first step is for new recommendations from the Convention to go to the Fono, Togiola said. He added that the present constitution requires that all amendments must be put forth in a joint resolution. If the resolution passes, he explained it is then handed to the people in a referendum. The governor, he said, places the referendum on the ballot in the next election.

“And then the people will vote yes or no,” said Togiola. “If they agree with all the changes that are being made, then the yes may prevail. If the people don’t agree, then it may not prevail.” If the people vote yes, he continued, the governor then submits it to the Secretary of Interior to present to the US Congress. Under US Law, the Governor noted, the AS Constitution cannot be valid or enforceable unless approved by Congress.

“If this recommendation ... that says let’s maintain present status quo, but let’s ask Congress for authorization for us to enter into negotiations with the United States for a different political status, once Congress approves that ... most likely the governor and the legislature will appoint a negotiating team that will then negotiate with the Unites States— probably the Department of Interior and State Department ...”

He said it was Interior Department that negotiated contracts with compact states such as the Republic of Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia and the Marshall Islands. “If this is approved, a team from American Samoa will be meeting with representatives of the United States to discuss those things,” said Togiola.

Togiola said the process “is not going to be a short or quick process ... in some of the Micronesian states, it took almost 10, 12 years to negotiate agreements. So we’re not looking to this to end in the year 2014 or 2016, it’s probably going to be longer than that.” He says there’s probably “a million issues” that have to be worked out.

15 March 2010

New Anguilla Government Addresses Financial Sector


       Joint Statement of Chief Minister and Governor of Anguilla

Anguilla to shortly sign TIEAs with Germany and Australia and had also initiated discussions with the French authorities about a TIEA with France.

The Valley, Anguilla - Joint Statement: Anguilla’s new Executive Council held their first discussion on financial services, a key economic sector in Anguilla, on 11 March. They noted the importance of the sector to Anguilla: it is responsible for approximately 6% of employment and typically generates around 12% of Anguilla’s GDP.

Before the elections the Government set out, in the AUM manifesto, their commitment to strengthen and promote this important sector. They also pledged to ensure that Anguilla is firmly established on the “white list” of countries engaged in international financial services. The government have also pledged to update the institutional, legal and regulatory framework governing the international financial services sector. The Governor, who has oversight of the regulation of international financial services under the Constitution, fully supports all these aims and will be working in partnership with the Government to take them forward.

In this context EXCO noted that the Chief Minister would shortly be signing Tax Information Exchange Agreements with Germany and Australia to bring the total of TIEAs signed by Anguilla to a thirteen. The Chief Minister had also initiated discussions with the French authorities about a TIEA with France.

At the EXCO meeting the Hon Hubert Hughes, Chief Minister and Finance Minister, and HE Alistair Harrison, Governor of Anguilla, agreed to establish a Taskforce to ensure that Anguilla meets the highest international standards for financial services, thereby enhancing Anguilla’s competitiveness as a financial services provider.

The Taskforce, chaired by a senior representative of the Ministry of Finance, will develop a scorecard recording Anguilla’s compliance with international standards and a timeline for action. The Taskforce will review the recommendations of the Foot report, published in late 2009, in relation to financial regulation, fighting financial crime and improved tax transparency. The report usefully sets out benchmarks against which Anguilla can assess compliance with international norms. The Taskforce will consult fully with representatives of the industry as it pursues its work and will report in three months.

The Foot report also emphasised that accurate revenue forecasting and close monitoring of public expenditure become even more critical in difficult economic times. The Government of Anguilla is working hard to make improvements in these areas and is exploring ways to diversify sources of revenue, control public expenditure and ensure value for money so that Anguilla has sufficient reserves in place to withstand external shocks.

Anguillanews.com Note:

The Task Force membership will be representatives of the Ministry of Finance, Governor’s Office, Anguilla Financial Services Commission and the Attorney General’s Chambers.

Editor's Context:

Anguilla is among several countries blacklisted by France as countries it considers to be tax havens and that Paris would impose heavy taxes on its domestic firms that have operations in countries on the list. Other regional countries on the French off-shore blacklist include Grenada, Belize, Dominica, Montserrat, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia and St Vincent and the Grenadines. The blacklisted countries are Anguilla, Belize, Brunei, Costa Rica, Dominica, Grenada, Guatemala, the Cook Islands, Marshall Islands, Liberia, Montserrat, Nauru, Niue, Panama, Philippines, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and Grenadines.

12 March 2010

Climate change and its possible security implications

Excerpts from the Report of the United Nations Secretary General
United Nations Document A/64/350

Threat of loss of territory and statelessness
71. In the case of some small island developing States, sea-level rise presents perhaps the ultimate security threat, jeopardizing the very existence of small low-lying countries such as the Maldives, where 80 per cent of land is less than one metre above sea level and could therefore disappear over the next 30 years. In 2005, Papua New Guinea’s Carteret Islands reportedly became the first low-lying islands to evacuate their population because of climate change, resettling 2,600 islanders to the larger Bougainville Island. The Carterets are among the hardest hit islands in the Pacific and may be completely submerged by as early as 2015.

Given the particular vulnerability of Pacific small island developing States, a single extreme weather event can suddenly exceed a nation’s capacity to respond, rendering whole islands, particularly low-lying atolls, uninhabitable. Many island States face the prospect of loss of significant amounts of territory to sea-level rise and inundation, and some face the prospect of complete submersion, with the resultant threat of statelessness of their populations.

72. In view of the fact that statelessness has not yet arisen, however, the international law principle of prevention of statelessness would be applicable and the threats implied by mass statelessness for the concerned populations could be minimized. Multilateral comprehensive agreements would be the ideal preventive mechanism, providing where, and on what legal basis, affected populations would be permitted to move elsewhere, as well as their status.

73. Climate change poses a fundamental threat to cultural survival for those societies whose territories and ways of life are threatened by sea-level rise and inundation, as noted by small island developing States. Some Member States have noted that other cultures, for example, those of indigenous peoples, may be at risk from destruction or radical alteration of ecosystems and habitat by climate change. Such peoples may also face challenges in using migration as a coping strategy as a result of discrimination in receiving locations. Thus the impacts of climate change on vulnerable societies will need to be addressed not only as an issue of sovereignty and statelessness but also as a threat to cultural identity.


Small island developing States and international legal issues regarding statelessness

Islands becoming uninhabitable or disappearing as a result of sea level rise raise the issue of the legal status of the citizens and legal rights of these States, including over fisheries.

With the disappearance of territory, one of the key constituting elements of statehood, it is not clear that these States would continue to exist as such. The same would apply if the territory would be uninhabitable to such an extent that the entire population and the Government would be forced to relocate to other States. In the event that statehood is deemed to have ceased in such a scenario, the populations concerned would be left stateless unless they acquired other nationalities. Even where the States continued to exist in legal terms and their Governments attempted to function from the territory of other States, it is unclear that they would be able to ensure the rights which flow from citizenship.

Legal and political arrangements may be necessary for the protection of affected populations. One option is the acquisition of land within another State, by purchase or a treaty of cession.

There is precedence for such an option: in the late nineteenth century, many Icelanders left Iceland for environmental and social reasons. They entered into an agreement with the Canadian Government and were given land in which they could form a provisional Government, and were given both Canadian and Icelandic citizenship. Eventually, the settlement was fully integrated into Canada. This example shows that there are international mechanisms by which stateless migrants can be protected and accommodated.

11 March 2010

Cayman Islands to Join United Nations Committee

Bermuda to Follow?

OTR News Service
Maria Rodriguez, International Correspondent

The application of the Cayman Islands for associate membership in the United Nations (UN) Caribbean Development and Cooperation Committee (CDCC) is scheduled for consideration at the 23rd Session of that United Nations organisation on 18th March 2010. The session will be held in Grenada.

The CDCC is a permanent subsidiary body of the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) comprised of virtually all independent and non-independent Caribbean countries of the hemisphere. The CDCC was created in 1975 to concentrate on the specific development needs of island countries, including the non self-governing territories as well as the associated countries of the region.

According to the terms of reference of the UN regional economic commissions, non-independent countries must first gain associate membership in the parent body ECLAC prior to its accession to the CDCC. The Cayman Islands previously attained associate membership in ECLAC at its 32nd Session in 2008 held in the Dominican Republic, becoming the penultimate non-independent country to join. The Cayman Islands is now proceeding with its separate membership application for the CDCC.

Of the ten Non-Independent Countries of the hemisphere, only Bermuda has yet to attain associate membership in ECLAC and CDCC, but indications are that their accession to both United Nations bodies is in train, and could be realised at the ECLAC 33rd Session scheduled for Brazil in June, 2010.

In 1990, the countries of the CDCC created the Working Group of Non-Independent Caribbean Countries NICCs), and over time, a work programme was developed for these countries primarily aimed at increasing their level of participation in programmes and activities of the United Nations system which could assist them in their socio-economic development process. The Group was formally renamed “Working Group of Associate Member Countries” in 2004 by resolution of the CDCC member countries.

Territorial Participation in UN System

Several expert studies were completed for ECLAC by past CDCC Chairman and founder of the Working Group of NICCs Dr. Carlyle Corbin, the former Minister of State for External Affairs of the US Virgin Islands. The most recent analysis, completed by Dr. Corbin in 2007 was the 68-page “ Plan of Action for the Further Integration of Associate Member Countries in the United Nations System including its specialised agencies.” The research remains the most comprehensive study to date on the role of the wider United Nations system in assisting the development process of non-independent countries, including those in the Caribbean as well as Pacific regions.

The findings of the study recognised that the interest of the non-independent countries in participation in United Nations programmes and activities had been encouraging, but had not been sustainable owing in part to the insufficiency of information on areas of participation available to the governments of the associate member countries. This is in spite of the annual resolutions of the UN Economic and Social Council, and the General Assembly, respectively, in favour of UN support to the territories, and was attributed to the lack of systematic dissemination of information of such support.

The study acknowledged that ECLAC “had contributed to increasing access of AMCs to United Nations programmes and activities in the economic and social sphere by conducting various analyses on widening and deepening the participation of these countries in the broader United Nations system, mainly through encouraging the extension of formal status to these countries to participate in relevant United Nations world conferences, and General Assembly summits and special sessions.”

An important feature of the analysis was a review of support to the non-independent countries from the United Nations programmes, funds and specialised agencies, along with an examination of the prevailing criteria for the participation of these countries.

Present Associate Members

The present associate members of ECLAC are the British-administered dependent territories of Cayman Islands, Montserrat, British Virgin Islands and Anguilla. The disposition of the associate membership of the Turks and Caicos Islands in both ECLAC and CDCC since the abolition by the British of the elected government of that territory in 2009 is being questioned in some quarters, as calls have become more frequent for the suspension of the territory until elected government is restored.

Additional associate members in the Caribbean region include the United States-administered dependent territories of Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands which achieved associate membership in 1992 and 1984, respectively. Puerto Rico subsequently served as only the second associate member to chair ECLAC, from 2004 -2006, while the US Virgin Islands was twice chair of the CDCC in 1988-89 and again from 2004-06. The remaining associate members are the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba (the first associate member to chair ECLAC).

When the present dismantling process of the Netherlands Antilles is given final effect, it is likely that the Commission would provide for Curacao to replace the Antilles as an associate member (similar to the replacement of the UN membership of the former Soviet Union with the Russian Federation). In this vein, it would be likely that the newly separated Sint Maarten would proceed with a request for associate membership in its own right in the two UN organisations, and in other relevant UN and international bodies.

The associate member countries of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) include the French administered dependencies of New Caledonia and French Polynesia. The US-administered dependencies of American Samoa, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands are also ESCAP associate members along with the New Zealand associate states of the Cook Islands and Niue, and the Chinese special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macao.

As Corbin wrote in “Islands at the Crossroads - Non-Independent Countries in the United Nations (2001), “the incorporation into France of Guadeloupe and its dependencies, Martinique and Guadeloupe (and Reunion) as overseas departments in the hemisphere would preclude their categorisation as non-independent countries” and therefore negate their eligibility for separate representation in United Nations and other international bodies, unlike the Pacific overseas countries of France which have sufficient autonomy for independent representation through their associate membership in ESCAP and other bodies. This is evidenced by the membership of France in the Association of Caribbean States in representative of these overseas departments. Such ‘representation’ of the territory by the cosmopole would not be tolerated, however, under UN procedures.

Associate Member Countries in UN Review

The Cayman Islands along with the other associate member countries should look forward to a number of upcoming events I which they are eligible to participate. By resolution of 2009, the UN General Assembly agreed to extend observer status to associate member countries of ECLAC and ESCAP in the five-year review of the Mauritius Strategy for Implementation (MSI)of the international programme of action on the sustainable development of small island developing states. The review is scheduled for UN Headquarters in September, 2010.

This category of participation for associate member countries dates back to the 1992 International Conference on Environment and Development, and was extended to these countries for most of the major UN global conferences and special sessions between 1992 and 2005 as a direct result of the advocacy of the Working Group of Associate Member Countries of ECLAC. Corbin’s 2004 study for ECLAC, “The Participation of Associate Member Countries in United Nations World Conferences” provided much needed-historical context to this emerging trend.

Associate Member Countries (AMCs) of ECLAC will now have the opportunity to participate in the United Nations process of the High Level Review of the International Meeting to Review the Implementation of the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States held in Mauritius in 2005. Last fall, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution on the subject which, inter alia, “Invites the participation of association members of regional commissions in the high level review…in the same capacity specified for their participation…” at the Mauritius meeting. Observer status had been extended to the associate members in Mauritius, and the highest level of participation from the Caribbean and Pacific were in attendance.

The first step in the process is the Caribbean Regional Review meeting of the Mauritius Strategy to be convened in Grenada from 16 - 17 March 2010. The AMCs of the Pacific will have the same opportunity to participate in the regional conference of the Pacific during the same period.

The Cayman Islands and the other associate member countries have the opportunity to make their views known on issues related to their socio economic and sustainable development. In a broader sense, these countries will also have the opportunity to enhance their governance capacity through increased international organisation participation. As Corbin wrote in 1991, “(non-independent countries) should not be precluded from direct participation in the very international institutions which would not only facilitate their decolonisation, but which would assist in their socio-economic development process.”

(Carlos Otero also contributed to this article).

06 March 2010

Political Parties In Turks and Caicos Merge For March Against UK Take Over

South Florida Caribbean News 6th March 2010

TURKS AND CAICOS ISLANDS - Statement from Mr Douglas Parnell, leader of the PDM ) People's Democratic Movement) Party in Turks and Caicos regarding the move for both parties to march on Monday (Commonwealth Day public holiday) against the UK direct rule and the impending constitutional reform on the horizon. The reform has been rejected by indigenous people because it excludes them.

In a democracy where there are differing political and other views, occasions of UNITY are rare. Some persons have asked “why UNITE now?”

What is the purpose of uniting and what will we accomplish? Constitutionally, we are in a neutered state and the weapons to disenfranchise Turks and Caicos Islanders from our rights have long been formed. My faith and hope is that through a process of unleashing the largest show of UNITY ever witnessed in the Turks and Caicos Islands we can defeat our common opponent- a spirit of vengeance, fear and ignorance perpetrated by a system of governance and of minority forces who are against the interest and rights of Turks and Caicos Islanders, who are fighting to diminish our rights and privileges and who are seeking to unjustly bind our country with greater levels of destructive policies that will not bring about the change needed to spiritually, politically, economically and socially develop our country. Put simply, we have to stand to stop our voice from being silenced and our people overshadowed.

We are marching for our rights to determine what makes up our Constitution. We are marching for our rights to determine who is entitled to the voting franchise. We are marching for our rights to determine the type of democracy we seek to be under. We are marching to protect the rights for our future Turks and Caicos Islanders. We are marching for our rights to determine, as a people, who we will allow to work and reside in our country. We are marching for the rights of all our people. We are marching for a return of our rights as a people.

If we do not come together now we will lose our rights as a people to chart our own destiny. If we do not come together now our new constitution will not represent the wishes of Turks and Caicos Islanders and can be forced upon us. If we do not come together now we can lose our country forever. This is not a situation that we can afford to sit and do nothing about. This is not a situation that confronts my party alone. It confronts us all, as a people. I have called for our people to come together. This is not an endorsement of PNP plans, policies or persons.

This is about the Turks and Caicos people which include all of us, PDM AND PNP alike. We must act in UNITY on Monday March 8th. UNITY shows our strength. The March in March presents our people with a rare opportunity to show to ourselves and equally to show the world that we stand together when confronted with common challenges. I am therefore, again, calling on all persons of the TCI to answer the call for UNITY by supporting the Unity March this Monday 8th of March. I have read the press release issued by the Leader of the PNP where he accepts this timely call to support the UNITY March on a day when we shall come together as ONE people of the TCI. This period calls for mature citizenship and mature dialogue and a mature response to our challenges.

In light of his response and the response from all segments of my party for a UNITED front against these devices that seek to separate us from our rights, divide us as a people and install mechanisms in Government that are unrepresentative of our democracy and our people I ask for us to refer to this day as UNITY DAY; A day where we can all come together, setting aside our differences, and embracing our similarities and common heritage to begin charting the course and starting the work as ONE People, One Nation with one Purpose.


04 March 2010

Former Turks & Caicos Premier Calls for National Unity

Turks and Caicos Sun
By Hayden Boyce, Publisher & Editor-in-Chief
04 March 2010

Former Premier of the Turks and Caicos Islands, Michael Misick is calling on all Turks and Caicos Islanders, churches and political parties to put differences aside and “unite to fight the common enemy, the British.”

In a press statement released on Tuesday, March 2, Misick said: “They (the British) have divided and conquered us. Let’s show that we are wise and we will not be defeated. We are after all one people, there is strength in unity and if we unite we can peacefully defeat the British Empire as the great Indian statesman Mahatma Gandhi did. He once stated, referring to the British”they cannot take away our self-respect if we do not give it to them.”

Misick, who resigned as Premier in March 2009, blasted the British for staging what he described as a “modern day coup” in the Turks and Caicos Islands while the rest of the world was not watching.

He added: “All of the democratic institutions have been suspended. The Governor (Gordon Wetherell) is now the executive, the legislative. He sits on a panel that decides who should be prosecuted. He appoints judges and so his position is no different than that of the strong man that made a recent coup in Niger or any other recent coup around the world. In fact, it’s worst because even in Honduras after the coup they left the parliament in place. “

Misick noted that the suspension of democracy in the Turks and Caicos Islands happened without any condemnation from the Commonwealth, the United Nations, and the United States of America under the watch of President Barack Obama or any other international body other than CARICOM.

“This is wrong,” he said. “Gordon brown launched his campaign in the UK with the slogan fairness for all. I ask what about fairness for the Turks and Caicos Islands people. I call on Gordon Brown and request that the UN Secretary General and President Barack Obama, the president of the free world, request that democracy is returned to Turks and Caicos Islands immediately and election held without delay.”

The former Premier, who led the Turks and Caicos Islands since 2003, said that in the Governor’s half-yearly report he continues to make it seem as though the former PNP government mismanaged the government’s finances and that this was one of the reasons for the intervention.

“I refute that notion which is a matter for the people of the Turks and Caicos Islands to decide at the election polls. The fact of the matter is that during the six years of my administration the Turks and Caicos Islands has experienced unprecedented growth, increasing the GDP from US$100Million to over US$750Million,” the former Premier continued.

“We spent hundreds of millions of dollars on infrastructure from roads, to schools, to parks, to sports stadiums, the causeway between North and Middle Caicos, South Caicos airport terminal and the two new hospitals in Grand Turk and Providenciales that will open soon, just to name a few. We spent tens of millions of dollars on scholarships, educating thousands of young people to come home and take their rightful place. We have also spent tens of millions of dollars on health care for our people making sure no one dies because they could not afford to be treated.

We gave thousands of acres of land to our people to empower them and I make no apologies for what we have done. Our record speaks for itself.”

He added: “We attracted billions of dollars in foreign investment in the hotel sector and one of the most modern cruise ship ports in the entire world. A record that transformed a sleeping group of small islands to one on the way to becoming an economic power house in the region and placing it firmly on the map as one of the foremost high end destinations in the world, “the envy of the Caribbean. My people let us not forget the good times that my PNP government brought to you and you’re families. Let us not sit idly by and let the few British elite re-write history - we all know what happened. We all experienced it.”