Petitioners Raise Issues of Displacement, Marginalization, Ills of Nuclear Testing as Fourth Committee Continues Decolonization Debates

9 OCTOBER 2015

A far-reaching debate on the best interests of Non-Self Governing Territories fostered contentious exchanges and strong opinions from a broad array of representatives and petitioners this afternoon, as the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) entered its second day of debate on decolonization issues.

High-level representatives from the territories of Gibraltar and New Caledonia addressed the Committee, declaring their readiness for self-determination. However, they faced opposition from petitioners claiming the current local governments denied the claims of their original inhabitants — the Spanish and, in the case of New Caledonia, the native Kanaks.

Fabian Picado, Gibraltar’s Chief Minister, said the Territory remained on the United Nations list due only to Spain’s insistence that the principle of self-determination did not apply to the people of Gibraltar. Recounting Spain’s incursions into British Gibraltar’s territorial waters, as well as other incidents involving Spain’s Guardia Civil, he said the lives of all nationalities at sea were put at risk by such “political recklessness”, while Spanish drug smugglers went unchallenged in their importation of huge amounts of cannabis and cocaine into Europe from North Africa.

For his part, Spain’s representative said that Gibraltar was not viable without the will of his country, whose territorial integrity had been recognized many times before the Fourth Committee and the General Assembly. Gibraltar, he continued, had participated in environmental infractions, tax evasion — especially the establishment of tax havens for international companies — as well as illegal smuggling, including of tobacco, which deprived the European Union of revenue.
As the Committee turned to New Caledonia, Thierry Cornaille, a Minister and Spokesperson for the territorial government, listed the measures it had to ensure a smooth transition from the administering Power to the Territory’s people. The government had been granted economic sovereignty to control natural resources and, “guided by the principle of equality”, had instituted
    new budgetary, finance and social reforms, including the establishment of housing for all and the building of two new hospitals.

However, Mickaël Forrest of the Front de Libération Nationale Kanak et Socialiste (FLNKS), representing the native Kanaks, questioned the administering Power’s ability to guarantee independent electoral rules for the status referendum slated for 2018.

Roch Wamytan of the Union Calédonian-Front de Libération Nationale Kanak et Socialiste and Nationals Group, pointed out that an influx of French nationals migrating into New Caledonia was making the Kanak people a minority in their own land, adding that the French used New Caledonia as a “Trojan Horse” to achieve its goals in the Pacific.

Also referring to France’s involvement in Non-Self-Governing Territories, Richard Ariihau Tuheiava, a Member of the House of Assembly of French Polynesia, said that despite United Nations resolutions confirming ownership, control and permanent sovereignty over natural resources for the people of the Non-Self-Governing Territories, the administering Power continued unilaterally to usurp the Polynesian people’s marine resources, including “strategic metals” such as rare earths, manganese and cobalt. In so doing, it deprived them of the means to build a sustainable economic and social future.

Moetao Brotherson, the Third Deputy Mayor of Faa’a, French Polynesia, called on France to acknowledge the colonial nature of its nuclear testing on the atolls and to constitute a committee to assess the financial damage caused by the occupation.

Also today, the Committee engaged in a procedural discussion with its Chair, Brian Bowler (Malawi), regarding the objection raised yesterday by Algeria’s representative to the participation of two petitioners. A number of delegations strongly backed that objection, while others supported the position of Morocco, which wished those petitioners to be heard. The Chair ruled that the petitioners would remain on the list.

Also speaking today were a several other petitioners from Gibraltar, New Caledonia, Guam, Falkland Islands (Malvinas)[1], French Polynesia and Western Sahara.

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were representatives of the United Kingdom and Spain. The Fourth Committee will reconvene at 3 p.m. on Monday, 12 October, to continue its work.

As it continued its annual general debate on decolonization issues this afternoon, the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) was scheduled to hear from representatives of Non-Self-Governing Territories and petitioners. For further background information, see Press Release GA/SPD/580 of 8 October.