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Decolonization:
Unfinished Business in the Pacific


Pacific Islands Association of Non-Government Organizations (PIANGO)
discussion paper for the regional seminar
of the United Nations Decolonization Committee


Kekuni Blaisdell
Nadi, Fiji

Kekuni Blaisdell, M.D., is the Convenor of the PIANGO Indigenous Rights Working Group (PIANGO - Pacific Islands Association of Non-Government Organizations ). This discussion paper was written for the regional seminar of the United Nations (U.N.) Decolonization Committee meeting in Nadi, Fiji, 16-18 June 1998.


Introduction

Aloha 'ana mai ko makou kupuna mai . . . 'ana mai ... po'e mai i ko 'oukou ... apau aku. Aloha mai e. (Greetings from our ancestors to your ancestors, from our lands to your lands and from our peoples to your peoples.)

Your Excellencies, Mr. Chairman and Fellow Members of the Decolonization Committee, Distinguished Representatives, other Participants and our gracious hosts, the Government and Peoples of Fiji;

Thank you for this opportunity to speak on behalf of PIANGO, the Pacific Islands Association of Non-Government Organizations. PIANGO is a taro-roots peoples' network currently of 17 Pacific NGOs (Non-Government Organizations), to facilitate communication; provide a common voice at regional and international forums, such as this Seminar, on our inherent collective rights as indigenous peoples; and strengthen our Pacific identities, unity, cultures and social action to improve the communities we serve.

Mr. Chairman, we of PIANGO commend your Committee's monumental work, through the U.N. decolonization process, to assure the fill exercise of self-determination and political independence for oppressed, colonized, indigenous peoples over the world.

However, in spite of these notable achievements, we of PIANGO are gravely concerned that colonialism in the Pacific, in new and changing forms, has accelerated and intensified, rather than declined. Therefore, the need for decolonization is even greater, rather than less, as the official eradication of colonialism termination date for your Committee in the year 2000 approaches

Accordingly, our PIANGO presentation is in the form of examples of expanding colonialism with questions and comments as to how these needs for redress are to be met. If not by your Committee, then by what other mechanisms?

Colonies on the UN List

We of PIANGO express our solid support for expeditious decolonization of three Pacific colonies on the U.N. List of Non-Self-Governing Territories, in accordance with U.N. General Assembly Resolutions (GAR) 1514 and 1541;

Kanaky/New Caledonia. PIANGO calls on the Decolonization Committee to: reaffirm the indigenous Kanak people's right to self-determination and political independence from France; call on the government of France to halt the influx of foreign immigrants which is upsetting political, social and economic control by the Kanak people; send a, special UN mission to monitor the transfer of power to the Kanak people, consult with all relevant parties to ensure that the decolonization process leads to a valid act of self-determination by the Kanak people, and provide for the Kanak people to participate in their own economic, social and cultural development through UN training programs.

How will your Committee or other U.N. offices meet these needs and other needs as they develop over the next 15-20 years as the Noumea Accords are tested?

Chamorro of Guam. PIANGO supports the colonized indigenous Chamorro people's appeal to your Committee in their quest for full self-determination in the face of resistance from the administering power; the United States (U.S.).

How does your Committee respond to persistent violations of decolonization principles by the U.S.?

East Timor. PIANGO endorses the colonized East Timorese peoples' call for a referendum on their self-determination and independence from Indonesia, with U.N. monitoring to assure freedom from interference. We also support strict compliance with decolonization principles, including the unconditional release of East Timor leader Xanana Gusmao and all other political prisoners.

Colonies not on the UN List

Te Ao Maohi/French Polynesia, West Papua and Ka Pae'Aina Hawai'i are three colonized indigenous Pacific peoples and nations, formerly on the U.N. list of Non-Self-Governing Territories, who continue their long struggle for restoration of their independent nationhood status. While each is unique, all three were fraudulently incorporated into their respective administering states and, by misrepresentation to the U.N., removed from the U.N. list.

Thus, officially "decolonized," all three, nevertheless, meet the U.N. GAR 1514 definition of "colonized" peoples since they continue to be subject to "alien subjugation, domination and exploitation " Dispossessed of their indigenous governments and lands, and targets of militarism, nuclearism, economic globalization, coercive assimilation and violence, they, like other oppressed indigenous peoples, suffer from the worst health, social and economic conditions in their own homelands. and, therefore, be welcomed by the U.N. General Assembly?

Indigenous Peoples

We of PIANGO have endorsed the 1996 Fiji Indigenous Peoples Workshop resolution on Decolonization for Indigenous Peoples of the Pacific. This resolution goes beyond the U.N. Draft Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by specifically recognizing that indigenous peoples, like all peoples, have the right to self-determination and political independence as a first principle.

The Resolution notes that colonialism in the Pacific continues to have devastating political, economic, social, cultural and environmental consequences threatening our very existence as peoples.

We of PIANGO are seeking the endorsement of the South Pacific Forum for this Resolution.

We are heartened by the remarks of the Prime Minister of our host country Fiji for affirming this principle in his own words at the Committee's opening ceremonies.

We invite your Committee to consider the Resolution's implications. Would implementation of this Resolution by your Committee require restructuring within the U.N. and broadening of your Committee's mandate?

Australian Aboriginal and Island Peoples. We of PIANGO support the assertions, of the indigenous Australian Aboriginal and Island Peoples of their right to full self-determination.

Maori and Moriori Indigenous Peoples of Aotearoa/New Zealand. PIANGO endorses the Maori and Moriori Indigenous Peoples of Aotearoa/New Zealand in their expressions of their right to self-determination in national and international forums, including the U.N. Human Rights Commission.

Their right to full self-determination, proclaimed in their Declaration of Independence in 1835 and affirmed in the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, continues to be undermined. As a result, Maori and Moriori are the most politically and economically marginalized peoples in their homeland. They are also marginalized in forums where major decisions are made regarding their political status, globalization of trade and investment, their a priori cultural and intellectual property rights and their natural resource development rights.

We ask: Is the Decolonization Committee prepared to meet the above needs of these Pacific indigenous peoples Is U.N. restructuring required?

Neocolonialism

The Republic of Palau, Federated States of Micronesia, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands are conspicuous examples of neocolonialism. Although officially "decolonized" as post-World War II trust territories, they continue to be the victims of US-designed economic dependence, growing transnational corporation, global exploitation, nuclearism, militarism, political domination, and coercive assimilation. The result is Third World social, economic and health indicators in these small, widely-dispersed and unevenly populated Pacific islands.

We ask: How are these special needs of these Pacific peoples created by neocolonialism to be met by your Committee?

Special Territory

Bougainville. We of PIANGO call for your Committee's support for the current peace process in Bougainville and encouragement of the on going process for the ultimate exercise of the full right to self-determination and independence by the indigenous peoples there in their homeland. We ask that you acknowledge the special post-armistice political process in Bougainville, the Neutral Regional Peace Keeping Monitoring Group and the Lincoln Agreement's U.N. role in Bougainville.

Economic Globalization and the New World Order

We of PIANGO are deeply concerned with additional evidences of intensified colonialism: The World Trade Organization (WTO) and trade treaties, with control of labor and markets and accelerated exploitation of indigenous resources; the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Human Genome Diversity Project and other policies and practices of global economic integration, with commodification of indigenous natural resources, including our own body tissues.

These elements of the New World Order in which transnational corporations also control governments and their military compound further genocide against indigenous peoples and degradation of their sacred environments.

Therefore, these factors need also to be of concern to your Committee.

Conclusions and Recommendations

1. Colonialism in the Pacific, in new and changing forms, has accelerated and intensified, rather than declined. Accordingly, the need for decolonization is greater, rather than less, as the official U.N. eradication of colonialism termination date in the year 2000 approaches.

2. The Committee's decolonization mandate needs to be extended until the last vestiges of colonialism are eradicated. The process also needs to be expanded to deal with the neocolonial devastating effects of nuclearism, militarism and economic globalization on colonized indigenous colonialism are eradicated. The process also needs to be expanded to deal with the neocolonial devastating effects of nuclearism, militarism and economic globalization on colonized indigenous people's, their cultures and their fragile ecosystems.

3. Currently, the most affected and active Pacific colonized indigenous peoples pursuing and deserving expeditious decolonization include the Kanaks of Kanaky/New Caledonia, Chamorro of Guam, East Timorese, Maohi of Te Ao Maohi/French Polynesia, Kanaka Maoli Ka Pae'Aina Hawai'i, West Papuans, Bougainvilleans, Australian Aboriginal and Island Peoples, the Maori and Moriori of Aotearoa/New Zealand and the neocolonized Micronesians.

4. The decolonization process must be expanded to involve other U.N. organs and extra-U.N. bodies concerned with human rights, economic development and the environment.

5. It is imperative that we indigenous peoples become more involved in the dominant, western decolonization process, that we generate our own initiatives and that such actions be recognized. These initiatives include personal decolonization, enhanced involvement of local communities, strengthened regional alignments and incorporation of our own traditional cultural laws and practices in the decolonization process.

A rnama Ua lele. Ua noa.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Published in In Motion Magazine Septemeber 19, 1998


About the author: Kekuni Blaisdell is convenor of the Pro-Hawaiian Sovereignty Working Group.

Also see: Pacific Island Peoples index of article

Related articles by Kekuni Blaisdell:


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