Virgin Islanders living in the United Kingdom who have registered to vote there would serve the territory’s best interests by supporting a Remain party like the Liberal Democrats or Greens in the European Union elections on May 22, thus helping to stem the advance of the new anti-immigrant Brexit party. If the UK were to leave the UK, the Virgin Islands would lose the benefits of EU funding.
Masses of voters deserted the Conservative and Labour parties in local elections in England last Thursday, tired of their shilly-shallying over Brexit. The movement was markedly strong in university towns, with students wanting to preserve their career opportunities and the unfettered movement within the EU that all UK passport holders presently enjoy.
The accidental omission of two very important words from my commentary of last Thursday on the work of the United Nations Special Committee on Decolonisation deprived it of a critical contrast between information before it on the VI and that on some neighbouring territories (“Independence mulled in light of UN work”).
The first paragraph under the heading “Turks and Caicos” mentions that the UN Special Committee on Decolonisation considered a working paper on the TCI and quoted a petitioner whose protest against UK rule was based on a garbled reference to the public registers issue.
The following paragraph, however, should have been headed “Virgin Islands” to indicate that the only information the UN Special Committee on Decolonisation had on this territory was derived from public sources or provided by the UK. With nobody from the VI petitioning against the territory’s constitutional status, we might have appeared to have in effect turned our backs on it.
Nonetheless, the UN Special Committee on Decolonisation did ask the UK about the effects on its overseas territories of both the threat to impose public registers and Brexit. It also passed draft resolutions for the General Assembly’s consideration after hearing petitions concerning self-determination from the United States VI and approved an annual self-determination text regarding Puerto Rico.
There are basically two forms of colonialism. In the first, the controlling power is situated at some distance from its colonies — usually overseas, as are most of those on the UN’s list of non-self-governing territories, which are mostly remnants of European empires. In the second, the controlling power and its colonies are contiguous, land-based empires.
The VI Legislative Council member who threatened to turn his back on any mission from the UN Special Committee on Decolonisation cited financial reasons but might have had political and humanitarian concerns as well. The committee has been accused from some quarters of being “no longer relevant,” while some members have enforced ethnic cleansing in order to keep their grip on certain territories.
Several members block the admission for decolonisation of their own non-self-governing territories, despite independence movements within them. For example, Russia has around 26 such territories. Its representative asserts that his government always abides by the declaration, but it must not be allowed to “disrupt the mandates of individual UN agencies.”
In 2013, the elected French Polynesian Assembly objected to that territory being listed, but indigenous petitioners called for a fair self-determination process. While acknowledging its economic improvement, they accused France of a financially abusive relationship.
While the UN Special Committee on Decolonisation views New Caledonia’s rejection of independence from France in the referendum in 2018 as an important step in the decolonisation process, other territories that have rejected any change of status after referendums remain on the UN’s list.
Gibraltar voted down power-sharing between the UK and Spain in 2002 and the Falkland Islands chose to remain a British OT in 2013. Moreover, doubts have been raised about the viability of several other listed territories as independent nations, such as Pitcairn (estimated population in 2017: 48).
The United Nations listed 17 non-self-governing territories as of February 2017. A list can be viewed at https://www.un.org/en/decolonization/nonselfgovterritories.shtml.