Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that on Monday March 27, 2006 he visited the United Nations (UN) as part of an official Congressional Delegation (CODEL) led by Chairman Henry Hyde and Ranking Member Tom Lantos of the House Committee on International Relations. The CODEL, which included other senior Members of the International Relations Committee, met with Ambassador John Bolton, the US Permanent Representative to the UN, to discuss the current nuclear crisis with Iran and whether Congress should withhold funding for the UN when problems of corruption and lack of accountability continue to exist.
During the visit, Faleomavaega also had the opportunity to be briefed by Commander Jeffrey J. Jones who has been appointed by the US Mission to serve as the liaison for the United States to the UN Special Committee of Twenty-four (C-24), also known as the “UN Decolonization Committee.” As a follow-up to his briefing, Faleomavaega wrote to Ambassador Bolton to determine American Samoa’s status relative to US policies relating to the Decolonization Committee and the United Nations.
The full text of Faleomavaega’s letter to Ambassador Bolton dated March 30, 2006 is included below.
Dear Mr. Ambassador:
I am writing to thank you for meeting with Members of the House International Relations Committee during our recent visit to the United Nations (UN) and the United States Mission. I commend Chairman Henry Hyde and Ranking Member Tom Lantos for leading our Congressional Delegation and I was pleased to be a part of our important discussions with you regarding the current nuclear crisis with Iran and whether Congress should withhold funding for the UN when problems of corruption and lack of accountability continue to exist.
During our visit to the United Nations, I also had the opportunity to be briefed by Commander Jeffrey J. Jones who has been appointed by the US Mission to serve as the liaison for the US to the UN Special Committee of Twenty-four (C-24), also known as the “UN Decolonization Committee.” As you know, in 1945, the United Nations established the International Trusteeship Council for the purpose of reviewing and then making recommendations before the UN General Assembly to declare certain territories as non-self-governing, or dependent on colonial powers. Since the creation of the UN, more than 80 colonies have gained their independence and 16 non-self-governing territories, as defined by the UN, remain today.
Although the Trusteeship Council no longer exists, the Decolonization Committee stands in its place. Each year, the UN Decolonization Committee reviews the status of the 16 non-self-governing territories which include American Samoa as well as other US possessions. It is my understanding that the US does not pay much attention anymore to the activities of the Decolonization Committee in part because the US has had frustration over the years in dealing with member countries like Cuba that continue to view the United States as a colonial power. A few years ago, I attended a meeting of the Decolonization Committee held in Havana, Cuba and I can confirm the fact that the remarks of the Speaker of the Cuban Parliament were very negative towards the United States.
This aside, it is my understanding that there are no negotiations on American Samoa underway between the United Nations and the US Government. Notwithstanding these circumstances, Commander Jones informed me that the US State Department does file annual reports about American Samoa with the Decolonization Committee after consulting with officials of the US Department of the Interior. These reports contain information about the economic, social and political development of American Samoa and, for this reason, I am requesting your assistance in determining the official position of the US regarding American Samoa’s status before the UN Decolonization Committee. Again, the Decolonization Committee defines and categorizes American Samoa as a “non-self governing territory.”
In recent years, our late Governor Tauese Sunia initiated a movement to request that American Samoa be de-listed as a non-self governing territory by the United Nations. However, neither our US Secretary of State nor our Secretary of the Interior ever brought this matter before the people and leaders of American Samoa for consideration. While I suspect that at some point in time a plebiscite may be needed to determine whether or not the listing should be continued, I respectfully request that the Governor, our territorial legislature, and my office be informed on what procedures need to be taken before action, if any, is taken by the UN Decolonization Committee or the US Mission to the UN.
As you can appreciate, it is imperative that the elected and traditional leaders and the people of American Samoa are fully briefed and informed about the territory’s political status as a “non-self governing territory” as defined and categorized by the United Nations before any action is taken.
Faleomavaega concluded his letter by saying, “With this understanding, I would appreciate receiving a response from you as to American Samoa’s status relative to US policies relating to the Decolonization Committee and the United Nations.”