Congress considers referendum on Puerto Rico's political status

original in the Miami Herald

frobles@MiamiHerald.com

Puerto Rico’s top political leaders are heading to Washington, D.C., Wednesday to battle over a bill that could result in the first congressionally mandated referendum on the future of the island’s political status. Proponents of statehood for Puerto Rico say a bill before the House Natural Resources Committee would, if enacted, mark the first time that islanders would get a real say in their future. But opponents argue that the Puerto Rico Democracy Act of 2009 is stacked in favor of making the island the 51st state. The House committee has scheduled a hearing on the bill on Wednesday. ”This is historic,” said former Miami Mayor Maurice Ferre, a Puerto Rico native who was in San Juan this week promoting the bill, HR 2499. “In the 111 years the U.S. flag has been in Puerto Rico, Congress has never asked: What is Puerto Rico’s position? This bill will give me as a Puerto Rican the opportunity to offer my opinion, which has been denied to me for 74 years.” The United States took possession of Puerto Rico after the Spanish-American War in 1898. Puerto Ricans have been U.S. citizens since 1917, but their representative in Congress does not vote, they do not cast ballots in presidential elections and they pay no federal income taxes. Whether the island should keep its status as a commonwealth or become a state is a hotly contested issue here that creates a bitterly divided electorate. Puerto Rico’s congressional representative, Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi, proposed the legislation. It would order a two-tiered, nonbinding plebiscite that would first ask Puerto Ricans whether they would like to change their political status. If the majority says yes, then a second plebiscite would be held offering three options: independence, independence with a special association with the United States or statehood. Pierluisi believes that a congressionally ordered referendum would have more weight than past plebiscites and would force Washington’s hand to take action on Puerto Rico. ”There’s no doubt that Puerto Rico’s status has vestiges of colonialism, which has enormous deficits for democracy,” Pierluisi said. “This bill is very important, because it would have moral, political and international weight. You cannot consult the people and not act on it.” But critics say the referendum is unfair, because the first question unites two key forces: those who want statehood and advocates for independence. In the past, such plebiscites have offered a single question offering the three choices. Statehood and commonwealth generally come in at a dead heat, and a tiny percentage of Puerto Ricans vote for independence. ”This is a bill that creates a runoff with the voters who come in at second and third place,” said Puerto Rico’s House Minority Speaker Héctor Ferrer, a member of the Popular Democratic Party, which advocates an enhanced commonwealth. “This is like a boxing match. If we do not win Wednesday’s round [before the House committee], we are still going to win the fight.” Ferrer and Puerto Rico Senate Minority Speaker José Luis Dalmau are among those who will speak Wednesday against the bill, arguing it does not represent a consensus of Puerto Rican voters. ”This would be another useless exercise,” Dalmau said. Both Puerto Rico’s governor, Luis Fortuño, and Pierluisi are members of the New Progressive Party, which argues that Puerto Rico is a colony that deserves to become a full member of the union. Now that their party enjoys control of the legislature, the governor’s office and the resident commissioner’s office, they believe the time has never been better to push for statehood for Puerto Rico. Ferre points out that adding millions more voters could affect the 2012 presidential elections. There are 300,000 Puerto Ricans registered to vote in Florida — although only those born in Puerto Rico would be allowed to cast ballots in the referendum.
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3 comments for “Congress considers referendum on Puerto Rico's political status

  1. orban_nees
    July 11, 2009 at 7:43 am

    http://www.akip.org/statehood-primer.html
    Alaska and Statehood,
    A Factual Primer
    by Joe Vogler
    Published 1990
    Alaska and the USA
    To Whom it may be of concern:
    This document is meant to be only a synopsis at best; to list some of the grievances of Alaskan’s with regard to our political connections with the United States of America, as it deals with our rights as inhabitants of a former non-self-governing territory, under Article 73 of the United Nations Charter.
    We repeat here, Article 73, as it is the basis for the further development of the obligations of the United States, by resolutions of the General Assembly, hereinafter mentioned:
    “ARTICLE 73, CHAPTER XI, CHARTER OF THE UNITED NATIONS AND STATUTE OF THE INTERNATIONAL COURT OF JUSTICE; DECLARATION REGARDING NON-SELF-GOVERNING TERRITORIES: ”
    Members of the United Nations which have or assume responsibilities for the administration of territories whose peoples have not yet attained a full measure of self-government recognize the principle that the interests of the inhabitants of these territories are paramount, and accept as a sacred trust the obligation to promote to the utmost, within the system of international peace and security established by the present Charter, the well being of the inhabitants of these territories, and, to this end:
    (a) to ensure, with due respect for the culture of the peoples concerned, their political, economic, social and educational advancement, their just treatment, and their protection against abuses;
    (b) to develop self-government, to take due account of the political aspirations of the peoples, and to assist them in the progressive development of their free political institutions, according to the particular circumstances of each territory and its peoples and their varying stages of advancement;
    (c) to further international peace and security;
    (d) to promote constructive measures of development, to encourage research,and to cooperate with one another and, when and where appropriate, with specialized international bodies with a view to the practical achievement of the social, economic and scientific purposes set forth in this article; and
    (e) to transmit regularly to the Secretary-General for information purposes, subject to such limitation as security and constitutional considerations may require, statistical and other information of a technical nature relating to economic, social, and educational conditions in the territories for which they are respectively responsible other than those territories to which Chapters XII and XIII apply.
    It is believed that the role of the United States in preparing and developing this charter in their State Department between 1939 and 1945, under the guidance of Mr. Cordell Hall (then Secretary of State), and at the direction of President Franklin D. Roosevelt makes it the moral obligation of the highest order for the United States of America to carry out the intent and purpose of the Charter, as well as its continuing development by resolutions of the General Assembly and member nations. We suggest that the following obligations be tested with this measure of performance, and that you draw your own conclusions: State Department Publication No. 3580, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC, released February, 1950, is a record of this process of formulation, and was prepared at the request of President Harry S. Truman, made on April 19, 1946.
    A bit of history may give a picture of America’s role in Alaska prior to the acceptance of the Charter by the Senate and its Proclamation by President Harry S. Truman, May 29, 1945. The purchase of Alaska, from Russia, was made in 1867, and a military government was set up in Sitka, Alaska. Many years of virtually total neglect followed, except for the exploitation of Alaska’s Fur Seal population by a California business concern. The discovery of gold during the 1890’s prompted a rush to Alaska, with the associated turmoil and activities of such events. Law was slow in coming, and meager road and trail construction, under the auspices of The U.S. Army, commenced in 1905. Additional mineral activity, in the areas of the Copper River at McCarthy, resulted in more frustration of the population through the government’s denial of coal mining rights. This resulted in what became known as the “Cordova Tea Party”, where local residents shoveled Canadian coal into the bay on May 4, 1911.
    One year thereafter the Congress granted Organized Territory status to the territory, appointed a Governor and provided for an elected Territorial Legislature with all acts of same requiring the approval of U.S. Congress. An “observer” delegate to Congress (with no voting privilege) was authorized. This endured, with much complaining by the residents of the territory, until the final achievement of Statehood on January 3rd, 1959, following the election of August 26th, 1958.
    Yet prior to Statehood, in 1945, without any notice to, and without the knowledge of Alaska’s residents, President Harry S. Truman, on May 29, 1945, proclaimed the United Nations Charter in full force and effect, “… to the end that the same, and every article and clause thereof may be observed and fulfilled with good faith by the United States of America, and by the citizens of the United States of America, and all persons subject to the jurisdiction thereof, on and after May 29. 1945.”
    The first session of the General Assembly of The United Nations was held from 10 January, 1946 to 14 February, 1946. Resolution 9(1) Non-Self-Governing Peoples was adopted 9 February, 1946, and noted expressly the provisions of Chapter XI, XII and XIII of the Charter. It drew attention, (1) “…to the fact that the obligations accepted under Chapter XI of the Charter by all members of the United Nations are in no way contingent upon the conclusion of trusteeship agreements or upon the bringing into being of the Trusteeship Council, and are, therefore, already in force.” and (5) “Expects that the realization of the objectives of Chapter XI, XII, and XIlI will make possible the attainment of the political, economic, social and educational aspirations of Non-Self-Governing Peoples.”
    On 14, December, 1946, General Assembly Resolution 66 (1), Transmission of Information under Article 73 (e) of the Charter noted that “… the Government of The United States (had reported) concerning conditions in Alaska, American Samoa, Guam, Hawaii, Panama Canal Zone, Puerto Rico, and The Virgin Islands.” The United States was dutifully following their obligation assumed under Article 73 (e) of The U.N. Charter.
    It is at this point that we must ask, would it not have been in keeping with the spirit of Article 73 for the United States to have given Alaskans some notice of this event? On that same day, December 14, 1946, the General Assembly affirmed Resolution 67 (1), Regional Conferences of Representatives of Non-Self-Governing Territories, recommending that, “…all members having or assuming responsibilities for the administration of non-self-governing territories to convene a conference of representatives of non-self-governing territories …People chosen, or preferably elected, in such a way that the representative of the people will be ensured to the extent that the particular candidates of the territory concerned permit, in order that effect may be given to the letter and spirit of Chapter XI of the Charter, and that the wishes and aspirations of the non-self-governing peoples may be expressed.”
    Alaskans are still waiting for this conference, although no one knew about it at that time, and in fact very few know of it yet! America ignored this duty then, and continues to ignore it to this day.
    On 3 November, 1947, Resolution 144 (II) Voluntary Transmission of Information regarding the development of Self-Governing Institutions in the Non-Self-Governing Territories noted the voluntary transmission of information on the development of Self-Governing Institutions in the Non-Self-Governing Territories, and encouraged this practice as being entirely in conformity with Article 73 of the Charter.
    We could ask where the United States stood on this proposition? Did they ever consider Alaska as anything but a candidate for statehood?
    Resolution 146 (II) Creation of a special committee on information transmitted under article 73 e of the Charter was passed 3 November 1947 to examine such information and to submit reports to the General Assembly. It is noted that the committee was to consist of the members of the United Nations and an equal number of members elected by the General Assembly on as wide a geographical basis as possible. The United States, as a reporting member, was of course a member.
    General Assembly Resolution, 10 December, 1948; 217 (III) International Bill of Human Rights was proclaimed as a common standard of achievement for all peoples, and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this declaration in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for their rights and freedoms … to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of member states themselves, and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.
    Resolution 222 (III) Cessation of the Transmission of Information under 73 e of the Charter, 3 November 1948 noted that members of the United Nations which have or assume responsibilities for the administration of territories whose people have not yet attained a full measure of Self-Government have accepted the obligation to transmit, subject to such limitations as security and constitutional considerations may require, statistical and other information of a technical nature relating to the economic, social, and educational conditions in the territories.
    It is noted “Whereas, by General Assembly Resolution 66 (I) adopted on 14 December 1946, seventy-four territories were enumerated, in accordance with the declarations of the responsible Governments, as falling within the scope of Article 73 e.”
    It is to be noted here that Alaska, American Samoa, Guam, Hawaii, Panama Canal Zone, Puerto Rico, and The Virgin Islands were enumerated by The United States of America, as noted in Resolution 66 (I), 14 December 1946. The resolution noted that some of the responsible Governments had not transmitted information in 1947 and in 1948 without furnishing any explanation for such omission.
    The resolution then noted that the General Assembly considered it essential that “the United Nations be informed of any change in the constitutional position and status of any such territories, as a result of which the responsible Government concerned thinks it unnecessary to transmit information in respect to that territory, under Article 73 e of the Charter, and, (3) Requests the members concerned to communicate to the Secretary-General within a maximum period of six-months, such information as may be appropriate, pursuant to the preceding paragraph, including the Constitution, Legislative act or Executive order providing for the Government of the Territory and the constitutional relationship of the territory to the Government of the metropolitan country.”
    We repeat this because it is the key to the procedure for ceasing to transmit information under 73 e of the Charter, and will be quoted by the United States in its transmission of 11 June 1959.
    General Assembly Resolution 421 (V) 4 December 1950 Draft International Covenant on Human Rights and Measure of Implementation….” (E) second and third paragraphs indicates that civil and political freedoms are Human Rights. Inclusion in the International Covenant on Human Rights of an article relating to the Right of People to Self-Determination is most plain.
    Under General Assembly Resolution 422 (V) Territorial application of the International Covenant on Human Rights, 4 December 1950. How could the United States tell us in 1958 that because we were an “Organized Territory” we could not consider Commonwealth? The Charter was to be applicable, equally, to a signatory metropolitan state, and to all territories, “be they Non-Self-Governing, Trust or Colonial Territories which are being administered or governed by such metropolitan state.” The United Nations did not recognize, or mention, “Organized Territories.”
    General Assembly Resolution 545 (VI) Inclusion in the International Covenant or Covenants on Human Rights of an article relating to the right of peoples to self-determination, 5 February 1952. (1) Decides to include in the International Covenant on Human Rights, an article to be drafted “in the following terms;” “All peoples shall have the right of self-determination”, and shall stipulate that all states having responsibility for the administration of non-self-governing territories should promote the realization of that right, and that states having responsibility of non-self-governing territories should promote the realization of that right in relation to the peoples of such territories.
    We ask, how could the United States ignore this human right in dealing with Alaska? Were they not a law abiding member of the United Nations? When did the United States ‘take due account’ of the political aspirations of Alaskans? There was absolutely no effort made to make Alaskans aware of our Right to Political Self-Determination. Instead, they told many Alaskans that they could not consider commonwealth! And instead of promoting the realization of our rights to political self determination, they concealed it and limited us to ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to statehood! This was not only nonfeasance, it amounted to malfeasance. America knew what it was doing to Alaska! Its actions were deliberate!
    General Assembly Resolution 566 VI, 18 January 1952, Participation of non-self-governing territories in the work of the Committee on Information from Non-Self-Governing Territories, is most clear that “the direct association of the non-self-governing territories in the work of the United Nations, and of the specialized agencies is an effective means of promoting the progress of the peoples of those territories toward a position of equality with member states of the United Nations”, and encourages this practice. Again, with monotonous repetition, the United States ignored this recommendation. We were never informed of these opportunities and when some of us inquired at the time of the statehood vote, we were told that we could not go back to commonwealth. By now, it should be evident to everyone that the United States was deliberately avoiding both the spirit and the law of the Charter and the General Assembly.
    General Assembly Resolution 626 (VII). Right to exploit freely Natural Wealth and Resources, 21 December 1952 indicates that because “…the right of peoples freely to use and exploit their natural wealth and resources is inherent in their sovereignty, and is, in accordance with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations, ….. (2) Further recommends that all member States refrain from acts, directly or indirectly, designed to impede the exercise of the sovereignty of any state over its natural resources.”
    We would ask how the United States’ retention of over two-thirds of Alaska land fits into this recommendation? Why must our oil be shipped to the 48 states, to be refined, and to promote jobs for their residents, while Alaskans suffer the effects of no industry or development? Do we exist solely to provide raw materials for their factories and refineries? That is the purpose and intent of Colonialism!
    General Assembly Resolution 637, 16 December, 1952, (VII). The Right of People and Nations To Self-Determination, made a very clear recommendation to members responsible for the administration of non-self-governing territories to “…voluntarily include details regarding the extent to which the right of people and nations to Self-Determination is exercised by the people of those Territories, and in particular, regarding their political progress, and the measures taken to develop their capacity for self-administration, to satisfy their political aspirations and to promote the progressive development of their free political institutions…”
    How can the United States deny that many Alaskans were desirous of considering commonwealth status as an alternative at the time of the statehood vote, August 26, 1958? How could America have turned her back on the right of Alaskans to self-determination? The recommendations of the General Assembly were so clearly set out:
    (A) THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY RECOMMENDS THAT:
    1. The States Members of the United Nations shall uphold the principle of self-determination of all peoples and nations;
    2. The States Members of the United Nations shall recognize and promote the realization of the right of self-determination of the peoples of Non-Self-Governing and Trust Territories who are under their administration, and shall facilitate the exercise of this right by the peoples of such territories according to the principles and spirit of the Charter of the United Nations in regard to each territory and to the freely expressed wishes of the peoples concerned, the wishes of the people being ascertained through plebiscites or other recognized democratic means, preferably under the auspices of the United Nations;
    3. The States Members of the United Nations responsible for the administration of Non-Self-Governing and Trust Territories shall take the practical steps, pending the realization of the right of self-determination and in preparation thereof, to ensure the direct participation of the indigenous populations in the legislative and executive organs of government of those territories, and to prepare them for complete self-government or independence.
    If this were the only resolution governing the relationship between a signatory member of the United Nations Charter and a non-self-governing territory, that was to be controlling, it would seem that the above three parts would be enough to place the proper perspective upon Alaska’s and her people’s relations with the United States of America. We would only ask how America can face the world community with a clear conscience in her relations with Alaska and our people?
    The total disregard of these obligations is a most despicable example of a breach of trust and a complete absence of good faith. To maintain the complete ignorance of our rights and to take advantage of a naive people only adds shame to the performance of America, the once proud beacon of hope for colonial peoples.
    How could the United States overlook the recommendations of General Assembly 647 VII, 10 December, 1952. Participation of Non-Self-Governing Territories in the work of the Committee on Information from Non-Self Governing Territories regarding involving the association of qualified, indigenous representatives from Non-Self-Governing Territories in the Committee on Information from Non-Self-Governing Territories? Why did they not send relevant resolutions of the United Nations to the executive and legislative branches of the Territory of Alaska, as they were invited to do by the General Assembly? How could the United States of America disregard these resolutions and deliberately discriminate against Alaska? We would ask here, who is to exercise the right of self-determination — the inhabitants of the Non-Self-Governing Territories or the metropolitan state?
    If the United States had involved some of the inhabitants of Alaska as participants in the committee on information, we would certainly have become aware of our rights and of the obligations of the United States. Didn’t the United States understand what a sacred trust involved or didn’t the rule apply to the number one rule-maker and the principal author of the Charter? This could only have been a deliberate action by the United States to serve a purpose — the purpose of concealment to achieve statehood as the only route for Alaska. It can only be malfeasance! For America to have been the progenitor of the United Nations Charter only increases the magnitude of this violation of the human right of political self-determination, the center-pin of their Declaration of Independence.
    Next we cite the yardstick that is to be applied by the General Assembly and its committee to the measures that are to determine whether Alaska has, or has not achieved a full measure of Self-Government.
    General Assembly Resolution 742 (27 November 1953); factors which should be taken into account in deciding whether a territory is or is not a territory when people have not yet attained a full measure of self-government is the controlling resolution relative to Alaska’s political association with the United States as this resolution was in force and effect when the United States deemed that it would cease transmitting information upon Alaska to the United Nations in the transmission of its communication of 2 June, 1959.
    It sets out the factors to be taken into account in determining whether a territory has or has not attained a full measure of self-government. These are set out in Third Part: Factors indicative of The Free Association of a Territory on Equal Basis with the Metropolitan or other country as an integral part of that country or in any other form; they are in part:
    (A) General
    1. Opinion of the population. The opinion of the population of the territory, freely expressed by informed and democratic processes, as to the status or changes in status which they desire.
    2. Freedom of choice. The freedom of the population of a non-self-governing territory which has associated itself with the metropolitan country as an integral part of that country or in any other form to modify this status through the expression of their will by democratic means.
    3. Geographical considerations: Extent to which the relations of the territory with the capital of the central government may be affected by circumstances arising out of their respective geographical location, such as separation by land, sea or other natural obstacles……
    4. Ethnic and cultural considerations: Extent to which the population are of different race, language, or religion or have a distinct cultural heritage, interests or aspirations, distinguishing them from the peoples of the country with which they freely associate themselves.
    5. Political Advancement: Political advancement of the population sufficient to enable them to decide upon the future destiny of the territory with due knowledge.
    (C) Internal Constitutional Conditions:
    4. Internal Legislation. Local self government of the same scope and under the same conditions as enjoyed by other parts of the country.
    We list the above section of Third Part for one reason: We believe that these factors were not considered in full. We ask, therefore, that Alaska be restored to the list of non-self-governing territories so that we may exercise the options, by democratic process, which we should have been afforded on August 26, 1958.
    Under (A)(1) Opinion of The Population: We request the right to consider commonwealth, independence, or to receive the full and equal admission that we were assured, but which we did not receive. We ask that a full explanation of commonwealth, independence, or possibly free associated state status that is now being offered to some of America’s non-self-governing territories be made to the people of Alaska. We are very much aware of the position that a limited population places us in our congressional representation.
    We ask that military personnel be not allowed to vote, as they were on August 26, 1958. We believe their vote was very influential in the results… 40,000 for, 8,000 against, with 41,000 military personnel and 36,000 dependents, all of whom, if over 19 were allowed to vote without loss of their overseas status. This was the only election in which casting a vote would not establish their residence as Alaska and cost them their overseas pay and allowances differential.
    We ask that observers from the U.N. or Switzerland be here to observe the pre-election activity as well as the actual election, as it has been much rumored that there was pressure exerted, both pro, and con, upon the voters in the remote, indigenous villages and in the cities. We ask that the United Nations set the conditions for voting status as Alaska has an undue number of Federal employees who may or may not be permanent residents. Far too many carpetbageers come to Alaska for our work and our retirement benefits, which they enjoy from afar, after their stint in Alaska is done. The transient problem in Alaska is tremendous, and there are many colonies of former “Alaskans” now settled in Arizona, Washington state, and various other stateside locations. We ask, particularly, that the United States be prevented from limiting our choice to statehood to ‘yes’ or ‘no’ as they did in 1958.
    Under (A)(2) Freedom of Choice. We ask that it be made clear that Alaskans, no matter which choice they make, retain the right retained under (2) Freedom of Choice, The Freedom of The Population of A Non-Self-Governing Territory: To modify their status through the expression of their will by democratic means. To do otherwise is to deny the human right of self-determination in its highest order, political status. This right comes from of old. It is the right of people to establish governments and to throw off that government: “But when a long Train of Abuses and Usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a Design to reduce them under absolute Despotism. it is their Right, it is their Duty to throw off such Government and to provide new Guards for their future Security.” This is our birthright! It is the center-pin of their Declaration of Independence!
    Such is the right of Puerto Rico and we applaud this process as it is followed there. We ask, why was not Alaska accorded the same treatment? Do not let the Americans tell you that we were an organized territory and could not go back to commonwealth. If we were not a non-self-governing territory, why did the U.S. make its annual reports to the United Nations? And why did they note in their communication of 2 June, 1959, “The representative of The United States of America to The United Nations…has the honor to refer to Resolution 222 (III) adopted by the General Assembly on November 3, 1948….. since 1946, The United States has transmitted annually to the Secretary General, information on the Territory of Alaska, pursuant to Article 73 of the Charter. However, on January 3, 1959, Alaska became one of the United States, under a constitution taking effect that date. In the light of this change in the constitutional position and status of Alaska, The United States Government considers it no longer necessary or appropriate to continue to transmit information on Alaska, under Article 73 (e)……
    “There are enclosed for the information of the members of the United Nations the following documents, in compliance with the terms of Resolution 222 (III) of the General Assembly:
    1. Memorandum by the Government of The United States of America concerning the cessation of transmission of information under article 73 (e) of the Charter, with regard to Alaska.
    2. Public Law. 85-508, 85th Congress, HR.7999, July 7, 1958.
    3. Admission of The State of Alaska into the Union, Proclamation No. 5269. 24 Federal Register 81 (1959).
    4. Text of The Constitution of The State of Alaska.
    The documentation referred to above is, in accordance with General Assembly Resolution 1051 (XI), of 20 February 1957 communicated to the General Assembly at its fourteenth session, and is reproduced in the annexes to the present note.” The above references to Resolution 222 (III), Article 73 e of the Charter, and Resolution 1051 XI in the representatives communications to the Secretary General discloses a good understanding of the Charter and the resolutions, and an outward willingness to comply with such. The compliance was only superficial. We would ask where were their submission of facts which would allow the General Assembly to determine under the factors of the Third Part of General Assembly Resolution 742, 27 November 1953 that Alaska had achieved a full measure of Self-Government? Resolution 1051 (XI) which was mentioned, “(2) Considers that the General Assembly should, as indicated in Resolutions 742 (VIII) of 27 November 1953, and 850 (IX) of 22 November 1954, examine cases of the cessation of information with particular emphasis on the manner in which the right of self-determination has been attained and freely exercised.” How could the General Assembly have affirmed this most important factor — Third Part. General (1) Opinion of the population?
    Was it because they had withheld all knowledge from the inhabitants of Alaska, that we were a non-self-governing territory to which the United States of America had declared as its sacred trust the principle that the inhabitants of non-self-governing territories are paramount and accepted the obligation to promote to the utmost the well being of these inhabitants, and their political, economic, cultural and educational advancement and to develop self-government and assist them in the progressive development of their free political institutions? Was it because they, instead, were telling us in effect, that we could not consider commonwealth? How could a total blackout from 1945 to 1958 be carried out without a well planned and perfectly executed scheme to deny us any opportunity other than statehood? How could we make our aspirations known to the United Nations if we did not know that we had the right to do so — and that they had the right to judge if our aspirations were met?
    Why was the military population built up and then allowed to vote, unless it was designed to insure statehood? Is it conscionable that all this could have transpired without a definite purpose, planned and carried out to admit Alaska into statehood before we would find out about our United Nations status? I have never known or talked to anyone who was aware of our status as a non-self-governing territory. I did not learn of this until several years after statehood, and had to make two extended trips to the United Nations to discover this deception of the Alaskan people by the United States of America. We were a simple, naive people, and they kept us uninformed and ill advised. Then they lied to us, that “as we were an ‘organized territory’ we could not consider ‘going back’ to commonwealth when some of our people asked to be allowed to vote on this alternative to statehood. The United Nations General Assembly recognized only ‘Trust’, Non-Self-Governing’, and ‘Colonial’ states. And there is more:
    (2) Freedom of Choice. The freedom of their population of a non-self-governing territory which has associated itself with the metropolitan country as an integral part of that country, or in any other form to modify this status through the expression of their will by democratic means.
    Puerto Rico, also a non-self-governing territory, is soon to reconsider its political affiliation with the United States in a plebiscite. Why not Alaska? This principle is basic in the list of factors Third Part, 742 having been carried over into General Assembly Resolution 1541 (XV) of December 15. 196O. Principle VII (a) “…and retain for the peoples of the territory which is associated with an independent state, the freedom to modify the status of that territory through the expression of their will, by democratic means, and through constitutional process.” and is governing in our position.
    We ask what consideration was given to, (3) Geographical? Alaska is from 2 – 3000 miles from Washington D.C., depending on which part of Alaska one considers. More critical is that Alaska is a developing country, not an over-developed and polluted nation of 250 million people. Alaska has 500,000 people, scattered over 375 million acres of land, with just 3 major cities. It is in the main, an Arctic land, totally different from the United States. We believe that its stage of development makes it a target for exploitation of its raw materials, for the benefit of America’s factories. If you doubt this, read the 1984 report of the Alaska 2000 Seminar held in New York City in December, 1983. It was openly suggested there that the development of Alaska’s resources would create a great many jobs in other states, where these raw materials would be taken for manufacture and distribution.
    One guess what is happening is all that is needed. We cannot create jobs for our own 500,000 people and their children. Our banks are failing and our businesses going bankrupt. Our foreclosures have surpassed those of the mid-west “dust-bowl” of the 1930’s, and our young people are moving outside Alaska for jobs. Some speak of the “Alaska dream.” The reality is a nightmare. We are overrun by the military and this is not a productive economy. What happened to development of our resources for our economic advancement? Thirty years later, statehood is still a cruel hoax!
    Another physical handicap is the exact opposite of our land size, the total population of Alaska is about 500,000, and this limits our representation in the Congress to a single Congressman in a body of 435; to 2 Senators in 100. We have no sister state alongside us with similar problems to combine with our representatives in furthering our development or protection. You can easily guess where we come out on a vote on public lands, development, fisheries, mining, logging, and other related problems. A non-contiguous state cannot be fairly represented or protected in the American political system. It was not designed with a colonial empire in mind. They had just finished with a sad experience with such and did not contemplate that America would ever seek a colonial empire so they did not deal with this question.
    The contiguous states do as they will with our problems. They lock-up our lands as parks or preserves, they hold our development to rigorous environmental standards, and our permafrost lands (permanently frozen) are “wetlands”, and they now propose a “no net loss” regulation. Our wetlands are in the solid crystalline state which ducks do not use; and our lands thus off-limits to development unless we restore an equal area of undisturbed wetlands, and such would undoubtedly be in the lower 48.
    Let us look at (5) Political advancement of the population sufficient to enable them to decide upon the future destiny of the territory with due knowledge. Their refusal to allow us to consider commonwealth, was it because we were not capable of managing our destiny with nearly every known mineral; oil, gas, agriculture and grazing land, nearly limitless marine resources, hydroelectric and geothermal potential, with scenery and coal beyond imagination? What devious reasoning can they use to deny us the right to develop our resources, to process and to manufacture them? Are we to be only a source of raw material for their factories and their labor force? Surely the people of Alaska are advanced to the point where we can judge our own values, to make our own decisions without outside influence and domination. I believe that we can do a better job than they have. Many of us have watched them poison their lands with chemicals and over-development. We have the right to try, and let history be the judge.
    Did the General Assembly consider these factors when they agreed that the United States could discontinue reporting annually on Alaska? Finally, under the factors of 742. Third Part. under (c) Internal Constitutional Conditions Part 4. Internal Legislation. Local self-government of the same scope and under the same conditions as enjoyed by other parts of the country, we find some of the most blatant, discriminatory measures.
    The Statehood Act, Public Law 85-508, 85th Congress H.R. 7999 passed July 7 1958 declared our equal admission into the union, and accepted, ratified, and confirmed our Constitution, ‘subject to the provisions of this act.’ Our vote was held on August 26, 1958, 50 days after the act was passed, and the act passed, 40,000 for, 8,000 against. But 41,000 military personnel and 36,000 dependents, if over 19 years of age were allowed to vote without forfeiting their overseas allowance. Were they legal electors? We believe not.
    Meetings were held on military installations, and they were told that Alaska needed statehood, and to help us attain it. No one will ever know, but I am convinced that the large plurality was due to the military vote. It is still difficult to find someone who will state that they voted for statehood, and the group who worked for John Manders who wished to consider commonwealth (which was denied) may have stayed away from the polls, in protest.
    In the fine print, little of which was made known to Alaskans due to the short time before the vote, and the nature of our year, much was said that was not known of or understood. We do everything outdoors during the short summer: gardening, farming, fishing, picnicking, and July and August are at the height of the warm season. Therefore, very few (if any) knew that section 6(i) amended our Constitution from a staking system to a leasing system, and we still differ from the other states in this particular. There is a bill in Congress now to make leasing the national practice, but for thirty years we have been the only state with such provisions.
    In section 10, the president was given the power to select all of the land north of the Yukon River except a five mile strip — and the land across the mouth of the Kuskokwim and the Aleutian peninsula and islands as an exclusive military reserve, with sole federal legislative, judicial, and executive authority, with the exception that Alaska may enact and enforce all laws necessary to establish voting districts and the qualifications and procedures for voting in all elections. No other state endures this cloud of sovereignty.
    President Eisenhower had long wanted to keep this portion from becoming a state, but announced that he was giving this up and then section 10 was put into the statehood act without any publicity in Alaska! This could withdraw nearly one-half of Alaska, and the majority of its mineral and petroleum reserves. This was an act of deliberate deception.
    To place this insidious retention of sovereignty in perspective, please note carefully, House Report 624, which accompanied H.R. 7999, the Statehood Act. This was a shortened explanation of the Act provided for those members of Congress who might not have had the time to study the full bill, and contained this version of section 10 a. “provides that the President may establish, prior to Alaska’s admission into the Union, one or more national defense areas…” (emphasis ours) This is quite different from the same wording in section 10, with the omission of “…prior to Alaska’s admission into the Union”. Many members of Congress opposed statehood for Alaska. How many members of the Congress may not have been alerted to the real act by reading this deceptive insertion?
    Did the forces who were desirous of seeing Alaska become a state then deceive those members of Congress who would have been opposed to this monstrous deception by the President and the others who wished to retain the same area as a federal territory? The Library of Congress could give me no explanation for this variance! The parties who engineered this deception were either very powerful, very clever at deception, or probably, both! It is certainly not the action of an honorable trustee to Non-Self-Governing peoples.
    The hated Jones Act which requires our shipping to use American built bottoms was left in place. We were granted the entitlement to select land within 25 years of admission, to total 104 million acres which, at the time of their selection were vacant, unappropriated, and unreserved. Then, not only did the Congress cajole, force or trick our first Governor to return to the United States some 40 million acres of state selected lands for the natives to select from, but began to reserve huge tracts of lands which deprived this state of its 25 year option on many lands. This was entirely out of conformity with prior federal reservations in Alaska, and did great economic harm to our state land grants. It also provided that no selections could be made in the lands described in section 10. without approval of the President or his designated representative. The Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971 set aside huge reserves for the native peoples to select from, and Alaska was again discriminated against and our land grants tampered with.
    In short, the electors were not fully informed of the election terms, were denied the right to consider any questions except yes, or no on the statehood ballot, and were completely ignorant of our rights under the U.N. Charter, and our position as inhabitants of a non-self-governing territory. Illegal electors, the 76,000 military and their dependents were illegally allowed to vote without losing their overseas status and benefits which they would have in any other election where such voting would have made them Alaska residents.
    If this was not blatant fraud, and fraud does not outlaw, how can this election have been a valid and binding election? How can America, the author in main of the Charter, not be held to the highest standard of performance and trust for its role in the preparation of and promoting the Charter in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s? I know of no other situation where the entire voting body were totally in the dark as to their rights, and the obligations of the sovereign power conducting the plebiscite! How could they deny a large segment of Alaskans the right to consider commonwealth? How did the United Nations General Assembly give its stamp of approval to the actions of the United States unless the stature of the United States intimidated by one means or another, their full consideration of the factors outlined by General Assembly Resolution 742, Third Part?
    The injustices continued after statehood. The oil from the huge Prudhoe Field can only be shipped to the United States. It cannot be shipped to the natural, and closest market which is the orient. The Congress continues to lock up our lands in forests, parks, preserves, wildlife refuges, wilderness areas, and the like. Access across these areas to other lands is denied. Without access, most of Alaska is blocked to development.
    Regulations are re-interpreted by federal agencies to effect more restrictions. Wetlands originally intended to preserve habitat for waterfowl, now includes permafrost land, and much of Alaska qualifies because of its frozen nature. The present no-net-loss ruling will require restoration of an equal amount of land to wet land quality in the lower 48.
    Alaska paid 500 million dollars out of the 950 million cash settlement of all aboriginal claims, including hunting and fishing rights, at the time of the Native Claims Settlement Act in 1972. Then ANILCA, in 1980, gave the native peoples subsistence hunting and fishing preference because of their living in the bush. Sovereignty was hinted at with all the troubles inherent therein.
    An Alaskan economy (except for oil and government employment, financed by oil royalties and taxes) is practically non-existent. We are not allowed to process our oil before exporting it to the United States, and as mentioned before, they have the audacity to openly state that, “the production of Alaska’s resources will create a great many jobs in other states, where they will be taken for manufacture and distribution.”
    Alaska is nothing more than a colonial warehouse of natural resources to fuel the factories of the United States. Calling our association with the United States “statehood” is only a false mask for their continued exploitation. We believe that the above matter makes an irrefutable case of concealment, duplicity, and treachery upon the part of the United States against Alaskans and the Non-Self-Governing Territory of Alaska. We believe that it is a shameful and scandalous exhibition of selfish colonialism in its most blatant form. All of this would have been revealed if Alaskan’s had known of our rights, and had been included in the process. Let us go on to further resolutions of the General Assembly:
    General Assemblv 744 (VIII) Association of Representatives from Non-Self-Governing Territories in the work of the Committee on Information from Non-Self-Governing Territories, 27 November 1953 sets out a very worthy means of promoting the progress of the population of such territories toward a status of equality with the member states of the United Nations.
    It requires the member states to attach qualified indigenous representatives to their delegations to the United Nations Committee on Information to represent their positions on economic, social, and political matters. In the case of Alaska this would have alerted us to our position as a Non-Self-Governing Territory. Would this have advanced the intent and purposes of the United Nations? Yes. Would this knowledge have worked against the purpose of the United States to herd Alaska into statehood? The answer is yes, because Alaskans were most unhappy with their territorial status. Witness our first statute included by our constitutional convention — to abolish the hated, outside, fish-traps was put into effect by the vote for statehood. A large number of people might have worked for commonwealth status and our position today might be very different. The conclusion is certain and the question to be asked is, did the United States deliberately avoid this obligation to direct Alaska from any course except to statehood?
    To emphasize the importance of the recommendation, General Assembly Resolution 746 Employment of international staff from Non-Self-Governing Trust Territories 27 November 1953 was passed the same day to promote the objectives of Chapter XI and XII by recommending that the Secretary General consider the desirability of continuing and increasing the recruitment of suitably qualified inhabitants of Non-Self-Governing and Trust Territories for the Secretariat of the United Nations for the secretariats of the specialized agencies.
    Can it be imagined that an Alaskan might have been asked to serve as Secretary of Information — or in one of the other specialized agencies? No danger — any knowledge of our status as a Non-Self-Governing Territory was carefully and completely withheld and concealed from Alaskans.
    Is it not strange that Resolution 748 VIII Cessation of the transmission of information under Article 73 e of the Charter in respect to Puerto Rico 27 November 1953 notes in its closing paragraph “…due regard will be paid to the will of both the Puerto Rican and American peoples in the conduct of their relations under their present legal statute, and also in the eventuality that either of the parties to the mutually agreed association may desire any changes in the terms of their association.”?
    Puerto Rico retains the right to reconsider its political connections with the United States. This basic right under the Third Part of Resolution 742 VIII — Freedom of Choice was not reserved in Resolution 1469 XIV Cessation of the transmission of information under Article 73 e of the Charter in respect of Alaska and Hawaii 12 December 1959. Why not?
    On 14 December 1954, Resolution 837 (IX) Recommendations concerning national respect for the right of people and nations to self-determination was passed. It requested the commission on human rights “to complete its recommendations concerning their permanent sovereignty over their national wealth and resources, having due regard to the rights and duties of states under international law, and to the importance of encouraging international co-operation in the economic development of underdeveloped countries…”.
    This obligation should be measured by the provisions of our statehood act — Public Law 85-508 85th Congress, H.R.7999, July 7, 1958. We would question the retention of sovereignty and the imposed conditions. The non-compliance is most obvious..
    Resolution 1051 XI Procedutes for the consideration of communications relating to the cessation of the transmission of information under Article 73 e of the Charter, 20 February 1957 provides that communications relating to the cessation of the transmission of information having been referred heretofore to the committee on information were now to be referred directly to the General Assembly. “That the General Assembly should, as indicated in Resolution 742 VIII, 27 November 1953, and 850 IX of 23 November 1954 examine cases of cessation of the transmission of information, with particular emphasis on the manner in which the right of Self-Determination has been attained and freely exercised”.
    It continues, “considers that the General Assembly, as circumstances may make appropriate, should adopt such conclusions as it deems fit, or should refer points for study to the Committee on Information from Non-Self-Governing Territories or any such future committee which may be established, or should take other measures to reach conclusions in the interests of the inhabitants of the territory concerned. What happened to our interests?
    We believe that this resolution places great emphasis upon (1) the manner in which the right of self-determination has been attained and freely exercised, and emphasizes (2) the interests of the inhabitants of the territory concerned. We would ask what measures were taken in compliance with these directives to measure the actual machinery of the election held on 26 August 1958?
    If there were only one resolution held to be controlling in the case of Alaska, we believe that Resolution 1051 XI of 20 February 1957 would place the performance of the United States of America in extreme doubt as to its validity. We would note here that the transmission of the United States, A/4115, 11 June 1959 — page 3 — notes in its close that “… the documentation referred to alone is, in accordance with General Assembly Resolution 1051 XI of 20 February 1957, Communicated to the General Assembly at its fourteenth session and is reproduced in the annexes to the present note.” The United States was well aware of Resolution 1051 and its provisions. Alaska had accepted its Constitution on April 24, 1956. The statehood matter was before the Congress and we can only wonder how the United States could have been acting in good faith in the execution of its “…sacred trust, the obligation to promote to the utmost, within the system of international peace and security established by the present Charter, the well being of the inhabitants of these territories and to this end, (A) to ensure with due respect for the culture of the peoples concerned their political, economic, social, and educational advancement, their just treatment, and their protection against abuses…”
    Anyone who would believe that this scenario of non-compliance by the United States could have occurred without a vigorous united resistance by Alaskans if they had been aware of our Non-Self-Governing Territorial status is very naive and uninformed. There would have been protests by the score. We would have marched in protest and burned Eisenhower in effigy, just as we did Carter in protest of the Alaska National Interests Lands Conservation Act of 1980. Alaskans are very vocal in their political protests. America knows this from old. In 1911 residents of Cordova held a tea party, banged the head of a coal dealer with a shovel, and proceeded to heave the Canadian coal into the bay.
    America has only avoided a gigantic public upheaval at the time by this concealment. They have just delayed it. If the Soviet Constitution reserves to the Republics, “…the right freely to secede from the U.S.S.R..”, as it does in Article 72, and the Politburo does provide a plebiscite to separate peacefully as Secretary Gorbachev has promised, surely America can and will do no less under our reserved right, ” to modify this status through expression of their will by democratic means.” General Assembly Resolution 742, Third Part, General (2) Freedom of Choice. Or is America above the law that it pioneered the establishment of through the United Nations Charter?
    We believe that the leadership role of the United States in formulating the Charter of The United Nations, and presiding over its birth, demands the highest degree of strict observance of the principles of the United Nations Charter and the most scrupulous compliance with these principles in dealing with its relations with its own non-self-governing territories, and their peoples.
    The super question to be asked of the General Assembly of the United Nations and of the Special Committee on Information from Non-Self-Governing Territories transmitted under Article 73 e of the Charter, 332 IV, 2 December 1949 is how could they have examined the communication from the Government of the United States of Government A/4115, 11 June 1959, and the included annexes with Public Law 85-508, 85 Congress, H.R. 7999 (the Alaska Statehood Act).The Proclamation 3269; admission of the State of Alaska without being alerted to the fact that the Statehood Plebiscite of August 26, 1958 only considered one choice for the attainment of a full measure of self-government, yes or no to statehood, an association with the United States of America and its federal system. They knew of the obligations of the United States of America and were obligated to determine if the United States had followed the prescribed procedure for such attainment and had complied with the factors of Resolution 742 Third Part.
    Even a most cursory examination would have revealed that only a single choice, statehood, was presented. Any further investigation would have revealed the participation of the military and their dependents, 76,000 strong, who, if over 19 years of age, were allowed to vote. They were not legal electors. Further study would have revealed that our vote on Question 3 effectively amended our constitution without our awareness, yet the opening paragraph of the Statehood Act declared in its closing lines, “…is hereby found to be republican in form and in conformity with the Constitution of The United States of America, and the principles of the Declaration of Independence, and is hereby accepted, ratified and confirmed.”
    The opening sentence, in part, hid the insidious amendment, “That, subject to the provisions of this act….”. Little did we know or realize that deep in the act, lurked this fact: see Sec. 6(i) and Sec. 8(b), “…shall be deemed amended accordingly”. It was a most radical change in our mineral laws and out of conformity with the other states: it substituted a leasing system for staking of all mineral claims. Only now in 1990 is the Congress considering this same provision for the other 48 states by the repeal of the mining act of 1872.
    All of the irregularities would have come to light with the exercise of just a little curiosity. Is it possible that not one person recognized these irregularities? It does not seem reasonable, and this leads to the next question; why was Resolution 1469 XIV Cessation of the transmission of information, under Article 73 e of the Charter in respect of Alaska and Hawaii not passed until 12 December 1959? This is over six months after the transmission of June 2, 1959? Were there some questions? Alaska did not know of any of this procedure and we can only wonder if the dominant position of The United States of America in the United Nations at that time might not have either intimidated or precluded any objection to the nonfeasance and misfeasance of the United States to its obligations to both the international community and to the inhabitants of the Non-Self-Governing Territory of Alaska. What big stick, if any, did they use?
    Alaskans will never know the true facts of the above events. Some of us now wonder if the United States did not have just one goal in mind for Alaska and that because of our natural resources, we were deliberately kept in ignorance of our status as a Non-Self-Governing Territory, and deliberately herded into statehood with the aid of military personnel voting in our statehood election?
    We ask that a courageous member of the United Nations sponsor us to appear before the General Assembly to present our case, that we may be restored to the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories so that we may eventually secure our right to self determination. We would also like to take the matter before the International Court of Justice if such is feasible.
    We welcome any suggestions that might be applicable to our position.
    Thank you.

  2. Jere Krischel
    July 11, 2009 at 2:13 pm

    The Kingdom of Hawaii was legally replaced by the Republic of Hawaii, which was an independent and sovereign nation, universally recognized by all nations that ever had diplomatic ties to the Kingdom. The Republic of Hawaii survived a hostile US administration, as well as a rebellion possibly sanctioned by that administration. It was the de jure and de facto government of Hawaii from 1894-1898, and had every legal right under international law to sue for annexation.
    The Statehood vote had less than 1.5% of the entire population vote “no.” The overwhelming sentiment for statehood, dating back to Prince Kuhio (an avowed royalist at one time, but later a proud American citizen representing the Territory of Hawaii in Congress), was a true testament to the patriotism and honor of the people of Hawaii.
    Insofar as the ICJ, or any UN action, frankly, there is nobody with any standing -> the Kingdom of Hawaii was dissolved in 1894, permanently without any further argument. The people of the State of Hawaii have their self-determination, and this fact cannot be reasonably argued. Every citizen of the State of Hawaii has the right to take part in elections, run for office, and engage in civic government, yielding a government by the people, of the people, and for the people. To suggest somehow that we are not self-governing in the State of Hawaii is to ignore reality.

  3. Jere Krischel
    July 11, 2009 at 2:16 pm

    All Americans should welcome the 51st State of the Union, if Puerto Rico decides to join. As noted by the article, the so-called “independence” movement is a radical fringe, just as it is in Hawaii. There very well may be good reasons to choose a commonwealth over statehood, but those decisions should not be dictated by a radical fringe minority.

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