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Subject: UN Autonomy Models for East Timor
Date: Wed, 26 Aug 1998 18:56:26 +0900
From: The AustralAsian <>

UN officials, according to wire-service reports today, are studying autonomy models as they prepare a plan for East Timor to be put forward at ambassador-level talks between Indonesia and Portugal expected to take place next month.

Among the models examined by the United Nations are the Cook Islands, which are self-governing territories of New Zealand, the Dutch Caribbean territory of Aruba, and Hong Kong, the British-ruled colony which reverted to China in July last year.

The following models are presented below:

Cook Islands
The population of Cook Islands is 18,617 (1991 census). The whole island chain comprises two north and south groups of 13 inhabited islands and 2 uninhabited islands, about one-half of the way from Hawaii to New Zealand.. The total area is about two million square kilometres. Northern Cook Islands are atolls and include Manihiki, Nassau, Penrhyn, Pukapuka, Rakahanga and Suwarrow. Southern Cook Islands include Aitutaki, Atiu, Mangaia, Manuae, Mitiaro, Palmerston and Rarotonga (largest).

Government structure
Dependency status: free association with New Zealand; Cook Islands is fully responsible for internal affairs; New Zealand retains responsibility for external affairs, in consultation with the Cook Islands.

Cook Islands became self-governing in free association with New Zealand on August 4, 1965 and has the right at any time to move to full independence by unilateral action. The legislative branch comprises a unicameral Parliament with 25 seats and members are elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms.

The New Zealand dollar is the currency of Cook Islands. New Zealand is also responsible for the defense of Cook Islands.

Aruba is an island in the Caribbean Sea, north of Venezuela with a population of 68,031 (July 1997 figures).

Dependency status: It is still part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. However, full autonomy in internal affairs was obtained in 1986 upon separation from the Netherlands Antilles. In 1990, Aruba requested and received from the Netherlands cancellation of the agreement to automatically give independence to the island in 1996.

Aruba has its own currency called the Aruban florin and defense is still the responsibility of the Netherlands.

Hong Kong
Hong Kong has a population of over 3.5 million and throughout its history, all major decisions were taken without consulting the local people. These included the decision to return the Hong Kong people to Chinese rule in 1997, arrangements for the transition, such as major infrastructure projects and the setting up of the Court of Final Appeal.

Under the Sino-British joint declaration, Hong Kong is promised a "high degree of autonomy." Also, according to the joint declaration the Chinese government will be responsible for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region's foreign and defence affairs but will stay out of the SAR's internal administration. The late Deng Xiaoping was parroting the phrase: "One country two systems." In reality, however, this hasn't been so with Hong Kong's chief executive Tung Chee-hwa appointed directly by Beijing.

The Joint Declaration clearly states that the SAR's executive must be accountable to the Legislative and the SAR chief executive should be elected by universal suffrage. But, in reality, this hasn't been so and is a clear violation of a stipulation in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which states: "citizens shall have the right and opportunity to take part in the conduct of public affairs, directly or through freely chosen representatives; to vote and to be elected at genuine periodic elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret ballot, guaranteeing the free expression of the will of electors."

The inability to take part in the government decision-making process is the main reason why many Hong Kong people do not have confidence in the future.

The Cook Islands and Aruba models work primarily because they are micro-island states associated with established democracies.

On the other hand the population of East Timor is over 800,000 and the UN could be pushing for a Hong Kong model. That would be a disaster because Indonesia's democratic credentials, if it has any, are always suspect. The flaws of the "one country two systems" model have been pointed out and must NOT be implemented for East Timor.

The AustralAsian For News, Views and Comments on the Asia-Pacific Visit

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