[Statement delivered during the Plenary Session of the 20th Session of the United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Populations at the Palais des Nations, Geneva, Switzerland on 23 July 2002.]
Statement on the Right of the Indigenous Peoples to Development
By Abhoud Syed M. Lingga
Chairman, Bangsamoro People’s Consultative Assembly email: email@example.com
Mr. Chairperson, I am speaking as Chairman of the Bangsamoro People’s Consultative Assembly and in behalf of the Bangsamoro People of Mindanao in the south of the Philippines who are colonized by the Philippine government for more than half a century from now. They are being denied of their right of self-determination, in violation of Article 1 of both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, despite of the fact that they have distinct identity and common culture, and have long history of political independence that spans more than six centuries in the same territory they presently occupy.
The Bangsamoro People urgently need development, like other colonized and oppressed peoples of the world, for their territory remains economically undeveloped and they suffer the highest poverty incidence. But experience tells us that the kind of development we want will not happen unless and until we enjoy the right of self-determination. The development paradigm and development thrusts and priorities being implemented in our territories not only deny us the kind of development we want but being used to deny us our right to self-determination. For example, in the name of development the Philippine government encourages Filipino settlers to settle in the Bangsamoro territory that resulted into minoritization of the Bangsamoro people in their own homeland. This situation is now being used as argument against our demand for self-determination since we only occupy twenty per cent of our traditional homeland.
Genuine development cannot also happen under the state of militarization, colonization and oppression as we presently experience, and I believe other Indigenous Peoples are also experiencing.
Mr. Chairperson, there will be no development without the right to self-determination. Thus, it is necessary to pursue the right to development within the purview of the right of self-determination of Indigenous Peoples. The kind of development that the Indigenous Peoples want will not happen if they do not enjoy the right of self-determination, which is a right of choice, the right to choose the desired kind of political status.
Mr. Chairperson, in view of the aforementioned, I would like to propose that the Working Group on Indigenous Peoples shall consider the following:
- 1. That the right to development shall be pursued within the framework of the right of self-determination, which is a fundamental human right.
- 2. That a standard shall be set on the nature of development for Indigenous Peoples.
- 3. That the Philippine government shall be urged to allow the holding of referendum in the Bangsamoro territory under the supervision of the United Nations to give the Bangsamoro people opportunity to determine their political status for this is the only way that they can enjoy their right to development.
Thank you, Mr. Chairperson.
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