A United Nations mission sent to review the status of British dependency Bermuda says it found that Bermudians had little knowledge of their political options under international law, knew nothing of the international organizations they could join right now and still suffered from the legacy of racial segregation.
"Even the very issue of whether the present status of Bermuda is self-governing, or not, was raised from time to time during the course of the Special Mission by several individuals. The Special Mission provided clarification on the minimum standards for what constitutes self-government," it says in a report to the General Assembly.
In that regard, several mission delegates pointed to provisions in the Bermuda Constitution Order, which places significant power in the hands of the United Kingdom-appointed Governor, now John Vereker, rather than the elected Government, it says.
The Territory, with a population of more than 65,000, lies about 917 kilometres east of the United States' North Carolina coast, consists of eight major islands and 130 smaller islands.
The administering Power had told the Bermuda Independence Committee, which invited the Special Mission, that certain political options were not available. That position differed substantively from the consensus position in UN resolutions, "which confirm a broader range of legitimate political alternatives," the report says.
"It was also clear that sufficient information regarding the role the wider UN system of organizations might play in the development process of the Territory had not been made available to the people or their leadership," it says.
The Special Mission, therefore, sought to provide Bermudians with information on UN and other international organizations the Territory could join under its current political status and during a preparatory process for full self-government, it said.
The wounds caused by the historic legacy of racial segregation were very apparent, especially among many older Bermudians of African descent who spoke at the public meetings, and individuals of both racial groups said differences in privilege had to be addressed so that the people of the Territory could move forward together, no matter what direction they chose.
The mission stressed that it took no position on what choices Bermudians ought to make, but its members, particularly the representatives of the Republic of Congo, Dominica, Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste, shared the experiences of their countries during the transition to independence.