TOKELAUANS PLEASED TO REMAIN DEPENDENT: HUNTSMAN

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HONOLULU, Hawaii (November 10, 1997 PIDP/CPIS)---Both the United Nations and the New Zealand government have been encouraging the Polynesian dependency of Tokelau to become an independent nation or at least self-governing in association with New Zealand for decades.

But again and again says University of Auckland academic Dr. Judith Huntsman, the Tokelauans have made it clear that they want to remain a New Zealand dependency.

Huntsman, speaking at the East-West Center in Honolulu Friday, says this poses a problem for political liberals who believe every population should want to become independent and eliminate any remaining vestiges of colonialism.

The transient 1,700 Tokelauans, however --with three times as many living in New Zealand, Samoa, Hawaii, and elsewhere at any given time than on Tokelau's three atolls--have told UN decolonization committee representatives over and over since the end of World War II that they are very content with their dependency status.

They pay no taxes. They are New Zealand citizens and can travel and work there any time they wish. In addition, Tokelauans at home receive per capita support from New Zealand amounting to approximately $16,000 a year.

In the atolls, Dr. Huntsman says, the life style is strictly traditional. Selling stamps, handicrafts, and souvenir coins are the major industries. There is no airport and none is planned. And ship travel remains irregular.

One of the biggest issues is the loss years ago of Swains Island, which many Tokelauans claim as theirs, to neighboring American Samoa through an international agreement.

Tokelauans remain entirely content with their dependency status, stresses Huntsman, and definitely are not encouraging any change.

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