Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Adios Governor Ota

Last June, Masahide Ota, former Governor of Okinawa passed away. He had been governor of the islands in 1995, when long-time resentment and culture of protest against the US military bases achieved a much greater and more widespread character after the rape of a 12 year old girl by three US servicemen. His was a powerful voice for peace and demilitarization in Okinawa. During a trip in October of 2015 Edward A. Alvarez and I (with the help of the intrepid interpreter Shinako Oyakawa) got to visit him at his Naha office one afternoon. When he learned that we were from Guam, he mentioned several Chamorros that he had met over the years and inquired about them. He told us a number of stories from his life, including as experience after being drafted into the Japanese army during the war. He shared others about the struggles to survive for average Okinawans, after the destruction of their island and displacement in order to build new US military bases. I have long written that Okinawa and Guam/The Marianas have very similar histories of colonization, militarization and also resistance. This meeting was more profound evidence of those connections. I am grateful that I got to spend that time with and hear his stories.

Below is the column I wrote for him honoring his life and legacy for the Pacific Daily News. 


Adios Governor Ota
Michael Lujan Bevacqua
Pacific Daily News
July 14, 2017

Last month a noted figure for peace and demilitarization in the Asia-Pacific region, former Governor of Okinawa Masahide Ota passed away. He was 92 years old. 

Ota had been governor of the Okinawan islands in 1995 when the community’s long-held resentment over the US military bases there exploded following the rape of a 12 year-old girl by three US servicemen. Close to 100,000 people demonstrated to show their outrage over not just this particular atrocity, but decades of similar crimes against women in Okinawa at the hands of US troops. As governor and later as a private citizen, Ota undertook a number of activities aimed at promoting peace and also facilitating the demilitarization of Okinawa, which to this day has nearly 20% of its land mass occupied by US military bases and training areas. 

I had the honor of meeting Governor Ota in October 2015. Through an interpreter I interviewed him in the office of his Peace Institute in Naha. When he learned I was Chamorro from Guam, he mentioned several Chamorros (including Robert Underwood who he had met while he was still a member of Congress) he had met over the years and inquired as to how they were doing. He told me many stories, about the war, the struggles to survive after thousands were displaced from their lands to build postwar American bases and then the continuing fight to close and limit the expansion of those very bases. I have long written that Okinawa and Guam/The Marianas have very similar histories of colonization, militarization and also resistance. This meeting was more profound evidence of those connections. In light of his recent passing, I am thankful I was able to spend that afternoon learning from him. 

One of Governor Ota’s most poignant accomplishments was the Cornerstone of Peace, which sits at the southern end of Okinawa and is part of the Prefectural Peace Museum. The Cornerstone is a large outdoor memorial built for all the souls, Japanese, Okinawa and American that were lost during the Battle of Okinawa in 1945. Ota himself was part of that fighting, after being drafted into the Japanese military. That battle was known as a “typhoon of steel” where 1 in every 4 Okinawans perished. 

As a result of the death and the destruction from the war, many Okinawans, including Ota, came to firmly believe that their island should be an instrument of peace and not war. In the Peace Museum, you will see many artifacts from the Battle of Okinawa, but scattered throughout are profound poems, reflecting on the nature of peace and justice. One such poem reads, 

Whenever we look at / The truth of the Battle of Okinawa / We think / There is nothing as brutal / Nothing as dishonorable / As war. To be sure / It is human beings who start wars / But more than that / Isn’t it we human beings who must also prevent wars? To acquire / This / Our unwavering principle / We have paid dearly. 

It is during this month, that we on Guam spend the most time reflecting on our own wartime legacy. But ours is far more complicated. Chamorros saw their island destroyed and their family members killed, but there isn’t as strong of a desire to be an island of peace. As our connection to the US has long been one defined by strategic interests and military service, it is hard to see ourselves as an island of peace, and far easier to accept our lot as an American weapon of war. 

But it is never too late for us to reframe those legacies and lessons from the past, especially in the light of increased tensions in our region. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Storyboard 18

ISSUE 18: Sustainable Islands
While sustainability is often associated in the mainstream with the practice of “going green,” for island communities, it means much more. Sustainability includes a multi-tiered system of people, resources, legends, heirlooms, land, traditions, and practices. In this 18th issue of Storyboard, writers and artists are invited to draw inspiration from all elements of what sustainability means to islands and island peoples. Possible topics to explore include, but are not limited to:
•Traditions • Land Ownership • Land Development • Ocean Practices • Fishing • Planting •Money/Currency • Health • Religion • Resources • Recycling • Reusing • Materialism  •Legends • Stories • Degradation • Consumption • Balance • Inheritance • Ancestral Connections  •Traditional Healing
Storyboard: A Journal of Pacific Imagery is accepting submissions of previously unpublished work from the original writer or artist for Issue 18 until Monday, December 10, 2018. The journal’s mission is to foster literary activity in Guam and the broader Pacific. Storyboard publishes quality poetry, fiction, and non-fiction written in English or any other Pacific language (with translations into English), as well as visual art. We welcome submissions from published and unpublished writers and artists in or from around the region, or writing/art about the region. We particularly encourage writers and artists from Micronesia.
Submission Guidelines
Poetry: Submit up to five poems, a maximum of 10 pages in Microsoft Word format documents. Prose: Submit up to three prose entries, with a maximum of 2,500 words each, double-spaced in Microsoft Word documents. For longer pieces, please query first.
Authors of works in Pacific languages should provide at least rough translations into English for initial evaluation. The journal is willing to help arrange help with translations.
Accepted pieces may be copyedited and will require the review and approval of the writer within a timely fashion.
Artwork: Submit up to five pieces of visual art. Artwork must be submitted in .jpg format (minimum 72 dpi). If accepted for submission, we will require a larger format (minimum 300 dpi). If you need to mail in a CD, DVD, or submit through Dropbox, please send an email request to Artwork must include a title and caption for each piece submitted in a Microsoft Word format document.
Please visit to download the submission requirements and required forms. Included in this link are the following fillable documents:
• Cover Letter Sheet An introductory letter with name, email, phone number, titles of writing and/or captions of artwork, and biography including credentials, expertise, previous publications (if applicable).
Send all required forms along with the writing and/or artwork submission/s by no later than Monday, December 10, 2018 via email to All documents are required to be submitted electronically.

Storyboard is published by the University of Guam’s Division of English and Applied Linguistics in the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences in partnership with University of Guam Press. The purpose of Storyboard is to foster and promote literary activity in the Pacific Islands.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Lessons in Tinatse and Typhoon Etiquette

When talking about legends many people become focused on what is true and what isn't true? What is authentic and what really happened? What can be determine from the story that is real and what isn't? These types of discussions may have some importance within a historical context, when trying to understand it from the perspective of aligning stories with a particular history or historical context. For example there are ways that you can look at the story of the Iliad from a historical perspective. There are ways you could try to draw out historical truths from it, and even if some of the details may not be real, you can nonetheless see larger societal dynamics at work in the poem.

This is something to keep in mind when we look at Guam or Chamoru legends. Is that there are some ways to examine, analyze or understand them from a historical perspective, but this misses the larger point of their purpose. Legends serve a social or a culture purpose. They aren't meant to be picture perfect, literal representations of anything. This is why when you hear legends or myths, the first instinct isn't to decry all the ways that they can't be real or true. If this was the case, can you imagine during a performance of The Iliad thousands of years ago, how often people would stand up and shout, wait! That can't be true, there's no way Achilles could actually do that!?

Legends are about something more human than strict documentation and that is why they change over time. That is why as cultures and values change, as memories fade and are adapted, the legends of a society change. You can analyze and track these changes to help understand how societies evolve and grow or forget, but it is the nature of this form of storytelling and social transmission.

One of the issues that people often times overlook is how multi-layered or multi-faceted a simple legend can be. Even if it is just a simple paragraph or reduced to a minute or two of narrative, the complexity persists and can be drawn out in the ways in which an individual storyteller will focus on one thing differently than another. We can see this in one of the most famous Guam legends today that of the the Women Who Saved Guam from the Giant Fish. The storyteller can focus the telling on the geographic aspects, or why Guam's land mass is a certain shape. They can also focus on the gender dynamics, between the male and female actors. It can also be one of the importance of respecting ancestral spirits. It can also be interpreted as something on the importance of particular fish species to the Chamoru people. It can be the origin story for the village and people of Pågo, explaining part of their identity. There are numerous possibilities.

For my Chamoru class this past week we went over the legend of Åcho' Palåyi as told by Peter Onedera, which offers its own series of possible lessons and interpretations. It deals with plant species important to the Chamoru people because of how it could be used for fishing. But also the importance of respecting nature during the rainy season or a typhoon when conditions are unpredictable. It also describes a real place, a series of rocks off the coast of Agat in southern Guam.

Here is the narration from Onedera's version, which he envisioned as a play.


I Lihenden Åcho’ Palåyi
By Peter Onedera

Tiempon Fanuchånan. Meggai guihan gi I saddok yan bula lokkue’ gi i tasi. 

Ha diside este i dos na peskådot para u huyong gi i tasi ya u peska guihan siha ni’ kantida gi i duranten este na tiempo. 

Ha hålla i galaide’-ñiha ya ma na’listo siha i trastes-ñiha pumeska. 

Despues, humålom i dos galaide’ ya ma tulos siha huyong astaki gaige i dos gi tahdong na hånom.

Guaha na ma na’setbe ni’ peskådot siha i palåyi yan i hayu-ña para u ma tåtse i guihan pues u ma konne’ ni’ lagua’-ñiha. 

Put i tiempon fanuchånan, ha tutuhun gui’ i lamlam yan i hilo ya ma diside ni’ dos na u ma bira siha tåtte gi tano’. 

Dururu i dos ma tulos i galaide’-ñiha lao esta sen atburutao i tasi ya luhan na ti u ma hago’ guatu i inai. Ha fakcha’i i galaide’ un kalåktos åcho’ gi tahdong na hånom. 

Ma yute’ i trastes-ñiha ya duru ma lupok huyong i hanom. 

Annai pumåra i uchan, muma’lak i semnak ya ayu na matungo’ ni’ taotao i sengsong na måtmos i dos peskådot ya lokkue’ taigue i galaide’-ñiha. Humuyong un dångkolon åcho’ gi halom hånom ya ma fa’na’an este na åcho’ palåyi.

Ma tungo’ ni’ peskådot na piligru i hanom yan siempre hafñot i tasi. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Gaige yu' giya Okinawa ta'lo

Gaige yu' giya Okinawa på'go na simana.

Para bei fama'nu'i gi kolehio yan konfirensia guini. I fina'nu'i siha put decolonization yan nina'la'la' lengguåhen natihu siha.

Para bei faninterview taotao Chamoru ni' manmastastation guini giya Okinawa put i sinienten-ñiha nu i taotao guini. Put hemplo, kao hinasson-ñiha na mamparehu i estao i taotao Okinawa yan i Chamoru? Guaha meggai parehu put i halacha na hestoria-ta siha, lao kao ma ripåpara este? Pat osino gi lini'e'-ñiha kao manentrangheru?

Bai hu bisita lokkue' i kampon protest taiguihi gi este na litråtu. Este giya Henoko, nai i militåt Amerikånu ma keke ekstende i sagan-ñiha guihi, lao i taotao ti yan-ñiha este, ko'lo'lo'ña put taimanu na u ma destrosa i ginefpågon lugåt.

Sunday, November 04, 2018

Håle' Para Agupa'

Back in September, I spent an afternoon with Håle’ Para Agupa’, a Chamoru cultural group based in the Washington D.C. area. It was an enriching and energizing afternoon. The fafa’na’gue of the group Teresita Guevara Smith organized a gathering of young and old, and I gave a presentation about Chamoru language and culture, and even a short language lesson. 

Wherever I go, in Guam, the CNMi or even the diaspora, I am always encouraged to see Chamorus wanting to learn more about who they are as a people and want to do more to keep culture and language alive. After all, for a group that numbers perhaps only 200,000 in the world, we always have to ask ourselves, “anggen ti hita, pues håyi?” When it comes to preservation and revitalization of our heritage, if we won’t do it, who else will?

This is an issue that Chamorus have to confront sooner rather than later, especially in light of the fact that more Chamorus now live outside of the Marianas. The realities of cultural maintenance change dramatically whether you are talking about Guam or the CNMI, versus the diaspora, which exists in small pockets in various spots around the US. 

Migration to the US actually began during the Spanish era of Guam’s history, with Chamorus leaving as whalers and eventually more than a thousand of them settling in Hawai’’I and both East and West coasts. Since World War II, most migration began initially through military service, with Chamoru communities appearing around Navy or Army bases. 

In a few places these communities formed associations or Guam clubs. Sometimes the groups were formalized and had charters and boards and regular activities. Other times they were more informal. The majority of the smaller clubs existed to commemorate a particular event, usually Liberation Day or a Catholic saint or feast. The largest club, the Sons and Daughters of Guam Club in San Diego went beyond incorporation in spirit alone and possess its own physical clubhouse. 

For Chamorus living stateside, these clubs or activities would often be the majority of their exposure to Chamoru cultural facets. At the Guam Society of America, considered to be the oldest of the Guam Clubs, they have an annual event called Chamorro Night. I was fortunate enough to attend last year and there was kelaguan månnok, hineksa’ agaga’ and even Matua Sablan singing his father Johnny’s greatest hits. These social gatherings provided a sense of the homeislands in the Marianas, for some who had never been.

As I’ve bounced around the US and spoken to people involved in these clubs, there is a regular worry that Chamoru youth stateside aren’t interested in getting involved in leading the clubs or sustaining them. Some of the Guam clubs that I spent time with a decade ago while attending college in the states have long been inactive. 

After spending time with the members of Håle’ Para Agupa’, I feel like the solution to the sustainability problems in Guam clubs, is to move them beyond just being social clubs, and actually transform them into cultural spaces. Places not only where Chamorus gather to share food and laughs, but where they gather to share knowledge, cultural traditions, the language and songs.  If we want youth to take up their heritage, we have to first teach it to them and help them understand why its important. 

Thursday, November 01, 2018

Peaceful Demonstration over Magua'

Groups Organize Demonstration Against Disturbance of Cultural Site

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (October 31, 2018 – Hagåtña)Amid a complex election season and Typhoon Yutu relief efforts, our residents have also been challenged with news of the recent disturbance of the ancient village of Magua at the site for the new Marine Base in South Finegayan. Local news sources, both radio and print, have reported that the U.S. Navy may have breached negotiations to mitigate the site. As the buildup progresses, it is clear that cultural preservation is not a priority for the Department of Defense.  

Prutehi Litekyan: Save Ritidian (PLSR) and Independent Guåhan call on the leaders of our island to rise up and take immediate action against this disturbance and to ensure that further harm will not take place. 

PLSR and Independent Guåhan invite our community to gather for a peaceful public demonstration this Saturday, November 3 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. in front of the gate to the Naval Communications Station (NCTAMS) base, which is the entrance to the South Finegayan site. 

We must make it clear that we will not stand for this injustice. Disturbing ancestral and cultural sites despite repeated claims that cultural preservation is a priority is a deceitful and disrespectful act towards the CHamoru people and our ancestors. 

We also call on our leaders to look into the role of the contractor in this disturbance and make their findings public. We must hold all involved accountable. 

Our organizations sincerely thank Dave Lotz for coming forward and informing our community. 

Prutehi Litekyan: Save Ritidian (PLSR) is a direct action group dedicated to the protection of natural and cultural resources in the areas identified for DOD live-fire training on Guam. For more information, please email

Independent Guåhan empowers the Chamoru people to reclaim our sovereignty as a nation. Inspired by the strength of our ancestors and with love for future generations, we educate and unify all who call our island home to build a sustainable and prosperous independent future. 

Monday, October 22, 2018

I Mismo Na'ån-mu

One passage that has long stayed with me in terms of understanding ethics is from one of Slavoj Zizek's books, where he mentions the Egyptians being swallowed up by the Red Sea as they trail the escaping Israelites. According to Jewish tradition he writes, when the Israelites celebrate the death of their long-time enemies, God chastises them. He tells them, how dare they celebrate that which he created. Who are they to celebrate the destruction of something that comes from God. Even if they were opposed in the drama of life on earth, they come from the same source and they have right to celebrate something which is equal to them in its origin. This type of repositioning is the basis for many types of ethical engagement. The idea that there is always some deeper level, some deeper intersection of humanity that we can and should appeal to in order to create something that is more just and more moral. But we can become so comfortable in our identities, so stuck in them, that it can be very difficult to cast them aside or even check to see how they fit on us. Some philosophers have said that it is the first gesture of human self-consciousness to define oneself against another, and the process of establishing a relationship with the other, there is always a tension, a pressure to not simply define against, across from another, but to define yourself against, above of the other. This leads to violence and the arguments in favor of violence, that naturalize and justify it, but it also can lead us back to the idea of the self and the other sharing something, that will radically redefine the hierarchy and the oppositional identities that they currently wear.  

At the conference that I'm attending in South Korea this weekend, one of the organizers read the poem below by Thich Nhat Hanh, a famous monk and peace activist from Vietnam. He writes about stories he had heard about pirates raping young women who were feeling Vietnam as refugees, and how instinctively we may be drawn to hate the pirate, but asks us to reflect deeper. He wrote a poem meant to illustrate his thoughts, I've posted them below. 


Please call me by my true names
Thich Nhat Hanh

After the Vietnam War, many people wrote to us in Plum Village. We received hundreds of letters each week from the refugee camps in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philippines, hundreds each week. It was very painful to read them, but we had to be in contact. We tried our best to help, but the suffering was enormous, and sometimes we were discouraged. It is said that half the boat people fleeing Vietnam died in the ocean; only half arrived at the shores of Southeast Asia.

There are many young girls, boat people, who were raped by sea pirates. Even though the United Nations and many countries tried to help the government of Thailand prevent that kind of piracy, sea pirates continued to inflict much suffering on the refugees. One day, we received a letter telling us about a young girl on a small boat who was raped by a Thai pirate.

She was only twelve, and she jumped into the ocean and drowned herself.

When you first learn of something like that, you get angry at the pirate. You naturally take the side of the girl. As you look more deeply you will see it differently. If you take the side of the little girl, then it is easy. You only have to take a gun and shoot the pirate. But we can't do that. In my meditation, I saw that if I had been born in the village of the pirate and raised in the same conditions as he was, I would now be the pirate. There is a great likelihood that I would become a pirate. I can't condemn myself so easily. In my meditation, I saw that many babies are born along the Gulf of Siam, hundreds every day, and if we educators, social workers, politicians, and others do not do something about the situation, in twenty-five years a number of them will become sea pirates. That is certain. If you or I were born today in those fishing villages, we might become sea pirates in twenty-five years. If you take a gun and shoot the pirate, you shoot all of us, because all of us are to some extent responsible for this state of affairs.

After a long meditation, I wrote this poem. In it, there are three people: the twelve-year-old girl, the pirate, and me. Can we look at each other and recognize ourselves in each other? The title of the poem is "Please Call Me by My True Names," because I have so many names. When I hear one of the of these names, I have to say, "Yes."

"Please call me by my true names"
By Thich Nhat Hanh

Don’t say that I will depart tomorrow— even today I am still arriving.

Look deeply: every second I am arriving to be a bud on a Spring branch, to be a tiny bird, with still-fragile wings, learning to sing in my new nest, to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower, to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.

I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry, to fear and to hope. The rhythm of my heart is the birth and death of all that is alive.

I am a mayfly metamorphosing on the surface of the river. And I am the bird that swoops down to swallow the mayfly.

I am a frog swimming happily in the clear water of a pond. And I am the grass-snake that silently feeds itself on the frog.

I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones, my legs as thin as bamboo sticks. And I am the arms merchant, selling deadly weapons to Uganda.

I am the twelve-year-old girl, refugee on a small boat, who throws herself into the ocean after being raped by a sea pirate.

And I am also the pirate, my heart not yet capable of seeing and loving.

I am a member of the politburo, with plenty of power in my hands. And I am the man who has to pay his “debt of blood” to my people dying slowly in a forced-labor camp.

My joy is like Spring, so warm it makes flowers bloom all over the Earth. My pain is like a river of tears, so vast it fills the four oceans.

Please call me by my true names, so I can hear all my cries and laughter at once, so I can see that my joy and pain are one.

Please call me by my true names, so I can wake up and the door of my heart could be left open,the door of compassion.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

In the Land of Lobbyists

Guam will elect a new non-voting delegate this year and there will also be a change in Adelup, where a new Governor will take over. This means there could be a significant shift in terms of federal-territorial relations for Guam. I don't mean much will change from the federal side, but from Guam, this moment could mean the development of a new approach or utilizing new tools for engaging the federal government on Guam issues. Depending on how you look at the past decade or so there has been some accommodation and some antagonism. From Congresswoman Bordallo, there was quite a meeting of minds over military buildup issues and the US Department of Defense, but that came at the cost of her representing the interests of the people of Guam. Bordallo was well-liked by many of her colleagues and well liked by the US military, but in my opinion, had long become detached from changing attitudes on Guam. When the protests and organizing around Prutehi Litekyan emerged last year, Bordallo was nowhere to be found. She had instead undertaken steps to make the buildup easier, rather than seek to get ahead of the growing criticism.

From the perceptive of Governor Calvo, he has distinguished himself through several lawsuits against the federal government and also a willingness to speak out against US colonialism, including at the United Nations. We should divide these acts into two basic types, while some are more direct, as in they deal with legal challenges, the others are largely symbolic. They don't engage directly with the US, but appeal to the world of meanings around the US and in many ways don't ever reach the US. For instance, Calvo's claim that in response to the feds choking off the supply of foreign workers for local businesses, he was now AGAINST the buildup, was intriguing. In a small sense it was radical, as the governor of Guam, Calvo doesn't have a great deal of power, but he does have the ability to slow the buildup to interfere with it in order to make clear his new position of being AGAINST it.

But to his discredit, Calvo didn't take any concrete actions to manifest in policy or governmental position, his being against the buildup. It was a rhetorical point meant to make clear his displeasure and unlike Bordallo, try to tame some anti-buildup or anti-use of Litekyan sentiment. But it wasn't likely meant to be more than that.

But in the legal realm, Calvo truly shined in terms of attempting to take the federal government to task, within its own courts. But while we can cheer defenses of the Chamorro Land Trust, defense of the plebiscite and the lawsuit over the Ordot Dump, they were not part of any larger plan for moving ahead with federal-territorial relations. In a similar sense, while we can commend Calvo for putting money behind the educational campaign of the Commission on Decolonization, there was no larger governmental push within Guam or in concert with the delegate's office, and so the impact was quite limited. Calvo, could have been remembered in the ways in which Ada or Bordallo are, as someone who moved the island forward in fundamental ways, through their acts or dreams, but he missed that chance by lacking a larger plan or goal.

Will the next round of leaders be any different? Will they be able to come up with something substantive to guide their actions, to give it a larger sense of meaning and significance? Hekkua', ti siguro yu'.

As I've been researching the issue of federal-territorial relations, I've bumped into more and more the issue of lobbyists and how essential they can be in making things happen, or preventing things from happening. Lobbyists can be very expensive, but can also be effective. When looking to what the new administration might do differently, the issue of hiring lobbyists to lobby on behalf of Guam keeps popping into my head. For many of the smaller issues that Guam contends with, a lobbyist can make a huge difference since there aren't large corporate forces that have interests in Guam, unlike Puerto Rico or other territories. For the larger goals of political status, a lobbyist will be essential in helping keep Guam relevant even as Congresspeople change and administrations change.

One reason why a lobbyist may be necessary is because unlike voting elected leaders who have constituents, that have a base from which they are to draw their interests or support, Guam has not real constituents. It's interests and needs are not tied to any part of the US that matters and as such, it may need the help of lobbyists or other actors to help the administration pay attention and work in favor of Guam.

While I was in DC recently I learned about one of the most infamous lobbyists in relation to the territories, Jeff Farrow. A charmingly titled article about him from the New York Times can be found below.


The Lobbyist with a Six-Figure Government Job
by Eric Lipton
New York Times
September 14, 2015

WASHINGTON — In this city with a grand tradition of government officials who pass through the revolving door into a world of big paychecks, Jeffrey Farrow stands apart.
While earning more than $100,000 a year as executive director of a tiny federal agency called the Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad, which has only one full-time federal employee, Mr. Farrow has simultaneously helped collect as much as $750,000 a year in lobbying fees. His clients have included the governments of Puerto Rico and the Republic of Palau, a tiny island nation in the western Pacific.
Mr. Farrow was at once a federal government bureaucrat and lobbyist. The revolving door did not even have to spin.
He managed this feat while running one of dozens of agencies that can get lost in the vast United States government — this one responsible for identifying and helping preserve cemeteries and historic buildings in Eastern and Central Europe that are important to American Jews and others, including Orthodox Christians from Kosovo.

An agency staff member has alleged that Mr. Farrow handled some of his lobbying work while at the offices of the federal agency. And at times, his work for private clients has overlapped directly with his public duties.
“A bizarre tale,” said Senator Ron Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin and chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, in a letter he sent last month to Lesley Weiss, the chairwoman of the 30-year-old commission, asking her to explain Mr. Farrow’s dual roles. “This lobbyist used federal personnel and resources to run a profitable personal business advancing the interest of foreign agents.”
Mr. Farrow declined repeated requests for comment, and Ms. Weiss did not return calls seeking comment. Warren L. Miller, a former federal prosecutor from Virginia who served for over a decade as chairman of the commission, said in an interview that he had been unaware that Mr. Farrow was also working as a registered foreign agent — a type of lobbyist hired by a foreign government, like Palau.
But Mr. Miller, who still serves on the commission board after stepping down as chairman in 2012, said Mr. Farrow had done nothing wrong because he works as a contractor, first hired in 2001, rather than as a full-fledged federal employee, even with his title of executive director.
“I don’t think it was improper or unethical or illegal in any way,” Mr. Miller said. He added that during Mr. Farrow’s tenure, the agency had helped preserve dozens of cemeteries and other important historic and cultural sites.

Experts in government ethics and lobbying law said that the different hats Mr. Farrow has simultaneously worn — as a lobbyist, foreign agent and executive director of a federal agency — are at minimum highly unusual.
“Whether or not there is a legal violation here, you do have a mixing of roles that I have certainly never seen before,” said Caleb P. Burns, a partner at Wiley Rein, a Washington law firm, who specializes in lobbying and ethics laws. “Someone burrowed so deeply in the government and yet at the same time engaging in lobbying and representing a foreign government — it is pretty brazen.”
Mr. Farrow took home about 16 percent of the commission’s annual budget in personal compensation, given his salary of at least $104,000 a year, even though he was expected to work for the agency for only eight to 20 hours a week, according to a report on the agency by the General Services Administration’s inspector general, completed in 2013 but never made public. A copy of the report was provided to The New York Times.
Mr. Farrow, as a result of his different jobs, was often working with the State Department and members of Congress in his official capacity — as the agency urged foreign governments to preserve cemeteries and other historic sites — while he was also making appeals to these same officials on behalf of his lobbying clients. For the government of Palau, he described himself as a “special adviser,” foreign agent lobbying records filed with the Department of Justice show.
As a representative of Palau, Mr. Farrow frequently contacted the State Department, which recently released more than 20 emails between Mr. Farrow and Hillary Rodham Clinton and her top aides while she was secretary of state. Mr. Farrow tried to press Mrs. Clinton and her staff to sign off on a new agreement that would offer the country more assistance than had been planned.
“Palau offended by U.S. positions,” said one email Mr. Farrow wrote to Mrs. Clinton in 2009, as he helped Palau push for the new agreement, before explaining to Mrs. Clinton in detail the government’s objections.
Mrs. Clinton sent that email to Jake Sullivan, one of her top foreign policy advisers, saying: “Pls review, do some recon outreach and advise what, if anything, we should do.”

The outcome clearly pleased Mr. Farrow, who had also served on Mrs. Clinton’s presidential campaign before she joined the Obama administration. A year later, when a new deal was signed setting aside additional federal funds for Palau, Mr. Farrow wrote to Mrs. Clinton: “Thanks for all that you did. It obtained U.S. objectives as well as resulted in substantially greater fairness for a former territory.”
Mr. Farrow’s work on behalf of Puerto Rico intensified — and his lobbying fees increased — as the island’s recent financial crisis worsened. After first working directly for the government of Puerto Rico, in the last two years Mr. Farrow has been part of a lobbying team that as of July had been paid $2 million by three nonprofit groups advocating on behalf of the island, including the Puerto Rico Statehood Council.
At that time, Mr. Farrow’s two worlds came together. Records show that a nonprofit group created to help support the heritage commission’s work donated money to a hospital and a community college in Palau.
The questions about Mr. Farrow’s varied roles came to light after the agency’s only full-time employee, Katarina Ryan, said Mr. Farrow routinely used the agency’s office to conduct his lobbying work, paid himself an unauthorized bonus with federal funds, and used federal funds to buy subscriptions to publications like Congressional Quarterly and the Leadership Directories, to help him with his lobbying practice.
Ms. Ryan, the agency’s project manager, is on leave after raising questions about Mr. Farrow’s conduct.
An investigation by the inspector general from the General Services Administration concluded that while Mr. Farrow may have handled some of his lobbying duties while at the agency’s offices, he had a personal laptop and cellphone, so “there was insufficient evidence to show any violation by Mr. Farrow.”
The Senate Homeland Security committee has asked the agency to address the allegations. The commission, in a statement, said the allegations had “been found to be unsubstantiated, factual misunderstandings and factually incorrect,” noting that it would respond to the Senate request later this month.

Mr. Johnson, the Wisconsin senator, in a statement released by his office Friday, said the commission, despite its worthwhile mission, was an example of what is wrong with government.
“This relatively tiny agency is a classic example of the dysfunction and waste that typify far too much of the federal government,” he said. “Established with the best of intentions to memorialize the horrors of 20th-century genocides, the Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad did little to accomplish that goal but was instead used to enrich a lobbyist.”

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

IG GA October 2018

Independent Guåhan will honor the late Ron Teehan and Discuss Managing Natural Resources in their October General Assembly

For Immediate Release, October 15, 2018 
Independent Guåhan (IG) invites the public to attend its October General Assembly (GA) on Thursday, October 25th from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m. at the Main Pavilion of the Chamorro Village in Hagåtña. These assemblies are part of IG’s efforts to educate the community on the need for Guåhan’s decolonization and the potential benefits through achieving independence. This month’s GA will focus on how Guam might better manage its natural resources as an independent country.   

At eachGA, Independent Guåhan honors a maga’taotao: a notable figure that has helped guide the island and the Chamoru people on their quest for self-determination. For October, IG will be honoring the late Ron Franquez Teehan, a long-time advocate for the rights of the Chamoru people who passed away earlier this year.   

1982 Ron joined Robert Underwood and the late Ron Rivera to become the first Chamorus to formally testify before the Fourth Committee of the United Nations on the political status of Guam. As a member of the group OPR-R (Organization of the Rights for Indigenous People) he worked to give Chamorus greater ability to define themselves locally and internationally and helped developed solidarity with other countries and decolonization movements. Ron also spent decades working on the issues of land rights and war reparations for the Chamoru people, working closely with the Guam Landowners Association and the Chamorro Land Trust. Independent Guåhan is proud to honor the legacy of Ron Teehan for its October GA. 

As an island, sustainability and the protection of Guam’s resources must always be of paramount importance. As a gateway to the United States and the tip of America’s military spear, in what ways does being a colony of the United States prevent the island from being able to effectively maintain its resource base? How could Guam learn from other countries, in particular in the Pacific, that are working to sustain and develop their own natural resources and environment? Those hoping to learn more about these questions and more importantly their answers, are encouraged to attend this month’s GA and join the discussion. 

Monday, October 08, 2018

Veterans for Decolonization

I have been traveling for the past few weeks and struggling while conducting research and giving a variety of presentations, to also finish up a couple of articles. One of them is based on the research I did for the Guam Humanities Council a few years ago for their exhibit Sindålu: Chamorro Journey Stories in the US Military. It was an exciting and interesting project on a variety of levels. I got to share some interesting stories that I've come across in my archival and oral history research, some of which haven't really ever been publicized before. I also got to tackle some issues in terms of understanding or unpacking contemporary Chamoru identity. The veteran subjectivity is so pervasive and somewhat hegemonic in Chamoru culture today, that it ends up taking a great deal of space, even for those who aren't veterans themselves. How many people when talking about issues of decolonization and demilitarization feel a inner need to curb their potential voice, their potential statements, because of a feeling of not wanting to upset or challenge not just the US military itself, but also those related or connect to them who serve in it?

This is part of Guam's reality as a heavily militarized space. Where the web of militarized connections extend out to even those who aren't directly connected to the US military presence, but nonetheless make them feel like the bases or the military is necessary for their existence, necessary for their to be order or property on the island. In colonial situations, there is often a generalized sort of discourse of this nature, that focuses on the civility of the colonizer in terms of providing that foundation for stability and eventual progress. In Guam however much of that discourse is dominated by the explicit military presence. Rather than people arguing that we need the US because we wouldn't be modern or we wouldn't be civilized if they weren't here, they argue that if the military wasn't here, we wouldn't be here. We would be speaking Japanese or we would have been wiped out by Japanese brutality in World War II. It is an interesting phenomena to say the least.

But the pervasiveness of any discourse ultimately means that its own dissolution nonetheless lurks around the edges. As with any powerful discourse, it's potency also bears potential seeds of its disintegration. The ways in which the military presence empowers and takes form, can also end up creating resistance and creating opposition. We have seen this most prominently in terms of tåno' and the way land has come to radicalize or give Chamorus a position from which to assert an oppositional identity to their most recent colonizer. But there are most possibilities than that, and that was more than anything, what I enjoyed about the Sindålu exhibit, was exploring the ways in which Chamoru experiences in the US military did not only lead to increased feelings of Americanization, but also deep critiques that in turn helped shape modes of resistance to Americanization and the American military presence from the 1990s up until today.

Below is a short excerpt from one of the articles I'm working on, a section titled "Veterans for Decolonization."


But this patriotism was heavily tainted with colonial narratives that preached Chamorro inferiority and American supremacy. Because of this Chamorros, even if they now had adopted a patriotic framework for their relationship to the US, did not see themselves as proper American subjects, but minor, limited American subjects. The feelings of gratitude for the US return in World War II that forged this patriotic connection also established a relationship in which Chamorros did not become an equal part of the US, but had now been included in the American circle of belonging, but remained beneath their white counterparts, and still feeling the need to prove themselves to be worthy of their new status. Military service was one of the key ways Chamorros attempted to prove their worth, but silence was another strategy as well. Although the passage of the Organic Act improved Guam life in a number of ways, it did not settle the basic questions Dr. Ramon Sablan had posed decades earlier. What was Guam in relation to the US and what as a result were Chamorros? The Organic Act provided the basis for a far more benevolent and cooperative relationship, but Guam remained a colony and the new system of self-governance was a mirage provided by an act of Congress. But during the 1950s and 1960s Chamorros in general, but primarily those who served in the US military grappled with these issues, but did not feel they could speak out against them and assert that their treatment or the treatment of their island was unfair or unjust. Regardless of any outward expressions of patriotism and loyalty, there remained a glaring contradiction in that the US would send men and women into war without the right to vote or the right to real democratic representation in the US government.

By the 1980s and 1990s, the time of the emergence of Nasion Chamoru and other Chamorro rights movements, this limited subjectivity had been challenged in a variety of ways. Chamorro veterans had found their voice, but it wasn’t simple or unified. It was not as simple as being pro-military or anti-military. It bore the complications of the previous century and of the present colonial moment and as such, the voices featured aspects of patriotic devotion, frustration with their treatment by the US government and also desires for decolonization.

In the early 1990s we can see these variations in not just the way veterans such as Angel Santos used their traumatic experiences in the US military as rationale for seeking to decolonize the island and becoming independent from the US. We can also see it in how at the same time other Chamorro veterans were vocally supporting a Commonwealth change for Guam’s political status. The Commonwealth movement for Guam lasted for 25 years and was built around enhancing Guam’s relationship to the US, where it was more defined and Guam would receive a greater degree of autonomy and control over local affairs, such as immigration (San Agustin 123). Commonwealth would ultimately fail in the halls of Congress in 1997. 

While Angel Santos and his cohort was protesting in the streets for decolonization, other veterans were also making their own arguments for decolonization and supporting Commonwealth status as an important step towards righting historical wrongs. Whereas Nasion Chamoru couched their activism in suffering as indigenous people, deserving of their rights to self-determination, whereby their military service tended to be another form of injustice that they were fighting against, these other Chamorro veterans couched their service as the reason, as Americans, they deserved a different and improved political status for Guam. 

Several dozen veterans in the early 1990s penned letters written to the US Congress and the United States in general making their position clear. Their experiences of sacrificing for the US military and also facing discrimination and hardship did not convince them to seek to leave the US, but in contrast to the silence of earlier generations, it did compel them to speak up and insist that the US reciprocate by living up to its supposed ideals of supporting liberty, democracy and freedom. This letter from Miguel Cruz, a Chamorro who served in the US Marine Corps makes this point. 

I belong to a select group of Americans who served our great country during the time of need . . . However, as a Chamorro, I feel that my country has not yet fulfilled its commitment to me and my fellow islanders – the opportunity to enjoy the right of full self-government. A people willing to defend their freedom must be allowed to govern their own future for justice to truly prevail (1994).


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