Sunday, September 21, 2008

Do You Support the Reunification of the Marianas Islands?

I wrote last month in my post "Sa' Hafa Ti Manacha?" about the regular murmurs that I hear about the possible reunification of Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands. I promised to post an interview that I gave several months ago to a student about the topic, but in the hustle and bustle of the Democratic National Convention and my moving back to Guam, I completely forgot.

I thought of this again because I will be presenting next week up in Saipan at the Tetset Konfrensian Chamorro on this very topic, "a national, pan-Marianas Chamorro identity." Achokka' ti humanao yu' para i fine'nina yan mina'dos na dinana', hu hungok na ti ma diskuti put este gi i fotmat na panels siha, lao siempre gi entre i batkada madiskuti. Taimanu na ti sina?

With the CNMI Federalization being approved and now being challenged, the military build up looming ahead, a massive Chamorro diaspora from the CNMI forming in the United States to join the one already there from Guam, and so many different groups rising up to articulate the proper "indigenous" stance of Chamorros, our islands, our identities and our fates are being tied together, manmafilak ta'lo. It is not something to simply celebrate, or to ignore, because while the reunification of the Marianas Islands may be the dreams that so many Chamorros have nurtured for so long, often times quietly, beneath the open and public animosity or resistance they reveal.

Sina na ya-ta este, sina na ti ya-ta, sina lokkue' na ti manlisto para este, lao debi di ta ma'gasi este na tinilaika, ti sina ta sotta ha'. We may want this, we may not want it, we may not be ready for it, but its going to happen, and we should take control and be certain that the islands and Chamorros are unified not to suit the interests of the United States and its military, but that it suits Chamorros, their islands, their needs.

If reunification happens out of a shared love for the United States and Chamorros are united together again because of their ties to America and ties through their limited citizenship, then it will be a disaster. If they are united out of fear or dread over the region's poor economy and a unshakeable belief in the region's eternal (economic, political and metaphorical) dependency upon the United States, then it will be a mess. And lastly, even if they are united out of a shared love of being Chamorro, but if its central drive is one of racism and anti-settler/non-Chamorro sentiment, then it will not fulfill anyones dreams. What I will present next week in Saipan is the need for the reunification drive to not be cultural, but be anti-colonial. That is the only way in which you can create the sort of nationalist drive that the islands will need to reunite and to stand up to the United States in their efforts to re-unite. Culture is a part of this, it is the glue which can hold the movement together, which can create the feelings of historical inevitability and definition, that would allow Chamorros, who generally worship America and refuse to confront the control it holds in their lives, to confront that very power and try to surpass it.
The reunification of the Marianas Islands, in all different senses, cultural, political, economic, social, is something we should all be pushing for and working towards. But it is not something that will be easy, given the divisions that others have put between us and the ways we continue to divide ourselves. If it does happen overnight, then it will not be Chamorros who are managing the reuniting of our islands and our people, and it will not be happening in our best interests, but rather happening to further sharpen the tip of America's spear that this region represents militarily. I look forward to trying to make something different, something more drive by what Chamorros want and what Chamorros need possible through my participation at the conference next week.
Meggaggai na debi di ta cho'gue, ya ti fa'set este na che'cho'-ta. Lao ni' ngai'an fa'set para u na'fanhuyong, na'fanmagahet guinife. Pi'ot un guinife gof amko'.
Here is the interview I gave below:
***************

Do you support the reunification/reintegration of the Mariana Islands?
Yes

Did you support the last attempt to reunify the islands?
I'm not certain about which attempt you're referring to, but I haven't been alive during any of the plebiscites that have taken place regarding reunification (at least that I know of).

Roughly estimate how you think people would vote on the reunification of the islands.
This would depend on the level of education that has taken place. In the run up to the reunification plebiscite in 1969, voter education in Guam was minimal, while education in the NMI was high. Although there were other factors at play, the results in terms pure voter turnout, high in the NMI, low in Guam, were no doubt affected.

Are tensions between the islanders of the CNMI and Guam still existent? Why or why not? If so, do you think this will hinder possible reunification efforts?
Yes. Tensions over the war. Tensions over who is more developed. Tensions over who is more American. Tensions over who is more Chamorro. Tensions over who is more "sovereign." All of these things are still at play in the everyday relationships between Chamorros from Guam and the CNMI, and even in the diaspora and on the internet. What I've found in my research is that so many Chamorros think of reunification, and make decisions about it through very personal and private experiences with Chamorros, who are many times their relatives from the other islands. While most Chamorros agree with reunification in a very abstract, vague sense, they often disagree with it, very forcefully through stereotypes that are created from the ways they have interacted with Chamorros from Guam or the CNMI. So what we have in this case is people making very strong political arguments, against reunification because of beliefs that Chamorros in Guam are not really Chamorro, or that Chamorros from Guam look down on Chamorros from the CNMI, or that Chamorros from the CNMI are racists or are less American, or that Chamorros from both the CNMI and Guam are mean because of the way they tease each other about how they speak.

One glaring question which is always left out of discussion of reunification is what about the non-Chamorros in these islands? What do they want? Where would they fit in the movement for it? Is there a place for them? In actuality, these last two question are moot, and its unfortunate that more people interested in reunification aren't asking them, since there will have to be a place for them in the process, or else it won't happen, and you'll see a lot of internal strife between different ethnic groups in the islands. I hope that people who are working actively towards a reunification of the islands aren't simply doing so from a Chamorro perspective, but are actually considering where other such as Filipinos, Micronesians, and other groups would fit in it.

Some people see the military buildup on the islands as a potential trigger for reunification efforts. Do you think this is what has brought up the issue after so many years? Or are there other causes?
The main force which could make reunification possible right now is unfortunately the United States. The reason for this is that there is simply no political will right now to take any concrete steps towards reunification at the level of both the CNMI and the Guam governments. The only things which could get both of these institutions to move forward on this are either strong popular movements from the islands, or the Feds/ the military. What is more likely to happen in the next few years, is that these governments will get more and more pressure from the Feds to reunify, but on terms which will benefit the interests of the US military in the islands, not the islands or the islanders themselves. What is needed is that more and more people from both of these territories, begin to demand reunification in ways which will benefit themselves and their islands, and not allow this political binding, which lies in the heart of every single Chamorro, regardless of whatever wounds we find their as well, to be fastracked and hijacked by the Feds.

In your opinion, what is the most advantageous political status option for the Marianas if reunified (Free Association, Independence, Integration/Statehood, or Commonwealth as a possible option in the process of reunification)? Why? Consider current and longstanding political, economic, social, and cultural factors.
Answering this question depends upon what the goal is for Chamorros and what is in their best interests. This question might be too vague and broad, because it depends again on what you assume to be the best interests of Chamorros. If the independent economic and immigration control that the CNMI used to have is seen as key to the survival of the islands, then moving away from the United States, and moving into Free Association and eventually Independence would be necessary. If culture is the priority or Chamorro nationalism, than independence again would be the key option. If economy is the main concern, than the most obvious choices would be either status quo or integration. But there are problems with this thinking.

A lot of fuss is made about how much the Feds put into Guam and how that would disappear if the island dared to move away from the US. If the process of Guam's decolonization, as a negotiated settlement works like it has in other instances, then there will be an interim period, during which Federal monies in Guam will continue, but at a slowly decreasing rate. Furthermore, the military presence in Guam or the CNMI would not necessarily disappear if the islands moved towards Free Association or Independence.

During the Commonwealth period on Guam, although the movement sought more autonomy and control over its affairs, it never sought an end to the military presence on the island. In fact, all Commonwealth would have meant is the creation of some sort of legal and binding framework through which the Government of Guam would have to be treated like an actual partner or a landlord in terms of what the military plans for Guam, brings into Guam, does on Guam. Its no wonder then that Commonwealth never made it out of Congress alive. To take up one of these political status options would just mean that the presence of the US military on Guam could not be taken for granted the way it is now, whereby what Guam receives is simply what it receives and there really is no way to demand more or changes the rules. In the long run, given that decolonization leading to Free Association or Independence, wouldn't mean an overnight end to all Federal funding, and that this sort of change in island policy and planning would require a more serious outlook on sustainable economic and social planning, either of these options are advantageous to the islands. Guam and the CNMI are both trapped in a dependency cycle with the US, which it will never admit to, but is so blatantly obvious, and so beneficial. Although breaking out of this cycle will mean a lot of short term problems and hardships, it is necessary for long term sustainability in the Marianas Islands.

Statehood, although improbable, would mean the most political power for the islands themselves, although not specifically Chamorros. Two Senators would give the islands incredible power in the US Federal Government, although this power might be outweighed by the extra taxes the islands would have to pay. Radical statehood is something which is being proposed in Puerto Rico, as a means of using the power of these senators to make sure Puerto Rico's agenda is recognized. But its interesting to note that this power is only truly "powerful" from the perspective of being a territory. If Guam were to actually be a state, then it would join a new level of political belonging, and would have more power than it had before, but still very little given its size and distance from the US.


If you are in favor of the status quo, explain why while taking these factors into consideration. Is reunification good simply for just one particular island or entity?
This question would have been more clear a few months ago, prior to the passage of the Federalization bill, but now, since the CNMI has already been set on the path to becoming like Guam in terms of political status, there isn't much difference.

What kind of sacrifices (political, social, economic) would each island have to make in order to reunify?
This would depend on what sort of arrangements Guam and the CNMI make with the US and with each other. Reunification and decolonization would no doubt lead to a small exodus of people, who would fear that the islands would be uninhabitable without the US, or non-viable after the will of the US was formally challenged. Sacrifices would have to be made depending on what the relationship with the US is during and after reunification, and also what sort of interim arrangement is made. For instance what sorts of funding would be made available in helping make the islands self-sustainable, and for how long would it be available. Could the islands keep up their current standard of living? I doubt it, but depending on how large the exodus is, if there is an interim period to build self-sustainability, and also if any opportunities arise because of reunification or decolonization, they could stay close.

What are the most disadvantageous political status options for the islands? Why?
In terms of Chamorros and their ability to define themselves and determine their futures, statehood would clearly be the worst option. Chamorros are well past the point where they could successfully lobby to be a Federally recognized tribe, which means that in a state framework they would be reduced to just another minority, and their claim to the land stripped away, or at least very easily stripped away. There could be an argument based on the Native Hawaiian example, that the only way in which Chamorros could be Federally recognized is if they did become a state. The only reason that Native Hawaiians have such a chance through the Akaka Bill is because of the power of having two Senators, and the favors that they accrue over their career which can thus be used for this sort of legislation. But whether or not this sort of legal entanglement and recognition would be beneficial for Chamorros remains uncertain. It might open new doors in terms of receiving Federal funding, but it closes many more doors in terms of shifting Guam's political status away from the US and eventually getting the island more autonomy.

How do you think the US will respond to a proposal to reunify?
On the US Federal side of the equation, the only options which they would legally allow are status quo, Commonwealth and although an absolutely rare chance, statehood. From the perspective of the Feds, Guam is already their property, and as its residents are mainly US citizens, it would literally take an Act of God to get them to allow the island to move any further away than it already is. This is of course what the Secret Guam Study is about, that the more ways in which you can make the island feel American, the better in terms of keeping it close and keeping it from attempting to leave the US.

Any proposal to unify the island under the three statuses that I mentioned above would actually be taken seriously, and considered. In fact, depending on how the military buildup plays out in the Marianas over the next six years, reunification is something which the Military itself might spear-head, since, their task in the islands would be easier to carry out if the statuses of all the islands were reduced to that of Guam's.

But, if the decision is made to move further away from the US, the islands will encounter incredible resistance in different forms, whether through federal cases, Federal crackdowns or loss of Federal funds. This is why, any movement for reunification which is tied to the needs and desires of Chamorros and the people in the islands (and not the interests of the US), will need to be built from a shared will and drive between the people in the islands and their political leaders/government. If you have none of these or only one of these in play, then reunification movements in the islands will falter and fail very easily against Federal pressure.

Tony Palomo has made a very commonsense argument about reunification, namely that the Feds need not be involved. That all of these issues can be resolved at a more grassroots levels. If you want to reunify, then start building organizations across the divide, or have government agencies start cooperating with each other as if they already are unified or in the process of being unified. I think that this idea is fine and good, but the question remains, that if there is not that will, which must be built and sustained to have a unified Chamorro or Marianas spirit or political identity, than those efforts will be easily overturned by the Federal challenges I mentioned above.


Will reunification satisfy Guam's quest for self-determination? CNMI's economic problems?
I already answered this in some ways in other responses.

How will it (or won't it) affect the impact of the military buildup? How might it affect the federalization of the NMI?
I'm not quite sure about this question, but I think that I've answered parts of it in other responses.

If reunification were to occur, how long do you think the process would take to be complete?
This question cannot be answered ahead of time. Depending on how reunification would occur, it could be something organically decided on the ground, meaning Guam and the CNMI hold a reunification convention and there different proposals are made about how laws, economy, government and other things will be streamlined and made consistent, or it could be something which happens from the top down, meaning something started and determined by Federal lawmakers or officials. If it originates at the Federal level, then the speed will depend upon whether people and leaders in the Marianas Islands accept this change or reject it. If it happens more organically, then it could happen as quickly or as slowly as this unity in political and social terms can be negotiated and set on a timeline. But a political reunification could mean very little in terms of a reunification of the Chamorro people, that sort of re-imagining of the Chamorro people from all the Marianas Islands as a single people could take generations more to happen, even after some sort of political reunification takes place. There would also be an issue of what happens to the short term labor in the CNMI, and what sort of animosity would persist between Filipinos from Guam and from the CNMI?

3 comments:

RONBOTHUNTER said...

WHEN THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT OPPOSES YOUR RIGHT TO BE FREE!!

Puerto Ricans, whether they are called Independents (independentistas), Patriots or Nationalists or Freemen, who desire to be free, must always know that the federal government, here in the States has no “subject matter jurisdiction” over the person, case or location and should be challenged to proof it. These are magic words to learn when in Federal Court for desiring freedom for your/our Country.

You won’t be told this in court but: All jury members, judges, attorneys, and employees working in federal court, must reside in federal territory to legally be a federal juror or touch your case or they can be commercially sued, disbarred and financially ruined for violating your constitutional rights etc.

Your god given right to be free is not wanted by the USA, it will oppose your desire for independence and freedom, because the Federal USA is a profit based Corporation.

The Federal Government is a District of Columbia “Corporation”, as are all the States of the USA. These Corporations were formed for the benefit of the real owners. Since June of 1933, everything since then, is under Contract law or commercial law, aka Admiralty law, to benefit your masters in power.

The Federal Government owns Puerto Rico as an ASSET, because it is a slave colony—whether you like the idea or not. But the Federal Government takes orders from those who own and run this (Corporation) Country, but are not of this country. The International Bankers, who really own the corporations called the USA, will let PR be free, only if enough real men of Boricua blood wish to be free, by reserving their rights under the Constitution. Their books will be adjusted and we will be free.

The answer to your freedom lies in your Constitutional rights --- To win --You must always reserve your constitutional, commercial rights and know what they are and how to do so.

A Puerto Rican without a desire for independence and/or freedom from alien control has no heart and soul of a man.

The fact that the public does not know that we are NOT free, makes no difference, to the desire to be free. The PR that wants Statehood is a Gringito, who has no soul of a man left in his traitor's heart. Freedom is happening all over the world and yet we allow Gringitos to kill our right to be free.

A Gringito is a non-Anglo THING, IT is not really a “person”, just like a mass murderer is more like an animal than a person, who internally is so inferior, that he desires to be what he can not be—thus Gringito means little gringo.

The Gringito is like an Uncle Tom to blacks or a collaborator and traitor to many others. To us he/she is all three and much worst. “It” is the enemy of freedom all thru out HUMAN history.

We allow the Alien Invaders to kill, harm, abuse, rape, and scam us and yet the Gringito wants to give our Country away.

This abuse must end. No man or woman is a real Man or real woman who is too scared to fight for their souls and be free. If you listen to the Gringito, you will lose your soul.

Thru out eternity Humanity owes its freedom from slavery, ONLY to brave souls who fought for your right to be free.

The fight will NOT succeed if you don't fight the Gringito enemy/traitor/collaborator at home first. He is there next door and claims he is a real man and tries to give you many excuses of why PR can't be a free Country.

To give away your/our/my Country is not a right of alien invaders, visitors or foreigners with NO Puerto Rican Blood.

The right to vote on THIS ISSUE should NOT be given to NON-Puerto Ricans.

The fight for the independence of Puerto Rico is now non-violent and will be won in the hearts of real men around the World.

The Ronbothunter,

A proud freedom loving Puerto Rican.

All Rights Reserved

Si lahi-mu said...

You know you're right in the sense that as a Chamorro thinking about this whole situation i hardly take into account the other peoples who reside on the islands. I guess this makes me a little racist but I would prefer a Chamorro only vote on this situation because to me its more of a cultural thing. However after reading your post it has caused me to start thinking about the other side. I highly doubt that any other race would vote against it though, mainly because both the CNMI and Guam have the same basic demographics if anything nothing would change between the islands on this level except that there would be more people moving between islands. Another thing though about your post is that you believe Self- Determination is the best choice at this point. Although i would love a Chamorro State, i also think a lot about how Chamorro politics play out. It is very widely known that in GovGuam it isnt what you do but its who you know and i dont think that the Marianas will be ready for Self Determination until the following is accomplished: Re-establishment of the Northern Marianas whose islands have been abandoned for one reason or another, a self sustaining economy, an establishment of an agricultural industry, and a restructuring of Chamorro government in general. As we see in the Philippines, our former brethren under Spain, their government and their way of life is similar to ours in many ways. Their independence has only led to poverty, minority oppression, and an unbalance in power that is concentrated on their most westernized island of Luzon. This is why at the current moment I would prefer the status quo. I dont think that Chamorros should be so quick to decide on self determination especially since our islands (even though they have the potential) are not ready to break the ties from the U.S.. I know i sound a bit more on the U.S.'s side but i only believe this because I'd rather we be opressed under the American flag than bring about our own demise.

Michael Lujan Bevacqua said...

Oh, pumarehu hamyo na dos, Marianao Muna yan Si Lahi-Mu! Yanggen ti esta un li'e, hu oppe i otro na comment-mu. Si Yu'us Ma'ase ta'lo na un taitai iyo-ku blog na un na'chechetton i hinasso-mu siha.

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