Monday, October 12, 2009

The Question of Guam

I'll have more details soon on this year's trip to the United Nation's, but in the meantime, here's: THE UN report on the Petitioners speaking on The Question of Guam. It contains, summaries of the testimonies presented dealing with Guam.

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MICHAEL TUNCAP, of the Pacific Islands Study Group of the University of California, Berkeley, said that as a descendant of a 4,000 year civilization that had existed before the nations of Germany, France, Great Britain and the United States, he requested that the United Nations recognize the inalienable right to self-determination of Guam. The continued occupation of United States military forces in Guam and the Northern Marianas Islands was rooted in a system of racial inequality between European Americans, Asian and Pacific settlers and the indigenous Chamorro people.

He said that since initial contact with the United States in 1898, massive pacification and military occupation had prevented the people of Guam from exercising their inalienable right to self-determination. Colonial ideas of racial and gender superiority had shaped a long history of military violence and United States economic security. As such, the United States currently asserted that its citizens -- military personnel -- had a “constitutional” right to vote in the people’s decolonization plebiscite.

However, he said, the indigenous Chamorro people in the Marianas and the other island residents were denied the right to vote in United States elections. The United States also continued to deprive the people of Guam their right to land, even as they caused the toxic pollution that was irreparably damaging the environment. The United States military also threatened the integrity of the land through economic colonization, and colonialism had also caused irreparable harm to bodies of land and water. For those and other reasons, the Fourth Committee must immediately enact the process of decolonization for Guam in lieu of the severe, irreversible impacts of United States militarization. The process must include the maximum funding allowed to achieve a far-reaching education campaign informing all Chamorus from Guam of their right to self-determination and decolonization options, he said.

HOPE ALVAREZ CRISTOBAL, Guahan Coalition for Peace and Justice, said the Chamorro people of Guam had a long history as a free and independent people, interrupted by over 450 years of colonization by outside nations beginning in the sixteenth century. She said that earlier United Nations resolutions had addressed military issues in the operative clause calling on the administering Power “to ensure that the presence of military bases and installations would not constitute an obstacle to decolonization”. However, she said the United Nations today seemed satisfied with obscure reference to the military -- the single most serious impediment to decolonization. Those types of changes undermined the intent and purpose of the United Nations Charter, especially Chapter 11, devoted to the “territories whose people had not attained a full measure of self-government”.

The administering Power of Guam had in the past cited the issue of its military activities as one of the reasons why that Power would no longer cooperate with the Committee. She noted the “positive light” used to describe the massive militarization of Guam in the working paper, which said its inhabitants “generally welcomed the build-up”, and she said nothing could be further from the truth. The militarization of the Chamorro people through the militarization of Guam, combined with over a century of United States immigration policies, was a flagrant violation by the administering Power of accepted standards in its fiduciary responsibilities, and must be addressed.

JULIAN AGUON, speaking on behalf of the Chamoru Nation, said instead of advancing the decolonization mandate of Guam, the United States was engaged in the largest military build-up in recent history, with plans that would bring, among other things, 50,000 people and six nuclear submarines. The United States pledge in 1946 to ensure its decolonization mandate on Guam had, half a century later, become “politically empty and spiritually murderous” words, and the Chamorro people continued to live in colonial conditions. That was why his delegation had come to New York, year after year to, in effect, “throw ourselves on the funeral pyre that is the United Nations decolonization apparatus”.

Self-determination, as outlined in the United Nations Charter and international conventions, was an inalienable right, he said. As a Member State, the United States was bound to protect and advance the human rights articulated within the United Nations system. “We need United Nations intervention into the increasingly desperate human rights situation in Guam,” he said. “The hyper-militarization of Guam is no doubt illegal under any principled construction of international law.”

DAVID ROBERTS, PhD candidate in the Department of Geography of the University of Toronto, said that the United Nations must work for a just solution in Guam, based on the understanding that Guam’s status as a non-self-governing entity effected the ability of the Chamorro people to make crucial decisions about their lives and where they lived. He maintained that Guam’s virtual status as a colony should be abhorrent to those who champion democracy around the world.

He urged the Committee to give top priority to the fulfilment of the right of Chamorro to self-determination through a decolonization process that included a fully-funded campaign informing all Chamorro from Guam of their rights and options. The Committee, with United Nations funding, must investigate the administering Power’s non-compliance with its international obligation to promote the economic, social and cultural well-being of Guam, and must send a team within the next six months to assess the effects of the past and future militarization of the island. Finally, he said the Committee must comply with the Indigenous Forum’s request for an expert seminar to examine the impact of the United Nations decolonization process on indigenous peoples.

MEGAN ROBERTO, of the University of California Berkeley Pacific Islander Alumni, said that, having been educated by one of the best universities in the world, she spoke English with no recollection of her mother tongue. She was a success story of the United States colonization of Guam. However, she questioned that success, wondering if leaving the island had been the best option for her family.

Continuing, she said the physical and emotional consequences that colonization had had on the remaining Chamorro who lived on Guahan pointed to a positive answer. Among other things, Chamorro people had been exposed to radiation, Agent Orange and Agent Purple as a result of the island being a decontamination site for the United States in the 1970s. The community was also robbed of its cultural resources. The effects of colonialism on the Chamorro people had travelled along with them in the forced migration and assimilation. However, forced migration was not self-determination.

She said that the Committee should give top priority to the fulfilment of her people’s inalienable right to self-determination and immediately enact the process of decolonization of Guahan in lieu of severe, irreversible impacts of United States militarization. The process must include a fully-funded and far-reaching education campaign informing all Chamorro from Guahan of their right to self-determination and decolonization options.

The Committee must send United Nations representatives to the island within the next six months to assess the implications of United States militarization plans on the decolonization of Guahan and the human rights implications of the United States military presence. And finally, the Committee must comply with the recommendations of other United Nations agencies, especially the Permanent Forum in Indigenous Issues, which had recently requested an expert seminar to examine the impact of the United Nations decolonization process on indigenous peoples of Non-Self-Governing Territories.

JOSETTE MARIE QUINATA, Southern California Chapter of Famoksaiyan, said her homeland was threatened by the impending United States military build-up on Guam that was scheduled to begin in 2010. Yet Guam continued to be excluded from decisions that would affect the very people whose environment would be destroyed, and whose concerns were “second to militarization and colonialism”. The question of Guam was not solely based on political turmoil and chaos among those who claimed Guam as a United States “possession”, but also a reflection of Guam’s identity, which continued to suffer from political hegemony and an administering Power that failed to recognize and respect political rights.

She recounted a dream in which she saw her ancestors, and spoke about revitalizing the Chamorro people and preserving their language and culture. She said that a “powerful calling” had kept her passion alive in understanding Guam’s heritage and struggle for self-determination. She looked forward to creating a future “moved by heart, strength, and courage” to reaffirm that the question of Guam was a question of decolonization and the eradication of militarism and colonialism.

DESTINY TEDTAOTAO, a Graduate Student at the University of Southern California School of Social Work, speaking on behalf of the Chamorro grass-roots organization “I Nasion Chamoru”, said that as the end Second Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism neared, Guam unfortunately still remained a Non-Self-Governing Territory under the United States. Guam continued to be a possession of its colonizers, and the Chamorro people were still being denied their rights to land and political destiny.

She said the devastation wrought on the island and its people created an uphill climb for self-determination. Yet, with the impending military build-up on Guam that was to start in 2010, she asked that the United Nations uphold the promise and “sacred trust” set forth in General Assembly resolutions 1514 and 1542, and ultimately hold accountable Guam’s administering Power in recognizing and respecting its quest for self-determination.

The people of Guam were strong, and had a resilient culture that had continued to prevail amidst agonies of political disarray, militarism and colonial dominance. Yet, the people’s voices for choosing their own political destiny had been silenced, ignored and misunderstood. Guam’s administering Power had neglected the people’s right as an indigenous people, and the people had long suffered at the hands of outside influences and decisions that neglected their voices and interests. As a daughter of Guam, self-determination was not only a word that encompassed and exuded empowerment, but also a struggle, she said.

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