Tuesday, November 17, 2009

HR 3940

Last week I helped organize the writing of some testimony to the United States House of Representatives, on Bill HR 3940 which was recently introduced by Guam's Non-Voting Delegate Madeleine Bordallo. The Bill, if passed would authorize the Department of the Interior to make available some of its grants to the Government of Guam, to be used for political status educational campaigns.

Its a small, but potentially significant step in terms of getting a large scale movement on Guam going again towards changing the island's political status. We'll have to see what happens, and when the backlash of people in the United States decrying the idea of the Federal Government funding education so that its colonies/territories can secede from the union. Right now there is alot of optimism on this bill being passed, since it doesn't actually provide any money for a campaign, but all of that will quickly disappear once word gets around that the tip of America's spear might become independent. On the other hand, as the testimony notes, it can represent a very important step into terms of getting the United States engaged on the issue of decolonization of its territories again, and try to get it to recognize its responsibilities as a colonial power.

I'm pasting the testimony below for you to read, it was submitted to Congresswoman Bordallo's office on behalf of the organization's listed. The list smaller than what I had hoped, but the timeline for the writing was so cramped and fast that a number of groups couldn't give their permission to sign the letter in time and couldn't be added. But nonetheless, the organizations below, both big and small, formal or informal are the ones who have taken on the responsibility of promoting discussions on political status in Guam, and working towards making it happen.


November 11, 2009

Joint Testimony in Support of H.R. 3940

The political and social climate of Guam is changing rapidly, yet the island’s people have yet to determine whether or not this change is the future they desire. With an unresolved political status, the people of Guam have been denied the human right to determine their future. This human right to self-determination can no longer be ignored. Therefore, our non-governmental organizations have come together to support H.R. 3940, which “authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to extend grants and other assistance to facilitate a political status public education program for the people of Guam.” We support this bill for the following reasons:

• As noted by Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo in her remarks introducing this bill, the political status of Guam remains unresolved. Over the course of Guam’s 111-year relationship with the United States, only few significant changes have been made with regards to the island’s political status. These changes, however, have not been sufficient, as Guam remains in an ambiguous political position, without a path to self-determination. Guam is an organized, unincorporated territory – it belongs to the United States, but it is not a part of the nation.

• The people of Guam have expressed their desire for a new political status in the past; however, our aspirations have not been realized despite efforts by Guam’s representatives, the administration and Congress. H.R. 3940 could provide an important catalyst in terms of reinvigorating the process of self-determination on Guam; first by helping to educate its people about the options available to them in their political evolution, and secondly by placing the issue of self-determination itself back on the Federal agenda in Washington D.C.

• To our knowledge this is the first time that a Guam Delegate has sought to clarify the role and responsibility of the Department of Interior to ensure the economic, social and political development of Guam. As Bordallo notes, federal funding for political status education is not without precedent. We support this bill because federal assistance for political status education has never been provided to Guam despite the legal and moral responsibility of the United States, as a signatory to the United Nation’s charter, to support the movement of its non-self-governing territories towards full self-government via a referendum consistent with international standards for decolonization.

• In recent years the United States Federal government has drifted towards disengagement and silence as to its position on territorial self-determination, and has both metaphorically and physically removed itself from its seat of obligation in the United Nations. This bill can be an important step towards helping the United States towards charting a clear and transparent course of action in order to fulfill its legal and moral responsibility as the administering power of a number of non-self-governing territories as mandated by the United Nations.

• To this end, we recommend that the bill be revised so that the Department of Interior may extend such funding and assistance to American Samoa and the US Virgin Islands, whose political status also remains unresolved.

• At present, the Guam initiated Commission on Decolonization for the Implementation and Exercise of Chamorro Self-Determination (1GCA Chapter 21) has yet to undertake its mission due to a lack of funding for a public information program.

• We believe that the unprecedented military buildup which has been initiated in Guam poses a serious threat to the realization of political self-determination. The plans contained in the bilateral agreement signed by the United States and Japan to relocate US Marines from Okinawa to Guam by 2014 makes the need for political status education funding necessary for this purpose, and a realistic time table for a self-determination plebiscite more critical than ever.
• We believe that the exercise of our human right to self-determination can only be achieved through the concerted and coordinated efforts of the people of Guam, our elected leaders, the federal government and the United Nations. To this end, we are mobilized and committed as non-governmental organizations to seek and support such multilevel action.

• While it is the obligation of the United States, as the administering power that placed Guam in its current political status, to fund a political status education program, it is important to note that the materials and parameters of the program must be made and decided by the people of Guam. The U.S. is mandated under international law to monetarily support and respect the self-determination of the peoples of its non-self governing territories; however, the U.S. must not impose its desired path on the people. Instead, we recommend that Congress make funding for this program available to an unbiased institution like the University of Guam, which can design and carry out an effective and relevant education program.

We commend Congresswoman Bordallo for placing this issue on the Congressional agenda at this critical moment in the shared history of the United States and our island.

We also urge Congresswoman Bordallo and all members of the Committee on Natural Resources to take every opportunity to impress upon all members of Congress the essential links between any plan for increased militarization of our island and the unresolved issue of political status.

In his 2008 campaign, President Barack Obama committed to supporting “full self-government and self-determination for the people of Guam, American Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the Virgin Islands, and their right to decide their future status.” While we believe that this bill can be a crucial first step towards realizing this commitment, as the United States moves to increase its military presence in this region of the world, it is imperative that the issue of self-determination and political status remain front and center, not an afterthought.

We believe the success of any plan to position Guam as “The Tip of the Spear” for US forward defense in the region must follow, not precede, resolution of Guam’s political status, and the fulfillment of the United States’ legal and moral obligation to promote the inalienable right to self-determination of the people of Guam. This will ensure that any militarization which takes place in Guam or other territories will be based on the principles of genuine security, and on respect for human needs and rights.

Si Yu’us Ma’åse

The Undersigned Organizations:

Chamorro Studies Association
Chamoru Cultural Development and Research Institute
Commission on Decolonization: Independence Task Force
Guahån Coalition for Peace and Justice
The Guahån Youth
Guam Community College's Center for Civic Engagement
I Nasion Chamoru
National Association of Social Workers: Guam Chapter
Taotaomo’na Native Rights Group


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