Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Hafa Adai Taotao Guahan

Last week was quite a crazy one. Governor Calvo, in his State of the Island address the week before, unilaterally called for a decolonization plebiscite, that instead of following existing GovGuam law, would circumvent it by using the referendum system instead. At the core of the Governor's plan would be the allowing for all people to cast votes in the plebiscite, but only a certain number, would be counted. It was a plan that might solve one problem, but create several dozen more.

The past week was filled with meetings about this, in which the Governor eventually came to the understanding that his approach wouldn't necessarily be the best way, although it had been helpful in helping raise public interest in the issue. At present his office and the Commissions on Decolonization have committed to working together on developing an educational plan for a political status vote, and so things are looking up for the moment.

Here is a statement that I helped draft in response to the Governor's call for using the referendum system for a plebiscite. It was written in order to express the most basic concern that these organizations had with the Governor's plan, namely that he was calling for holding a political status vote, which wouldn't respect the special right that Chamorros/native inhabitants have to decide.

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Collective Response to Governor Calvo’s Proposed Decolonization Vote in November 2016

For Immediate Release, Monday, April 4, 2016 

Håfa Adai Taotao Guahan, 

As a coalition of organizations that have been working for many years towards the decolonization of Guam, Fuetsan Famalao'an, the Independence for Guam Task Force, Nasion Chamoru, and Our Islands Are Sacred collectively express our deep concern and outrage at Governor Eddie Calvo’s plans to rush a political status vote by the 2016 election. Even more disconcerting is the intent to open this vote to all registered voters of Guam, circumventing local and international laws with regards to the exercise of the self-determination of the native inhabitants of Guam. 

Decolonization is the inalienable right of those who have been colonized. Any decoloization effort that occurs on Guam must not blur this very important fact. Allowing all voting residents of Guam to partake in a decolonization vote, even if it includes the ability for native inhabitants to identify themselves, violates the rights and dignity of the people who were colonized and works to further colonize them.

Guam’s native inhabitants have already lost so much in the nearly 500 years of their colonization. They should not also lose the right to determine their destiny as a people in their homeland. The Governor’s proposal of allowing all residents to vote further disempowers the native people of Guam, who have every right to make this decision on their own.

At the very last Commission on Decolonization meeting, the members voted to decide on the year in which they believed the plebiscite could responsibly occur, accounting for the necessary time and energy it would take to fully prepare the community for this vote. The members were asked to go back to their respective political status task forces and consult with them, so that at the next Commission meeting (which is scheduled for tomorrow, Tuesday, April 5 at 3 p.m. in the Governor's conference room), the body could determine a year for the plebiscite and begin working toward that date. The Governor, who is the Chairperson of the Commission was not at the last Commission meeting, and in fact has only attended two Commission meetings in his six years in office. If he had been there, he would have been part of this important conversation, and would have heard from the body that was legally created to make this decision. The law was written to create this Commission to ensure that any act of decolonization is a community effort and not the decision of one person.

By pushing for the self-determination vote in this way, the Governor is usurping the role the Commission on Decolonization is meant to play in guiding this process. As the Chairperson of the Commission, the Governor should accept responsibility for any inaction on behalf of the Commission that has occurred under his administration. Rather than taking such a unilateral approach, the Governor should be working with the Commission on Decolonization, the Guam Election Commission, the Guam Legislature and other stakeholders to develop a reasonable and sound timeline for holding this most important vote.

This statement was prepared and endorsed by the following organizations: 

Fuetsan Famalao'an
Independence for Guam Task Force
Nasion Chamoru
Our Islands Are Sacred

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