Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Tales of Decolonization #10: The Registry...of DOOM

Guam's decolonization movement has been stalled at the governmental level for many years, and even decades depending on how you perceive things. During the Gutierrez administration the quest for decolonization was taken seriously in a variety of ways, money was provided for education, the Commonwealth movement was in full swing, although it did eventually end in 1997, and several plebiscites were scheduled. The problem was that the plebiscite was scheduled and postponed multiple times, and no real educational campaign ever took place, although at one point basic materials were distributed on a mass scale. During the next administration, that of Felix Camacho, the issue almost died completely at the government level. Community groups and civil society took up the cause, but during the entire administration of Camacho, not a single meeting of the Commission on Decolonization was held, and the office itself was given little to no support. Part of this was the hesitancy of the administration to take up an issue that they didn't understand or were worried was anti-American, but part of it was also the minala'et gi pachot taotao as to the failure of Commonwealth, a movement that had in all lasted for several decades. When Eddie Calvo came into power, the rhetoric shifted, suddenly decolonization was being talked about again and statements made indicating it would be a priority. The Commission on Decolonization met again, after more than eight years. But this too was fairly hollow and pointless. For most of Camacho's term, although his administration didn't take this issue seriously, there was still funding to support the office of the Commission on Decolonization and keep an Executive Director and two staffers. But under Calvo, although he after a year hired an Executive Director, those who were working in the office, were there only in name, as they were actually detailed elsewhere. The Commission met for several years without any money for any of its activities and had no staff to support it in anyway. Calvo continued to randomly bring up the issue of decolonization and profess it was important to him, but his deeds showed that like his predecessor, he either didn't really seem to understand the issue or care about it. But unlike his predecessor who seemed fearful of talking about it, Calvo at least understood its rhetorical value and that invoking colonization and decolonization provided a particular way of talking about Guam's place in the world and place in subordinated place in relation to the United States. Eventually, Calvo's deeds began to catch up to his words, and he began to set aside funding for the Commission on Decolonization to undertake educational projects. This year, Calvo has become far more engaged than any other point, and appears to finally be actively taking up the cause of decolonization. In his 2016 State of the Island Address he made a bold and I would argue reckless proposal to hold a plebiscite this year, and instead of using the process mandated by law (in which the Commission on Decolonization, of which he is the chair, makes the decision on when a plebiscite will be held), he argued circumventing GovGuam law and using the private citizen referendum process, whereby any individual with enough community support can push a vote on a topic before the public. By doing this he would violate what has become a sacred part about this process, and that is that the vote should be limited to only those who are Guam's colonized people, which due to a somewhat complicated process we refer to today as "native inhabitants." If Calvo's plan was implemented, everyone would be able to vote in the plebiscite. Calvo's proposal made little sense for a variety of reasons that I won't go into here, as many of his arguments for taking this route were paper-thin to be generous. He is the chair of the Commission of Decolonization, and as the chair it was in his best interest to engage and guide the commission with his ideas, rather than just proposing a wild plan that violated a number of GovGuam laws and seemed to mock the people who have been fighting for this issue for years.

But the main reason that Governor Calvo gave for why he felt it necessary to take this alternative route, was due to an issue that has long haunted this process and caused a wide range of delays and defeats, and that is the Chamorro registry. Pasted below I have a number of random articles that deal with the status of the Chamorro registry over the years. Calvo explained that the Chamorro registry, with its ambiguous and vague rules was such an insurmountable obstacle that he foresaw only his radical action as getting us around it. The Chamorro registry should be something that strengthens the process, as this is the list of those who would be able to vote when a plebiscite is actually held. This list should represent something around which education and outreach and community organizing can take place. But instead successive administrations have treated it like an irritation that they don't have time for and don't want to put resources to support. They ignored it and did nothing to promote it or help it grow and as such it sat there collecting dust and negativity for far too long.

When I submitted my name for the Chamorro registry, there was just a few hundred people on the list, and there was almost no awareness about it and no attempts to get people to add their names to the list or convince them of the importance of participating. I did not even get a pamphlet with information, just a receipt indicating that I had registered.

But the registry has also caused delays and hesitancy for another reason, because of the way it and the vote itself have been accused of violating the US Constitution. This is found most famously in the case of Dave Davis, who is accusing GovGuam of violating his constitutional rights by proposing an election and a list of voters, both of which he is potentially ineligible for. Most recently, politicians from both sides of the island have expressed concern about moving forward with any plans for decolonization until the Davis case is settled, because we may find one day that Federal Courts are suddenly hacking apart our local laws on decolonization and telling us, in a very colonial way, how we should decolonize.

The past few months, have been different in terms of the rhetoric from the Calvo administration, but it remains to be seen how long this will last. May was declared Decolonization Registration month, but this was quickly lost amidst the deluge of selfies with Rapa Nui men for FESTPAC. Now that the dust from the thousands of grass skirts has settled, we shall see if the administration keeps the movement going, or if they drop it as others have in the past.

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Guam Decolonization Supporters Back Chamorro Only Vote
By Lloyd Jojola
Pacific Daily News
August 4, 1990 

Minus a few changes, decolonization supporters yesterday endorsed legislation that would provide money to carry forward a Chamorro-only vote to determine political status for the island.

The Legislative Committee on Finance and Taxation yesterday held a public hearing on Bill 691. The proposal is expected to go before the Legislature during its next session. No date has been set.

Sponsored by Senators Willy Flores, D. Talofofo; Anothony Unpingco, R. Santa Rita; and Anthony Blaz, R. Chalan Pago/Ordot, the legislation provides funding for the Commission on Decolonization and the Chamorro Registry Advisory Board to conduct a decolonization plebiscite in October 1999, according to the proposed law.

The vote would come a decade after the people of Guam submitted the Draft Commonwealth Act to the federal government, asking to be able to determine their own political futures.

"By virtue of our being the colonized and also because we an indigenous people, we have the right to determine our political status and that of our homeland," Chris Peroz Howard, chairman of the Organization of the People for Indigenous Rights and a commission member, said as he endorsed the bill yesterday.

"We are people. And although our colonial history has altered our face and our actions, we can say with justified pride, "we are still alive after all these years," he said.

During his testimony yesterday, Howard asked that other sections be added to the bill. One mandating that Guam Del Robert Underwood withdraw the Commonwealth Act from Congress, and another that the Commission on Self-Determination be dissolved and its staff and funds be transferred to the decolonization commission. The Commission on Self-Determination was created to promote the draft Commonwealth Act.

In January 1997, public law 23-145 created the Commission on Decolonization. The commission's job ultimately is to determine what political relationship with the United States the Chamorro people of Guam now want -- independence, free association or statehood.

Three task forces set up by the commission are supposed to study each political status option. They will research their respective status option and come up with a position paper. The information will be used as part of a public information campaign before the plebiscite.

If Bill 691 passes, $475.000 in general fund money would be appropriated to the commission for the purpose of funding its operations.

The 1997 law originally set the plebiscite vote for this year. Bill 691 would push that date to October 5, 1999. Several supporters who testified yesterday urged that the date be pushed back even further.
Also under the proposed bill, $40,000 would be given to the Guam Election Commission to establish a plan for an awareness and voter registration drive. Commission chairman Joe Mesa questioned whether the money was necessary for planning purposes.

The law that created the decolonization commission defines Chamorros as inhabitants of Guam in 1898 and their descendants who have taken no steps to preserve or acquire foreign nationality. The Chamorro Registry Advisory Board, created the same year as the commission, would identify qualified voters.

As part of the proposed law, the board also would have to coordinate with the commission an intensive identification and awareness campaign and voter registration drive in preparation for the vote.

Several decolonization commission members yesterday said the education campaign is needed.
"We need a public relations effort that calls in those eligible to vote," Commission Executive Director Leland Bettis said, adding that unless eligible voters are "energized," the commission's efforts will fall on deaf ears.

Commission member Ron Rivera agreed.

"There are those who don't know a doggone thing about this, he said.


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List of those eligible to vote in self-determination plebiscite increases
By Jasmine Stole
Marianas Variety
5/23/14

Since 2011, the Guam Decolonization Registry list has grown almost sevenfold, but the list still needs some work.

As of April 2014, according to Maria Pangelinan, executive director of the Guam Election Commission, the list now has 6,569 names.

Issues with duplicate names were discussed at last week’s commission meeting. A staff member presented the commission with an update of the list and the board questioned its organization.
Pangelinan said in an interview yesterday that sometimes registrars go out and encounter people who are unsure whether they are on the list. "What we do is go ahead and register them," she said.
"Throughout the years, we’ve had duplicates. And the biggest challenge we have is that, for the Chamorro Land Trust lessees, there’s ‘Mr. and Mrs.,’" Pangelinan said. "And we don’t have any information on Mrs. So, those are our challenges."

Prior to receiving funding for the registry in 2011, only 938 people had registered, she said.
Additionally, there is only one person in charge of going through the lists and removing duplicates and merging information, although at the commission meeting he said he has received help from temporarily employed staff members within the last few months. Pangelinan added that the same person is also in charge of information technology for her office.

She said the registry list had 938 names in 2011 and in August that same year, GEC was given a list of an additional 3,843 names to be added to the list from the Chamorro Land Trust.

"According to the law, anybody that gets a Chamorro Land Trust lease, by being a lessee, (gets) to be on the registry automatically," Pangelinan said.

During 2012, when P.L. 31-244 was enacted, the registry grew by another 319. The law intended to "enhance the registration process of the Guam Decolonization Registry" by adding decolonization registrars at every polling place. It was during that election that the 319 names were added to the list.
"Even though that’s a small number compared to the total number of native inhabitants, you’ve got to admit that’s quite a bigger number from 938, which took 11 years to put on," Pangelinan said of the 6,569 names.

Pangelinan added that the law for a decolonization registry came to be in 2000 and between then and 2011 there had only been 938 names added to the list.

Alice Taijeron, vice chairwoman of the commission, acknowledged the growth of the registry at last week’s meeting but said more progress is needed. "I do see a difference in the numbers and that is a lot for one individual considering our scope of work," Taijeron said. "I think for me ... I have greater expectations and ... we want it done now, we wanted it done yesterday."

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Cruz signs up for Chamorro Registry
by Sabrina Salas Matanane
KUAM News
March 3, 2010 

Guam - Acting Governor Mike Cruz signed up for the Chamorro Registry, but hasn't just yet acted on Bill 184. The legislation provides additional clarification for the establishment dealing with the decolonization registry.  The acting governor signing up for the registry follows a letter and meeting with Senator Ben Pangelinan.

Pangelinan was requesting the acting Governor not only sign bill 184 but also reactivate the Commission on Decolonization which is responsible for spearheading a plebiscite on Chamorro Self Determination. He says now is the time to activate the group and spark dialogue about the political relationship between the U.S. and Guam.

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The Chamorro Registry and the Guam Decolonization Registry
by Selina Onedera-Salas
Letter to the Editor
Marianas Variety
January 9, 2012

THERE are two registries that were created by law to delineate the people of Guam who are entitled to self-determination. These registries are the Chamorro Registry and the Guam Decolonization Registry — neither of which is “race-based.”
The marked difference between the two is the definition of native inhabitants. In short, the Chamorro Registry defines native inhabitants as those who were inhabitants of Guam by April 11, 1899; those who were temporarily absent from the island at that time; and those who were born on the island prior to 1800 and their descendants.
The Guam Decolonization Registry defines native inhabitants as those who became U.S. Citizens by virtue of the 1950 Organic Act of Guam and their descendants.
When you hear “Chamorro-only,” keep in mind it is a phrase that is entirely inaccurate, misguided, undermining, and is a menacing misrepresentation of the mission of the Commission on Decolonization, the intent of the enabling legislation for both registries, and the many discussions that have taken place at various conferences and fora on-island and abroad.
Self-determination is not a synonym for any of the three status options, and the plebiscite is a mechanism by which the native inhabitants of Guam will now determine, for ourselves, what sort of relationship we wish to have with the United States.
Countless decisions have been made concerning our land, our water, and our airspace without sincere efforts at consultation with our people, who are left to deal with the aftermath of PCB-contamination, the effects of the Compact agreements, and wishy-washy buildup talks. These issues take effect as a result of the “status quo.” If it is change that you seek, the truest change we must impress upon is to the gray area that is beyond our Legislature and beyond Adelup — it is the gray area between the people of Guam and the government of the United States of America.
Never mind the rhetoric of how this vote is racially motivated or racially biased — that is simply ill-intended rhetoric that seeks to undermine the process of our right to self-determination. Rather than relying on false reports and/or news articles that contain strong opinions over facts, ask the right people your questions and continue to stay informed and educated on the three status options.
Regardless of your ethnic identity, you may be qualified to register for the Guam Decolonization Registry. Registration clerks are available at the Guam Election Commission and at the office of Sen. Ben Pangelinan in Hagåtña.

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