Sunday, July 03, 2016

Tales of Decolonization #16: Political Status Debate

For years nothing much happened in terms of decolonization advocacy at the governmental level. I wish I couldn't make this statement, but it is unfortunately true. The issue fizzled out towards the end of Governor Gutierrez's last term, and received close to no attention during Governor Camacho's time in office. Even, the island's current chief executive, Governor Calvo, who is currently pushing for a decolonization vote in the near future, did very little for the majority of his term. While it is good to see him coming around on the issue, it has to be acknowledged, that with so little coordinated efforts for so long, it would take a great deal of resources and focus to make up for lost time. It remains to be seen if Governor Calvo recognizes this fact and will do what is necessary to make his current goals a reality.

During that time, those in civil society and in particular in academia in Guam did what we could to make up the difference. Every year, either myself or Dr. Lisa Natividad in Social Work at UOG organize a number of events, some large, some small around the issue of decolonization. Organizations in the community such as Nasion Chamoru or Our Islands Are Sacred have also taken up the task, holding teach-ins or demonstrations.

Most recently, a panel discussion was held during FESTPAC on the topic of Guam's decolonization and the three political status options. I was unfortunately off island during the event, but i nobia-hu Dr. Isa Kelley Bowman was able to attend and wrote up the extensive live-blog that you'll find below. This was the first time in probably more than a decade that an event such as this was held, to bring together the three status options, independence, integration and free association, to have a substantive discussion with the community about the future of Guam.

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 I will be live-blogging from the University of Guam for this final decolonization debate.  Hamyo ma’åse’ to LisaLinda Natividad, Lisa Baza, Teresita Flores, Edward Duenas, Jose Garrido, Victoria-Lola Leon Guerrero, and all who helped make this a reality.  The Festival of the Pacific Arts is a time for celebrating Pacific art and culture, but it is also, or should also be, a time for intellectual debate and discussion, even the difficult or challenging questions.  So I am very happy to see events like this evening’s panel and the Indigenous Languages Conference which provide this kind of space as well within FestPac.

6:05 – The chairs/co-chairs of the three task forces from the governor’s Commission on Decolonization (statehood: Edward Duenas; free association: Joe Garrido; independence: Victoria-Lola Leon Guerrero) are scheduled to meet in this panel debate.  We are in the CLASS Lecture Hall at UOG.  Dr. LisaLinda Natividad is leading the session.

6:09 – Former Senator Edward Duenas (chair of the task force on statehood) is setting up a PPT on topics including the 1945 UN Charter which called for Guam to seek self-determination and described it as a non-self-governing territory.  There is a website called which also contains much of the information from his PowerPoint.  A group of three young women is performing songs including “Chamorrita Girl,” “Hagu,” and “Koronan Flores.”

6:18 – We haven’t started yet.  I am taking a break from blogging to read from Avril Bell’s book on settler identities while waiting for the debate to begin.

6:25 – Oooh, “An Gumupu i Paluma”!  Great songs.

6:38 – Opening kulo’ call and songs, recitation of “Fanoghe Chamoru” and the “Inifresi” by Inetnon Gefpå’go and Vince Reyes. Lisa Baza and Lisa Natividad are opening the panel discussion now: “Implications of Status Options for Guåhan.”  The documentary The Insular Empire: America in the Marianas is available for sale following this event from former Guam Senator Hope Cristobal.

6:42 – Former Republican senator Edward Ramirez Duenas will be the first speaker.  He has a distinguished career in the Guam Legislature and in U.S. military service.

6:44 – Former senator Edward Duenas takes the platform to begin his presentation and speaks as following:  This subject matter is of paramount importance to the people of Guam.  Our evolution politically and socially as an emerging people.  We must look back to 1898 and the beginning of Guam developing as a free society through naval and civilian governors following the take-over by the U.S.  Quo vadis?  Where do we go from here?  The political emergence of Guam.  The 1945 U.N. charter that provides for the “inhabitants” of Guam to determine their “ultimate” political status.

6:48 – Señot Duenas discusses the political evolution of Guam, including the establishment of the Guam Congress as an advisory body in 1917 and the determination by the Navy in 1908 that the people of Guam would eventually be granted U.S. citizenship.  In 1931, the first general election was held on Guam — for the Guam Congress.  1936: Leon Guerrero and Bordallo go to D.C., meet with President Roosevelt; over 1900 residents of Guam sign a petition urging the U.S. Congress to enact citizenship legislation; citizenship bill dies in committee.  1949: Guam Congress walkout in protest over civil rights, revived Guam’s drive for self-government and U.S. citizenship.  1960: first governor of Chamorro ancestry, appointed by Pres. Nixon — Gov. Joseph Flores.  1969: first Guam Consitutional Convention.  1970: Guam elected its first civilian chief executive officer — Gov. Carlos Camacho.  1980: Señot Duenas himself authored the Commission on Self-Determination, enacted by the Guam Legislature; status options included commonwealth and status quo.

6:54 – Señot Duenas continues to discuss political evolution of Guam.  1982: self-determination plebiscite held, commonwealth favored.  1997: Guam Decolonization Commission established, authored by then-senator Hope Cristobal.

6:59 – What does statehood mean for Guam?  An option included like a package deal, no guessing game.  Full integration into the U.S. on equal footing — equal, just like the other fifty states in the Union now.  State sovereignty, independence in a sense.  Total autonomy and control of all state affairs.  Due process of law; rights to bear arms; jury trial for civil litigation; etc.  National defense handled by the U.S. armed forces.  Free enterprise, free market, use of U.S. currency.  Private property rights guaranteed by the U.S. constitution.  Economic and political security would be assured.  Equality with all other states.  Be treated equally, just as New York or Hawaii or Oregon.  Right to vote for president and vice president, votes in Senate and House.  Permanent U.S. citizenship: what we now have was granted by Congress legislation and could be wiped out by Congress repealing that law if it should so decide.  No one, no one could take it away from us, unless you commit treason or some other huge crime.

7:00 – Statehood would also mean equal opportunity to access federal money, revenue sharing from federal government in return for state tax, etc.  Most states receive more than what they pay in federal income tax according to Señot Duenas.  Earned Income Tax Credit would be 100% federally funded (currently “is paid by local funds in the millions”).  Territories typically receive much lower federal funding than states, according to law.  Having a House representative and two senators able to vote in the U.S. Congress would allow Guam to directly introduce funding measures for itself and leverage their voting power in Congress.  Island would have environmental protection at the federal level.  Fishery and wildlife protection under federal jurisdiction.

7:04 – Jesus in Little America, autobiography of Jesus Sablan Leon Guerrero, founder and president of the Bank of Guam.  “Our forefathers were right in hanging on to our U.S. connection . . . We will become full-fledged members of the American family — the strongest, biggest, and most powerful democratic form of government in the world.”  A simple man with a vision of Guam’s tomorrow.  “Jesus is a Chamorro-American in Little America.”  Señot Duenas concludes his presentation.

7:06 – Ms. Baza introduces Señot Jose Ulloa Garrido, chair of the task force on free association.  He is a Manenggon concentration camp survivor who served 1964-67 in the U.S. military and was a journeyman industrial mechanic.  Currently, he is a historic preservation specialist in the Department of Parks and Recreation.  In 1997 he began as a major in Chamorro language, history, and culture with a minor in Pacific Studies at UOG and is still an aspiring student of Guam’s history.  He is an advocate for Chamorro self-determination, land rights, war reparations, status change, and the reunification of the Marianas.  He is active in activist groups including Nasion Chamoru.

7:10 – Señot Garrido begins: Guam is a bilingual, trilingual U.S. colony.  And in some cases the languages that we learn are enforced upon us.  We learn well.  I learned well.  I spoke English only starting at the age of seven when I began going to the Asan naval school.  In those days when we spoke Chamorro we were punished — and so I learned well.

7:12 – Señot Jose Garrido: I am not an expert in political status, I like to remind you.  I want to answer every question you ask tonight to the best of my ability.  Freedom of land.  Democracy.  Many important words based on the rights of land.  Sometimes those are semantics that don’t mean anything to other people whose only job is to colonize nations around the world.  We have been colonized since 1668 and we’re STILL colonized.  Tonight may be a starting point in our decolonization.  I will try my best to be part of that.  I don’t believe that I will live to see Guam be free from colonialism and the Mariana Islands reunited as we were once.  I think there’s some kind of advance warning that tonight’s focus would be decolonizing citizenship, immigration, foreign policy, and cultural survival.

7:14 – Señot Jose Garrido – I don’t like writing, most of the time.  I like to read.  And by reading, hopefully I can remember most of the things I’m going to say tonight, with honor, and respect from you.  Dangkolu’ este na decision — na’libren maisa hit — sa’ apmam esta.  Gof maolek para hita.  Sagan mumumu.  [Señot Garrido begins speaking in Chamorro.  I will try to summarize or capture phrases from his speech as possible for me.]  Tåya’ mantikiya.  Håyi ma’fifino’ Chamoru?  If you can understand it, you can understand colonization.  But purely fino’ Ingles for this discussion?  I Taotao ManColoniza.  Who is the subject of decolonization?  Who are we, marching on in this process to decolonize?  After being colonized for over three hundred years?  Who among us can stand up and say that I am left individually?  I am the descendants of those people who were here in 1668 when atrocities and genocides were committed in order for us to be quiet, to succumb to the desires and governance of the most sadistic nation on earth in 1668, and that is Spain.  Spain killed 85% of our people through direct hostilities, in arms, and guns, and starvation, destroying villages, killing the community.

7:20 – I cannot claim that I am 100% Chamorro.  But the common denominator of all my compatriots is that our mothers are Chamorro.  This is the focus and these are the people to be decolonized sometime in the future if Congress so decides.

7:21 – Señot Garrido – Free association is a form of independence.  Shared sovereignty where we enumerated certain rights for the U.S. to take, to act.  We have seven or nine federal bases here on Guam.  Over a third of our islands is occupied by the military.  One hundred percent is under the jurisdiction of the United States.  This is the focus of our decolonization.  So, what is free association?  A political status established by the United Nations.  Somehow tailor-made for small nations, for small islands, who are still colonized by the world powers.  The basis of the decolonization process that we know of today.  Guam fits that framework of that political status, the shared sovereignty.

7:27 – Señot Garrido – A free association treaty or compact with the United States so that it did not have any jurisdiction in the internal affairs of Guam.  We would be an independent nation.  For over a hundred years, we have been freely associated with the U.S. in some form or another except independence.  Ninety to a hundred thousand of our people live there.  Free association fits that model.  For over twenty years, I have been researching this.  Independence is a political status that I think the U.S. would not grant.  Other than through bloodshed, killing, rioting in the streets.  Statehood, my cousin (Mr. Duenas) did a very good presentation, if you will consider, what is the focus of decolonization and who has the paramount interest?  In statehood, you would be engulfed, integrated within the bigger union of the United States.  I sure hope that there’d be some kind of a provision in the state of Guam that would assure the survival of our culture and our people; we have already seen what happened to all the indigenous peoples of the United States — it’s not good — and closer to home, the Hawai’ians are still struggling for some form of sovereignty: I’m pretty sure they will not achieve that.

7:30 – Señot Garrido – Free association is an internationally recognized political status recognizing Guam’s political sovereignty.  Guam delegates to the U.S. certain powers, usually security and defense matters, in return for foreign, economic, and security aid and obligations.  When Guam becomes a freely associated state, there will already be a financial assistance guarantee that goes along with that transition, as opposed to when you become fully independent right then and there.  One more thing — one of the most popular questions asked of me is what are we going to use for money? — Well, I hate to disturb your perspective, but Guam will retain the use of the U.S. dollar as its official currency.  The other popular question is what would happen to lands under federal jurisdiction? — Free association makes Guam as sovereign nation, accepted as a member of the United Nations (freely associated states are considered independent by the U.N.).  Those of us who are retired from the military and getting social security, I can tell you, that the U.N. would provide Guam with a block grant equaling the amount of money we currently receive from the U.S. with future increases that may be negotiated.  You will continue to receive pensions and social security, regardless.  I wish I had at least three hours so that I could try to convince you that the best political status in the best of both worlds is free association.  I am really, really convinced.  Because there are other options that I don’t think the U.S. is teaching our kids — a temporary transitional status.  In the future when we’ve created a better Guam and a more solid foundation, in the best interests of the people of Guam, our future generation will decide the best political status they want for themselves and our future — not us — we’re just making the way forward.  Si Yu’os må’åse’.

7:33 – Ms. Baza introduces Victoria-Lola Leon Guerrero, co-chair of the task force on independence.  Managing editor of the UOG press, teaches Women and Gender Studies, and has taught at UOG, Mills College, and Southern High School.  Has published children’s book, short stories, essays, and co-edited an anthology, all relating to Chamorro culture.  Actively involved in engaging the community to fight for Chamorro self-determination and express their concerns about the U.S. military buildup.

7:35 – Ms. Leon Guerrero: Historic tonight, haven’t had a forum like this in decades.  If we as an island community are to make a decision on this in the near future, we need to be informed.  Dr. Natividad asked us to speak on the economy, citizenship, cultural survival, etc., so she will focus on answering those questions.  Close to 200 independent nations in the world today, many visiting during FestPac are independent and chose their independence.  More than eighty former colonies (750 million people) have gained independence since 1945 and the formation of the United Nations.  Most people in the world have chosen their own independence, their own citizenship, over statehood.  Since 1846, 88% of places chose independence, 92% of populace chose independence.  It really is the most desirable choice.  Independence is the most genuine decolonization you could achieve.  The passionate yearning for freedom in all dependent peoples — U.N. — this is why the U.N. is working toward decolonization.  Nauru, only 10,000 people, chose independence.  “Do you regret choosing independence?”  — “Absolutely not, why would anyone ever regret freedom?”  Singapore and Luxembourg are tiny independent nations and are extremely wealthy.  In many places, independence has equaled economic prosperity.

7:39 – Ms. Leon Guerrero: you’re not alone in the world — you can still work with other places.  As independent nations, we would work with whatever partners we chose toward economic stability.  Bank of Guam, 2000, Bradley study – analyzed economic impact of each option — independence provides the greatest latitude for Guam to achieve its goals in defining and pursuing their own destiny with the greatest economic possibilities.  Guam does have resources.  Our land, for example.  Currently, the best land for development is in the north, held by the U.S. federal government and thus unavailable for civilian development.  Most of this land lies idle and/or has been terribly polluted by the military.  Projected $1.1 billion in revenue annually if that land opened up for tourism and other economic pursuits.

7:42 – Ms. Leon Guerrero – Philippines, self-sufficient, relations with other countries, independent from U.S.  Vanuatu established its own federal reserve and currency and became a tax haven for other countries.  We too would have those options as independent nation.  They achieved this over thirty years ago; we can learn from their mistakes.  Guam’s sovereignty would allow us relations with other Asian and Pacific nations to generate more economic growth that we currently don’t have because of the U.S. presence here, unlimited by (for example) the Jones Act which makes imports so much more expensive.

7:43 – Ms. Leon Guerrero – we would still be able to have military here, leasing to them, taking back excess lands they had stolen, to benefit us economically or be returned to families from which they were stolen.  Exclusive Economic Zone – control over this would add many benefits, trade, sea, controlling who and what comes in and out of our port and airport, those fees charged to ships porting here or tourists would go to our people.  None of those fees currently go to our people.  We would see the benefits ourselves.  Profit made on Guam would stay on Guam (or most of it would) — businesses from elsewhere could be taxed.  Vanuatu taxes not its citizens but the business owners making millions billions, from hotels.  Right now we basically give everything away.  Amount of profit going to big industries not from here, going off island, while our government spends the money to support them.

7:46 – Ms. Leon Guerrero – U.N. said political, economic, and social stability would be the U.S.’s responsibility before it left Guam to self-determination.  Our intense dependence on everything American was forced on us.  U.S. has responsibility.  Philippines’ transitional period was ten years long.  Considering how long Guam has been colonized, we would negotiate with the U.S. a transitional period that would be long enough to work these things out.  Retirement income is an existing contract that wouldn’t be voided for an individual just because of island status change; the U.S. must fulfill its end of that bargain.  Transitional period.

7:48 – Industry – our biggest industry is tourism, currently stifled by poor U.S. relations with Russia, China, etc.  We could re-envision our basis for tourism, perhaps more eco-centered like Palau.  Not the concrete jungle and the big name brands.  People would be interested in our unique culture.  Re-envision how we market ourselves.  Military — Status Forces Agreement to be negotiated.  Guam currently has no negotiating power with the U.S.  If we were independent, they would have to come to an agreement in which we would be able to say yes or no, and they would have to respect that.  We could set the terms for what the military could test and dump in the environment, could force them to clean everything up before they could use the bases.  How will Guam defend itself?  We would still have smaller military bases.  We have a large national guard, which is suppsoed to be based here to defend us.  We have no enemies, unlike the U.S. which causes the bombs to be targeted at us.  Nations are not targeting Guam or the people of Guam, but the U.S. and its offensive presence in the region.  We don’t really need a huge military presence.

7:50 – options for citizenship: full Guam citizenship; dual arrangement with U.S. (many of us are already U.S. citizens), similar to Israel’s agreement with the U.S.  All could be negotiated in this transitional period.  Immigration: economic benefit for charging visa fees.  Could perhaps travel now to places where U.S. citizens are currently unwelcome.  The U.S. passport isn’t a golden ticket in many nations outside the U.S.  Many international students in U.S. college (Victoria retained her Guam residency in college).  Foreign policy: huge benefit — be able to negotiate in our region, have a seat at the U.N., more control over trade.  Create a sense of peace.  I don’t feel safe knowing there is a bomb called a Guam Killer out there.  Places our ancestors historically had very positive trading relations with in our Pacific region.  Use the ocean in a way that benefited us, not aggressively in a military sense.

7:53 – recently the U.S. gave the FSM jurisdiction over the deepest part of the Marianas Trench and Guam wasn’t even invited to the discussion.  Ensure cultural survival as our own unique place.  Language mandated in the schools.  Create a much better educational system — U.S. system is very low ranked globally.  Create a curriculum centered on who we are as Chamorro people, centered on community or family based learning and healthy ways of living.  Those are the countries ranked highest, like France and Finland, centering on a whole person and his/her unique cultural identity in the world.  Ensure that we teach the language to all, keep this island alive.  For most of our four-thousand-year-history, we were independent and we spoke Chamorro.  Si Yu’os ma’åse’.

7:55 – Panel discussion is being set up onstage.  Dr. Lisa Natividad calls up the three panelists.  Question cards are being passed out to the audience.

7:59 – First question: How can we get hotels to start paying taxes?  Señot Duenas says they are already, 7% of gross income.  Ms. Leon Guerrero says they get tax breaks and qualifying certificates even through hosting military members, incentives to continue doing business on Guam.  Señot Garrido says most hotels are not paying taxes the way they should, way too many qualifying certificates being given out: key to make sure all pay their fair share, enforce the current laws.  Provide benefits to local artists, require new hotels to at least buy art products from local artists, some hotels are not doing that and there is no enforcement of the law.  Al Israel said he wasn’t getting qualifying certificates, I don’t know how true that is, but good for him; for others, pay your tax or we’re coming after you.

8:01 – Next question: What are the steps to educating the public on political status options?  Also, what do you think is the most difficult part of the current so-called education of the people of Guam on decolonization?  Señot Garrido: Commission has already established some procedures, media, radio, video; most difficult part is how to change the mentality of the people, to decolonize not only our political status but also our minds so we can accept what we are learning.  Ms. Leon Guerrero: The governor’s office is planning an educational outreach, town hall meetings, registering people for the Decolonization Registry.  Need one-to-one dialogue, go door to door.  Not just sound bites or brochures.  We’re not necessarily the experts.  There are people who are experts in the economy, defense, travel and tourism — we need to trust in our own people who have that expertise to really do this analysis.  Concrete, tangible reasons to support status change — get that out to the masses — must be very targeted, not just an open invitation.  We have to go to where they’re at.  Must learn from sister nations who have achieved independence, learn more about the world outside Guam and the U.S.  As an educator, I believe that self-determination should be taught in every subject.  We are capable and we must come to believe that.  Señot Duenas: disappointed to see so many empty chairs around here.  How do we get people interested to come out?  Producing brochures, ads in the papers, on TV, mailing lists.  Mass education is very important but also very difficult, attracting our people to come out and listen.  Señot Garrido: start in early education in elementary school, all the way to the university, although the university is already doing this.  Many things we need to do.  For example — educate the political science professor before he educates the students — some of them when Señot Garrido was a student were greatly discouraging.  There was no classroom discussion.  Grassroots approach of public education.  Speak Chamorro to the elders and those fluent.  Be honest, tell the truth, what we have in store.  Last time, free association and independence were highly discouraged during discussions in village meetings.  Señot Garrido researched the minutes of the meeting and was highly disappointed.  A representative traveled to Saipan to find out what other Chamorros up there thought.  They asked our delegate, “What other political status options are there for the people to discuss, free association, independence?”  And the representative said was only there to deal with the U.S., not independence.

Responses:
Señot Duenas — the United States has been ignoring its responsibilities.  “Ultimate Status” or “Terminal Status” must be chosen by the people.  The status quo is just an in-between, we’re not getting anywhere with that, it won’t be included in the upcoming plebiscite.  Five options were placed on the ballot last time, including status quo and commonwealth.  But not this time.  I’m afraid our hands are tied by the United Nations and we only have three choices.  Señot Garrido: United Nations has established we must have self-government.  Our choices are only three, to be voted on by the colonized people of Guam.  The three options came out of the resolution 1541, I believe, establishing the definitions of these three options.  Inscribed in Res. 1541.  Not same description we have today, have been twisted around to suit the needs of the activists and the applicants in the public bill that was passed.  Originally, free association with an independent state as a result of a free and voluntary choice by the people of the territory through a free and democratic process.  Statehood, full equality between peoples of non-self-governing-territory and those of the governing state.  I don’t think I remember all the questions, I don’t think it’s a good idea to lump all these questions together.  Ms. Leon Guerrero: The U.S. hasn’t only done nothing, but it has actively been a huge obstacle in the process.  Esther Kiaaina has recently given us $300,000, nothing relatively considering their obligation in the process.  A collective, community-based effort is absolutely essential.  More needs to be done.  A collective caring.  Must be made much more important in our community.  Apathy is our biggest obstacle.  So much easier to just ignore it and not think of change.  Change is for the better though.  We’re really good at organizing as a community for family or village events, so how do we interact on this topic?  The next plebiscite would be determined according to Guam law and the Commission on Decolonization with the governor’s office and the legislature.  Not one person’s choice.  The political will really isn’t there for the plebiscite now.  Need a community interest that is vivid and alive and in every space or it’s not a genuine act of decolonization.  Can’t be just a hot topic for a week, must really matter.  Status quo is not an option, because we are a colony, why would we choose to be a territory, unincorporated, belonging to somebody else?  Why would anybody not want to be free?  Our comfort zone really isn’t that comfortable.  People are hesitant to change the status quo.  Very difficult to become a state, as UN defines, full integration, Congress would determine that, it could look very much like status quo actually.

8:11 – Next question for the panel: We have forty questions so Dr. Natividad will be grouping similar ones together.  The U.S. as an administering power has a responsibility to decolonize Guam — what has it done to prepare the people of Guam?  What is being done in terms of a collective, community-based campaign on Guam and the diaspora to spark the consciousness and imaginations of our people?  When is the next plebiscite?  Who will vote, all of Guam or only indigenous Chamoro people?  How will the Commission make a decision on the people’s readiness?  Will status quo be an option for voters?

8:23 – Panel continues discussion.  Ms. Leon Guerrero: Whatever we choose, our law says the next step is the governor presenting it to Congress, so we still don’t have actualized free choice.  Señot Garrido: free association is tailor-made for islands like Guam, most small island nations are freely associated, like New Zealand and Nauru who are independent but have very close ties to Australia.  CNMI controls its own immigration, are freely associated, agreed in their self-determination to become a commonwealth of the U.S.  The U.S. brought into the covenant with the CNMI a provision to control immigration.  But immigration should be a core element for a sovereign state; how are you sovereign if you can’t control your own immigration?  CNMI is asking to be listed among non-self-governing territories again with the UN because the U.S. is a hypocrite nation, it doesn’t practice what it preaches.  President Obama always talks about respecting sovereignty of other nations he visits, and at the same time colonizes our island.

8:26 – next question – There are many people now calling Guam home not originally from here.  Will they have input on transition to new political status?  Question of self — how do we determine who qualifies as Chamorro for the vote?  Señot Duenas: Plebiscite is not “Chamorro-only” although I often hear it so described.  Predominantly, granted, the voters would be Chamorros, but not exclusively, there were non-Chamorros here in 1950 also who qualify.  Specifically if you became an American citizen due to the Organic Act of 1950, then you and your descendants qualify, not about your blood flowing through your veins, it is a political definition.  Question from audience: Is this Chamorro self-determination, or Guamanian, or what? — Señot Duenas: Native inhabitants of Guam is the definition.  Audience member: it’s not a self-determination for me, I’m a Chamorro.  Ms. Leon Guerrero: Really important to understand that most of the people affected by the Organic Act were Chamorro, but actually the way the current law on the plebiscite is written, it specifically says it is not a Chamorro-only vote.  Correcting a historical wrong, and those who were harmed should right the wrong.  And that really is our Chamorro people.  Chamorros themselves tell her they don’t want to join the Registry because it’s not fair, or because it’s racist.  But this is a right we have.  Those who come to Guam have made Chamorros more and more of a minority in our homeland, why are foreigners who maybe moved here last week have the same rights as the descendants of millennia-old inhabitants of the island?  It is the Chamorro people who were colonized, not settlers from the U.S.  Settlers perpetuate the structural colonialism that continues.  They won’t be kicked out.  They are important in this conversation.  Filipinos will soon overtake Chamorros in the census on Guam.  We respected the Philippines’ right for self-determination; we’re just saying respect ours as well.  Señot Garrido: the only people qualified to vote are the “native inhabitants” from the 1898 Treaty of Paris and 1950 Organic Act, that was the language used.  The descendants of the people the US found here on Guam in 1898.  Anyone with us since that time, or their descendants, is qualified certainly.  Respect our rights and let us proceed with our decolonization, if you are a more recent immigrant.  If not, the only thing I can say to you, is get out of my way, I am moving forward.  It’s all semantics.  People in opposition to our decolonization would use the race card, tell us we’re racist.  Little do they know, they are the ones who are racist and hurt us.  I’m reading through a legal description of those who are qualified.  If there’s going to be a making of a nation, there has to be a population.  A territory cannot be a nation.  If Gov. Calvo chose to declare independence tomorrow, he could.  That would be legal.  So far I haven’t seen any Maga’låhi Hurao or Chief Mata’pang to lead this march, but there will be soon.

8:36 – Former Senator Hope Cristobal speaks from the audience:  We are exercising a very fundamental human right.  Not about a civil right.  A human right.  For the first time in the history of a people, a four thousand year history, we will be exercising our human right to determine our political destiny.  It is qualitatively a different kind of vote.  As a group of people, once we determine our political destiny, it’s a foregone conclusion.  We will not be exercising this right every election year.  The United States in 1776, Philippines in 1947.  And then it’s done and over with.  We have to move forward.  It’s not a decision to exclude people, but to resolve a historical denial of a people’s right.  And fundamentally it inheres in the self that was colonized.  On October 1, 1950, the US recognized that it had a people to resolve this historical denial of a fundamental right and they held a census so they knew exactly who would be affected by the law to make us citizens of the US.  One month later, exactly thirty days later, the land inventory was appended.  To legitimize the land takings that today are in the hands of the US military.

8:39 – For Señot Duenas and Señot Garrido – Approval is still at the discretion of Congress – have your task forces received any advisement from Congress?  Also, I heard a lot about our benefits, but what will the U.S. gain?  What does Guam have to offer them in return?  Señot Duenas: Guam is very important in the national defense posture of the US.  Alaska is very important because of its proximity to Russia and that’s why it became a state, buffer zone against advances in Cold War era.  Hawai’i very similar, defense in Pacific.  Guam has a lot more to offer in view of everything happening in this area of the Pacific, “tip of the spear,” close to Asia, China, Korea, all the possible threats to US security.  Major role in defense of the US nation.  What can Guam contribute?  A big plus for the US.  Lots of US industry based here to do business with Asia and Pacific Rim because of our proximity.  Señot Garrido: A genuine, fundamental discussion regarding our colonization and the question of decolonization.  It’s very clear that, by some representatives of the Justice Department and the Constitution of the US, Guam does not have the authority to change its political status.  We can talk, but our vote will be nonbinding (our plebiscite).  It does not hold a grain of salt in Congress.  Only the U.S. has the authority to change our political status: Guam does not.  It’s unfortunate, because the U.S. has had the obligation to change our political status and has not done so.  Are supposed to educate us to the widest extreme about our development as a self-governing island.  We’re still colonized.  Only Congress has the power to change our status.  What Guam has to offer.  Guam and the Marianas have a bigger EEG and air space that perhaps only two states in the US can match or surpass, Texas and Alaska.  Something like 800,000 square miles of not land but air space.  We have three US military bases larger than 8000 acres.  Something like 21000 to 23000 acres total.  Fena, Orote, AAFB.  Combined total worth is probably $200-300 billion.  US government is not paying a single cent of rent for them at present.  It’s called strategic location, location, location.  Kwajalein, Marshall Islands – has a similar important base – may be the only one among freely associated states.  Could declare independence and evict the US and offer the base to another country.  We have the only live-fire bombing range for the US military in the Pacific.  What do we have to offer?  A lot.  We have nine military bases here on Guam for which they are paying no rent.  If we are going to require them to pay rent, we can require $500-800 million annually in rent.  We’re going to require full local employment, which hasn’t so far been done on Guam, many contractors don’t even have to pay us taxes.  We’re afraid to make the bases angry at us.  Anyone to do construction in AAFB.  Our last Rev & Tax director said $200 million in taxes owed by the US to Guam and we have not collected it.

8:53 – Over twenty questions left for the panelists.  Dr. Natividad says we will end by 9:40 at the latest.

8:55 – Two questions for Victoria Leon Guerrero.  Fear that non-Chamorro residents will vote for independence, win, and link our government with an Asian country or be taken over by a larger country in our area.  What are the chances of that?  What happens with independence to Guamanians, are they forced to leave, or will they be ruled by Chamorros if they stay, or may they live freely on Guam? — Ms. Leon Guerrero: Right now, non Chamorros may not vote in the plebiscite.  Legally it can’t happen.  The governor tried to make it happen, so we realize there is that possibility.  Must understand the political will of the native inhabitants of Guam to be protected.  Entering into relations as an independent nation would have to be determined down the road, Ms. Leon Guerrero has not immediate answer.  We would determine in our constitution and government all the status of people on Guam in the future.  Never heard any supporter of independence want at all to kick everyone out, not at all something we would choose.


8:57 – A question for Señot Duenas / Statehood – Resurgence of native Hawai’ian pride and anti-American sentiment, is statehood really the most viable for a people marginalized for 300+ years?  Statehood means US free movement between states, double taxation of federal and state tax; also, Hawai’i is not 92% non-native: do you want that for Guam?  — Señot Duenas: In the case of Hawai’i, their government was overthrown.  Having your own culture here, I don’t see any conflict with becoming a state.  Right now, the US government is becoming very conscious and sensitive with regard to cultural access and preservation.  Joe Garrido is a historical preservation officer right now employed by the US government for ancient Chamorro artifacts.  They are very sensitive about perpetuating the culture, have a program for language arts that can promote the teaching of Chamorro, even here in the university.

9:01 – For Señot Garrido – Has independence ever been achieved following free association for a territory?  — Señot Garrido – there are only three freely associated states with the US right now.  The freely associated states of the US are independent in terms of membership in the UN.  If they were not independent, they would not be granted membership in the UN general assembly.  Free association is closely related to independence.  Ms. Lola’s description showed the resemblance of what she was saying to a process of free association.  Both independence and free association have their similar elements.  Free association has a termination element in it, self-government and independence is non-negotiable.  FSM, Marshalls and Palau can quit free association at any time with a simple notification to the US.  Chuuk is on its way to declaring that it wants independence.  “If you don’t like it, we quit.”

9:04 – Señot Duenas says both free association and independence are really independence.  Free association – leaves the door open to associate with another.  I agree with my friend Joe here.  Could decide to associate with Japan or another country also, doesn’t have to be the US.  Even with statehood, to become a state, you must be totally assimilated as part of the Union.  That’s where the Commonwealth comes in, just a step in the direction of closer association with the US.

9:07 – Final question – For all three panelists: Please give one reason why I should vote for your status option.  Señot Duenas: If you like maintaining your present situation, your citizenship as an American, statehood would open the way for that purpose.  Statehood would make the citizenship we have now permanent.  Our current citizenship is temporary.  Was speaking with attorney general — what would happen if Guam moved toward free association or independent?  Would lose citizenship unless it was done under the US constitution.  We are a creature of Congress, if one of these days Congress has a big headache . . . Señot Garrido: Free association is the best of both worlds.  Doesn’t mean you fall under the sovereignty of the US.  The common denominator of free association and independence is Chamorro sovereignty.  Remember that.  In statehood, I’m sorry to my cousin, but it has no such common denominator.  Chamorro sovereignty is not inscribed in statehood.  You become extinct eventually.  If you want to change your ethnicity or your cultural identity, then become a state and get lost in the US.  Ms. Leon Guerrero: Because we’re worth it.  We deserve nothing less than to be free and sovereign in our own land.  That’s what our ancestors had and that’s what I want for my children.

9:10 – Dr. Natividad is closing the panel discussion.  Thank you and good night!


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