Friday, October 07, 2016

Stray Thoughts on Reunification

If you ask just about any Chamorro about their thoughts on reunification or the unification of the Marianas Islands, they would most likely all say "Hunggan, gof maolek enao. Hu gof sapotte enao." In the past, differences between the islands due to colonial divisions and anger over treatment during World War II may have kept Chamorros from the north and the south apart, but that isn't really the case anymore. There maystill  be some latent feelings of superiority that people of one island may have over another, because they feel culturally, linguistically or technologically superior, but even that is started to fade at the political level as all the Marianas Islands are basically territories of the United States now, one with more power than the other.

So while common sense has changed on this issue, there has been little substantive efforts. All governors of Guam that I can remember have at some point expressed interest in unifying the Marianas Islands. They have said so because of culturally similarities, nationalist interests, looking to a decolonized and united future. But what always surprises me is how the leaders who express these things forget that they are the island's leaders, not some random person gi kanton chalan. When leaders express things that they think are good for the island, they have the responsibility to try to make them happen.

Imagine what it would look like if these thoughts, these aspirations were focused? Had a more formal form, rather than simply being pleasant statements of unity that deny realities?

Reunification of the Marianas Islands is very possible, but it would take a great deal of work and require some difficult decisions. But as Guam is pushing stronger than every for the first time in more than a decade for decolonization, and as the CNMI itself has approved the forming of a commission to study the possibility of revisiting their covenant with the United States, no time would be better to try to push seriously for this.

I mina'tuge' yu' nu este, annai hu sodda' este na kattan gaseta ginen 2006.

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Some stray thoughts on reunification
by Felix Aguon
Special to the Saipan Tribune
May 15, 2006

Have you ever asked yourself the question as to why Guam is separated from the rest of the Mariana Islands? Geographically, Guam is about 50 miles south of the island of Rota, about 110 miles south of the island of Tinian and about 128 miles south of the island of Saipan. Since those three islands constitute what has recently been called the Northern Mariana Islands, does that make Guam, the Southern Marianas? Hmmm.

I believe that if you ask any Chamorro living on the island of Guam if we consider ourselves the people of the Southern Mariana Island of Guam you may get a cold stare right back. In fact you will probably get a lot of resistance from the Guam people if you refer to them as Micronesians. To Guam people, Micronesians are those from the islands south or southeast of Guam.

I can recall when the former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in the 1970s made a remark something to the affect of “who cares about 100,000 Micronesians anyway.” In retrospect, I believe he may have been referring to the people of Guam rather than the people of Micronesia. This was about the time when then President Gerald Ford gave permission for Guam to begin talks for a possible commonwealth status that was eventually afforded to the CNMI. History tells us that the leadership of Guam lacked the insight to get this on our plate and we may have lost the opportunity forever. After all Guam had a Democratic governor at the time.

Although many of us share a common past in the area, there have been many events that have happened over the past century that have brought us to where we are today. For instance, Guam became a possession of the United States as part of an agreement with Spain by conquest following the Spanish-American War in 1898. As a possession of the United States because of the events of World War II, Guam came under the control of the Empire of Japan from December 1941 to about August 1944. In July 1944, a large contingent of U.S. forces stormed the shores of western Guam to liberate the island and bring it back into U.S. control.

All in all, we do have a common past and you’d think that the common past we have would make a difference in efforts to try to unify. Together, Guam and the CNMI can form a strong alliance. With this, we could gain a little influence on the worldwide scheme of things rather than be divided, with only a portion of the strength we would have otherwise. As a youth I knew that the CNMI existed because I had some friends who were born and raised on Saipan. In fact, one of my best friends is from there and has offered me a better insight into what the people of the CNMI were like before I eventually ventured into the area.

For whatever the reason, many Guam people disliked the people of Saipan in the past and were never fearful of saying so in public to other people in Guam. Believe it or not there were always a choice few who were not afraid to say this in front of people from Saipan and as embarrassing as it was, this would be uttered time and again. I am not exactly sure if this sentiment still exists in our younger generation but I will not be surprised to hear that it has been passed from parent to child, just as every ill and fault of the world often is.

Power in politics is prevalent throughout the region, where we elect our leaders based on some kind of feeling we think they have about us. Each and every leader in both Guam and the CNMI knows that what power they have is something that they are very reluctant to give up or hand over to another. This is probably one of the reasons why many of the leaders in the CNMI do not look forward to meeting with leaders from Guam to discuss the possible reunification of the entire Marianas. Think about it? Would you be willing to give up control over territory you have jurisdiction over to someone else who may exclude you from any involvement in a leadership role? I really wonder.

In the CNMI, each of the islands—Saipan, Tinian and Rota—have two Senate representatives. If Rota and Tinian work together they could overpower efforts by Saipan to impose its will on either of them if an issue were to come up where it could only benefit Saipan and not Rota or Tinian. Truly, that is indeed strength and power and something difficult to just unload on an entity with a greater population than the entire NMI, which is what Guam has.

Do you think that Guam politicians are above those types of antics and would allow fair play and logic to rule the way they do things with regard to the possible and eventual reunification of the entire Marianas? I guess we can only hope for the best.

(Felix Aguon is a writer based in Guam.)

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