2000 was the last time that Guam had a significant and focused conversation around political status. There had been campaigns, big and small, around commonwealth or constitutions. Each time there were discussions, community events and also sometime of plebiscite. 2000 was the last time that there was a big community push around the issue, as that was the year a plebiscite was scheduled and some funds made available for public education. This came after commonwealth had died or stalled in the US Congress, and it was decided to start the process over by having a new plebiscite to help determine the direction of future political status negotiations. This new start to the process never really came. The 2000 plebiscite was delayed several times and never took place.
I recently went through more than a year of the Pacific Daily News to get a sense of that time, and came across dozens of letters to the editor and articles dealing with the plebiscite and the three status options. Some of the letters to the editor focused on supporting a particular status option, more however were focused on the framework for the discussion and a good portion lamented there not being enough information available to make a decision. A small percentage focused on supporting or challenging the idea of restricting who could participate in the plebiscite.
Almost 20 years later we are at a new sort of phase in the discussion. Much has changed, although some elements remain the same. Now, just as before, there is apathy in the community and in the government. There are concerns that there isn’t enough information available. There are worries over the framework. One key difference now is that there is a court case that is currently being appealed, over who is eligible to participate in the self-determination vote.
As part of the educational efforts, the Pacific Daily News published editorials from each of the political status task force chairs. They provided them with space to put forth their best argument about their status. The arguments are similar to the ones we make today. The faces are familiar, with some notable differences. In 2000 the task force chairs were Antonio Artero Sablan, Jose Ulloa Garrido and Eddie Duenas. Sablan and Garrido have stepped down as chairs, whereas Duenas has not.
“Vote is the right of the people”
by Antonio Artero Sablan
“What more do you need to know?” depends on how much you already know. Everyone must know something, and maybe enough to vote tomorrow. Why, then, are some folks still so confused?
We have seen no less than 30 years of Guam initiatives, from the first Political Status Commission and constitutional convention to the Guam Commonwealth Act and today’s Commission on Decolonization, to improve our political status from that of an unincorporated territory. Our libraries, filling cabinets and brains are so full of this matter, we need only recall.
Nonetheless, four task forces are compiling information for the commission’s educational campaign-one each for independence, free association, statehood, and other a panel studying the potential economic impact of those options.
This new compilation will be presented to the public in upcoming months. Meanwhile, the Colonized Chamorro Coalition, Organization of People for Indigenous Rights and Guam Statehood Association are activating their troops. Some members have gone to Puerto Rico, Hawaii and Fiji for research on related issues. The Independence Task Force has launched an essay contest, begun preliminary village meetings, and been the subject of radio talk programs and in chat rooms on the Worldwide Web.
Status quo is not an option because decolonization means reversing, if you will, the colonial status of a place and people. When the U.N. Charter was signed in 1946 one-thirds of the worlds population lived in non-self-governing territories like Guam.
Today, those former colonies make up more then two-thirds of U.N. membership. The Philippines Islands, a former U.S. territory, is now a republic. Out of the Pacific Islands have emerged four distinct political entities, island nations.
Non-U.S. territories in this part of the world have asserted their sovereignty recently, including New Caledonia and East Timor. Guam’s colonial status, hundreds of years old now, is NOT decolonization. The Guam Commonwealth Act was our honorable attempt to safeguard the Chamorro right to self-determination and secure our relationship with the United States with a mutual-consent proposition. But we have had no response in the period of time for which that proposal was made.
The so-called Chamorro vote - only the start of this process - is the right of the people of this place that’s been ruled by American colonial policy for the last century. It is a political definition, NOT “Chamorro-only” That’s an irresponsible shortcut; “self-determination,” and especially “Self-determination for Organic Act citizens” have proven much too long.
The facts remain. We’ll have a vote soon, and we all want a safe, clean democratic island home called Guam for all her people.
Support independence for a better Guam, Biba Chamoru!
“Statehood is the best option for Guam”
by Eddie Duenas
It is imperative that those who will be voting in the July plebiscite be provided with factual information on the three options – statehood, free association and independence. The plebiscite is a political process to remove Guam from the United Nations oversight.
In a nutshell, statehood will fully “integrate” Guam with the United States as a state of the union. Independence and free association will “dis-integrate” Guam from its present relationship with the United States and will turn Guam loose to chart its own destiny.
If statehood should not prevail in the plebiscite, and Congress accepts and acts on the results, Guam’s status quo as we know it today would be repealed and Guam would no longer be a U.S. territory.
This, consequently, would force the discontinuance of all federal assistance, aids and grants for social, economic, education programs as well as highway and infrastructure funding.
Persons who got their U.S. citizenship by virtue of the 1950 Organic Act of Guam run the risk of not enjoying their full benefits while living in a non-U.S. Guam.
Under the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1962, a native-born or naturalized U.S. citizen could lose his or her citizenship by taking an oath or making affirmation or other formal declaration of allegiance to a foreign state or a political subdivision thereof. And their descendants born on Guam also could run into problems with their citizenship since Guam would no longer be a U.S. territory.
Statehood is the only option that can guarantee not only your U.S. citizenship but also that of your descendants and the generations to come. And Guam will continue the status quo until statehood is attained.
As a state, Guam would acquire state sovereignty and have full control on all state matters. The people would have full protection and permanent citizenship under the U.S. Constitution, vote for the president and vice-president and have two senators and one representative in Congress.
Guam would also write is own state constitution, set up a state government (three equal branches – executive, legislative and judicial) and have equal access to federal revenue sharing programs, grants and entitlements available to all states. This will increase Guam’s level of federal assistance.
Social Security Supplemental Income and the Earned Income Tax Credit would also be available for Guam. These programs will certainly provide millions of dollars to our SSS recipients and low-income wage earners.
Having two senators and a representative in Congress should enable Guam to get more federal dollars in appropriations, grants, aids and entitlements than it’s currently receiving as a territory.
After living for more than 100 years under the U.S. flag, Guamanians have assimilated the American way as part of their lifestyle. Their loyalty to the United States is unquestionable, even in the darkest hours of enemy occupation during WWII.
Their desire to remain in the American family was well documented in the two previous plebiscites conducted.
“Free association – best of both worlds”
By Jose Garrido
In envisioning a brighter future for Guam, the people of this island should bear in mind two essential facts in our history – both as a United States territory and our far longer ancestral history as a Chamorro nation.
Free association will create a government which acknowledges both ingredients of this history. With free association, Guam would be recognized internationally as a sovereign nation with control over its political affairs.
At the same time, we would also maintain a defined association with the United States, specifically in the area of defense. Free association would allow Guam to achieve sovereignty in partnership with the United States.
Free association presents us with an opportunity to control Guam’s land, air, seas and natural resources for our benefit, rather than for another country. The United States would still maintain its military presence, but would provide financial assistance to Guam in return for the military use of land.
Based on research and comments from a U.S. congressional representative, our citizenship status would not be affected by a change in political status. Guam citizenship would also be granted. Bearers of a Guam passport could retain rights to travel freely within the United States, establish residency and work there, and volunteer in the U.S. armed forces without being drafted.
These rights are already enjoyed by existing free associations between the United States and the Federated States of Micronesia, and the Republics of Belau and the Marshall Islands.
Free association offers optimism for greater economic development through changes such as the removal of the Jones Act, control of our Exclusive Economic Zone and all of the ocean minerals and resources within and the return of excess land to landowners. Free association gives us the autonomy to be creative in developing our island economy, making decisions with the best interests of Guam in mind.
With free association, Guam would be eligible to participate in programs offered by the United Nations, the Pacific Community and other international bodies catering to sovereign nations. Guam could tap into the programs of international agencies such as the Asian Development Bank, International Monetary Fund, South Pacific Forum Fisheries Agency and many others, helping us improve education, fisheries health care and banking.
Four thousand years ago, Chamorros managed their resources, governed their clans and provided for their futures. Today, we have knowledge skills, creativity and competence to manage our resources in the new millennium. We have survived wars, typhoons, earthquakes and more. We can surmount the challenges ahead.
Free association provides us with a confident future – sovereignty for Guam in association with the United States. Free association, the best of both worlds.