Contriving a status option
In an earlier column, I answered the question, “Who’s working to decolonize Guam?” Nobody! No one is working to decolonize Guam.
What about the Commission on Decolonization? The commission was created by former Sen. Hope Cristobal’s Bill 765, which became PL 23-173 over Gov. Gutierrez’s veto in 1997.
Cristobal’s bill created the Commission on Decolonization for the Implementation and Exercise of Chamorro Self-Determination. Ethnic chauvinism, semantic imprecision or deliberate gaslighting? A perusal of the bill indicates the third alternative. In the part of her uncodified bill labeled “Legislative Findings and Intent,” the following appears:
“The United States, as the succeeding colonial power [to Spain] over the lands and the people of Guam, acceded to and recognized in the 1898 Treaty of Paris that the political rights of the native inhabitants of Guam shall be protected and that their collective right to political self-determination is inalienable.”
Check out the Treaty of Paris and you’ll see that the last sentence of Article IX reads: “The civil rights and political status of the native inhabitants of the territories hereby ceded to the United States shall be determined by the Congress.”
The theory is that this whole initiative — Cristobal’s bill, the so-called Commission on Decolonization and the 20-page supplement to the Dec. 10 issue of PDN and the anti-U.S. fulminations of Melvin Won Pat and others of his ilk— is designed to channel public opinion toward Guam separating from the United States and becoming an independent sovereign country.
Cristobal’s bill posited three possible political statuses, two of which are either practically or legally impossible, leaving only independence as legally and practically achievable. Reality allows for only two real choices for Guam: territory (unincorporated or incorporated) or independence. Cristobal’s bill, in the name of “self-determination,” does not allow the people to make that choice. Rather, by means of the three-option ruse, taxpayers wind up funding pro-independence rhetoric.
The statute that created the commission reads in pertinent part, “It is the intention of I Liheslaturan Guåhan that three political options be presented to the native inhabitants of Guam to ascertain their future political relationship with the United States of America, namely, independence, free association or statehood.”
In apparent disregard of the commission’s mandate, the initial sentence in the 20-page insert sets the tone as follows, “Resolving Guam’s political status is important work that will prepare our island to move into the future of the ever-changing world.”
The fact is that “native inhabitants of Guam” (i.e., Chamorros) is not synonymous with “the island or territory of Guam.”
That first page makes its emotional appeal to “our people,” referencing “the injustice of our colonial status,” and hypothesizes, “when we change our political status.” The tilt to independence is nearly ever-present in the 20-pages. For example: “Guam is unlike any other place and there is no perfect model for us to follow or imitate.”
The only model that might be followed is statehood. We’ve had states since 1789. We know exactly what statehood presents. Of the three “choices,” it is the only model that could be implemented except for independence. But if independence is the goal, then even the idea of statehood must be canceled. Consider also that if a plebiscite were ever held, a vote for statehood is effectively a default vote for the status quo, ergo another reason to debunk statehood.
The last sentence on the first page clearly lays out the intent of the 20- page insert and the separatist initiative: “A fully self-governing status is the only way to empower the people of Guam to protect our own interests and make decisions that are right for us.” Fully self-governing can’t mean statehood. If Guam were a state, it would still be dealing with the same national government that the separatists want to escape from.
As explained in earlier columns, the unincorporated territory of Guam has more flexibility and autonomy than does a state, especially one with the weaknesses of smallness, e.g., only one member in the House.
Bob Klitzkie is a former senator and Superior Court of Guam judge pro tem. He hosts a talk show, called “Tall Tales,” on KUSG-FM (93.3 FM) weekday afternoons from 4 to 6 p.m.