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Petition against 'suruhano' prompts revamp of Guam's FestPac delegation

Updated: Apr 2


The 12th Festival of the Pacific Arts was held on Guam in 2016./Screengrab

By Pacific Island Times News Staff


 The Guam Council on the Arts and Humanities is set to overhaul the island’s cultural delegation to the 2024 Festival of Pacific Arts and Culture amid mounting calls for the delisting of a traditional healer.


 “CAHA is starting a new selection process for FestPac,” CAHA Director Angie Taitague said.


The deadline for application closed on March 27.


The new selection was prompted by an online petition calling on CAHA to withdraw Frank “Ko” San Nicolas from the roster of Guam delegates.


San Nicholas, a suruhånu and port police officer who was twice acquitted of sexual assault charges, was a member of Guam's traditional healing team.


“This disgraces all other delegates from Guam and damages what should be an honorable representation of our island at a gathering that connects cultural practitioners and artists from throughout the Pacific,” the petition reads.


The 100-member delegation was formed in 2019 in preparation for the 2020 FestPac, which was originally scheduled to be held in Hawaii.


However, the event was postponed due to the global Covid pandemic and rescheduled for this year as part of the festival’s regular four-year cycle. 


Rather than starting a new application process for the 2024 FestPac, the  Organizing Committee voted to invite the delegates selected for the 2020 FestPac. The government-sponsored team includes visual artists, artisans, cultural performers and traditional healers, and San Nicolas was among them.


“The Organizing Committee and the CAHA board retain the discretionary authority to modify any previously announced interim or tentative lists of delegates,” Attorney General Douglas Moylan stated in a legal opinion sought by CAHA.


“It is within the discretion of each member of the CAHA board to decide who that person feels is best qualified from the pending proposed list of persons and to vote accordingly,” Moylan said.


The CAHA board “may accept, reject or amend” any recommendations from the Organizing Committee without having to take into consideration the applicant’s court history, the attorney general said.


“The issue about this or any other prospective candidate for sending to FestPac need not reach the issue of whether or not a crime was committed, nor whether a civil tort was committed for that matter," reads the legal opinion.


"CAHA need not engage in that type of intense legal analysis for any of its applicants since in this case, its discretion appears broad-based on selecting persons who each board member considers fit to represent Guam in FestPac." the attorney general wrote.



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