Editor’s Note: The following is a statement issued by the Democratic Party of the NMI, Inc.
People who are of Northern Marianas descent will face yet another attempt by a few, but very determined locally well-connected private chief executive officers, to tamper with our culturally and constitutionally protected Article 12. These groups of people, largely members of the Saipan Chamber of Commerce, are hell bent on wanting to change the restrictions on alienation of land reserved exclusively to persons of Northern Marianas descent. While previous attempts to abolish said article have failed, this time around they have concocted a very clever plan to language their initiative petition in a way that would likely confuse or possibly deceive our voting NMDs. Consider seriously the proposed language contained in the initiative petition, “To amend Article 12 in the CNMI Constitution to remove the mandatory restrictions on the alienation of land, and allow land owners to elect to restrict the alienation of their own land.” What an inventive, shrewd, and tricky way to phrase it.
“Allowing land owners to elect to restrict the alienation of their own land” sounds perfectly harmless and perhaps may very well be acceptable to most ordinary NMDs. However, taken in its totality, including the preceding sentence of the petition heading, it is undeniably an attempt to linguistically mislead and deceit voters. The petition was intentionally languaged in a way that would provide some degree of probability not only to confuse voters but to try and secure the full support of our NMDs.
As candidate for governor, lt. governor, delegate to Congress, Saipan mayor, Senate and House representatives under the Democratic Party of the Northern Marianas, Inc., and as members of the Northern Marianas Descent Corp., we officially state that we are vehemently opposed to any attempt, by anyone, to change, amend or remove the mandatory restrictions on land alienation on Article 12 of our Constitution. Until such time that the unanimous consent of our NMDs is democratically expressed to eliminate or repeal Article 12, our position on such an important cultural matter will steadfastly remain the same. Furthermore, it is our content that the issue about land in Article 12 was never considered in the context of economic application but more clearly and purposefully on cultural and traditional argument and justification.
For non-Chamorros/Carolinians and few NMD people and land owners, they might consider land as something they own, a commodity to be bought and sold, as asset to make profit from, but also a means to make a living off it or simply “home.” For Chamorro/Carolinian people the relationship is much deeper. The land owns Chamorro and Carolinian and every aspect of our lives is connected to it. We have a profound traditional connection to land. Our tradition and custom are intertwined with land, our people and way of life, and this forms our culture and sovereignty. Chamorros and Carolinians cultivate their land, but in a way different from others. We endeavor to live with the land; others seemed to live off it. The latter fits perfectly well with the whole intent of those pushing for changing Article 12. While we differ in our intent we respect their position.
A minority of NMDs and Saipan Chamber of Commerce members may consider it to be materially insignificant, but for those of us who are still clinging to our traditional and cultural heritage and values, it is fundamentally a part of our identity and who we really are as a people. Even the U.S. negotiating members of the political status team were sensitively cognizant of the importance of land to the indigenous, its vulnerability for exploitation that they expressly acquiesced to not making the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution applicable, which was congressionally approved. Because the United States recognizes and respects the special importance of land to Chamorro and Carolinian people, it was repeatedly emphasized in Section 805 and 806 of the Covenant.
Chamorros and Carolinians who are of Northern Marianas descent are not yet ready to surrender their cultural integrity for the economic enrichment of non-NMDs. This is a case we will continue to fight on behalf of our people. Not only do we believe in the inviolability of Article 12, we are duty-bound and morally obligated to support and defend it to the best of our abilities.