Group calls for referendum on military training

The Pacific Islands Society is calling on the local and federal government to hold and fund a public referendum on whether to expand U.S. military training on Tinian and Pagan.

The public referendum would follow the publication of the final environmental impact statements on this proposed training.

The society’s change.org petition asks the CNMI government to immediately commit to holding a public referendum following the publication of the final environmental impact statement on the proposed training; asks the United States Congress to expeditiously pass follow-on legislation to authorize federal funding to cover the costs associated with the public referendum; and calls for Secretary of Defense, Ashton Carter, to publicly support the proposed public referendum and agree, on behalf of Department of Defense, to be bound by the will of the people as expressed by way of the public referendum.

The society explains that as part of the American pivot toward Asia, the United States Department of Defense is working hard to expand its military training in the Pacific. This includes conducting new live-fire amphibious training exercises on the tiny island of Pagan in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the society says.

“As it stands, the Pentagon reportedly envisions conducting live-fire training exercises at least 16 weeks per year. To do so, the Pentagon wants to secure a lease on the entire island (~ 18-square-mile) from the unincorporated, dependent territory. This is in addition to the Pentagon’s current lease on two-thirds of the island of Tinian, where the Department of Defense also plans to expand military exercises in the near future.”

The society says that over the past six months, the Pentagon’s plans to expand military training in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana have been met with fierce opposition from local residents.

“We therefore jointly call on the Government of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands to commit to hold a binding public referendum on whether to allow these military training exercises to move forward on Pagan and Tinian.

“Such a public referendum would ensure… that the expanded military training not only meets the needs of the U.S. military but also properly safeguards and compensates the residents for any associated economic disruptions, ecological damages, and negative social impacts. It would do so by placing the onus on the Pentagon to convince the majority of the residents of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands that the expanded military training on Tinian and Pagan is in their best interest.

The petition can be found on: https://www.change.org/p/eloy-inos-barack-obama-gregorio-sablan-hold-a-public-referendum-in-in-the-commonwealth-of-the-northern-mariana-islands-on-whether-to-expand-u-s-military-training-exercises-on-tinian-and-pagan-following-the-pentagon-s-publication-of-the-final-environm

The Pacific Islands Society calls itself an “an independent, non-partisan, non-governmental organization dedicated to promoting stronger people-people relations between the Pacific Island Countries and beyond.”

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Dennis B. Chan | Reporter
Dennis Chan covers education, environment, utilities, and air and seaport issues in the CNMI. He graduated with a degree in English Literature from the University of Guam. Contact him at dennis_chan@saipantribune.com.

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