The many letters about Article 12 of the CNMI Constitution-which limits land ownership to those of Northern Marianas descent-have been debated in terms of “either-or”: either land ownership should be allowed for those not of NMD, or it should not. However, there is another way of looking at it and talking about it-by changing the definition of who it is who is allowed to own land in the CNMI.
For instance, one could say that any U.S. citizen who has lived in the CNMI for several (pick a number; 2, 3, 5?) years as of 2010 would be eligible to own land. Requiring several years of residence would preclude so-called “fly-by-night” investors. That would open up land ownership to people of non-Marianas descent, but still provide some control over who makes the purchase.
There are probably other variations on that approach that could be put forth. This one-not mine, but originating from an islander-is but one way of looking at it. It moves the question from “either-or”-which many people have found difficult to deal with-to a compromise that might be more readily acceptable, and therefore more likely to succeed in being passed-both in the legislature and on the ballot.
Ruth L. Tighe