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Thursday, April 24, 2014

‘US senators’ secret visit disturbing’

The Fitial administration and some CNMI lawmakers find it “disturbing” that 15 U.S. senators secretly visited Guam on Monday and chose not to meet with any Guam leader or resident at a time when the U.S. government is pushing a $15-billion military buildup in the Marianas.

CNMI officials, when asked for comment, said they sympathize with Guam Gov. Eddie Calvo, who said he was “livid” and “extremely upset” that no one in the federal establishment informed Guam of the U.S. senators’ visit.

Fitial’s press secretary, Angel Demapan, said “while the full details of the trip are still unknown, we find it disturbing that such high level members of the U.S. Congress would go to Guam in secrecy and without any degree of courtesy to the leadership of the Government of Guam.”

“Like the CNMI, Guam is a member of the American political family. It is disheartening to know that our brothers and sisters in the south have been made to feel like second class citizens of America,” Demapan told Saipan Tribune.

To the Fitial administration’s knowledge, it does not know of similar instances of such an esteemed group of congressional members coming to the Commonwealth in secrecy, said Demapan.

“This can be attributed largely to the low demand for refueling stops here. Nonetheless, we continue to be grateful for the periodic visits of congressional delegations and the courtesy visits they have conducted with the Commonwealth’s leaders,” he added.

Senate President Paul Manglona (Ind-Rota), in an interview, said he fully understands where the Guam governor is coming from.

“He has every reason to feel snubbed. Just look at Japan officials. Whenever they come to Guam or the CNMI, they make sure they meet with island leaders. Here we are, our very own national leaders—15 members of the U.S. Senate—did not even inform Guam they’re stopping over and did not even have [a] courtesy visit to the governor,” said Manglona.

He said what the members of Congress did was make Guam feel like it’s not part of the American family.

“At times, even us in the CNMI feel that we’re just a small rock [in the ocean] and that we’re not part of the U.S. No one can question the patriotism of the Guam governor and the people of Guam,” Manglona added.

These senators include Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D-Nev) and Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ken).

The others are: Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Sen. Michael Enzi (R-Wyo.), Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Sen. Mike Johanns (R-N.E.), Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Sen. Robert Portman (R-Ohio), and Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.)

Calvo was not aware of the U.S. senators’ brief refueling stop at Andersen Air Force Base in Guam Monday morning en route to Hong Kong, until Guam Delegate Madeleine Bordallo asked him that morning if he would be greeting the senators with her, as she received an invitation to do so.

CNMI, Guam relations with US

Rep. Stanley Torres (Ind-Saipan) said that Monday’s incident also brings to light his proposal to create a Second Marianas Political Commission and re-examine whether the people wants to continue a Commonwealth relationship with the U.S. pursuant to the terms of the original Covenant agreement.

“I’ve been pushing for this for a long time,” said Torres, whose bill has yet to be reported out by the Committee on Judiciary and Governmental Operations.

Torres said the Guam governor and senators have also been pushing for a plebiscite for voters to determine their affiliation with the U.S.

Guam Senate majority leader Rory Respicio urged the Guam governor yesterday to convene the Commission on Decolonization in light of Monday’s incident.

The commission will enable Guam to conduct a plebiscite and “finally bring closure to the issue of determining our island’s political status,” he said.

“Under ordinary circumstances, we would have likely had an opportunity to meet with these senators, and offer them our Team Guam perspective on ongoing buildup matters, and other issues clouding our people’s view toward the federal government,” he told Calvo.

Guam Speaker Judi Won Pat, in her latest weekly address, said the political relationship between the U.S. and Guam as a non-self-governing territory is unacceptable, and pushed for a plebiscite.

“First, the powers of the Organic Act of 1950, as approved by Congress, are merely delegated powers that can be changed or taken away at the will of Congress. This is unacceptable. Second, if that was not insulting enough, our duly elected delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives—Guam’s sole advocate in Congress—was stripped of any remaining voting privileges. This too is unacceptable,” she said.

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