2014 polls


Biennially, we go through the motions of creating political heat in the CNMI. After all, when governance means primarily employment for the local population, it is not an impulse for democratic rule. It is patronage by designated symbolic powers even if the real ones are either behind the scene or elsewhere. Today, candidates vie for positions in the local elections for the local government.

A gubernatorial team pointed out in their reflection on the political economy of the islands that they consider the military economy as the crown jewel of the Marianas; and that property rights in Article 12 needed serious thought, offering their skills to meet what is required.

Of the crown jewel of the Marianas, the military might of the United States is a phenomenon of post-WWII. In a military power index of 106 countries, the U.S. leads the pack (U.S., Russia, China, India, UK, France, Germany, Turkey, South Korea, and Japan) with No. 5 France rating only half, and No. 10 Japan, three times less. The last of the 106, Tanzania, is rated 21 times less. Clear who has military might?

To take ground military deployment away from Iraq and Afghanistan, BHObama offered a shift in military strategy from the Middle East to the Far East, falling into diatribe with China’s beefing up of its military in response to naval and air force maneuvers off its 10-mile territorial limits. 

Add a bellicose Philippine political machismo relying on U.S. military assistance once readily available from Clark Air Base and Subic Naval Base, plus an impulse for Taiwan independence and a U.S.-tolerated nationalistic yen of a resurgent Japan that now follows Cheney’s policy of “preemptive defense”, and you have a surefire formula for a messy diplomatic discord. USFK and USFJ smiles in the back room.

The Northern Mariana Islands’ economy is dependent on the financial assistance from the U.S., says the CIA Factbook. Former Interior’s Jeff Schorr had his Horiguchi Bldg. desk looking like the grand central station of U.S. presence in the Commonwealth. He kept a genial low profile, all that power notwithstanding.

The CNMI’s economy had a 2013 GDP of $733 million, substantially down from over a billion before the garment industry folded up; its population numbers 51-plus K. That’s a value of $14K per resident. With agriculture and industry counting but 5 percent of the commercial activity, the 95 percent of services is not just installing parking meters, sweeping the streets, and replacing lamppost lights in Garapan. If my home State of Hawaii is referred to as a quadrant of Washington, D.C., with the Pearl Harbor infamy making Oahu famous, the CNMI gets a basement closet at the Pentagon!

To say that the U.S. military budget substantially features in the CNMI’s economy is an understatement. It is covert. Other than the military exercises on Tinian, the local’s contact with crewcuts is when the salts put on their casuals and saunter into shore, or, sunset in the lagoon during their R&Rs, but there should not be any illusion that we are at parity in the consultative process. Not. Covenant-wise, uh-uh; equity-wise, no!

A CNMI politician who does not understand that Pentagon priority precedes CNMI local law does not understand what U.S. military might means, and has no business dragging ignorance into the halls of government! Until the Commonwealth ceases to be a “strategic military location” of the Armed Forces of the United States, BHO and federal instruments orchestrate what transpires in the territory.

This leads us to the second point: private property as prescribed by Article 12, the restrictions on the alienation of land in the Constitution. Touted as a gem of civil right’s affirmative action, the NMDs retained sole ownership of land to counter the Hawaiian experience. The sovereign union, however, is not too friendly to policies anchored on racial definition. Tolerated in the short term, the provision won’t survive sustained constitutional challenge.

Given the Commonwealth’s demographic where those of Asian-descent outnumber the NMDs, the odious discrimination on land ownership cannot remain as is if the CNMI is to remain in the U.S. family.

Today’s election has 17,740 registered voters. Political governance in the CNMI does not require expertise in rocket science. One dances with the feds on its programs, and manages public and private land ownership in a multi-ethnic population; innovate and create to benefit all.

In 1999, I visited the Land Title Office for some information, which I took for granted to be publicly available. Not in this case. I was asked to bring a lot number of the object of my query. A catch-22, it was obvious that I had to engage a lawyer to get the information I needed.

The people we choose today will waltz gracefully with two-right-footed Uncle Sam, are not uppity with privileged private land assets, nor opportunistic of the public’s, and carry the label NMD not as status or privilege but as a badge of human integrity. 

Vote wisely.

Jaime R. Vergara | Special to the Saipan Tribune
Jaime Vergara previously taught at SVES in the CNMI. A peripatetic pedagogue, he last taught in China but makes Honolulu, Shenyang, and Saipan home. He can be reached at pinoypanda2031@aol.com.

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