Are 902 talks a waste of time and money?


What is 902? Offhand, that’s the section in our CNMI Covenant which says that in all matters affecting the relationship between the U.S. and us, we and the United States are to meet and discuss such issue, including future multi-year financial assistance to us, the CNMI, pursuant to Section 701 of this Covenant, to meet at least one year prior to the expiration of every period of such financial assistance.

Sections 701 and 702, then discusses U.S. financial assistance to us. Now, with all due respect to the 1972 Covenant negotiators, this article is not about what you accomplished but rather what you did not. You know that the Covenant was far from perfect. There are serious flaws going against our interests. The negotiated and approved provisions of the Covenant did surrender our sovereignty to the United States. Reviewing, right after World War II, in San Francisco, the U.N. placed us under the sovereignty of the U.S. because we were devastated by the war. We had no experience governing ourselves. We have no industrial or natural resource to hold up our government, if we do get organized. And we knew of no caretaker government to help us rebuild from scratch. Now, for the most part, you gave the authority and power of administration to the United States for the international arena, including some of our internal sovereignty. The U.S. negotiators pointed out to us which land they want and how they want it, and you said, “yes.” And then, they came again and claimed our underwater land and the various swamps, and cut short our economic zone, declared some of our flora, fauna, and fish endangered species, ask for more of Tinian, all of Pagan, in addition to the lands U.S. is already using but not included in the agreed lease negotiation. You gave the U.S. control over us under the broad terms of defense and foreign affairs and it opened the gate to the U.S. wresting control of our submerged lands, imposing control over our flora and fauna as well as our wetlands, and surface land. You did lease to the U.S. 18,182 square meters of land in the NMI for 40 years which the U.S. can renew for another 55 years, a grand total of 105 years for the unbelievable sum of only $19,520,600.

That comes down to $1073.62 per square meter which over 105 years boils down to around $10.22 per acre per year, no increase in lease rate. By the way, when the Farallon de Mendinilla lease expires, will the U.S. return the island to its pre-bombing pristine state or leave it loaded along with its surrounding waters, with unexploded munitions forever? No guarantee the military would want to stop the leasing. Especially now with China and North Korea developing nuclear materials, enough for 10 nuclear warheads? On top of all that, we still cannot vote for the U.S. President here. Our rights under federal law are limited that we have become second-class American citizens.

And now we’re being told who can come, who can stay, and how long they can stay on these shores. It’s like shacking up with a partner who moves into your house, then all of a sudden starts dictating who can come, how they can stay, and setting up house rules as if the partner was the principal owner. You are not king or queen in your castle. Your partner is, because you allowed it. How much of your house rule did you allow? It should be quid pro quo, and more of that to our favor. And that calls for a review of everything you have allowed the U.S. That’s where the “902 Talk” comes in. Do we need another 902 talks with the U.S.? You’d better believe it. We have a little more than 40 years experience as a commonwealth. Let’s tweak that Covenant provisions and the Ninth Circuit once more for our benefit. If ever, we need negotiators who are educated, experienced, aggressive, logical, no meek, and rational. No “yes sir.” Because the majority is silent does not mean they are contented with the status quo or that they are not suffering the consequences of our agreement. And if they are not now, just wait and see, in a couple of years, you’d better have a sizeable bank account or else, taste the hard life.

Now, our young men are not of the same mentality, education, and demeanor of our parents. Now, our young men are educated or being educated. We could recognize when our lives are getting stifled and drowned by missed opportunities courtesy the Covenant. So, instead of trying to downplay flaws in the Covenant, you, representing us, should speak up and tell the U.S. what you know, what you’re experiencing, get involved, any difficulty under the Covenant, and do something. Do not cave in to the strong-arm tactics of our U.S. partner who is going rampant using our lands outside of the lease agreement, like on Rota and Anatahan. The Navy wants Anatahan for ship-to-shore naval bombardments, and also persistent in its quest to amend the lease agreement.

NMDs and Article 12

Did you know that there exists a good possibility that Best Sunshine can buy land in the CNMI and not have to negotiate a 55-year lease? Article 12 you say, sure, but just how much do you know about the law? And how much do you know about legal precedents? Are there others?

We have Article 12 of our Constitution that restricts land ownership to NMDs only. We have court cases based on Article 12, these reference cases establish the legal precedents which impact subsequent similar cases and decisions based on our law. Guess, NMD land allowed to be inherited by non-NMD spouse, by the court, upon the death of the NMD husband and owner. Now, if you’re married to a non-NMD and you get divorced, can a judge take part of your land and award it to your former spouse, who again, is non-NMD? I still say that Art-XII holds, until amended via legislative or popular initiative and the proposed amendment popularly approved in the general election.

The U.S. immigration service has a standing rule that if a non-U.S. citizen marries an American citizen, and later were divorced, that non-U.S. will be removed. That where I am basing my reasoning. And I maintain that the judiciary does not have the power of eminent domain to seize a private or public land, give it to somebody else, and then ask the Executive Branch to pay the aggrieved losing owner. Should not be a legal precedent because a non-NMD is, still, exactly that, a non-NMD, and still has no right to own a land, the ownership restriction has not changed, and our supreme law prohibits the court from making changes without consent of the governed, initiative or plebiscite.

The judiciary cannot construct public policy for the CNMI. That’s the domain of the Executive Branch. Now, if the judge does in fact award NMI land to a non-NMD, doesn’t that establish a legal precedent permitting non-NMDs to own land here? Still, the judiciary lacks the power of eminent domain and, thus, no legal precedent being established, because then the court would be usurping the people’s power and authority established by the plebiscite, and in fact, the court would be perverting the Covenant and constitution. The court consists of human being with varying level of rationality and ability. So, if the judge goes against the rule of supreme law, that judge has, in fact, claimed the people’s power and the authority not assigned to it by the Covenant or the constitution. Perturbed? You bet I am. So let’s look at some of the rulings made by Judge Robert Hefner. I feel that he tended to go beyond his judiciary boundary assigned to it by our supreme law. A San Roque land awarded to a non-NMD Japanese widow, the court claiming inheritance case. In another court case, Judge Hefner award a land to an American citizen, never a TTPI citizen, full-blooded Guamanian lady, zero Northern Marianas descent.

Real cases, real usurpations, real constitutional perversions, irrational and unsound logics, and unassigned responsibilities. Through these court cases, the judiciary is making public policy for the Executive Branch, and experimenting in lawmaking for the Legislature. Constitutionally assigned power and authority? What happen to it? Now, a question for the Legislature, 19th and on. When are you going to appropriate money to compensate landowners whose lands are already being used by the government? Stop the money grabbing and pay.

Rudy M. Sablan

Contributing Author

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