A solemn tribute

Two powerful and gifted friends have sailed into the sunset. Bishop emeritus Tomas A. Camacho has gone home to rest in His everlasting palace upstairs after 56 years as the spiritual leader of these isles.

I’ve had the opportunity to make his acquaintance over the years. Beyond the pulpit, he’s also reached out to his people throughout the archipelago as a priest and subsequently as bishop. He’s shown us the power of prayers and its benefits, keeping our north star intact amidst the challenges of daily life.

Over the last 15 years he built two churches: St. Jude in As Perdido and Santa Soledad in Kagman. My late friend, RC Cabrera, and I were ever grateful to join the bishop in his mission by donating our land. We’re proud of our little accomplishment.

The other is Joaquin “Jack” S. Torres who passed away last week in Honolulu. Torres was an intellectual with depth who proactively pushed issues of substance into the public domain for discussion. I relish meaningful conversations I’ve had with him, always willing to listen to points of view with razor-sharp analytical mind.

We met in 1978 when he worked as consultant and adviser for the Senate leadership. Later, we converged at a huge private firm to defend the NMI’s local control of immigration. Though we lost that battle we reminded Uncle Sam of his obligation to “provide for a progressively higher standard of living” under the Covenant Agreement.

He’s made his mark on issues before the first NMI Constitutional Convention during lively debates. I will definitely miss his intellectual acuity, frank point of view, and wonderful sense of humor. Our prayers for our two friends and si yuus maase` for all your untiring contributions! You’ve forged brighter tomorrows for these islands!

Preliminaries: Political pundits have cast the line and hook query: Who would be a formidable tandem to run against incumbent Torres-Palacios?

An observer suggested former governor Juan N. Babauta and Rita A. Sablan as a team. It was an off-the-cuff selection without consultation. So don’t hold anything against any of us. If anything, there may be other names equally poised to hooking to a strong partner that could send this year’s contest into one heavy tailspin.

He noted Babauta’s advantage of having run successfully NMI-wide. His core supporters are ready to carry the banner. His strength is in his organization.

As former commissioner of PSS, Sablan is likely to carry a good number of the education estate, e.g., teachers and administrative staff. She could use the four years in the second post as a stepping stone for larger duties ahead.

The narrative for change is ripe and ready to go. With a cumulative deficit of $1.6 billion and mounting, it seems the driver and passengers are all snoozing at the wheels while humming “…where seldom is heard a discouraging word…”

Failure: The sum of $13.9 million in settlement fine ordered against four construction firms here by the U.S. Department of Labor turns the focus inward, specifically who’s on the driver’s seat? Has he and passengers been snoozing over the last two years?

Was it a natural or convenient snooze to allow IPI complete exemption and alleged violation of local and federal laws? Remember the inadequate basic infrastructure in the Garapan area?

The violations highlighted in the Murkowski hearing doubled down by alleged collusion in the Bloomberg story are hugely humiliating for the NMI. And we boast of more self-government when we ignore the very requisite issues to strengthen it?

Beyond superficial pronouncements of keeping within the confines of pertinent laws, the hard question we must equally answer forthwith is the extent of erosion in the quality of life here from casino.

Do we dismiss it with simple mañana? What about the silent tentacles of prostitution, spread of drug sale and use, labor abuses, serious and fatal worker injuries, violent crimes, family bankruptcy, and exclusion from the economic trickle down from the casino business in Garapan?

$14 million: Wasn’t there a recent announcement of a surplus? Or was it prematurely announced when the opposite is the exact case? How is it that the NMI’s share of $14 million for Medicaid hasn’t been paid over the last two years?

Are Da Boysis clueless what a budget plan entails, revenue projection, obligations and year-end payment? A surplus when the cumulative deficit is around $1.6 billion? Can’t pay Medicaid and CUC yet you raised your salaries by 80 percent? How’s could CUC buy fuel when it’s owed nearly, if not more than, $80 million?

Would your bid for re-election be a shoo-in or are you basically history? I mean, how do you tell the 14,000 employees stuck with poverty income and below that your 80 percent sits well with their difficult familial condition?

History: Haven’t we learned from the loss of immigration in 2008? Isn’t the impending economic crash tethered to the denial of immigration control? Shouldn’t this be the focus of our collective appeal for its reinstatement?

We parrot the single statement that the parole and visa programs are vital for the local economy. Are they really when mirrored against our exclusion in the trickle down effects hailing from casino and associated businesses? Has it improved the buying power of families, most of whom are stuck with poverty income and below levels? Isn’t it more an exploitation of the NMI by exogenous businesses whose only goal is to drain what little we have left on the islands?

The exit of Delta Air Lines in May would shut down travel to and from the island out of Japan. Sure, there would be charter flights from China. But would not this be the last door to drain what’s left of our tiny economy?

John S. Del Rosario Jr. | Contributing Author
John DelRosario Jr. is a former publisher of the Saipan Tribune and a former secretary of the Department of Public Lands.

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