Gone: Economic diversification


About 12 years ago, the CNMI slowly eased out institutional investments while embracing the casino industry as its economic holy grail. Key Nippon investments slowly left. Gone! The ones from SK are on their final leg to full closure. It’s a very troubling issue saddled with uncertainty on every front.

Strange how easily we ignore our friends from the Land of the Rising Sun. We instantly ignored their pioneering efforts and investments in tourism here.

Recalled in the late 60s visitors from Tokyo who kissed the ground sobbing here for returning home once more. They were Japanese friends who were born in the islands before the war. They boarded buses at the old airport and headed to hotels in Garapan and Navy Hill. It was the beginning of the tourism industry here!

Most vivid in mind was the revival of local music and dances performed by elderly folks in hotel dinner shows. It was local arts at its best I saw in Lali Fo` a long time ago. At least there was an opening to reviving the fast eroding traditional music and dances.

While tourism was in its embryonic stage, we moved along with new jobs plus farming and fishing in spare time. It was on to a modern CNMI! Personally, I was taken aback by its implications heading into the future.

My focus was on Japanese expertise in farming and fishing through combined partnership with its universities and private industries. I still have this view to this day. Perhaps it lingers in mind because farming and fishing were the traditions of these isles since time begun. It offers lasting economic diversification.

In the process, we’ve also refined the concept of “pluralistic ignorance.” For instance, we ask questions about casino and you get two answers. On a personal basis it’s good (talking to an employee of the industry) but a bad economic choice when measured against the tradition and heritage of the islands.

Here in the CNMI it isn’t surprising the mouthwash all over the islands how the elected and appointed officials are in the deep pockets of a wealthy investor. Its tentacles have found its way into the inner sanctum of our public offices. What it wants it gets from the CNMI including exemptions from regulatory agencies. Others must go through the process. If you have any doubts ask Sen. Arnold Palacios who did it for Best Sunshine. Sing it, Arnie!

NMC presidency

One would expect fully reasoned decisions hailing especially from astute members of our institution of higher learning, NMC. I am alluding to the questionable selection of the college president. Suffice it to say, the appalling adolescency in the decision by the Board of Regents was at best humiliating and fodder for coffee shop comedy all over.

Six years ago there was the termination of the college president, nullified instantly this year with the hiring of the same person. You begin quizzing the infinitesimal wisdom of the board taking a full about face. It brings into question the credibility of the institution. Whatever happened to intellectual and polished maturity as policymakers of our institution of higher learning?

The decision is gift-wrapped with the cloak of suspicion flagging lack of integrity. So whose interest do you have in mind: student needs and the credibility and stability of the institution or your ill-fated decision standing before a mirror declaring, “About face!” The decision is rife with policy instability!

A recent news story said that only two members (Rabauliman and Evangelista) recused themselves from voting on the hiring of Ms. Carmen Fernandez. An investigative piece is merited in this instance for obvious reasons: how is it that two board members who were directly implicated in the civil lawsuit against Fernandez not see that there’s a conflict of interest here? Isn’t this a form of complicity?

It is concerning in that one of the regents, during her interview with the Attorney General’s Office, admitted to being asked to change student grades by Fernandez during her stint at the college. The other regent had an incident in which her daughter-in-law was involved in a theft incident covered up by the Fernandez administration.

The formula is simple basic math where you could draw your own conclusion: If four members (Evangelista, Rabauliman, and the two unidentified) were to recuse themselves, is there enough members present to legally validate the decision? This means that there would only be two regents left to decide. Didn’t we learn in civics courses that we live in a country where the majority rules? Hmmm! Seems the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing!

NMC may have a non-disclosure clause in the settlement agreement against the college, but such a clause is not inclusive of witnesses that don’t work for the college such as the AGO nor does it prevent members of the community from exercising their rights to cite the “Open Government Act.” If a taxpayer lawsuit were filed, would that prevent such individuals from being called to the witness stand?

One can imagine that this would only bring back that horrific nightmare related to maintaining the accreditation of the college. Is WASC barred from reviewing the contents of the Fernandez lawsuit interviews? If I were the accrediting body, I’d view this as a concern and exercise due diligence to intervene without exposing the contents publicly as such would be surely embarrassing.

Disgusting the inability of individuals disclosing their conflict of interest. Is there a bigger plan here? Has our educational system been bought? Some say, “This is related to the Saipan Casino Act.” Some say that everything that has been happening at As Terlaje is geared toward ensuring the life of the “Project.”

As a longtime manager in both the public and private sectors, I can see this as opening up a “box of Pandoras.” Sometimes the best course of action is to walk away. Unbelievable the juvenile decision from people in charge of our institution of higher learning!

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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