Former House speaker Oscar C. Rasa died yesterday at the Commonwealth Health Center after battling a long illness. He was 71.
Gov. Ralph DLG Torres later directed that all CNMI and U.S. flags in all government offices and public buildings be flown at half-staff from until Rasa’s funeral.
Torres said Rasa’s passing is a great loss to the CNMI since he was a protector of the Covenant. “Speaker Rasa was a great man and public servant of the Commonwealth. He was a true protector of our Covenant agreement with the United States and a true leader in every sense of the word,” Torres said in a statement.
“He [was] a true leader and I am blessed to call him a friend and a mentor. My condolences are with Auntie Pat and the entire family. This is a great loss to the CNMI and I will surely miss him,” Torres added.
Saipan and Northern Islands Municipal Council chair Luis John Castro said the Commonwealth lost one of its founding fathers, whom he described as a public servant even before the formation of the CNMI. “Speaker Rasa was a driving force in helping to pass our islands’ first public laws.”
“It is a tough loss…considering everything he did for our Commonwealth. He was a smart person who was always ready to answer your questions. He was a true wealth of information when it comes to the political history of the CNMI,” Castro told Saipan Tribune.
“It is a sad loss for all of us who know him. We remember him as a person who was a knowledgeable resource of our political history, being the first House speaker of the CNMI Legislature.”
He added that Rasa was also ready to give advice and counsel to all. “It was always wonderful to have a conversation with him. He always found the time to talk to you. And he was instrumental for a lot of our leaders that had come and gone.”
Castro said that Rasa even served as an adviser to many past lawmakers and those who serve the CNMI today. “I personally thank him for the wisdom he imparted and the encouragement he gave to me over the last few months.”
Castro offered his condolences, saying “our hearts go to his wife Pat, their children and grandchildren, and his entire family who grieve over the loss of their patriarch as we at the same time pay tribute to a strong voice for our islands and our people.”
Rep. Angel A. Demapan (R-Saipan) said that Rasa was like an uncle to him and was instrumental in his entry to politics. “My family and I mourn the passing of former speaker [Rasa]. While he is family to me, he’s always been more than an uncle.”
“He was a big part of my political formation, having been a mentor and advis[e]r from the very first time I ran for public office and up until my current bid this election,” said Demapan, who is hoping to become the CNMI’s youngest non-voting delegate to U.S. Congress.
He added that Rasa helped him learn the terms of the Covenant, having been part of the negotiations back then. “As one of our Covenant negotiators, he instilled in me the imperative need to uphold the terms of the Covenant with the United States.”
“In my career, he was always a reliable resource to review case laws and precedence before making an informed decision. I’m grateful to have been able to visit him once more yesterday before he left us. We will never forget him and all that he has done for us. Our hearts go out to Auntie Pat and their children during this difficult time.”
Rasa earned his bachelor’s degree in political science at the University of Guam and his master’s degree in education in general social science with emphasis in government at the American University in Washington, D.C.
He holds lifetime instructor credentials in Government, Theory and Practice (local and international), and Public Services and Administration, and lifetime college administrator credentials to be college chief administrative officer for any community college in California.
He was also a senator of the 5th Marianas District Legislature in the Congress of Micronesia, elected to the first Constitutional Convention, served as Chief of the Professional Staff for two Legislatures, and a member of the Congress of Micronesia Joint Committee on Future Political Status for Micronesia.