The iconic Liberation Day festivity, which coincides with the national celebration of the Fourth of July, has fallen victim this year to the global coronavirus pandemic.
Saipan Mayor David M. Apatang announced yesterday that the Fourth of July Liberation Day celebration, which is usually held during the July 4 week, will be canceled.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has altered the way we conduct our daily activities as we must constantly practice social distancing and avoid large gatherings,” said Apatang in a statement issued by his office. “In the interest of protecting everyone from the risk of exposure to COVID 19, we have decided that celebrating the Fourth of July with a weeklong festival and parade will have to be put off until it is safe to have a celebration.”
He assured that July 4 will still be recognized as a legal holiday, “but our traditional festival at the Garapan Fishing Base and July fourth parade along Beach Road will have to be canceled.”
The annual celebration is the biggest public event in the CNMI, and celebrating it has been a tradition even before the enactment of Saipan Municipal Ordinance No. 68 in 1968, designating July fourth a legal holiday. It marks the date when the gates of the internment camps in Susupe and Chalan Kanoa were opened, hence “liberation.” Before that, the islands’ indigenous residents were kept at the camps.
“This year’s celebration will be the 74th anniversary after the gates of the camps in Susupe and Chalan Kanoa were opened, liberating many of our elders from confinement. Remembering them should be an honor of highest respect that each one of us has a responsibility to teach our generation of today of the struggles and uncertainty they faced after [World War II],” the mayor said.
“We regret to have made this decision, but each one of us has a duty to ensure that we protect one another from the spread of the COVID 19, a virus that has turned almost every person’s life upside down. But because we are all in this together, we will make it through and return to our way of life before the pandemic,” the mayor said. “We appreciate everyone’s understanding and support during this period of uncertainty.” (Saipan Tribune)