Let us have an open conversation regarding issues affecting our people of the Commonwealth today. So we begin with the issue of gambling. While the unequivocal and distinctive expressed will, on two separate occasions, of the people of Saipan was conveniently and selfishly defied by our elected leaders, gambling is now the law of the land. The signing of the casino gambling legislation was preceded by the speedy approval from the Saipan Lottery Commission of Best Sunshine International, Ltd.’s 25-year exclusive casino application.
As law-abiding citizens and no matter what our personal dispositions are with respect to gambling, we should be respectful of the law. Respect for the law of the land does not necessarily imply agreement with or acceptance of the idea that gambling is the best of our economic development choices. However, since Republican Party members have exclusive control of the votes, they inevitably control the legislative agenda. Thus House Bill 18-179, HD4 became Public Law 18-38 by the signature of the governor in 2015.
One and a half years later the implementation of the casino legislation by the exclusive license holder, Best Sunshine International, and the rosy prediction of our leaders are now marred with severe federal violations, including criminal charges. No one should be celebrating these kinds of results, but our citizens should hold our leaders accountable for this unfortunate outcome.
Since our leaders made the decision to defy the will of the people of Saipan and extend “full faith and credit” of the CNMI on the casino industry, a fragile type of economic investment, they have a fiduciary and legal responsibility to monitor proper compliance of all applicable laws. However, it appears that responsible government agencies failed to provide such critical leadership and appropriate advice and consent. Accepting economic benefits without accounting for its corresponding responsibility is not prudent leadership. Prudence is not paralysis. It is strength of character when it leads us to things in a judicious way.
The Torres administration and the Republican leaderships did a great injustice to Best Sunshine International. For all the money BSI disbursed, the company should not be in this predicament at all. If only appropriate due diligence were applied, incorruptible decision were made and proper guidance were the principal mode of operation, federal interventions would not have been necessary. Best Sunshine International’s schedule of operation would have been pretty much on target but complacency and ineptitude overshadowed the judicious execution of policy enforcements.
Now that federal microscopic oversight is taking place, and they are not leaving anytime soon, Best Sunshine International could not now do what it intended to do. The kinds of gambling norms done in Macau or other Asian countries cannot now be done here in the CNMI. Federal intervention was not part of BSI’s economic calculations but now that that is happening, the dynamic has unwittingly changed. The local government and its leaders are to blame for this federal intervention issue. This administration has just committed the most inexcusable act of betrayal to Best Sunshine International. This is tantamount to dereliction of duty.
Our dreadful experiences in the 80’s have a paradoxical semblance to the issue of gambling and the associated adverse activities that we are seeing now. Like in the ’80s foreign workers were brought in in huge numbers. Abuse of foreign workers in the ’80s became the cause of our dispute with the federal government and the subsequent decision of Congress to exercise its plenary powers by taking over our control of immigration and the passage of U.S. Public Law 110-229.
It should not come as a total surprise to anyone if local officials are implicated in violation of our Government Ethics Code (PL 8-11) and other federal infractions, just as it was in the ’80s when the then-director of Labor was charged and convicted of federal offenses. We don’t seem to learn and be guided by our historical past. We have a hope of succeeding if we can only learn from our past mistakes and pull together to make the hard choices.
Daniel O. Quitugua
Kannat Tabla, Saipan