It is so embarrassing to read, week after week, story after story, about the decline (once again) in the economy of the CNMI. Every four years, we elect to public office individuals whom we are led to believe have the qualification, determination and vision to responsibly and competently lead the Commonwealth. All individuals elected to public office are expected to know that they have a solemn obligation to carry out their duties and responsibilities, to the best of their ability and in accordance with our constitution and laws.
Sadly, every four years, we continue to elect to public office a number of individuals who do not have the qualification to hold public office. We have found out over the years that many of our elected leaders put their self-interest first and the public interest last. This continuing state of affair requires us to ask the question: When are we going to start electing to public office only those candidates whose primary purpose in seeking public office is to serve the best interest of all the people of the Commonwealth?
Because CNMI voters have failed to elect responsible and competent leaders for so many years now, the CNMI government continues to “go in circle” or, at times, regress backwards. Failure after failure in self-governance continue to take place year after year. Our exercise at self-government continue to be mediocre, lackluster, and wanting. To this day, we continue to experience economic setbacks after economic setbacks. As a result, the quality of life for so many of our residents continue to get worse, many of whom have great difficulty trying to make ends meet, week after week. They live from paycheck to paycheck.
Our ability to govern ourselves, especially over the past 20 years has been quite dismal. After years of self-government, our political leaders still carry on as if we are a Third World country. Corruption, nepotism and cronyism have been the way we practice self-government. CNMI procurement regulations are apparently no longer adhered to. Issue after issue continue to arise year after year, yet most of these issues have remained unresolved.
Many of the issues affecting the CNMI relate to our unstable economy, our unstable laws, and our substandard health system. Other issues have to do with the poor image we convey to good-faith investors and visitor to our islands. Still others relate to the public perception that our Public Safety Department does not have the ability to solve many of our major crimes. For example, literally all of the missing persons who inexplicably “disappeared” from our midst have remained unsolved for years now.
One of the biggest issues we have, as far as I see it, is the glaring failure of our leaders to lead effectively and independently. They continue to be led by private interest groups and self-interested individuals. We see this happening through the actions they take and the decisions they make. Many of their decisions and actions are, as we know, contrary to the public interest. Still we remain silent, if not acquiescent.
One of the biggest irony with our failure at self-governance is the fact that the people of the CNMI (yes, us) have been aware of the deficiencies and failures of our elected leaders, for a long time now. Many of us (either through fear or apathy) remain silent and dare not criticize our leaders. Every four years, we close our eyes and vote (once again) for the same individuals whom we already know are either not qualified to hold public office; do not have the background or experience to govern; or, worse, do not have the best interest of the people at heart. Yes, we the voters of the Commonwealth, for some strange reason, continue to allow the dismal state of affairs that the CNMI has been in for a long time now. Why?
The first step that we need to take in order for the CNMI to begin making real progress is to truthfully answer the following fundamental question: Why is the CNMI still in the same mess that we have been in since we began to govern ourselves in 1978? Yes, why?
Jose S. Dela Cruz is a former justice of the CNMI Supreme Court.