Editor’s Note: The following is the testimony the author submitted at the CNMI Lottery Commission meeting last week.
Today I would like to share and remind all of you what we went through years back and how it is today and I am confident that we will unite to work together to find ways to strengthen our lives and that of our children and their future.
When I was working for the government years ago, I was in a department that was collecting a lot for our revenue. We didn’t really feel the decline of the tourist industry at that time because the garment industry was bringing in a lot of money.
When the garment industry closed their doors, I could see the ship we were sailing was about to sink. To make it simple, we were receiving hundreds months before and then, in just days, only 20s or 30s went into the revenue account. Our economy was suffering and life was hard. Working hours were cut, the price of goods went up, the price of fuel, water and power was increased, and we were having power rations.
It was scary to go to the hospital because if there was no doctor, there was no money to see a doctor or pay for medications. Even my husband, who needed to be referred, was denied because there was no money and was told to wait for a specialist who was going to come to the islands. He died never seeing that specialist.
Our people were miserable and depressed because not only did they cut hours and raised the cost of living, they cut the retirement and survivors benefit by 25 percent. Even if 25 percent was just a little, life was hard. Even when I was working I could barely make it. Just imagine those that were dependent only on their benefits, were getting paid so low and had a big family, and had nowhere or no one to turn to. All of us here, you and me, we were all in that situation. If we did not run to the U.S. to find a better life, we stayed back and struggled to make ends meet for our families.
And then the casino was brought to Saipan.
It is true that not all of us were happy about it, but what could we have done if this was the only way to revive our economy?
And it is true that when the casino came in and the money started to pour in, it was like a heavy rock was lifted from my shoulders.
Work hours were reinstated; the price of gas, power and water slightly decreased; with retirement, the 25 percent was reimbursed, reinstated; and on top of that, bonuses were given.
Not only did the casino open up job opportunities, there were job vacancies all over Saipan.
Today I work for Imperial Pacific International, (CNMI) LLC, popularly known as Best Sunshine. I don’t get paid that much but the benefits are good, especially a health insurance I can afford. Now I can go get checked at the hospital and change my glasses as often as I need to. A life of a single parent with a big family has become comfortable.
Today, I am here as a widow and a single parent and, on behalf of all those who have lost their spouses and their livelihood depend on survivor’s benefits, our lives are in your hands.
Think about where we are going to turn to if we do not let this company finish what they have begun. Who would be brave enough to take the risk to face all these challenges?
Open your eyes and see that even with all the problems and criticisms, they are still struggling to keep the pillars of their huts up and the sails of their canoe because it is not only for their benefit but also ours.
What is so bad about receiving some today and then some tomorrow, and then, when their pail starts spilling over, they can give back to us, like what is happening today. Whatever we have today, it is all being distributed for the benefit of the whole CNMI.
I humbly ask you to open your minds and remember how it was years ago and how it is today.
I humbly ask you, to remember the lives that are going to be affected by the decisions you make today.
I humbly ask you to approve the request of this company because…
Right now I am nervous to think about it—if they will just give up, just pack up and leave and then we all look confused, crouch around, then blame each other or find who to blame.
Before I end, I just want to share with you all: “In every journey there will be times where we encounter rough seas, we don’t give up and sink our ship and there is no time to argue and complain; we flip our canoe and wait for the sea to calm, flip it back up and continue our journey till we reach our destination.”
Chalan Lau Lau, Saipan