House minority leader Rep. Tina Sablan (D-Saipan) blasted Gov. Ralph DLG. Torres yesterday for keeping completely silent about the situation of foreign workers of Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC, which she says has turned into a “humanitarian crisis.”
Speaking at a House of Representatives’ session, Sablan suggested summoning IPI to the Legislature and engaging with Torres. She said the governor is not helpless in this situation as he has the power to act.
“I am frankly deeply saddened and ashamed. Honestly, I’m ashamed at how these people are being treated,” she said.
Sablan said she has been visiting with and communicating with current and former employees of IPI, who have been facing “truly dire” circumstances. “Some of us may already be familiar with those circumstances but, most recently, it has looked like six missed pay periods, many months of payroll delays, [and] just the chronic problems of getting paid on time,” she said.
Sablan said there is no word yet on the repatriation ticket for dozens of workers who are stuck here who just want to get paid and go home.
She said that power and water were cut once again last week to another dormitory or IPI housing—this time at a Turkish camp in Chalan Laulau. Sablan said that when she visited the workers over the weekend, there was still no power and water.
She said this happened despite IPI promising the Commonwealth Casino Commission at their meeting last Tuesday that the workers would be relocated.
The lawmaker said the bathrooms were disgusting, the trash was piling up outside, and the bushes were overgrown. She said some of the workers were begging their family members to send them money.
“They came here to work to send money to their families, and now their families are having to scrape together money just so they can live here,” she said.
Sablan said the workers had just run out of drinking water, which is basic for human life.
“Thanks to some generous donors, we were able to get some relief supplies for these workers,” she said.
The lawmaker said she was told that power was finally restored for the Turkish dorms last Monday night, but now the Taiwanese and Mongolian workers have lost their utilities.
“Colleagues, these are not safe, decent, or habitable conditions for any human being. And we cannot ignore this. We cannot ignore the humanitarian crisis that is happening where there is so much suffering,” she said.
Sablan said these workers have no other way of earning an income as they have no family in the CNMI to rely on. “Many of them don’t even speak English and they just want to go home. The governor has been completely silent about this crisis happening right now,” she said.
Sablan said IPI is in so much trouble—financial, legal, and other things. “Everybody is suing them. They’re not paying anybody, workers, vendors, the government. But why do they continue to have this license?” she asked.
Sablan said what is needed at this point is drastic executive action. “In my opinion, the governor is an enforcer. He holds enforcement authority,” she said.