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By Cookie B. Micaller

SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands (June 19, 1998 - The Saipan Tribune)--- Governor Pedro P. Tenorio is keeping his hands off a proposal to integrate the Northern Marianas and Guam, saying he would rather leave it to the people to decide whether they favor reunification.

Lt. Governor Jesus R. Sablan has said officials of the two territories are exploring the possibilities to unite the Mariana Islands, a move which they hope to bring to the U.S. Congress for approval.

"This issue has been brought up on several instances. The decision has to be made by the people of the commonwealth and it's up to the people of Guam what is their desire," Tenorio said in an interview.

However, several local officials frowned at the proposal which they said would only renew animosity between the CNMI and Guam.

"This proposal is not going anywhere, not during this generation," said an official of the administration who declined to be identified. "The scar is too deep to be forgotten," the official added, referring to the killings of several hundreds of Chamorros on Guam by fellow Chamorros from the NMI who were brought to the neighboring island prior to the outbreak of World War II.

Another official said NMI residents would rather fight for statehood than integrate with Guam. "I don't think the people here would like that proposal. They would rather see Northern Marianas become another state than to be second class citizens again."

The issue of Marianas reintegration has popped up intermittently among leaders, but it will take the next generation of Chamorros to be able to bury the hatchet that wedged the islanders when they were used against each other by the Japanese Imperial Army.

In 1969, a referendum was held for the integration of NMI and Guam but it was met with lukewarm support from registered voters.

Guam residents rejected the idea in the early sixties for fear that the Northern Marianas would be a burden to them at a time when their island economy was booming. It ultimately dampened efforts for a unified Marianas despite a favorable response from NMI voters.

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