Response to Guam's Honorable Delegate Robert Underwood

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LETTER TO THE EDITOR

(PIR Link, 12/1/99)

(SEE: http://www.islandtribune.com/22.html

It is a real pleasure to hear, not the usual reactionary CNMI-type arrogance and contemptuousness toward all Micronesians, but the reasonable and eloquent voice of Guam's delegate to the US House of Representatives, the Honorable Robert Underwood! While Underwood hopes to bring up and address Compact impact and immigration issues within the scope of on-going Compact re-negotiations between the US and FSM and RMI, there is significant merit to the issue of whether Compact re-negotiation by themselves should dictate the outcome of the two US Compact Laws that authorized the Compacts of Free Association for FSM and RMI and the US Law that authorized the Belau Compact of Free Association.

It is these two US Laws that define the legal languages and requirements of "Habitual Residence" for Freely Associated States (FAS) citizens. With the Government of the Republic of Belau not being a participant in these Compact re-negotiations, Guam, FSM, and RMI should not be allowed to propose any amendments which will potentially erode legally-binding "habitual residency" requirements of all FAS citizens. Unless, of course, the Belau Government sends an official delegate to these talks and actively participates in the negotiations themselves and agrees to such changes.

While recognizing that Guam has no business meddling in these talks, the Honorable Robert Underwood is at least kind enough to suggest that Guam should actively play a role, alongside other Micronesian States, in helping to determine the appropriate conditions wherein Micronesian governments can build strong, viable and sustainable economies. Helping to create the conditions for sustainable and self-reliant island economies is the best route to tackling the issue of one-way Micronesian migration into Guam. As a member of the US House of Representatives Resource Committee, Mr. Underwood will have an opportunity to directly review all the accomplishments and work of current Compact re-negotiations. However, neither through this direct Congressional oversight or through indirect means should Guam or even CNMI be allowed to lobby for any change in the existing Compact legal language that authorized both the US/FSM, RMI and the Belau Compacts of Free Association without also requesting official policy recommendations from ALL Compact Parties.

At the very least, the Belau Government must send an official delegate, if it has not done so already, to observe and advise on what Belau’s interests are with regard to the status of its citizens pursuing various training, educational and or economic opportunities in the United States. Guam has reasonable demands to press for qualitatively different Compact treaties which take into account the unforeseen impacts inside Guam. But Guam is not a party to the Compact treaties between the United States of America and FSM, RMI or Belau. Underwood's efforts to clarify the issues are welcomed and very much appreciated.

Even worse, is the almost unending contempt on the part of CNMI officials and self-proclaimed pundits whose clamor for what may be legitimate reasons for obtaining US federal impact subsidies have sounded more like whining and endless complaints with no intelligent contributions to all the rantings that they spew! In recent conversations with a Belau person who grew up and went to high school in CNMI, I have increasingly felt that what the Saipanese have been saying all along reflect more on their inability to be reasonable peoples. I have no doubt that the battles CNMI fights with the US federal government on gross violations of human/workers' rights [OF PEOPLES] from Asia emerge from and reflect a deeper pathology that runs through Saipanese collective psyche that has been exacerbated by rapid economic development on their home island. CNMI will necessarily need to grow up before it can successfully and reasonably address Micronesian migrations to that island. Many Micronesians have played a crucial role in CNMI's economic development, a topic which is noticeably absent from increasingly racist CNMI proclamations about what is to be done. All efforts therefore must be made to resist unreasonable attempts on the part of CNMI, or even Guam, to influence the outcomes of the Compact treaty provisions for all Freely Associated States citizens, as these two still-colonized entities are not Parties to any Compacts of Free Association with the United States.

It follows that any potential re-writing of legal languages must be made to be accountable to the Parties to the Compacts of Free Association. By virtue of his US Congressional membership, Mr. Underwood is in a position to call for hearings on immigration-related impacts of the Compacts of Free Association with US negotiators. This he has done. These hearings, if they are to take place at all, must solicit, at the minimum, advice from the Government of the Republic of Belau. But more importantly, for these hearings to be relevant, they should solicit public comments from all Freely Associated States who are engaged in all aspects of educational and economic training in the United States and its colonial territories.

As a Belau person, I especially want to commend Robert Underwood for his overtures at peaceful resolution of difficult issues. As he says, "[Guam] must continue to develop [its] extra-compact relationships with the Micronesian governments... [That] we are all in the region together and we were neighbors long before there was even a United States of America." Mr. Underwood's diplomatic sense of fair play and eloquence of speech not only represent a timely fig leaf during difficult times when Micronesians and Guamanians have had to deal with a variety of problems emerging from the combined impacts of the Compacts of Free Association, they represent the best of what Micronesia's peoples are about. Our different colonial histories predispose us all to behave in ways that are not conducive to enhancing mutual respect and friendly relations. I wish to applaud Mr. Underwood's eloquence and diplomacy, but issue a challenge to CNMI folks to grow up and be reasonable.

Finally, I must issue a challenge to Mr. Underwood, that he remain accountable to the process with which the US Laws were passed and authorized the Compact treaties. These reflected not only concessions made through direct political negotiations between the USA and each Micronesian government, but also reflected years and years of painful struggle for which Belau patriots paid their ultimate sacrifices. Any amendments to these legal documents should be made with the advice and consultations of all three Freely Associated States.

Thank you very much.

Richard Salvador Graduate Student University of Hawai‘i at Manoa

E-mail: salvador@hawaii.edu 

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