CNMI GOVERNOR TENORIO HOPES OIA WILL ACT ON INVESTIGATION REPORT

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By Benhur C. Saladores

Staff Reporter

SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands (May 24, 2000 – Saipan Tribune)---Gov. Pedro P. Tenorio yesterday expressed hope for appropriate action against federal officials and employees involved in alleged on-the-job political activities at the Washington Office of Insular Affairs (OIA), which led to a smear campaign against the CNMI.

"The investigation is coming out and perhaps, whatever the results of the investigation are, I hope something will be done," he told reporters in an interview.

He was reacting to the report released by U.S. House Resources Committee chair Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) which accused OIA officials and employees, including its liaison officer on Saipan, Jeffrey Schorr, of engaging in illegal federal lobbying.

The U.S. lawmaker also revealed that confidential information, particularly memoranda between the CNMI and its lobbying firm in Washington D.C., Preston Gates, had been illegally obtained and used by OIA officials as a weapon to attack the Commonwealth and Republican members of Congress who are opposed to the Clinton administration's policies toward the islands.

"I was just wondering where is that information coming from," said Mr. Tenorio.

"Of course, the lobbyists give us some information [because] we have to work with [them]... but we never try to do things that are not for the best interest of our people."

CNMI lawmakers have expressed concern over the report as it confirmed their fears that some people in the administration or in the legislature are leaking classified and highly confidential information to OIA.

They also asked for a replacement for Mr. Schorr, claiming that they can no longer trust OIA’s representative here in light of the findings.

House Judiciary and Government Operations chair Rep. Dino M. Jones vowed on Monday to conduct an investigation into the report to determine the extent of involvement by local and even federal officials into the smear campaign.

Senate Floor Leader Pete P. Reyes has disclosed that they already have a suspect whom they believe has been feeding information to OIA, which oversees all U.S. insular areas, including the Commonwealth.

Mr. Tenorio did not say what will be the impact of the findings on the efforts by the island government to thwart moves by the Clinton administration to extend federal immigration and minimum wage laws to the CNMI.

Mr. Young has asked members of the Resources Committee, which has oversight of insular areas, to consider the report in line with their review of pending bill S. 1052 seeking federal takeover of the island's immigration standards.

"All we have been asking is to give us the opportunity to control our own immigration because we have been trying our best. In fact we try to comply with all the requirements of the law. If we maintain control over immigration, that will give us the flexibility needed, especially during this economic crisis," Mr. Tenorio said.

He also noted his earlier position papers which were submitted during congressional hearings. They have reiterated the need to keep local control over immigration and minimum wage in order to ensure economic development of the CNMI.

There has been no reaction yet from OIA Director Ferdinand Aranza since the report came out last week.

Mr. Schorr has maintained that he would not be able to comment on the allegations.

For additional reports from The Saipan Tribune, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Saipan Tribune.

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