TINIAN SHUTS DOOR FOR TALIBAN: PLAN TO HOLD AFGHAN TERRORISTS ON ISLAND WILL

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KILL TOURISM

By Edith G. Alejandro Staff Reporter

SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands (November 29, 2001 – Saipan Tribune)---The federal government will have to allocate millions of dollars in additional funds for its military activities in the CNMI if plans to use Tinian as holding area for arrested terror suspects push through.

Aside from the grave damage it will cause the Commonwealth’s tourism industry, Tinian also lacks the necessary facilities to hole up and prosecute members of the Taliban and the Al-Qaida Network.

Marianas Visitors Authority Board Member J.M. Guerrero said it is logistically difficult for the federal government to detain the suspected terrorists on Tinian, in case Guam balks at suggestions to hold them on the island territory.

Guerrero said that plans to try Taliban members on Tinian will only put to death the island’s already struggling tourism industry, which is said to be worse than the situation on Saipan.

The plan to hold Taliban members in any of the U.S. Pacific territories, however, remains far from being decided upon.

"I don't think it is going to happen to Tinian. We cannot afford to do that anymore. We don't have a spare panic button to push," Guerrero said.

He explained that although the U.S. military owns two thirds of the land on Tinian, it remains logistically difficult for the United States to use it as a holding area for the terror suspects.

"They would be needing courtrooms, prosecutors, and support teams. Are they going to fly them here? Where are they going to house them?" Guerrero asked.

He added that Guam is more convenient in several aspects, pointing out that, aside from its U.S. military base and a big number of military officers and personnel, the island territory has the necessary facilities to support the activity.

Other than the infrastructure -- courtrooms, accommodation facilities, and military personnel -- Guerrero noted that the security aspect of the plan would have to be studied carefully.

He said that detaining terror suspects on Tinian is far different from the case that involved more than 100 Chinese boat people who were temporarily held on the island in the 1990s.

"This is a larger scale. The trial won't be on short duration. The odds are on us," he emphasized.

At the Legislature, Senate President Paul A. Manglona said that lawmakers are likely to join hands in opposing the plan, just in case the U.S. government decides to do it on Tinian.

Manglona said he will personally rally against the plan to use Tinian, noting that it would devastate the local tourism sector.

"If indeed the U.S. government wants to do so, they (U.S. officials) have to consult the CNMI government first," Manglona said.

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

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