NEW BOOK TELLS HOW NORTHERN MARIANAS BECAME COMMONWEALTH OF USA

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By Haidee V. Eugenio

SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands (February 14, 2002 - Marianas Variety/PINA Nius Online)---A book detailing how the Northern Mariana Islands became a self-governing commonwealth of the United States of America has been published.

The 496-page book, "An Honorable Accord: The Covenant between the Northern Marianas Islands and the United States," was written by attorneys Howard Willens and Deanne Siemer, who were involved in the commonwealth negotiations.

It provides special attention to the failed calls for reintegration with neighboring Guam and the intense desire for separation from other parts of Micronesia, then part of the United States Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands.

The Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands and Palau took a different route than the Northern Marianas in the break up of the trust territory. They became independent states with aid Compacts of Free Association with the United States.

Willens and Siemer examined the complex negotiations that took place on Saipan from 1972 to 1975 between the Marianas Political Status Commission and the U.S. negotiating team.

The negotiations later moved to Washington, DC, where representatives of both sides labored arduously to hammer out the details of a commonwealth agreement in the U.S. Congress.

Willens was legal counsel to the Marianas Political Status Commission.

Willens and Siemer also advised the 1976 Constitutional Convention in its efforts to create a constitution under which the Northern Marianas could function as a self-governing commonwealth.

Willens said: "We'd like to see our work become part of the community's collective history so that the citizens here know more about the recent history and understand the circumstances out of which the commonwealth relationship developed."

The authors wrote the book after five years of extensive litigation, invoking the Freedom of Information Act, to secure more than 70,000 pages of classified government documents.

"We hope the book will be widely read in the Marianas. It may look like an intimidating book, but we hope people will find it useful and perhaps entertaining," Willens added.

Said David Hanlon, general editor of the Pacific Islands Monograph Series: "In short, the authors present a rich, nuanced and sophisticated treatment of a very critical period in the recent political history of the Northern Marianas."

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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