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By Gemma Q. Casas

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, April 10) - Governor Benigno R. Fitial will sign a bill today that will finally make Martin Luther King Jr. a Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands legal holiday.

Press Secretary Charles Reyes Jr., said the governor will sign into law House Bill 15-37, authored by Representative Cinta M. Kaipat, Covenant-Saipan.

The bill designates King’s birthday as a legal holiday that will be observed in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands every third Monday in January.

The bill would also combine Commonwealth Day and Covenant Day into "Commonwealth Covenant Day" and rename Columbus Day as "Commonwealth Cultural Day."

[PIR editor’s note: According to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands’ Executive Branch website, Commonwealth Day is celebrated on January 9, Covenant Day on March 24, and Columbus Day on October 9 – this year.]

The number of legal holidays in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands will remain 14 even with the enactment of House Bill 15-37.

According to the bill’s proponents, "King’s tremendous influence in protecting the civil rights of minorities in the United States encompasses the indigenous people of the commonwealth."

King, the bill stated, "was a prominent civil rights leader and fought for the equality, dignity and freedom of all people. It is through his work and devotion that we enjoy the freedom and civility in our life every day. Dr. King’s efforts have clearly affected the people of the Commonwealth, and we have benefited directly from his visions and actions as a civil rights advocate."

The first national celebration of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday took place on January 20, 1986.

The Northern Mariana Islands used to observe the holiday but this was repealed by a law passed by the 5th Legislature.

April 11, 2006

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