MARIANAS LAWSUIT "FUTILE" AND EXPENSIVE: ACTIVIST

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More can come from working with the U.S.

By Gemma Q. Casas

SAIPAN, CNMI (Mariana Variety, June 26, 2008) - A human rights activist says the Fitial administration’s planned lawsuit against the U.S. over the federalization law is futile and may just bury the CNMI people in debt.

"It is unlikely that anything will result from such a lawsuit except the CNMI will spend a great deal of money and waste valuable time fighting the federal government instead of working with them to shape the policies for the federal programs to be instituted in the CNMI," Wendy Doromal, a former Rota public teacher, told Variety in an e-mail.

Governor Benigno R. Fitial, who flew to the U.S. on Wednesday for a 10-day business trip, said the lawsuit "is necessary in the interests of the commonwealth and all of its residents."

Doromal also raised concern over the economic impact of the planned "economic injury" lawsuit to the finances of the cash-strapped CNMI government.

But the governor’s press secretary, Charles P. Reyes Jr., said the private sector will help pay the cost of the impending litigation that is likely to be filed in Washington, D.C.

"The governor has acknowledged the financial costs of litigation, but he believes it is vitally important for the CNMI to protect its vital economic interests. He will continue to work with the Legislature and the private business sector in addressing the cost of litigation," he said in a statement to Variety.

Doromal said the governor’s announcement isn’t surprising at all.

"Before the bill was even signed the governor and his anti-federalization team spoke of a lawsuit," she said.

She said the lawsuit will likely disappoint the U.S. Congress and may lead to a closed-door negotiation policy on how to better implement the impending changes in the CNMI’s immigration system starting June of next year.

"It is extremely unlikely that the federal agencies that are working on the policies will be meeting with the governor and his administrative team if they file a lawsuit. What a missed opportunity for the people of the CNMI," she said.

"Where did the money come from to retain this law firm and to hire a lobbying firm? With so many urgent needs in the CNMI including fixing the power plant and funding the public schools and NMC, it seems incredible that the governor and his team of attorneys would push through such a futile lawsuit," she added.

The governor announced on Tuesday he has retained Jenner & Block which has 500 attorneys in Chicago, New York and Washington, D.C.

But the lawsuit was drafted by the governor’s special legal counsel, Howard P. Willens.

Most members of the CNMI House of Representatives don’t mind the lawsuit so long as public funds will not be tapped to finance it.

According to Reyes, "the governor understands that there are some in our community who do not wish to spend public funds to prevent the forced exodus of our entire foreign workforce and their dependents in five years, though the catastrophic economic effect of such a development should be clear to all."

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