CNMI Celebrates 39 Years Of Political Union With America

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Covenant can be credited for myriad of positive impacts

By Cherrie Anne E. Villahermosa

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, March 24, 2015) – Governor Eloy S. Inos and Lt. Gov. Ralph D.L.G. Torres said they will continue to protect and defend the CNMI Constitution that the commonwealth founders fought for so that the Northern Marianas could be where is it today.

Inos and Torres in a joint statement to commemorate the 39th anniversary of the Covenant said the people of the NMI should be reminded of the long journey taken by their forefathers who charted the islands’ future.

Overwhelmingly ratified by NMI voters, approved by the U.S. Congress and signed by then-President Gerald R. Ford, the Covenant established the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands in Political Union with the U.S.

"Our political status, our Constitution, our standards of living are what they are today because of the Covenant that we entered into with the United States of America," Inos and Torres said. ‘Today we honor our forefathers who stood in unison with the United States of America through this monumental agreement."

They added, "Let us reflect on the blessings bestowed upon us through the Covenant. Let this day be a reflection on such. Happy Covenant Day!"

Then known as the Marianas District, the NMI was the only jurisdiction of the United Nations Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands to choose political union with the U.S. which administered the Trust Territory.

The other districts — Palau, the Marshalls and what is now known as the Federated States of Micronesia — opted for independence and free association with the U.S.

According to Inos and Torres, in the last 39 years, the Covenant has allowed the NMI people to elect their own leaders, write their own Constitution and live in a society governed by the inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

"Every single elected official since the first governor and legislators including both of Ralph and I have sworn to protect and defend it. It has seen us through good times and tough challenges and through it all it has and continues to remain that which binds us in a union with the United States of America," Inos said.

"We honor our framers for having the foresight to guarantee the advancement of every single individual of Northern Marianas descent through the powers of this treaty. This day will forever be a celebration of their collective legacies.

"The Covenant defines who we are and the ideals we hold dear in political union with the U.S."

The governor said that union is still strong.

In an interview, Speaker Joseph Deleon Guerrero said the Covenant "is the foundation of our status as a commonwealth."

He added, "We celebrate many holidays but this one, this particular holiday is local, this is ours, and it commemorates a monumental event that we alone recognize — it’s unique and significant for us."

House Floor Leader George Camacho said the Covenant created the commonwealth and the people should not forget about it.

"The agreement is still intact," he said. "We have made significant progress and we can always reflect on whether to move forward and see what direction we are going to."

Rep. Edmund Villagomez said the signing of the Covenant is a very important event in NMI history.

Rep. Vinnie Sablan, for his part, said it’s important for future generations to know the islands’ history and where they are headed so they will not be blinded when it’s their turn to make decisions for the CNMI.

"I saw the importance when dealing with issues. I myself look back to where we started to help me come up with better decisions and I think our forefathers had good reasons for drafting that agreement 39 years ago. They did not come up with that unique agreement for nothing."

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