OUR failure to resolve Guam’s political status continues to hang over us like a nasty black cloud, and although we mostly duck and dither when confronting this long simmering issue, it has, finally, to be done.
For decades we’ve appointed commissions, hired experts and spent millions trying to satisfy what all but the complete diehards concede is the very basic human right to determine one’s own destiny in the world. The people of Guam know a lot about how it feels to be powerless as overseers such as the Spanish Crown and the former Naval government set rules but present no recourse or representation to the governed.
The indefinite sentence to a purgatorial political status has left many of those who have diligently tried to find a fix demoralized and not inclined to push for change. If polls tend to show the people are leaning toward apathy on political status, that pretty much reflects what’s been coming from past leadership. The former Camacho administration, likely seeing little or no political benefit in addressing the issue, pushed the big red hold button on political status for its entire tenure.
Fortunately, Governor Eddie Baza Calvo has dragged Guam’s political status back in front of the people by reconvening the first meeting of the Commission on Decolonization in 10 years, with the assignment of setting a date for a political status vote and organizing a public education campaign on the issues. While I know the effort has been slowed down in recent years by the perception that the Guam public doesn’t care about it, I believe that setting a date and carrying out an effective public education campaign will prompt many people who are eligible to sign up for the Decolonization Registry.
All parts of GovGuam, including at the village level, are to work together to drive further participation in the Decolonization Registry; eligible registrants must be able to trace their Guam roots back to the time of the 1950 Organic Act and be registered Guam voters as well.
Voters who sign up with the Registry would choose whether they want the island to fully integrate into the United States as a state, to become an independent country, or have a ‘freely associated’ status somewhere in between.
Particular credit for keeping the faith on Guam political status is due to Senator Ben Pangelinan who kept the candle burning by soliciting signatures for the Decolonization Registry. Senator Ben’s efforts have been truly formidable, but it’s time for the entire Guam community to get involved.
The first step is to get all eligible voters on this issue identified and signed up on the Registry, so the vote in the plebiscite will be a meaningful reflection of their will.
In hopes of mobilizing the community to get behind this effort, I’ve introduced a bill allowing all eligible GovGuam employees to be able to register at their office or workplace.
I am also encouraging the Commission on Decolonization to find ways to involve island civic organizations and private businesses in the registration effort. This would be a purely voluntary effort, for a cause that I believe will benefit every resident of Guam, whether qualified to participate in the decolonization vote or not.