A WHILE back in this space, I expressed sympathy for fellow Variety columnist Arnold ‘Dave’ Davis. By filing a suit challenging the Guam plebiscite-to-be, I am sure that Mr. Davis views himself as being on the side of the angels, even if his legal advisor in Virginia – the Center for Individual Rights, or CIR – seems more interested in playing the race card against the Obama Administration Justice Department in this contentious election year. I described CIR then as “narrowly focused on undoing any government remedies intended to compensate for past discrimination against minorities. And yes, that would include Chamorros and Micronesians.”
My sympathy was based on the thought that the real motive for CIR paying Mr. Davis’ legal bills for his suit might be slightly less noble than presented in his columns, and the media and not exactly what he intended.
Now comes Guam attorney Mun Su Park informing me and 48 other Guam citizens, including Gov. Calvo, that we must submit to depositions intended to help him build his case that the proposed political status plebiscite reflects improper or illegal racial elements discriminating against Mr. Davis, who wasn’t allowed to add his name to the Chamorro Registry.
In my case, Atty. Park believes I’m harboring evidence “regarding racial intent, specific legislative actions including those that pertain to racial intent and racially discriminatory effects, racial appeals, and statements of elected officials, campaigns and elections in Guam.”
Before we sit down for the depo, a few thoughts.
First, back in 1950, the original Organic Act approved by the U.S. Congress had a couple of preferences for the “native inhabitants of Guam.” These were for educational opportunities and civil service positions, but they were removed in 1968 in an apparent tradeoff allowing for local election of the governor of Guam.
In 1977, I was elected to be a member of the Guam Constitutional Convention. We drafted a constitution for our island and one provision was for recognition of indigenous fishing rights. It said, “To redress past discrimination and provide equal opportunity for the Chamorro people, special rights for Chamorros to off-shore fishing, and harvesting of resources may be provided by law.”
President Carter and the U.S. Congress approved this draft Constitution of Guam, including this fishing provision. They had no problem with the special rights provision for Chamorros, but we never adopted the Constitution.
My 2009 bill recognizing indigenous fishing rights used the current Guam Code definition of Native Inhabitants of Guam as “those persons who became U.S. citizens by virtue of the authority and enactment of the 1950 Organic Act of Guam and descendants of those persons.” This definition is date-based, not racially or ethnically based.
The recent history of this issue is accessible to Mr. Park and other interested parties. If there’s a smoking gun, it has escaped me.
The political status plebiscite that Mr. Davis doesn’t like uses this same Organic Act definition for those qualified to vote in the plebiscite. It – again – is date-based, not a racial or ethnic-based definition. This point is key. It therefore passes the Organic Act and Constitutional screening test.
Since the beginning of the Decolonization Commission, which is to oversee the plebiscite, I have been a member of the Statehood Task Force of that commission and have advocated for statehood being the most beneficial status for all the people of Guam, both the indigenous and non-indigenous people. I am confident that this political status will be the preferred option by both groups, those fitting the legal definition of “native inhabitant,” and the non-indigenous people of Guam.
We’ll save any other questions for the deposition.
Sen. Judith Paulette Guthertz, DPA, chairs the 31st Guam Legislature’s Committee on the Guam Military Buildup and Homeland Security. Send feedback to senatorjudiguthertz[at]gmail.com