United Nations Petitioners on the Question of Guam
GUAHU SI JULIAN AGUON, Chamoru Nation, said the indigenous people of Guam, the longest-colonized island in the Pacific Ocean, were preparing for the United States military realignment in the region that sought to homeport 60 per cent of its Pacific fleet in and around the island starting next year. With no input from the Chamoru people and as part of its realignment plan, the United States would flood Guam with 55,000 people. The Navy had recently suggested that six more nuclear submarines would be added to the three already stationed in Guam and there was talk of developing a global strike force. That build-up complemented the Air Force and Navy forces already occupying one third of the island and the influx would have devastating consequences on the Chamoru people, who comprised only 37 per cent of the 171,000 people living in Guam.
There had been no social or environmental impact study to assess the burdens of the build-up and it was reasonable to think that Guam would suffer similar problems of rape and violence as had Okinawa, he said. Guam officials were waiting with bated breath to learn whether any of the $10.3 billion settled upon would be spent on Guam's infrastructure as virtually every public sector in Guam was threatened with privatization. Public education was under duress and the burden on the school system was compounded by the United States' failure to compensate Guam for shouldering the costs of its free association compacts with Micronesian States. What was happening today was like an awful re-run of the Second World War. There was no free press on Guam and its people were not unified around the military build-up. The island needed help to attract international attention. The Committee should pass a resolution condemning the massive military transfer and build-up of Guam as a grave breach of duty on the part of the administering Power.
KERRI ANN NAPUTI BORJA, Organization of People for Indigenous Rights, said the aggressive campaign by the United States to institute political and military superiority in the Pacific after the Second World War had resulted in land confiscations that had claimed more than 50 per cent of the land and created reservations for the Chamorro people. The unilaterally passed congressional Guam Organic Act, which had made the island's inhabitants United States citizens in 1950, had also legitimized United States ownership of confiscated lands. It was a sad commentary that the administering Power, year after year, abstained from voting or voted against United Nations resolutions addressing the question of Guam.
She said a process of interim political status with limited internal self-government had been initiated after the locally mandated 1987 plebiscite, which had resulted in commonwealth status, a choice by registered United States voters. The resulting draft Guam Commonwealth Act had been rejected by the United States Congress in 1997 because of provisions on Chamorro self-determination, controls over local immigration and other aspects of United States control over the Territory. Military personnel and their families were eligible to vote in local elections.
Following the failure of the commonwealth proposal, the territorial Government had begun a decolonization process by enacting into law a Chamorro Registry that set the registration mechanism for the self-determination vote, she said. However, there had been little progress towards the exercise of Chamorro self-determination. The stated position that the term "non-self-governing" was inappropriate for those who could establish their own constitution did not reflect the reality. The right to elect a non-voting United States-paid delegate to the United States Congress did not equate with political freedom. A resolution was required by which the General Assembly would reaffirm that the Guam question was one of decolonization to be completed by the Territory's Chamorro people.
VICTORIA LOLA M. LEÓN GUERRERO, Guahan Indigenous Collective, said her homeland was in grave danger as young Chamoru doctors, teachers and future leaders left the island to be replaced by United States marines, military aircraft and submarines and foreign construction workers. The exodus could be ended by including in the draft resolution that the United States military build-up on Guahan was a direct impediment to decolonization and the right of indigenous Chamorus to decide their own future. The island's natural resources were its people's most precious asset. Every effort must be made to educate the people about community involvement in decision-making, which would impact on their survival.
She said the legacy of the Second World War had led to the toxic pollution of the land and surrounding waters by nuclear and other carcinogenic waste. There was a shortage of competitive jobs for young Chamoru people. The United States Department of Defence had unveiled its plan to move 8,000 marines and their 9,000 dependents from Okinawa and Japan to Guahan, which would have a great impact on the island's current population and change its cultural, political, social and ecological environment. The draft resolution should therefore include a provision that military activities and arrangements by the colonial Power impeded the implementation of the decolonization declaration.
SABINA FLORES PÉREZ (Guam), speaking on behalf of the International People's Coalition against Military Pollution (IPCAMP), said the recent United States military build-up on Guam posed the latest threat to human rights. The estimated influx of 35,000 military personnel, dependents and administrative staff would alter the island's demographics and political atmosphere. The build-up would transform Guam into a forward base with the planned expansion of runways and wharf storage facilities and the establishment of a global strike force. Unilateral decisions about the island's future were being made primarily outside Guam, without the people's participation or consent, which signified the exploitation of its political status as a colony.
She noted that Guam's strategic interest had evolved since 1898 when its harbour represented a key nodal point linking United States mercantile interests with Oriental economic possibilities. Under that colonial context, water, land, culture and the spirit of the Chamoru people were being stripped away. The Fourth Committee should include in the draft resolution on the question of Guam encouragement to the administering Power to fund Guam's decolonization process and clean up toxic military sites among other things.
TIFFANY ROSE NAPUTI LACSADO, National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum (NAPAWF), said United States cultural hegemony had created ripples throughout the Chamoru diaspora and did not allow for the survival of Chamoru language and traditions. An entire generation was living with the legacy of pillage that their parents and grandparents had faced in the Second World War, which had robbed generations of their most basic right: access to their language and traditions.
Erased from collective memory was the fact that the United States, by signing the United Nations Charter, was obligated to ensure Guam's self-determination and decolonization, she said. The psychosocial impact of the military was nothing less than total dependence. It plagued the Chamoru's land, bloodline, mind and spirit. The United Nations should become a more active participant in Guam's decolonization process and the Fourth Committee should take direct action to stop the military occupation of Guam by engaging directly with the Guam Commission on Decolonization office and grass roots groups. The sum effect of United States cultural hegemony and militarism was to permanently deny Chamoru people their right to self-determination.
FANAI CASTRO, Chamoru Cultural Development and Research Institute, quoting from a history of the Chamoru, said it was a testimony to how they had survived despite hundreds of years of colonization, genocide and war. However, that history was now threatened by the "worldwide western hegemony". The testimonies presented today were stories that had too often been kept out of sight. More than anything, the Chamoru sought an end to the chaos of war as they had been victimized for too long.
She recalled that the administering Power, the United States, had promised the United Nations that the self-determination of the Chamoru would not be denied. The Organization held the power of voice to break the cycle of colonialism and in that noble endeavour the indigenous voice must be an equal one because its heritage was being systematically destroyed for the sake of keeping colonial order.