Monday, August 20, 2007

High Emotions at Congressional Townhall Meeting

Town hall meeting featured high emotions
by Sabrina Salas Matanane, KUAM News
Friday, August 17, 2007

Thursday night's town hall meeting on the proposed military expansion for Guam, hosted by congressional representative Madeleine Bordallo, lasted much longer than the two hours than it was scheduled for. Bordallo was joined by U.S. Virgin Islands delegate Donna Christensen and Congressman Eni Faleomavaega from American Samoa. All three congressional delegates are members of the House Subcommittee on Insular Affairs, which Christensen chairs.

For several hours the members heard testimony from various sectors of the community, many of whom waited several hours just to be able to have a seat at the table.

Trying to summarize years of what they perceived as inequality in five minutes angered many of those who showed up to testify. The effort was difficult for many island residents who testified before the congressional panel on the Department of Defense's proposed military expansion for Guam. Chamorro language teacher Linda Edwards tried to summarize what life was like living with the military in her backyard, saying, "When I was a young kid growing up in Yigo I recall then we had certain days of the week they would go out and spray these chemicals in there and we were told to go in the house. When they started to do that, I'll never forget that. And then after all these years I think we were still exposed to his in our soil, plants and water. What was that chemical and what contaminants did it contain? My mother had Parkinson's Disease and her sister and all her cousins and all died fro Parkinson's, and to take care of an invalid such as that is very hard, especially being the only girl."

Linda's story was just one of many from those who showed up to Thursday night's town hall meeting on the proposed military expansion. Others who served on the front line defending America like Phil Cruz, a retired Army man. He says he didn't understand why a hearing held specifically for the people had to wait at the end of the line in order to testify. "If you were good enough you would have said hear the people fist and I'll come after you."

Cruz waited like others to give their testimony. His opportunity came at around 11pm last night. "Be careful, Guam. I am not approving and disapproving this until all info comes out. I just want to say I don't know what you're intentions are and by the way you elected officials when you go negotiate turn this table around you should be up there and let the military ask you the questions they are the visitors we live here," he warned.

Emotional testimony also came from David Sablan who believes the island can not accommodate such an influx. "Our island is too small, so tiny, that it's only a dot on the map and this is the largest military buildup in the history of the United States, and you're going to bring it to the littlest place? Can we make some sense there are we thinking or what? Hello?!?!?"

Patrea Sablan said she believes the military buildup is really a cover for a prelude to war. "No more smoke screening say it's a war buildup say it as it really is and how long will it before you can tell us because you know we all adults here on Guam."

Further, Pauline Pangelinan made reference to local media reports. On the recent announcement and unilateral decision by U.S. Navy officials on Guam about its plans to double the amount of water it charges the Guam Waterworks Authority for water from Fena. "This is a classic example of the callous disregard the military has for the people of Guam," she charged.

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