Thursday, February 14, 2008

Federalization an Impediment to Human Rights

US federalization: A direct impediment to the human right to self-determination:

I love our national anthem of the CNMI. Until last year, I learned this song from some of my Chamoru and Carolinian sisters and brothers from the CNMI who live here in the continental United States. I am arduously trying to learn this song in Carolinian and look forward to the day when I can sing this song without the help of pen and paper. Permit me to rekindle a sense of pride in our homeland of the Marianas, the islands of my origins, by sharing with you the words that mean so much to us who have called these islands homeland for more than 5,000 years.

Gi talo gi halom tåsi Na gaige tano-ho, Ayo nai siempre hu saga Malago’ ho

Ya un dia bai hu hanåo, Bai fåtto ha’ ta’lo, Ti sina håo hu dingo, O tano-ho

Mit beses yan mås, Hu saluda håo, Gatbo na islas Mariånas, Hu tuna håo

Mit beses yan mås, Hu saluda håo, Gatbo na islas Mariånas, Hu tuna håo

Mit beses yan mås, Hu saluda håo, Gatbo na islas Mariånas, Hu tuna håo

My father was born on Saipan. My great grandmothers and grandfathers were at one time well known by Europeans because my family helped bring supplies to many parts of Micronesia and Oceania. My mother was born on Guam. After World War II, we were considered outcasts because my grandfather was a pure Japanese who happened to marry a Chamoru woman before the war ever started. Like many Chamoru families after the war, many moved to Guahan to seek better opportunities. My family was one of them. With this in mind, I am writing on behalf of the many people before me who have tried to seek a better life and who continue to struggle to live freely as peace-loving indigenous people of these islands.

I write briefly about my personal background to give context and authority to my work. For a very long time on our islands, we have remained divided as a Chamoru and Carolinian people over issues of the past. Whether these issues were grudges of war time or political relationship with the United States, we cannot let these memories surpass the good work that is beginning to happen in our homelands and in places where we have migrated. This great divide, like the abyss of the Marianas Trench, has been used by our colonizers to divide us as a people. Likewise, this colonial mentality has brought a racist tendency to all who call the Marianas home. Let us remember that racism is taught and if we do nothing to bring out the truth then we will remain in isolation, never allowing the truth to come forward. As a young Chamoru activist and theologian, it is now time to begin the process of healing so that we can work together as ONE people.

With the recent passage of H.R. 3079 in the House of Representatives, a group of young Chamoru and Carolinian activists (from Guahan and the CNMI) in the continental United States drafted letters to Senate committee members and were e-mailed to everyone who oppose H.R. 3079. For some reason, an editor from the local newspaper has attempted to cast a negative light on these efforts calling it “the administration's attempt to recruit young NMI students.” It is with this kind of viciousness in biased media coverage that we seek to clarify positions that all must be aware of whether you are here in the continental United States or there on Guahan and the NMI. We cannot let these kinds of interpretations and judgments steer us in the wrong direction. I would like to personally challenge those who are in favor of federalization, including Tina Sablan, to study the contents of the bill verbatim to see if the CNMI and her people truly benefit from federalization. If one were to juxtapose the current labor and immigration laws of the CNMI with that of federalization, CNMI labor and immigration laws are stronger in protecting the human rights of its citizens and those who are contracted to come to our islands. The abuses of the past were a direct result of large U.S. owned corporations that used the CNMI for its profit. Today, at a time when the CNMI desperately needs an alternative economy, these corporations could care less because they came, they saw, and they plundered, forever casting a negative light on the CNMI.

We are Famoksaiyan, which translates to either "the place or time of nurturing" or "the time to paddle forward and move ahead." It finds its origins in the word Poksai, which means “to raise up.” We are a grassroots network of activists, scholars, students, community and religious leaders/practitioners and artists who seek to push a progressive political, economic and social agenda for Chamorus and their communities at the local, national and international levels. Much of the work of Famoksaiyan has been to educate and inform the public communities at the local, national and international circles from around the world about the plight of our Oceanic communities in the Pacific. As our world shifts into “protecting the security of homeland,” I ask you simply, “which homeland-the continent or the Marianas?” If federalization were to pass, we will succumb into being slaves of federal grants and monies system, which is already being siphoned from the poor into the military budget. The tragedy here is that not only will our lands be taken away, but also our sons and daughters who are “taught” to join the military. Let me be clear that I have utmost respect for all of the military service men and women, especially Chamorus and Carolinians, who step forward to serve this country to protect our freedoms. However, what we need to pay close attention to are the policies that dictate this mentality and the unfounded reasons for federalization and the military buildup in the Marianas.

As a member of Famoksaiyan and a Chamoru from both Guahan and Saipan, I have faxed letters, made phone calls, e-mailed, and visited the senators in their district offices and have always said “No to federalization.” I have not been recruited or paid for these services as I have always served the people from these islands from the deepest core of my being for it was the people from the Marianas who donated their money for my seminary education. I have never forgotten my place in serving my people.

Some may say that it is not good to mix religion and politics. Believe me, I have had my fair share of the lecturing game. However, as someone who has a degree in theology, let us not forget that it was through politics that we have a Catholic religion in our islands. From the Old Testament to the Gospels of Jesus Christ, we have always been taught the struggle for freedom and liberation. Thus, we must work harder for the sake of protecting the very spirituality that we have come to own. This issue of federalization is not an “us versus them” mentality. It is about all of us working together as one Marianas to say no to federalization and no to the military buildup. These two issues work hand in hand. It is now time to bring an end to these wishes of the federal government who have consistently failed to live up to their promises with regards to the human right to a self-determined government. It is now time to act. Will you join me in a faxing party? Let us not rest until our voices are heard in the Senate.

If you would like to obtain copies of these letters, you may simply access this information online at or you may contact me at for more information. Please continue to fax these letters to the Senate and spread the word to all you meet. May Guahan and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas continue to work together for the good of all of her people.

Jonathan Blas Diaz
Redwood City, Calif.

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