Saturday, February 07, 2009

Indigenous group submits anti-federalization declaration to court

Friday, 06 February 2009 00:00 By Junhan B. Todeno - Variety News Staff

The CNMI Descent for Self-Government and Indigenous Rights has filed a motion in federal court, expressing its desire to join the governor’s federalization lawsuit.

The motion for leave to participate as amicus curiae, or “friend of court,” was signed by Washington, D.C. attorney John E. Drury and CNMI lawyer Robert J. O’Connor.

The indigenous group also filed a brief in support of the governor’s lawsuit.

According to the group, it recognizes that the federalization law “will have a profound result for the self-government of the indigenous people.”

The indigenous group said it believes that “many of the issues implicated have not been fully or adequately addressed by the parties already in the case.”

The group “accordingly seeks to participate in this case as amicus curiae, so that the court may have the benefit of its perspective on these important issues.”

The governor’s lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

The group’s spokesman and adviser, former Speaker Oscar C. Rasa, , said he is confident that the court will allow their group to participate in the case.

Last December, the U.S. Department of Justice asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit, saying that under the Covenant, the U.S. Congress can extend federal immigration law to the islands.

It added that the governor’s economic disaster scenario was hypothetical and speculative

Rasa said the federal government claims that federalization law will not harm CNMI self-government.

Their group disagrees, he said, because the federal government failed to look into the constitutional issues.

“Their definition of self-government is more on institutional in nature which is by mere election and establishment of the executive, legislative and judicial branches of the government, but ours is constitutional,” he said.

Rasa said the issue should include the U.N. Charter and the Trusteeship Agreement to provide a “more accurate understanding of the Covenant’s guarantee of local self-government.”

He said when the U.S. government passed the federalization law it violated the self-government provisions of the Covenant.

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