Self-determination: A Blip on the Federal Radar
Tuesday, 18 August 2009 00:32 by Sen. Ben Pangelinan
THIS past week, Guam hosted one of the largest congressional delegation headed by the Chairman of the Committee on Natural Resources Committee, with direct oversight over Guam, Congressman Nick Rahall of West Virginia. Congressman Rahall was first elected to Congress in 1976 and was on the Capital Hill when Congressman Antonio Won Pat represented Guam. During this recent trip, he was accompanied by old friends of Guam—Congresswoman Donna Christensen of the Virgin Island, Eni Faleomavaega of American Samoa, Congressman Henry Brown of South Carolina, Congressman Gregorio “Kilili” Sablan of the CNMI and of course our very own Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo.
Different with this visit was the CODEL’s decision to pay a visit to the Guam Legislature. Other delegations have come through and the legislature seems to be an afterthought. I know my colleagues, and this action was not a matter of ego stroking, but a genuine congeniality normally accorded to colleagues of the same branch of government. It really fostered a more open exchange of thoughts on the issues. In my humble opinion, this simple act toned down any desire to play to the camera or even the need for press releases.
The broader focus of Congressman Rahall’s concerns was another surprise with this delegation’s public discourse while they were here. The discussion was not confined to the “tip of the spear” role Guam plays in our national and global goals for the United States’ role in the Pacific and the world. I certainly felt that the chairman looked upon Guam as more than the typical characterization of our importance as location, location, location. Chairman Rahall displayed to me that he saw the people as integral to any equation in the success of the military expansion.
In the discussion on the military expansion and the effects it will have on Guam, this delegation noted the impact it will have to our way of life. Somehow, I got the feeling that although they recognized the military buildup’s positive economic impact on Guam, they also realized that money will not solve all of the problems. They may not have offered any specific remediation, but when they left, I felt better that their understanding of the challenges left more open doors than closed ones.
For me, the most satisfying pronouncement by Chairman Rahall was the unresolved matter of self-determination. The statement of Congressman Rahall addressing this issue is the first instance in my recent memory of someone in the congressional branch with the authority and power to advance it. Even more heartening was the commitment by Chairman Rahall and Congresswoman Bordallo to find the money to support the conducting of a public education campaign leading up to the plebiscite vote.
If ever there was a time when the stars are aligned for our people, this may be that time. With a supportive oversight chairman, a president who recognizes this inherent right for the people of Guam, a native son as an assistant secretary of the Department of Interior, we must do whatever it takes to come together locally to make this happen.
For the last two years, I have endeavored to press on with the decolonization registry and have introduced legislation to build the registry to the point where we can conduct the plebiscite vote on self-determination.
The blip on the radar is the heartbeat of our efforts.
Let’s all do our part to bring it to its full life.