Thursday, August 13, 2009

Rahall Backs Guam Self-Determination

Rahall backs Guam self-rule
Thursday, 13 August 2009 01:01 by Jude Lizama
Marianas Variety News Staff .

CONGRESSMAN Nick Rahall of West Virginia said yesterday he would support the choice of the island community “to decide and unite among yourselves as to what you want” in reference to Guam’s political status.

“Certainly, we’re not going to address the issue if we see division and different sides fighting each other on the issue,” Rahall said. “The people at the grassroots level have to get it together first. That’s what democracy is all about.”

Guam has three options to choose from—statehood, free association or independence. However, the self-determination plebiscite has been suspended indefinitely due to the Guam Elections Commission’s inability to meet the required percentage of voters to fill the Native Inhabitants Registry.

Rahall made known his position on Guam’s quest for self-rule in response to Sen. Eddie B. Calvo’s question during the Chamber of Commerce meeting at the Hyatt Regency Guam yesterday.

“When we choose our political status, would you be in favor of that choice and fight for this cause?” Calvo asked Rahall, to which the congressman replied, “Yes, we would.”

Rahall added that the community is “going to have to get out and work among themselves.”

As chairman of the powerful U.S. House Natural Resources Committee, Rahall oversees federal insular areas including Guam. The island’s political status is the longest standing local political issue ever faced.

Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo noted efforts by her office to identify and fund an educational program for a plebiscite emphasizing her commitment to see the island community hold a plebiscite and achieve self-determination once and for all.

“It’s really up to the people,” she said. “Whatever you decide, I’ll carry the water.”

Rahall added that Congress recognizes the uniqueness of what is being asked of the island, which he stated is a “big factor in your favor.” But that regardless of such factors, he said, the island community still needs to “work together.”

“It’s not us from Washington imposing our will down upon the people, but the people expressing from the grassroots level up to us what they want to see,” Rahall said. “Not only with political status, but that affects the military buildup, as well.”

He advised the local community to not “sit back and expect the federal government to shower dollars down upon every problem that comes up.”

Rahall determined that because of prevailing budgetary conditions, island leaders should seek private help and private-public partnerships with the recognition that there are less federal dollars available for a plebiscite.

Voice of the people
“Many of our people feel their voice won’t count even if we choose a political status in a plebiscite. We should take every opportunity to secure commitments from U.S. leaders that they will respect and stand by the self-determination of the people of Guam,” said Calvo. “Guam is important to U.S. interests, now more than ever. This is the time to expect action from the U.S. government on an issue that has languished for far too long.”

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