Friday, August 28, 2009

Snubs and Ifit

Let’s Fix It: Of snubs and Ifit
Thursday, 27 August 2009
by Sen. Judi Guthertz
Marianas Variety

JUST a few weeks ago, a congressional delegation came to Guam and the six members of the U.S. Congress met with members of the Guam Legislature more than once during their visit, and in general were friendly, open and welcoming to the local community. Their presence and their actions made the people of Guam feel as if we are an actual part of the American Union.

Fast-forward to this week and the Washington establishment presents its other face, and offers a totally different experience. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus was here on Guam, and unfortunately he hardly paid attention to anyone who was not in uniform. He made some of us remember what it feels like to live in a colony.

Repeated attempts by my office to set up a meeting were ignored, and the Navy reportedly eliminated a visit with the Guam Legislature because of time constraints. There wasn’t even a courtesy telephone call or e-mail to say that the Navy secretary was going to bypass us, because of a trip to the CNMI and a meeting with the governor and
legislators there.

Sometimes, when we hear the tremendous buzz about the buildup, and we hear about all of the dollars and yen that will potentially be spent on Guam, we fall back into our “wishful thinking” mode. We think, “maybe our federal government will treat us fairly. Maybe they won’t ignore us this time. Maybe they won’t forget us this time. The reality is that we are an unincorporated territory, which is just a nice way of saying “colony.” We have a lesser status than the CNMI just 75 miles to the north.

The feds don’t need to talk to us, and they know they don’t have to. It’s frustrating that the CNMI has indigenous fishing rights and we don’t; they have relief from high ocean shipping rates and we don’t; they have SSI and we don’t.

And their legislators met with Secretary Mabus, and we didn’t.

Instead, we received an e-mail hours after the meeting didn’t take place, with an apology attached. We all know how it feels to be so unimportant that we don’t even rate an advisory call or e-mail in advance.

Despite the snub, we must move forward. Sen. Respicio and I are working with the University of Guam’s School of Business and Public Administration to put on the “Island Conference on the Guam Military Buildup: the Guam Perspective,” on November 19 and 20. We have invited President Obama, President Macapagal-Arroyo of the Philippines, and a host of others. We will also be inviting both Navy Secretary Ray Mabusand Admiral Douglass Biesel, who is Commander Joint Region Marianas.

What better way for them to make up for what didn’t happen on this visit, and what better way for them to learn how the real people of Guam feel about the buildup?


In a related matter, I’ve written to Admiral Biesel about the Ifit trees on military property. It’s the Territorial Tree of Guam and its very hard wood was used in traditional construction. It’s a favorite of a number of traditional carvers.

Upcoming military construction may require cutting down some Ifit trees on military property. Although Guam law protects the Ifit, I’m not sure it has any federal protection. I’ve asked Admiral Biesel if he could ensure that if Ifit trees are to be cut down, they are properly harvested and their timber be offered to the local carvers.

This could generate good will in the community. It won’t make up for past wrongs, but every step forward, no matter how small, is worth the effort.


Senator Judith Paulette Guthertz, DPA, chairs the 30th Guam Legislature’s Committee on the Guam Military Buildup and Homeland Security. Send feedback to senatorjudiguthertz@gmail.comThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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