Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Reparations provision not included in Defense Authorization Act

Reparations provision not included in Defense Authorization Act

Posted: Oct 07, 2009 3:39 PM PDT
Updated: Oct 07, 2009 5:12 PM PDT

by Mindy Aguon

The House and Senate Armed Services Committees have reached agreement on the conference report to H.R. 2647, the Fiscal Year 2010 National Defense Authorization Act, but the report does not include the Guam World War II Loyalty Recognition Act that island residents and leaders had been pushing for.

House Armed Services Committee Chair Ike Skelton made the announcement that the agreement had been reached as H.R. 2647 authorizes $550.2 billion in budget authority for the Department of Defense and the national security programs of the Department of Energy.

The bill also authorizes $130 billion to support overseas contingency operations during FY2010. A review of the agreed upon report does not include any reference to war reparations for the island of Guam for the thousands who suffered and died during the Japanese occupation. Hundreds of island residents and elected leaders had been pushing

Senate members to support the inclusion and President Barack Obama sent a letter of support as well providing hope that the provision would be a part of the final product.

Chairman Skelton released a statement saying, "This defense bill reflects our commitment to support U.S. service members and their families and to provide the necessary resources to keep Americans safe and protect our national interests. The conference report to this year's defense bill promotes our main policy objectives: restoring military readiness; taking care of our troops and their families; focusing on our strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan and on redeployment from Iraq; eliminating waste and recovering savings through acquisition reform; and maintaining robust oversight of the Department of Defense."

"I did not accept the offer from the Senate conferees because it would not recognize all of those who endured Guam's occupation," Congresswoman Madeleine Z. Bordallo said today. "While I am disappointed that H.R. 44 was not included in the final defense authorization bill, the compromise that was reached allows another opportunity to build on the progress we have made and to bring closure to this issue within a year. I believe that hearings on H.R. 44 would allow the Senate's concerns to be aired openly, and to have our concerns heard by the House and Senate Armed Services Committees. I will continue to build on the support that we have received from the House leadership, the Obama Administration and key committees in the Senate."

Guam's congressional delegate added, "I believe that our local leaders and our community would use this opportunity to help us make Guam's case for H.R. 44 and for full inclusion of all those affected by the occupation. We are on a path to closure, and we have additional time to make our case. I hope that the commitments made by the House and Senate conferees to hold hearings and to readdress war claims in next year's bill will give us the best opportunity to resolve this issue and to finally have closure."

Some victims of the WWII occupation have taken it upon themselves to lead the movement lobbying Guam's congressional representative and senators like Senator John McCain and Senator Carl Levin who sit on the Senate Armed Services Committee to make sure that the war reparations were included in the final senate version. Leonard Aguigui said he was heartbroken and questions how the people of Guam will be able to feel comfortable with this new influx of military on the island.

"Well, I don't know what else to do or what else to say. I'm very disappointed in it. I'm not upset with our Congresswoman, I know she did everything she could do, but I'm very disappointed in the Senate. This thing may have an affect on the build up in Guam. if you can't give us justice, then what are you doing here? Are we just a pawn?" he said.

Aguigui says this was his last chance and his generation will not feel duly compensated for all they have sacrificed once this news reaches the community. "They don't care what happens to us. We are still part of the U.S. like any other citizen in the continental U.S. Why can't they think this way? We aren't asking much. We are just asking what is due to us. That is all we are asking for," added Aguigui.

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