Wednesday, November 18, 2009

War survivors’ quest for justice continues

War survivors’ quest for justice continues

Tuesday, 17 November 2009 01:46
by Therese Hart | Variety News Staff

GUAM’S quest for recognition of the pain and suffering endured by Japanese Imperial Forces during their occupation in World War II recently suffered a setback by the United States Congress in their crafting of the 2010 Defense Authorization Act.

Although the Guam World War II Loyalty Recognition Act did not survive the attempt to have it included as an amendment to the Defense bill, U.S. Senate leaders promised Guam’s representative to have hearings on the war claims bill and consider taking action on the measure before the end of 2009-2010 term.

These hearings are expected to begin in December. Since many of our manamko who suffered the atrocities of war have since passed away or are infirmed, there are ongoing discussions to have them appear before the committee via teleconference in the District Court of Guam's courtroom.

In December 2003, survivors of the war told their stories to the Federal War Claims Commission during a series of hearings held on Guam. They gave their accounts of the brutality, the anguish, the degradation, the sufferings, and the fears that they had to endure.

They gave eye witness testimonies of the lashings, the beatings, and the beheadings of their loved ones and friends. In those hearings, those who testified also expressed their hope that their nation will finally acknowledge what they went through and give them the recognition they so rightfully deserve.

Although there has been the promise of the opportunity to address the war claims issue over the next year, many of the remaining survivors are well within their golden years and traveling to Washington, DC to testify once again may be too difficult.

Because of this, the decision makers in Congress have been asked to seriously consider holding any hearings on this matter on Guam, and because of the midterm elections that will be occurring across the United States late next year, it was further requested that the hearings be conducted before March 2010.

Unfortunately, there are also those who testified in 2003 who have since passed away. It is for those individuals who have died while waiting for their recognition and for our elderly who will find it impossible to travel almost 9,000 miles away that Sen. Frank Blas Jr.'s office will present a weekly series entitled, “Real People, Real Stories.”

Once every week, the testimonies of those individuals who appeared before the War Claims Commission in 2003. Although transcripts of the hearings are open to the public, we will get the permission of the survivors, or that of their heirs, to provide their testimonies in this series. If the survivors or their heirs wish, we will also include their sentiments of the waiting they continue to endure.

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