Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Opinion :: Exclusion of Chamorro voice on buildup

Opinion :: Exclusion of Chamorro voice on buildup

Wednesday, December 09, 2009
Special to the Saipan Tribune

The completion of the Environmental Impact Statement on the planned military buildup in Guam is out for public scrutiny. The study addresses the mega impact versus basic infrastructure costs and wildlife habitats on Guam. It did everything else except allow the most important equation: the indigenous people of Guam, specifically, their sentiment on the impending mega buildup.

To address this apparent misgiving or purposeful oversight, Guam’s Vice Speaker Benjamin Cruz introduced legislation that would grant the indigenous people the opportunity to vote on whether they support or oppose the planned military project. It is the most appropriate legislation that would grant real stakeholders a participatory voice on substantive issues affecting their livelihood.

These issues must come into full view for deliberative discussions before this plan is given approval for subsequent implementation. It’s a process that must be allowed to take its natural course. Queries abound, including: How would this project impact the quality of life of the indigenous people? Would this require acquisition of more indigenous land for military purposes? What about the future need for residential subdivisions for the indigenous people? Would this issue be reduced to in-consequence in favor of military needs? How would this impact assist the indigenous people on basic infrastructure outside military fortifications? Who is going to defray these costs? In brief, it seems the buildup has the equivalence of placing the bull before the cart.

It is timely that the legislation is considered forthwith so that Uncle Sam hears the muted and oppressed voices of the indigenous people who only ask for common decency in forging a healthy future for their children. The simple folks at home have seen the dysfunctional relationship they had to endure with the military on indigenous land in the Andersen Air Force area. If this is any indication of what lies ahead, then the past is a quick reference for the future.

How much longer must this indignity be imposed rapaciously against a people who have served Uncle Sam so well for more than six decades? That the buildup means moving into my front and backyard definitely commands common decency in order that you ask me for my consent if such a plan is appropriate. I’m not sure that heavier dosages of colonization, alienation, degradation, dispossession, and marginalization of the indigenous people would restore their dignity as permanent hosts of Guam.

If I may, the military is notorious in the acquisition of prime land for its purposes. It has happened in the NMI and Guam. Must there be a repeat of history to understand that such a plan has simply turned the muted voices of our brothers and sisters into the perfect prescription of alienation and inconsequence? If you wish to be a good neighbor, start by listening to our sentiments, too. Rapacious acquisition of indigenous land no longer has a place anywhere in the Pacific Guam and the NMI included.

I wish to note too that the firepower of our country in the Pacific theatre is in the State of Hawaii. Satellite defense facilities aren’t going to aid our defense posture in Asia and the Pacific other than the convenience of imposing "contingency" plans that stampede and crush indigenous dignity and rights. A happy medium is a must and it begins with the military promoting an inclusive policy of participation by the indigenous people of Guam. Anything short of this is a perfect recipe for a dysfunctional relationship with the military.

The Futenma military base in Okinawa speaks volumes of how Okinawans feel about a crowded and noisy fortification in their midst they wish relocated. Some 80,000 people are relocating to Guam and DOD isn’t prepared to listen to the views of their hosts?

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