Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Coalition working to preserve remains

Coalition working to preserve remains

Posted: Jan 19, 2010 8:55 PM PST
by Michele Catahay

Guam - With the upcoming military buildup, local residents are concerned about the protection of human remains as more construction is slated for the island. The Coalition for the Protection of Burial and Human Remains is crafting its own piece of legislation in hopes one senator will introduce it soon.

Former senator Hope Cristobal is from the Coalition, and says the organization's mission is to help preserve and help strengthen local laws. She says current laws do not provide constraints for developers. "The human remains can be considered property. It can even be bought, sold or transferred. And so at this point in time, we're very concerned especially with the upcoming militarization of the buildup of this island."

The group has been meeting to create a citizen-type approach in hopes to put in legislation before the military buildup occurs. In fact, what the group wants to see is a council that would include indigenous people to make decisions when discoveries of historic sites are made.

"We're really looking to strengthen even more of the local legislation that we have, because we have legislation. But it doesn't go as far as protecting these human remains and at the most, we really should be - they're in sacred sites. We should be protecting them at these sacred and ancient sites," said Cristobal.

Cristobal says a prime example of what the group is willing to prevent is the incident at the former Hotel Okura, now currently called the Aurora Resort. Here, more than 300 human remains were removed from the site. Today, construction has seized and work hasn't resumed in almost a year.

She said, "We are very concerned because we think that our ancestor's spirits are at work here. There is not one hotel developer in Tumon that has been able to keep our ancestors' burials intact."

With the Marines movement set to occur in the coming years, Cristobal is hoping this type of legislation would allow for the same rules to apply inside the bases. She continued, "I don't know how far and to what extent our local laws apply inside the bases but those are the kinds of things we're looking at with this legislation to make sure we protect these burial sites and everyone knows that burial sites are located along coastal areas."

For the time being, Cristobal says she is hoping to meet with senators to look into the issue and find at least one lawmaker who is willing to sponsor the bill.

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