‘We will finish strong’
Tuesday, 16 February 2010 01:00
by Therese Hart | Variety News Staff
Camacho seeks one Marianas
GUAM should once again seek the reunification of the Marianas Islands, as the combined strength of the islands and her people on matters of mutual interests and benefit, Gov. Felix Camacho said yesterday during his last state of the island address, in which he promised to “finish strong.”
“Over the last seven years, our ties to our brothers and sisters in the neighboring islands of the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands have become closer than ever,” Camacho said.
“Keep an open mind about the possibility of reunification,” he said. “I have faith in the Northern Marianas…and this is the right time to realize our expectations—expect the very best vision of reunification.”
The CNMI is a part of the military buildup plan as outlined in the draft environmental impact statement.
Camacho recently met with CNMI Gov. Benigno Fitial during a Japanese Diet delegation on a fact finding mission and both were in agreement that Guam cannot support more troops than the anticipated 8,000 Marines and their 9,000 dependents.
Fitial welcomes the additional 4,000 troops from Futenma Airbase in Okinawa and has proposed that Tinian be used for the overflow.
During his speech, Camacho said the years ahead “will be challenging but prosperous for all of us.”
“I have seen in our people the desire to turn willingness into action, vision into reality and passion into responsible and positive change.”
Camacho made a strong bid for the federal government to fund the cost of the military buildup on Guam, and expressed his strong stand about the Marines’ relocation plan.
A successful buildup cannot happen without the proper funding, said Camacho.
“The people of Guam do not have the financial capacity to fund what is required for our nation’s defense. Without the financial commitment from the federal government to put plans into action, this buildup will not benefit the people of Guam,” he said.
Camacho said that the buildup must benefit “the American patriot inside the fence and the American patriot outside the fence- the people of Guam.”
Building upon the many comments regarding the draft environmental impact statement, Camacho had three recommendations.
What feds must do
First, the federal government must commit to fund the government of Guam’s buildup needs.
Secondly, the buildup timeline must be extended beyond 2014, said Camacho.
And finally, Camacho recommended that the Department of Defense must reevaluate their plans and placement of the firing range and proposed dredging of Apra Harbor.
Camacho also stated that he will not support the condemnation of the Ancestral or Chamorro Land Trust properties; that the trust was established to bring justice to families of Chamorro descent who were displaced or left landless by the federal government.
As for his desire to see Guam and the CNMI reunited, Camacho said, “We can only succeed if we begin to forgive and let’s not look behind but let’s look forward.”
“As one Marianas, with greater representation and inclusion as American citizens, we will only strengthen our people and our communities,” Camacho said, adding that the reunification can only be realized once the people of Guam begin the healing process.
Camacho shared this same sentiment at the 2009 Economic Restoration Summit in Saipan, and even proposed that regional economic task forces be created so that islands can work together and benefit from the military buildup.
History of bitterness
Guam rejected the proposed Marianas unification was Nov. 4, 1969.
Some believed the rejection was some sort of “payback” to the Northern Marianas Chamorros for their perceived assistance to the Japanese forces during the occupation of Guam. During World War II, the NMI was a Japanese possession. Others argued that the reunification issue lost its significance on Guam which was preparing to hold its first gubernatorial election in the following year.
Camacho has been a strong proponent for the reunification of Guam and the CNMI.
In May, 2008, during the Attorney General’s Cup speech in Saipan, Camacho asked forgiveness from the CNMI for Guam’s rejection of the proposed reunification.
Camacho believes that 40 long years “is enough to end all bitterness and isolation among” the Chamorros of Guam and the NMI.
“You must tear down the walls. Learn to forgive because it’s a choice, not an option,” he said in 2008.
Camacho’s father was the last appointed governor of Guam and became its first elected chief executive in 1970.
“He told me… ‘son, this was what happened, ” Camacho said, adding that Guam and the NMI inherited what their former leaders have left behind.
In his 2008 speech, Camacho said “it is time to focus on a vision and plan for unity —we cannot allow others to break that hope.”
Camacho’s 30-minute speech turned emotional at some point. He broke down in tears as he acknowledged how difficult it was for his family to share the burden he was given when he became governor and what they’ve had to endure in their lives.
Turning to acknowledge his mother and First Lady Joann and his family who were seated behind him, Camacho thanked them for their love, encouragement and inspiration which have kept him going.