Friday, July 22, 2011

Self-Determination is Liberation

Self Determination is Liberation

Governor Eddie Baza Calvo
The Pacific Daily News
June 17, 2011

Editor's note: The following remarks will be delivered on Gov. Eddie Calvo's behalf to the United Nation's Special Committee on Decolonization.

Ladies and gentlemen, members of the United Nations, the people of Guam need your help. We are bearing a great burden. Colonialism has weighed down upon our people for nearly 500 years. This half millennium of external rule has taken its toll.

Our Chamorro ancestors came to Guam centuries before the Polynesians arrived in Hawaii. Our chiefs held law over the land before the kings of Europe. Our latte stones were built as the Mayans built their pyramids. Yet the only written history of this advanced and unique people are the accounts of foreigners -- of Spanish conquistadors and priests.

Our island suffered over 230 years of Spanish colonial rule. Chamorros were devastated by new diseases, war and oppression. After the Spanish-American War, the United States claimed Guam, and rule began under the naval government. Once again, Chamorros had no representation, and no say in their future.
Japan's foray into imperialism during World War II was especially brutal for Guam, when Chamorros suffered atrocities from the Japanese army. Our women were raped. Our men were beheaded. Chamorro families were marched into caves and exterminated like vermin.

After three years of pain and suffering, America finally stormed the beaches of our island on July 1944 to take back the island. The occasion is known as Liberation Day, but while we were liberated from slavery and war, the Chamorros were still suppressed under colonialism. One of Guam's liberators, a brave American, Darrell Doss, said it best:
"Fifty-nine years ago, on July 21, 1944, I and more than 57,000 Marines, soldiers and sailors came ashore on the beaches of Asan and Agat, and were honored to be referred to as 'liberators.' But in the end, we failed to accomplish what we had come to do -- liberate you. More correctly, our government failed both of us by not granting the people of Guam full citizenship. Another injustice is not allowing Guam to have equal say, as we in the states do, in governing your island home. Please remember, we men who landed on your shores July 21, 1944, shall never be fully satisfied until you are fully liberated."
Worse yet, the Chamorro people have yet to even receive reparations for the atrocities they suffered. The United States has already acknowledged the need to address wrongdoings during World War II, which is why Japanese-Americans who were forcibly removed from their homes during the war have been compensated. These reparations were justified.
Thousands of Japanese-Americans underwent forced internment, the motivations racist and ignorant. But what of our greatest generation on Guam? The Chamorros of World War II endured slavery, occupation, murder, and genocide. Yet the U.S. government is silent in its obligations to war reparations. Our island anxiously awaits the day when our people can receive the same amount of respect as fellow Americans who endured unimaginable evil during that time. The silence from the administering power on this issue reinforces the point that Guam can no longer remain a colony in perpetuity.

Ladies and gentlemen, for nearly half a millennium the Chamorro people have been unable to reach their full socio-economic potential because of our political status. Now, more than ever, it is important to move forward, while there are still Chamorros left to express our right to self-determination.
I am thankful our administering power, the United States, recognizes this right and need. The Obama administration has agreed to match local funding I have allocated for our decolonization efforts. The government of Guam is committed to a plebiscite. I personally would like to see a vote taken in the next General Election or the election after. What's most important is to make sure our Chamorros make an educated decision on the political status they want to move toward.
To say, "exercising this human right is long overdue" is a gross understatement. For far too long, the Chamorro people have been told to be satisfied with a political status that doesn't respect their wishes first. For far too long the native people of Guam have been dealing with inequality of government. We have been dealing with taxation without full representation, with quasi-citizenship and partial belonging.

Now it is time for us to realize our full political destiny, so we can take control and lead and live the way that is best for our people. I am urging this body to support our human rights as citizens of this world, to help us become citizens of a place -- of our place in this world.

Kao siña un ayuda ham ni' manChamoru. Siña un rikoknisa i direchon-måmi para dinitetminan maisa. Ayuda ham humago' i guinifen-måmi. Manespisiåt ham. Mambanidosu ham. ManChamoru ham.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak on behalf of the people of Guam.