The Commission on Decolonization held the first of a series of village meetings arranged to discuss Guam’s political status yesterday at the Dededo Community Center.
Revolving around the island’s long-delayed plebiscite that has been in discussions since 1998, the commission has finally launched the village meetings as an educational campaign on the three proposed political options - independence, free association and statehood.
The plebiscite, which would be a non-binding referendum, was supposed to be included in this November’s General Election, as intended by Gov. Eddie Calvo, but was pushed back yet again after the commission decided against the idea, failing to launch an aggressive educational campaign beforehand.
Earlier this year, the Commission on Decolonization put together high school debates, in which students presented arguments for each of the three political status options.
At yesterday’s meeting, representatives from the Commission on Decolonization presented information on self-determination, the importance of Guam’s political status and who in the community can vote, namely native inhabitants of Guam.
The three task forces representing the three statuses then presented short pitches on what their individual statuses are and what they could mean for Guam’s political future.
Afterward, representatives from each of the task forces were able to meet with northern residents one on one to further discuss the options in a more intimate setting.
'A footnote to the United States'
The Independence for Guahan Task Force has been holding monthly forums to educate residents on the independence status since August. Task Force Co-chair Michael Lujan Bevacqua says that he wanted his pitch to center around calming the fears and uncertainties of an independent Guam.
“Many people feel that independence means isolation and cutting ourselves off from the world, but in truth, an independent Guam would mean joining the world as a partner,” Bevaqcua said. “Right now we’re a part of the world as a footnote to the United States. Imagine what it would be like if instead of being an American footnote, we got to sit beside other nations, tackling big issues like climate change. Imagine that.”
Free Association for Guam Task Force Chairman Adrian Cruz says that free association would be the middle ground of the three options, presenting opportunities for Guam to be more self-governing while still maintaining a relationship with the United States, referencing example nations such as Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia.
“We’re sort of the middle of the road,” Cruz said. “We lack the ability to sit down with the federal government as partners, so free association would still give us a relationship with the United States and in the same token, free us up enough to manage our own internal affairs. We’re comfortable as Americans, but we’re not treated fairly in our relationship and that is unacceptable. We need to modernize our political relationship with the United States."
A complex process
Statehood for Guam Task Force Chairman Eddie Duenas spent his presentation discussing what Guam would need in order to become a state; a complex process altogether, and also mentioned the various advantages of Guam becoming a state.
All members of the Commission on Decolonization and the individual task forces encourage the community to register to vote, and to engage with their neighbors in meaningful conversation about Guam’s political future and the three political status options.
Two additional meetings are scheduled for Dec. 16 at the Merizo Senior Center and Dec. 19 at the Barrigada Community Center, both beginning at 6 p.m.