Saturday, January 07, 2017

It’s time to answer tough questions about Guam’s status

Jeremy Lujan Bevacqua | Guam Daily Post
When Governor Eddie Calvo declared in his 2016 State of the Island address that his administration would tackle the issue of self-determination through a plebiscite that was promised to the people of Guam in the Organic Act of 1950, it was understood that educating voters on their political status options would be a critical step toward reaching a majority decision. Island residents would need to understand what each option – independence, free association, or statehood – would mean, and how they could impact our future. Task forces representing each status option have been formed under the Commission on Decolonization, with the role of devising strategies to educate and sway people into their respective camps.

For example, teach-ins at the University of Guam and meetings at Chamorro Village are some of the ways the Independence for Guam Task Force has sought to educate the public. While the Free Association and Statehood Task Forces have not held any recent public forums, look for their events in the coming year. This discussion is important, and all people of Guam – no matter their age, political orientation, or village – need to start asking the hard questions and civilly engaging with others to help form a decision.
Our current political status leaves Guam and its leaders unable to influence many of the crucial economic and political decisions that other nations and U.S. states freely exercise and pursue. Do you think this is wrong? Do you think the Jones Act economically punishes Guam and should be lifted? Do you want to vote for the U.S. commander-in-chief since Guam is home to vital American military bases? Do you want Guam to work closely with the United States while maintaining an autonomous island nation identity?
To simply ignore the issue of political status is only working against your self-interest because no matter where your views lie, Guam can be improved.
Guam is a small place with an outsized importance in the Pacific theater. Let’s use the size of the island to our advantage, as these task forces are able to educate different groups and villages much more effectively than in a larger or more dispersed location. Guam achieved 69 percent voter participation in the 2016 General Election. Compare that to the 54 percent voter participation in the recent U.S. election. This shows that the citizens of Guam will partake in the political process when they deem it important. I believe Guam can continue to play an outsized role in the region, but on our own terms.
No matter what your views are on political status, including undetermined, the need for education on the matter is of supreme importance if you consider Guam your home. Let’s hope these three task forces can successfully reach out to and edify the populace as they make a decision that will affect this island for generations to come. 

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