‘We deserve more than a windshield tour and dinner stopover’
REPRESENTATIVE Angel Demapan is disappointed that the U.S. congressional delegation that visited the CNMI last week just spent one day on Saipan which is facing many issues that involve federal policies, among them the CW program and the military buildup proposal.
In an interview on Thursday, Demapan said:
“U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, which has oversight over the insular areas, led a United States Congressional Delegation or CODEL here on Feb. 22. They laid wreaths at American Memorial Park and then went to dinner with select officials. The following morning, they traveled to Tinian for a quick tour then flew to Rota for lunch and another quick tour before concluding their so-called visit to the CNMI.”
In contrast, he added, “the CODEL and Bishop spent two days in American Samoa where U.S. Congresswoman Amata Radewagen showed them first-hand how federal funds are being spent and what American Samoa’s needs for federal assistance are. The CODEL visited American Samoa’s hospital, schools and canneries, and met with the local U.S. Army Reserve unit and their families. Now, that’s a visit.”
Demapan said “after their rest stop in the CNMI, the CODEL moved on to Guam where U.S. Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo arranged a lengthy schedule of engagements with various community stakeholders and local leaders to better understand local issues that come before the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee. They also visited military installations on Guam and other federal entities that fall under the committee’s jurisdiction. Unlike their visit to the CNMI, the CODEL met with the Guam Legislature, the Guam National Guard, Joint Region Marianas, the National Parks Service and the Guam National Wildlife Refuge.”
While on Guam, he said, “the delegation held a wreath-laying ceremony at the Asan Bay Overlook to honor victims of World War II atrocities in Guam. The public was invited to this event. In contrast, the wreath-laying ceremony in the CNMI occurred without an invitation to the public to participate.”
He said “it’s quite disturbing that the CODEL did not take the same interest in visiting the CNMI’s hospital, schools, U.S. Army Reserve Unit and their families. Our people deserve more than a windshield tour and a dinner stopover. This is why we continue to suffer from federal overreach and detrimental policies made thousands of miles away by representatives and senators who, for the most part, do not have the slightest idea of where we are or who we are.”
Demapan said “while we can somewhat appreciate the short visit of the CODEL, I share the concerns of constituents who have reached out to me asking why we in the CNMI continue to be treated as mere U.S. possessions rather than as American citizens. If the U.S. Congress really wants to understand the CNMI’s challenges, they should have spent their time engaging the community and actually feeling the pulse of the community. What you see through the windshields of your tour vehicle are far flung reflections of what our people truly struggle with as a result of federal policies that simply don’t work in the island territories.”
Rota Mayor Efraim Atalig agreed.
“While I am happy that Rota was even considered for a visit, I am disappointed that there was no time for interaction with our local leadership and especially with our people,” Atalig said in a comment on Demapan’s social media post.