Aug 26, 2019

Guam Prepares for Largest March for Self-Determination on September 2nd 2019

The CHamoru, the indigenous inhabitants of the US-ruled island of Guam, are planning a demonstration to advance their claim of self-determination. Since the 1980s, the population of Guam has been confronted with the issue of redefining the island’s political status. After a first non-binding plebiscite in 1982, in which voters expressed a preference for commonwealth status (an option heavily opposed by US Congress both under the Bush and the Clinton administrations), a Commission on Decolonization was established in 1997 in order to prepare citizens for a new vote. The Commission, however, has been relatively inactive in carrying out its task of educating the population on the various options of political relationship with the US: statehood, free association or independence. In light of the limited progress, the CHamoru are determined to bring the issue of self-determination back on the table and to assert their right to political participation with regard to deciding the fate of the island.

The article below was published by Pacific Daily News

Various community groups aim to organize the largest political demonstration on Guam in order to promote the cause of CHamoru self-determination. 

"Think of the march as an event in which everyone agrees on the need to move forward. We just haven't agreed on the destination, but we will lose if we stay put," said Joni Kerr, associate professor at Guam Community College. 

The Fanohge March for CHamoru Self-Determination will be held Sept. 2. Participants are invited to gather at Adelup at 8 a.m., with a march to the U.S. District Court scheduled at 9 a.m. 

The event is open to everyone and isn't in favor of any political status or ideology, event organizers said at a press conference Thursday.

"The immediate objective is to demonstrate that this issue has widespread support in the community of Guam," said Robert Underwood, former University of Guam president. "And the local elected leaders should pay attention to it and reaffirm their commitment." 

Political status options are independence, statehood and free association. None are endorsed by the march. The march simply hopes to encourage movement towards a decision, Underwood said. 

"Our purpose here is to stand up for CHamoru self-determination and to communicate that to the governor and other elected officials," Underwood said. 

Moving toward a decision is necessary because the status quo is unacceptable, Kerr said. 

"Not being able to vote for president, are you comfortable with that?" Kerr said. "Are people satisfied with not being able to do that?" 

The march comes on the heels of the federal court's decision to strike down Guam's political status plebiscite authorized by local law in 1997. 

The non-binding plebiscite vote, which by law is only for native inhabitants of Guam, would allow eligible voters to state their preference for the island’s future political relationship with the United States — statehood, independence or free association. 

Yigo resident Arnold “Dave” Davis, who doesn't meet the legal definition of native inhabitant, filed a federal lawsuit in 2011 after the Guam Election Commission rejected his attempt to register for the plebiscite.

A panel of Ninth Circuit judges, in an opinion issued August, sided with Davis. 

"We hope that maybe the Supreme Court or Congress will take another look at our case, and take up their responsibility on part of the United States to let us decolonize," said Jesse Chargualaf, University of Guam student. "U.S. law didn't always get it right pertaining to indigenous people, and we're hoping that they will one day."


Photo courtesy of Pacific Daily News