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Independence for Guam Task Force

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Commendations for Julian Aguon

Independence Task Force Commends Attorney Julian Aguon and Office of Attorney General for Arguments in Davis Case

FOR IMMEADIATE RELEASE, SEPTEMBER 2, 2016 – The Independence for Guåhan Task Force commends Attorney Julian Aguon and the Office of Attorney General Elizabeth Barrett-Anderson for their monumental defense of the right of the Native Inhabitants of Guam to determine the island’s future political status in yesterday’s hearing for the Arnold Davis vs. Guam Election Commission case.

Attorney Aguon reminded the court that decolonization is not a right that applies to all, but rather, “a remedy to restore a right” that was taken away from a particular group of people, whom Congress itself defined as those who became U.S. citizens by virtue of the authority and enactment of the 1950 Organic Act of Guam and their descendants.

Davis’ argument rests on the premise that not allowing him to register in Guam’s decolonization registry is race-based discrimination. The Task Force finds it appalling that our island, which remains a U.S. colony and has been denied the right to vote under this premise, is being accused of racism. Attorney Aguon not only reminded the court that Guam’s definition of Native Inhabitant is “facially race-neutral” or not race-based, he also asked the court whether Davis’ right to vote in what is essentially a non-binding decision trumps the people of Guam’s long denied right to vote for elected officials who make decisions on their behalf.

The Task Force commends Attorney Aguon for his nuanced use of the Insular Cases. He argued that in this particular case, the Insular Cases, which are typically the villain in their denial of rights to the territories, are the hero because they prove that unincorporated territories have a unique relationship to the U.S., which cannot be compared to decisions the court has made in issues involving states, because the Constitution does not always apply to Guam in the way it does to states. The Insular Cases give Congress, not the Constitution, full authority over the rights of people in unincorporated territories, because the courts have determined that such territories are not on the path to statehood, but rather de-annexation and fuller self-governance, Attorney Aguon argued.

While the Task Forces recognizes the limitations of defending this case in a federal court, which upholds the authority of Guam’s colonizer, we value the dialogue that is taking place and hope the community continues to find inspiration and drive in Attorney Aguon’s arguments.

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No November Plebiscite, Focus on Community Outreach and Education Instead

Commission on Decolonization Votes Against November Plebiscite, Focuses on Research and Community Outreach

FOR IMMEADIATE RELEASE, AUGUST 23, 2016 – The Commission on Decolonization voted last week not to conduct a political status plebiscite this November, because not enough was done by the governor’s office to prepare the community.

In April, Governor Eddie Calvo and his staff presented an aggressive educational campaign plan that was supposed to be implemented from April through July, and then the Commission was to decide whether or not the Governor’s educational efforts were enough to prepare the community to participate in a plebiscite.

The Governor’s plan had included several dozen public meetings and pre-polls and post-polls to determine whether or not the level of knowledge in the community was sufficient for a vote this November. At last week’s Commission on Decolonization meeting, the Office of the Governor reported that they had not conducted any public meetings, nor any polls, but instead focused on increasing the number of people on the Guam Decolonization Registry through a government-wide registration drive.

Since none of the planned educational efforts occurred, the Commission unanimously agreed that a November 2016 plebiscite would be too soon for eligible voters to decide on a future political status for Guam. The Commission agreed instead to spend the rest of this year conducting research, developing educational materials, and engaging in community outreach.

The Independence for Guåhan Task Force commends the Commission for their decision not to rush a vote in November, as the Governor had previously proposed, but rather, to use available funds to conduct public outreach meetings and develop thoroughly researched studies and materials that can help the community best determine which of the three available options for Guam’s future will be most beneficial.

In the spirit of collaboration, the Commission discussed how best to spend a $300,000 grant from the Department of Interior intended for political status education. The Governor’s Office proposed that $54,000 be used to host a series of public meetings in every village between September and December of this year.

The co-chairs of the Independence for Guåhan Task Force proposed that a significant portion of the grant funds be used to establish a self-determination program or institute at the University of Guam, through which a series of studies would be conducted by local government officials and international law and decolonization experts to create reports on how each political status option will impact the overall quality of life on Guam. These proposals were both accepted by the Commission. The Governor also committed to working with members of his cabinet and experts in government agencies to begin researching and compiling information that can be used to inform the community about options for the island’s political future.

Recent months have shown the community is interested in more information and public engagement, thus, the Independence for Guåhan Task Force has been working tirelessly to develop materials and offer venues for this education.

This Thursday, August 25 from 6 – 7:30 p.m. in the Main Pavilion of the Chamorro Village, the Task Force will hold the first of its monthly general assemblies. These meetings will be opportunities for the public to join the discussion and learn more about decolonization in general and independence for Guåhan in particular.

Where do the national parties of the US stand on Guam’s decolonization?

How Guam’s Decolonization was Addressed at National Political Party Conventions

FOR IMMEADIATE RELEASE, AUGUST 2, 2016 – Now that the Republican and Democratic National Party Conventions are over, the Independence for Guåhan Task Force (Independent Guåhan) has taken a closer look at the parties’ respective stances on Guam’s decolonization.
Every four years the United States elects a new president. While this election is often represented as an example of the greatness of the United States, for those who live in America’s territories and cannot participate, this election is another example of the limits of American democracy and the realities of our colonial statuses.
 
As the Voice of America, the external broadcasting corporation of the United States, recently reported, for the people in the territories of the US, participation at this level of American democracy ends with the Republican and Democratic National conventions. Although residents of Guam and other territories are allowed to participate in the nomination of candidates for president of the United States, they do not have voting rights and other than Washington D.C., have no electoral college votes.

Continue reading “Where do the national parties of the US stand on Guam’s decolonization?”

Independence for Guam Task Force Honors Maga’låhi Ed Benavente

Independent Guåhan Honors the Life of Chamoru Rights Leader, Educator and Community Organizer Ed Benavente

For Immediate Release, July 20, 2016 — One of Guåhan’s most passionate advocates for decolonization and independence will be laid to rest today.  Eddie “Ed” L.G. Benavante left us too soon on July 6 at the age of 59. He was a passionate community organizer; a teacher of Guam history and the Chamoru language; a writer and musician; and a highly respected leader in the Chamoru rights movement.

Maga’låhi Benavente dedicated his life to his family and to the decolonization and independence of the island he loved so deeply. He has been a guiding force and inspiration to the membership of the Independence for Guåhan Task Force (Independent Guåhan). We celebrate and honor the incredible life, work, and wisdom he shared with so many.

Maga’låhi Benavente served as the Maga’låhi of Nasion Chamoru from 1995 – 2003. He led numerous protests and demonstrations that helped reshape the political consciousness of the island.  As the group’s leader he was instrumental in compelling the Government of Guam to at last implement the Chamorro Land Trust Act.

As a founding member of Nasion Chamoru, Maga’låhi Benavente fought for decolonization and Chamoru self-determination; freedom from the harmful impacts of militarization; the return of Chamoru lands; and sustaining the Chamoru language, traditional arts, and customs for future generations.

At the heart of Maga’låhi Benavente’s activism was a belief that Guåhan could and should be independent. He wanted Guåhan to have genuine autonomy and the Chamoru people to exercise true self-determination. Maga’låhi Benavente has received international recognition for this work, most prominently in the form of the prestigious Alston/Bannerman Fellowship in 2002.

Continue reading “Independence for Guam Task Force Honors Maga’låhi Ed Benavente”

Debate Reveals that When Informed, People Choose Independence

Decolonization Debate Reveals that When Informed, People Choose Independence

April 26, 2016, MANGILAO, GUAM – At a decolonization debate held at Tiyan High School Friday before an audience of 800, a team of high school students arguing in favor of independence successfully changed the most minds according to polls held before and after the debate.

The April 22 debate was organized in collaboration between the Guam Department of Education and the Commission on Decolonization and featured student representatives from four high schools (Tiyan High School, George Washington High School, Southern High School and Southern Christian Academy). One student from each school was assigned as a representative on each political status option’s team. Each team was assisted by coaches from each of the official political status task forces, who prepared them to make informed arguments for their status. The overall winning team of the debate was determined by two audience polls – one taken prior to the debate and the second taken after all the arguments had been presented. The team that had the largest positive increase in audience support between the two polls was declared the victor, as they had swayed the most minds.

The pre-debate polls revealed that prior to any education or discussion on the status options, 51% of the audience chose Statehood, 30% chose Free Association, and 19% chose Independence. After more than an hour of discussion, the post-debate poll showed the following changes: Statehood dipped 3 points to 48%, Free Association fell 12 points to 18%, and Independence jumped 15 points to 34%, winning the debate. Continue reading “Debate Reveals that When Informed, People Choose Independence”

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