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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.

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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”

Independence Push in Guam…

Some in Guam push for Independence from US as Marines prepare for buildup
by Anna Fifield
Washington Post
June 17, 2016

This tiny Pacific island has several nicknames. There is “the tip of the spear” because it is the closest U.S. territory to potential hot spots in Asia, such as North Korea and the South China Sea.

There is “America’s unsinkable aircraft carrier,” because the island is home to a huge air force base. And then there is “Fortress Pacific,” because of the huge military buildup that is planned to take place over the next decade.

But Guam’s population calls it by another name: Ours. And a sizable portion wants a real say in how it is run.

“This American territory is not enjoying democracy, where citizens can determine who their leader will be and what laws will be put upon them,” said Gov. Eddie Baza Calvo, who has called a vote for November on Guam’s political status. “It’s up to our people to decide which way to go: whether to be fully in union with the United States or to chart a separate course.” Continue reading “Independence Push in Guam…”

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