Sixteen delegates from Guam and continental U.S. went before the committee, which has oversight on decolonisation, and spoke of the injustices that resulted in Guam's status quo as an unincorporated U.S. territory.
“Our situation on Guam is urgent, as our land and ocean are increasingly under threat. Access and control of our resources is impeded by the delay in decolonization,” Vice Speaker Therese Terlaje, D-Yona, said to committee chair Rafael Darío Ramírez Carreño.
The delegates said collectively that the U.S. has taken little to no action to assist. Recent events, including two federal lawsuits and movement towards a new Marine Corps Base on Guam, have once again put a strain on the island's right to self-determination.
LisaLinda Natividad, member-at-large for the Guam Commission on Decolonization, said the people of Guam have come to the UN for four generations to make the same request, yet that request hasn't been fulfilled.
With Guam's current political climate, Natividad said it is crucial for the UN to use its influences to force engagement from the U.S for Guam's decolonisation. In unity, the delegates asked the UN to intervene and to conduct a visiting mission to Guam.
One of the lawsuits, filed by Arnold "Dave" Davis, alleges Guam's plebiscite law for a non-binding vote on a political status was unconstitutional on the basis of racial discrimination.
The plebiscite law only includes native inhabitants of Guam to determine whether they would prefer free association, independence or statehood for Guam. The law defines native inhabitants as those people, and their descendants, who became U.S. citizens by the Organic Act of Guam in 1950.
Chief Justice Frances Tydingco-Gatewood ruled in favor of Davis, but Attorney General Elizabeth Barrett-Anderson said she will fight the judge's ruling.
“The U.S Court ruling was erroneously based on U.S. civil rights,” Natividad said. “The decolonisation process is not a matter of civil rights, but rather an exercise of the inalienable human right to self-determination for those who have collectively experienced colonisation.”
Michael Bevacqua, from the Independent Guåhan task force, added that a decolonisation process that follows the rules of the coloniser is not decolonisation.
The federal government recently sued the government of Guam and the Chamorro Land Trust Commission for alleged violation of the Fair Housing Act. The lawsuit claims that land trust programme constitutes “discrimination on the basis of race or national origin.”
The Chamorro Land Trust maintains and leases properties at the benefit of Guam's indigenous people.
“It is ironic and unjust that the U.S. has allowed years of inaction on decolonization but may suddenly and unilaterally, after 40 years, attempt to dismantle a programme that safeguards a homeland for the native inhabitants in its territory,” Terlaje said.
“Chamorros have been forcibly displaced from their ancestral lands due to hyper militarisation, tourism and the rising cost of living on island.”
Petitioner Alaina Arroyo, representing the University of San Francisco's Pacific Islander Collective, told the UN committee that it is not acceptable for the indigenous people to be robbed of their lands.
“Chamorros have been forcibly displaced from their ancestral lands due to hyper militarization, tourism and the rising cost of living on island,” Arroyo said. “Without the direct connection of the land and all that embodies it, how are we supposed to thrive as a Chamorro nation when Chamorros are continuously becoming more of a minority in our motherland?”
Both Bevacqua and Arroyo said Chamorros make up a little more of a third of Guam's population of approximately 163,000. More Chamorros reside in continental U.S. than on Guam, they said.
A majority of delegates commented on the harmful effects of military presence on the island. Military properties including Andersen Air Force Base and Naval Base Guam take up about a third of Guam's land.
“The U.S. Department of Defense is the nation and the world's worst polluter,” said Tiara Naputi, representing the Guåhan Coalition for Peace and Justice. “(The department) generates hazardous waste and virtually every other toxic substance known to humanity.”
Naputi said nearly 100 toxic sites were found on Guam's military bases, and there has to be a stop to the toxic legacy.
“For generations, our families have endured this false promise of security while our collective natural resources have been seized, contaminated and left in the military's path of irrevocable destruction.”
“We are told to make way for more military bases because the U.S. needs us for their defense. We cannot wait another decade to eradicate colonialism.”
Other petitioners spoke of their opposition of the planned Marine Corps Base, set to be built mainly within the Department of Defense's footprint on the island.
Senator Telena Nelson, D-Dededo, told the UN committee that Guam did not have a say in the dialogue between the U.S. and Japan regarding the relocation of approximately 5,000 Marines and their families from Okinawa to Guam.
“We have no ability to vote, no ability to govern ourselves and as it stands, until the United States government says so, we have no voice,” Nelson said.
Petitioner Samantha Barnett, representing grassroots group Prutehi Litekyan: Save Ritidian, said the planned live-fire training range complex that is a part of the military expansion threatens one of the island's most pristine locations for cultural and natural resources.
Independence advocate Victoria-Lola Leon Guerrero said the military presence puts Guam in the center of warfare.
“We are told to make way for more military bases because the U.S needs us for their defense," Leon Guerrero said. "We cannot wait another decade to eradicate colonialism.”.
SOURCE: USA TODAY/PACNEWS