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Senators blamed for Commission’s demise

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by Janjeera Hail

Guam - As the military buildup draws near, self-determination has never been more imperative - but the organization that's supposed to be pushing a vote forward, has lost its direction.

Although the president signed the political status education bill a week and a half ago to put federal funds towards political status education for a future self-determination vote on Guam, here on Guam the movement is at a standstill.

The arm of the local government that should be at the helm of this, the Commission on Decolonization, is now defunct.  And Governor's Chief of Staff Shawn Gumataotao says it's the Legislature that's allowed it to lapse.  "They budgeted $200,000 in the GEC budget for this effort but there's still no appropriation on the Commission on Decolonization. We have no staff, we have no director. It was clear that it was their intent that they weren't going to fund it and they feel this is not a big enough priority for them," he explained.

In order to set a date for the self-determination vote, 70% of voters must be registered - that is 70% of individuals of voting age who are descendant of someone who was made an American citizen as part of the Organic Act. 

Earlier this year Senator Ben Pangelinan (D) helped pass a law to speed the process up by automatically adding individuals registered with the Chamorro Land Trust Commission to the Decolonization Registry.  He says they're about halfway to registering all the required voters. But he'd like to see a restructuring of the commission to help move the process forward.

"Where it is a legislatively created entity under the supervision of the Legislature, in this case under the Committee on Appropriations, and create something like that that moves the issue and concentrates on the issue of decolonization forward," said the former speaker.

But Speaker Judi Won Pat, who co-sponsored Pangelinan's bill, says she believes the Commission, chaired by the governor, can be revived even sooner.  "We're hoping that even before the end of this term, the governor's term, is that he might be able to reconvene the commission to get them started now," she told KUAM News.

In the meantime, Pangelinan says he wants to work with the Guam Election Commission to develop a means to register overseas Chamorros online. And, no matter how it happens, it's critical that a vote happen before Guam is hit with the full impact of the military buildup.

"We really need to settle the issue of what kind of political issue we're going to have with the U.S. Government. It's going to determine the quality of life and the future of our selves and our descendants over the next 300 years," he stated. 

"We can't let it go."

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