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Reparations fight rages on

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by Sabrina Salas Matanane

Guam - Although the parade and Liberation Day celebration may be over, the fight for war reparations rages on. It was 67 years ago the island was liberated from the Japanese during World War II, every year thousands of islanders gather in Hagatna for the annual Liberation Day Parade along Marine Corps Drive. This Liberation Day celebration was a first for Eddie Calvo as governor of Guam.

"It's a good time to commemorate our past and also look forward to our future," he said.

A past that includes a fight for war reparations that spans some 36 years, and a future that island leaders hope will include war reparations for the survivors of the Japanese occupation. DOI Assistant Secretary for Insular Affairs Tony Babauta said, "It continues to be a struggle; it's something that was attempted to be addressed by first delegate for Guam, from Congressman Won Pat, from Won Pat to Blaz to Underwood.

Dr. Robert Underwood himself told KUAM News, "Guam was the only jurisdiction in 1946 that had a war claims act passed for it. And when they did a general war claims act for US citizens and nationals in the 50 and 60s people had already assumed in Congress that Guam had already been taken care of, so it was like in 1946 US Congress passed special legislation for Guam and so it was assumed that Guam was taken care of but that program really only lasted a year. Then the US Congress passed several laws that gave people war reparations who were US citizens or nationals held by enemy hands Guam wasn't included in that because they assumed that Guam had already been sacrificed, then it took special effort by every delegate to kind of re-explain that situation, and that's the issue. The issue is one so much time has passed two is hard to explain that issue over and over again. So basically it's an uphill battle. I don't think it's an issue that the US Congress is deliberately ignoring Guam or deliberately dissing Guam in some fashion. It's really a function of 3041 remember the people that solved the World War II issue in the Congress in the 50s and the 60s over 50 percent of the members of Congress were themselves World War II veterans. So that's what made that issue alive today I don't think there's maybe one or two members of Congress who themselves are World War II veterans. So it's a very steep climb along the way. Hope springs eternal. The people of Guam have a compelling story and I'm hopeful that t his might be the year that will do it."

But with a new Congress and new attitude to cut federal spending, it's proving to be a difficult challenge this time around. During a recent hearing on the Guam World War Two Loyalty Recognition Act, freshman congressman from Louisiana Jeff Landry used a 2007 report from the Heritage Foundation as the basis for challenging the payment of war claims for the survivors of the Japanese occupation of Guam. With war reparations passing the House five times but blocked in the Senate, Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo says she doesn't have any plans to give up as long as she's in office.

I'm going to have a little more difficulty this time because as you know the complexion of congress has changed. The House is now the democrats in minority the republicans are in the majority because of the Tea Party. The Tea Party is a group of people that will absolutely not entertain any more spending they just want to cut, cut the deficit overnight. And so I'm going to have a struggle but I've got some plans in mind," she said.

And while we wait to hear the congresswoman's plans, Underwood says you can joint the fight now with a simple phone call. "Members of Congress have offices that tally the calls that come in I think they have a system where they just discount the email and you know, sending in a petition won't make as much difference. But call in those members of congress that have something to do with the committees that make the decision just call them up and say my name is so and so I'm from Guam or if there's people from the States that want to call in and say I'm for this legislation, they'll take care of it. Basically if people would call in their congressional offices and express their support the bill they have to identify the bill by the bill number and have to say they're for it they don't have to give an argument they don't have to they just say their for it. Because members of congress offices count the number of calls they receive. And so that will be of most assistance to the elected officials themselves including Congresswoman Bordallo as wells and members of the legislature and Governor Calvo have to make direct appeals to those congressional office ask to speak to those members visit them and just continue to make their presence known," he said.

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