Guam needs help from Washington for self-determination - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Guam needs help from Washington for self-determination

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Washington should help advance the issue of self-determination for Guam. That was the frank assessment of former Department of Interior Assistant Secretary Esther Kia'aina in a speech Thursday at the Bank of Guam Economic Forum.

Kia'aina, who was born and raised in Guam and spent more than 24 years in Washington also working in the House and Senate, said that a federal government assessment of its underlying relationship with Guam is long overdue.  "Identify mutually with Guam leaders the gaps, inequities, or impediments under current federal law, administrative, statutory or constitutional that can either help or continues to hurt Guam," she said.

Kia'aina worked extensively on Native Hawaiian rights, and suggested in Guam's quest for self determination it should ask Washington to pay for a cost benefit analysis of each political status option.  Assessing the potential of each, she said under free association an economic package would likely be off the table because Washington is broke.  On statehood she wondered whether Guam is too small and remote, which leaves Independence as an option. But she also floated one other possibility: an enhanced territorial status though it is not among the current choices under consideration by the commission on decolonization.

Overall she said the applicability or inapplicability of federal laws and regulations will continue to be the greatest external factor affecting Guam's economic development. She urged officials to engage new Interior secretary Ryan Zinke, who made specific mention of territorial issues in his official biography.

"Most importantly sovereign Indian nations and territories must have the respect and freedom that they deserve. I implore you to take those words to heart and go talk story with him," she said.

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