HEARING PETITIONERS ON THE QUESTION OF GUAM, UN FOURTH COMMITTEE: SPECIAL POLITICAL AND DECOLONIZATION MEETING

OCTOBER 5-6, 2010
NEW YORK CITY, NY

On Tuesday October 5, 2010, the United Nations Fourth Committee (Special
Political and Decolonization) continued their annual consideration of
decolonization items. The General Assembly heard testimony from 22
petitioners on the questions of the 16 NON-SELF GOVERNING TERRITORIES,
with special delegations from Guam and America Samoa.

On the question of Guam, several petitioners expressed concern about the
United States planned military expansion on the island. Guam’s Delegation
also included teachers, researchers, social workers and business
professionals. Michael Tuncap, Ph.D candidate  and researcher from the
Pacific Islands Studies group at the University of California Berkeley.
David Roberts, Researcher and Ph.D candidate from the Department of
Geography at the University of Toronto. Maria Roberts, Graduate Student
from the City University of New York School of Business. Healthcare
professional and Masters candidate Josette Marie Quinata represented the
University of Southern California School of Social Work. Mylin Nguyen, a
Graduate of UC Riverside and elementary public school teacher. Alfred
Flores Perez, Doctoral researcher from the Department of History at the
University of California Los Angeles.

Background
The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) met October 5
& 6, 2010 to continue its consideration of all decolonization issues. It
was expected to hear the remaining petitioners on the question of Western
Sahara, as well as petitioners on the questions of the U.S Virgin Islands
and Guam. (Reports before the Committee are summarized in Press Release
GA/SPD/422.)

Statements from the Petitioners on Question of Guam

MICHAEL TUNCAP will present his research from the Pacific Islands Studies
Institute of the University of California, Berkeley.  Tuncaps work looks
at the impact of colonialism on the environment and indigenous health in
the Marianas Islands. His testimony called upon the General Assembly to
recognize the inalienable right to self-determination of Guam. According
to Tuncap, the continued occupation of United States military forces in
Guam and the Northern Marianas Islands represents a system of racial
inequality between European Americans, Asian and Pacific settlers and the
indigenous Chamorro people. Tuncap noted the existence of over one hundred
toxic sites on the island which have had an impact on Guam’s public
health. He noted that modern colonialism prevents the people of Guam from
exercising their inalienable right to self-determination.

Tuncap noted that colonial ideas of racial and gender superiority have
shaped a long history of military violence and US economic security. The
United States claims that its citizens in Guam (military personnel) have a
human right to vote in the people’s decolonization plebiscite. However, he
said, the indigenous Chamorro people in the Marianas and the rest of Guam
residents are denied the right to vote in United States elections. The
United States also continued to deprive the people of Guam their right to
land, even as they caused the toxic pollution that was irreparably
damaging the environment. The United States military also threatened the
integrity of the land through economic colonization, and colonialism had
also caused irreparable harm to bodies of land and water. For those and
other reasons, the Fourth Committee must immediately enact the process of
decolonization for Guam in lieu of the severe, irreversible impacts of
United States militarization. The process must include the maximum funding
allowed to achieve a far-reaching education campaign informing all
Chamorus from Guam of their right to self-determination and
decolonization options, he said.

Historian ALFRED PEREDO FLORES, speaking on behalf of the Chamoru Nation
chapter of the Univeristy of California Los Angeles, said instead of
advancing the decolonization mandate of Guam, the United States was
engaged in the largest military build-up in recent history, with plans
that would bring, among other things, 50,000 people and six nuclear
submarines. The United States pledge in 1946 to ensure its decolonization
mandate on Guam remains on the margins half a century later. Flores noted
that the Chamorro people continued to live in colonial conditions. That
was why his delegation had come to New York, for over two decades, in
effect, to speak against the violence and public health crisis in the
Pacific Islands.

MYLIN NGUYEN, a second grade teacher from Whittier noted that
self-determination, as outlined in the United Nations Charter and
international conventions, was an inalienable right. As a Member State,
the United States was bound to protect and advance the human rights
articulated within the United Nations system.  Nguyen argued that Guam’s
residents need United Nations intervention that will address the
increasingly desperate human rights situation in Guam. She cited legal
scholar Julian Aguon and noted that the hyper-militarization of Guam is no
doubt illegal under any principled construction of international law.
Nguyen said that as we end the Second Decade for the Eradication of
Colonialism, Guam unfortunately still remained a Non-Self-Governing
Territory under the United States. Guam continued to be a possession of
its colonizers, and the Chamorro people were still being denied their
rights to land and political destiny.

Nguyen discussed the devastation wrought on the island and its people
created an uphill climb for self-determination. Yet, with the impending
military build-up on Guam that was to start in 2010, she asked that the
United Nations uphold the promise and “sacred trust” set forth in General
Assembly resolutions 1514 and 1542, and ultimately hold accountable Guam’s
administering Power in recognizing and respecting its quest for
self-determination.

DAVID ROBERTS, PhD candidate in the Department of Geography of the
University of Toronto, said that the United Nations must work for a just
solution in Guam, based on the understanding that Guam’s status as a
non-self-governing entity effected the ability of the Chamorro people to
make crucial decisions about their lives and where they lived. He
maintained that Guam’s virtual status as a colony should be abhorrent to
those who champion democracy around the world.

Roberts urged the Committee to give top priority to the fulfilment of the
right of Chamorro to self-determination through a decolonization process
that included a fully-funded campaign informing all Chamorro from Guam of
their rights and options. The Committee, with United Nations funding, must
investigate the United States non-compliance with its international
obligation to promote the economic, social and cultural well-being of
Guam, and must send a team within the next six months to assess the
effects of the past and future militarization of the island. Finally, he
said the Committee must comply with the Indigenous Forum’s request for an
expert seminar to examine the impact of the United Nations decolonization
process on indigenous peoples.

Continuing, Tuncap’s testimony notes the physical and emotional
consequences that colonization had had on the remaining Chamorro who lived
on Guahan pointed to a positive answer. Among other things, Chamorro
people had been exposed to radiation, Agent Orange and Agent Purple as a
result of the island being a decontamination site for the United States in
the 1970s. He stated that the indigenous community was also robbed of its
cultural resources. The effects of colonialism on the Chamorro people had
travelled along with them in the forced migration and assimilation. He
noted that forced migration was not self-determination.

Tuncap and Roberts agree that the Committee should give top priority to
the fulfilment of her people’s inalienable right to self-determination and
immediately enact the process of decolonization of Guahan in lieu of
severe, irreversible impacts of United States militarization. The process
must include a fully-funded and far-reaching education campaign informing
all Chamorro from Guahan of their right to self-determination and
decolonization options.

MARIA ROBERTS recommended that the committee send United Nations
representatives to the island within the next six months to assess the
impacts of United States military plans on the decolonization of Guahan
and the human rights implications of the United States military presence.
She noted that the Fourth Committee must comply with the recommendations
of other United Nations agencies, especially the Permanent Forum in
Indigenous Issues, which had recently requested an expert seminar to
examine the impact of the United Nations decolonization process on
indigenous peoples of Non-Self-Governing Territories.

JOSETTE MARIE QUINATA, Southern California Chapter of Famoksaiyan, said
her homeland was threatened by the impending United States military
build-up on Guam that was scheduled to begin in 2010. Yet Guam continued
to be excluded from decisions that would affect the very people whose
environment would be destroyed, and whose concerns were second to
militarization and colonialism. The question of Guam was not solely based
on political turmoil and chaos among those who claimed Guam as a United
States possession, but also a reflection of Guam’s identity, which
continued to suffer from political hegemony and an administering Power
that failed to recognize and respect political rights.

Quinata recounted a dream in which she saw her ancestors, and spoke about
revitalizing the Chamorro people and preserving their language and
culture. She said that a powerful calling had kept her passion alive in
understanding Guam’s heritage and struggle for self-determination. She
looked forward to creating a future moved by education, healthcare, and
social programs to reaffirm that the question of Guam was a question of
decolonization and the eradication of militarism and colonialism.

MARIA ROBERTS noted that the people of Guam were strong, and had a
resilient culture that had continued to prevail amidst agonies of
political disarray, militarism and colonial dominance. Yet, the people’s
voices for choosing their own political destiny had been silenced, ignored
and marginalized from democratic participation.

This year’s Guam Delegation continues the work and legacy of former
senator HOPE ALVAREZ CRISTOBAL, Guahan Coalition for Peace and Justice.
Each Guam delegate provided citations from Cristobal’s humn rights
scholarship. In her last UN testimony in 2008, Cristobal noted that the
Chamorro people of Guam had a long history as a free and independent
people, interrupted by over 450 years of colonization by outside nations
beginning in the sixteenth century. She said that earlier United Nations
resolutions had addressed military issues in the operative clause calling
on the administering Power to ensure that the presence of military bases
and installations would not constitute an obstacle to decolonization.
However, she said the United Nations today seemed satisfied with obscure
reference to the military — the single most serious impediment to
decolonization. Those types of changes undermined the intent and purpose
of the United Nations Charter, especially Chapter 11, devoted to the
territories whose people had not attained a full measure of
self-government.

The administering Power of Guam had in the past cited the issue of its
military activities as one of the reasons why that Power would no longer
cooperate with the Committee. She noted the positive light used to
describe the massive militarization of Guam in the working paper, which
said its inhabitants generally welcomed the build-up, and the Guam
Delegation said nothing could be further from the truth. The colonization
of the Chamorro people through the militarization of Guam, combined with
over a century of United States immigration policies, was a flagrant
violation by the administering Power of accepted standards in its
fiduciary responsibilities.ized. Guam’s administering Power had neglected
the people’s right as an indigenous people, and the people had long
suffered at the hands of outside influences and decisions that neglected
their voices and interests.

The 2010 Guam delegation to the United Nations will participate in a
series of Pacific Islands Studies events (November-January) to share their
research findings. Guam United Nations events will take place at the
University of California Berkeley, the University of Toronto, the
University of Washington, the University of Washington Seattle and the
University of California Los Angeles and the University of Southern
California.

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