LISALINDA NATIVIDAD, Chamorro professor at the University of Guam and a member of the Guam Commission on Decolonization, said that, in 2006, the United States had entered into a bilateral agreement with the Government of Japan, which included plans to transfer 8,000 United States Marines from Japan to Guam. That process had occurred without any consultation with Guam leaders or the Chamorro people — a situation that had been made possible by the island’s unresolved political status. Guam’s current colonial condition “set the stage for exploitation” of its lands and the rights of the Chamorro people.
She said that the announced planned military build-up had prompted a return by Guam to the annual sessions of the Special Committee after a nearly 10‑year absence. But despite consecutive years of attendance since 2006, the situation remained unresolved and conditions in Guam were poor. “As you hear the dismal realities of our island home, we ask that you do something different,” she urged the Special Committee, calling on delegates to focus on specific actions that could be taken by the United Nations, and the Special Committee in particular, to bring about changes.
“Militarism has historically been used as the imperial hammer that ensures the suppression of Guam’s colonized peoples,” she said, noting that the application of American militarism in Guam had continued as recently as 2010, when the United States Navy had begun awarding Department of Defence contracts for construction and other projects on the island. Over the years, the United States military presence in Guam and the Federated States of Micronesia had resulted in radiation exposure, environmental devastation and toxic contamination of the islands and their peoples. Nonetheless, Guam residents were still not eligible for compensation through the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act of the United States Congress, a fact that continued despite evidence of excessively high rates of rare types of cancer among the Chamorro people.
In light of the current situation, she offered a series of recommendations, including keeping Guam on the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories until the Chamorro people were able to exercise their right to political self-determination. She further recommended that the Special Committee reaffirm and declare that Guam’s militarization plans by the administering Power, the United States, posed an impediment to the exercise of the Chamorros’ rights to self-determination and decolonization. Among other recommendations, she also said that the United Nations should provide financial and technical assistance for an educational campaign in Guam, in the near future, relative to the political status plebiscite.
YASUKATSU MATSUSHIMA, Professor at Ryukoku University in Japan, said that the colonial histories of Guam and his native Okinawa were closely linked. Just as Guam had been historically controlled by Spain, Japan and the United States, Okinawa had been under Japanese and United States control. And just as the Japanese Government had imposed colonialist policies in Okinawa, prohibiting the use of the Okinawan language in schools, Chamorros in Guam had been forced to speak English. Those policies and others like them amounted to a “cultural genocide”. The military policies in Guam and Okinawa had been unilaterally decided by the colonial Powers, ignoring the claims of their residents.
Today, the militarization of Guam was tied to the building of new military bases and the transfer of more than 8,000 United States Marines from Okinawa to Guam. With that movement, the Chamorro people would face many of the same problems that the Okinawan people had faced, including field fires and bomb accidents caused by live ammunition, plane and helicopter crashes, as well as noise pollution, traffic accidents, the destruction of environmental and historical sites and the loss of indigenous cultural heritage. The Okinawan people were against the movement of United States Marines to Guam, as well as the construction of new military bases, as they feared that the island’s colonial situation would become “deeply fixed”. They insisted that Guam be demilitarized in accordance with United Nations decolonization principles and the Special Committee’s processes.
LISA BAZA, Conscious Living, a non-profit organization, recommended that Guam remain on the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories until the Chamorros had an opportunity to exercise their inalienable right to political self-determination. The United Nations should provide financial and technical assistance for an educational campaign that informed all people of Guam about the political status plebiscite, and it should send a visiting mission to observe that event.
More broadly, she recommended that the United Nations adopt a resolution that reflected a case-by-case decolonization plan for each of the Non-Self-Governing Territories to be achieved in the Third Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in particular, should financially assist Non-Self-Governing Territories in dealing with poverty-related issues caused by their economic dependence on administering Powers. The Organization should also consider revisiting the development of a declaration of rights for indigenous peoples, which would allow colonized voices to be heard.
Guam’s process of self-determination would be revisited with a plebiscite within the next five years, she said. The administering Power, through the Department of the Interior, had pledged funding for education, as the island worked towards that plebiscite, and she asked the Special Committee to implore the administering Power to follow that mandate.