Taxpayer-funded commission wants to pursue decolonization

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HAGÅTÑA (The Guam Daily Post) — A commission and a coalition of groups pushing Guam's quest for self-determination are urging local leaders to turn to the global community and international courts.

Their call followed nearly a decade of legal efforts that recently hit a dead end: The U.S. Supreme Court recently denied hearing the government Guam's appeal to be allowed to conduct a political status plebiscite with only "native inhabitants" and their descendants voting.

"We must not waiver, we must not quit," the Commission on Decolonization said in a statement Tuesday. The commission spends taxpayer funds with a yearly budget ranging from around $200,000 to $400,000.

A coalition of 36 local groups is also urging local leaders to continue to pursue decolonization and shared the Commission on Decolonization's push for weighing options to move forward:

  • Pursuing local legislation that addresses the concerns of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals while still recognizing the plight of the CHamoru people; and
  • Turning to the International Court of Justice after having exhausted all domestic remedies.

"Though we may be weary of yet another legal battle, the ICJ presents a unique opportunity for our case to take a global stage," the commission stated. The lawsuit that has led to the U.S. Supreme Court's recent denial of GovGuam's appeal has cost the local government more than $1 million in legal fees for the plaintiff.

The government of Guam wanted a reversal of a court decision that found Guam's plebiscite law unconstitutional because it was considered a race-based voting restriction.

But the U.S. Supreme Court on May 4 denied GovGuam's appeal.


Joe Garrido, left, and Jude Martinez, with the Free Association Task Force, speak during a Commission on Decolonization meeting in August 2019 in Hagåtña. Photo by David Castro/The Guam Daily Post

The case stems from Arnold "Dave" Davis' 2011 lawsuit challenging Guam's plebiscite on the question of whether Guam should seek independence from the United States, incorporate via statehood, or pursue other forms of self-government through free association, such as a commonwealth. Davis is a military veteran who was denied his request to be included in the voter registry.

"The plaintiff insists that his individual right takes precedence over the right of a people to exercise self-determination. It disregards international and local laws meant to restore justice to people who have been historically denied the ability to decide their political future," according to a May 11 letter penned by 36 local groups, addressed to Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero, senators and Delegate Michael San Nicolas.

The groups include Independence for Guam Task Force, Independent Guåhan, Kotturan Chamoru Foundation, Maga’håga Rising and Nasion CHamoru, among others.

Task forces weigh in

The Statehood for Guam Task Force said the appeal's denial "is not the end of the road for our people, rather a big stepping stone for us."


"Whether we decide to create new local laws or to plead before the United Nations for assistance, we must do so in unison and with the passion of our forefathers," it said in a separate statement.

The Free Association for Guam Task Force also said the island now has "more international doors opened for us."

"While we advocate free association as the best status for the island moving forward, it is important to note that all of us, whether one supports statehood, free association or independence, are united in our quest toward decolonization," it said in a separate statement.

Sen. Kelly Marsh, chairwoman of the legislative committee on self-determination, said the movement for justice "does not end with this denial" by the Supreme Court.

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