THE bills and resolutions introduced in the Senate of the Sixth Congress of Micronesia, which convened on Saipan in Jan. 1975, included measures to 1) appropriate $10,000 (worth about $50,000 today) for improving the facilities of the Saipan Farmers Market; 2) appropriate $15,000 (75,000 in today’s U.S. dollars) for purchasing supplies for private schools in the Marianas; and 3) submit a program for national health insurance.
At the time, the NMI was still one of the six districts of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands that was administered by the U.S. The other districts were the Marshall Islands, Palau, Ponape (Pohnpei), Truk (Chuuk) and Yap. Saipan was the seat — the capital — of the TT government, and the area where several TT government buildings were located was known as Capital Hill. (In a letter to the editor we published in Nov. 2006, the former administrator of the Marianas District, and the CNMI’s first lt. governor, Francisco C. Ada, pointed out that in the early 1960s, the Saipan Municipal Legislature named the location of the TT headquarters as Capital Hill which, he added, was known as I Denni among many islanders. Apparently, since then, many folks have assumed that “Capital” was a typo, and so the area where there is no Capitol is called Capitol Hill even by officials of the government that should know better.)
MV’s fourth issue in 1975 carried the tragic news about a 23-year-old local man who was shot dead by the owner of a San Antonio bar. The deceased was a younger brother of another local man who was “mysteriously shot to death [on] Christmas….” Quoting its sources from the Department of Public Safety, Variety said prior to the shooting incident at the bar, the 23-year-old victim tried to force his way without paying the cover charge. The bar owner’s wife tried to stop him, “whereupon [the shooting victim] grabbed hold of a chair and beat her across the face with it.” The bar owner “rushed to his wife’s assistance, then ran after [the 23-year-old and his companions] who had fled…. On seeing [the man who had assaulted his wife, the bar owner] took out a gun and shot the victim, twice, once in the back. The bullet entered from the back and came out of the front of the body.” The shooter “surrendered peacefully when police arrived on the scene a little later.” He would be charged with second degree murder, and would be the defendant in the NMI’s first jury trial in Sept. 1975. Believing that the defendant acted in self-defense, jurors would find him not guilty.
On Jan. 20, 1975, the TT government’s chief executive officer, an appointee of the U.S. president, delivered his State of the Territory Message to a joint session of the Congress of Micronesia. High Commissioner Edward E. Johnston informed the TT lawmakers that the number of vocational students and students pursuing education outside the Trust Territory had grown. In addition, he said the TT Department of Resources and Development had “embarked on a new direction in a program of action in planning and implementing specific projects.” These involved “identifying marine resources, agriculture, tourism projects….” He commended a TT House member who had announced “a new philosophy of economic development” that “will result in more economic planning.”
The high commissioner then mentioned “the most perplexing challenges” facing the TT government.
Medical referrals? Utilities? Homesteads? Scholarships?
“The most perplexing challenges” facing the TT government were “the problems connected with pay scales for government employees.”
As the Senate president of the Congress of Micronesia would put it, “What shall we do about wages for [TT] government employees in the face of increasing costs and decreasing revenues?”
A letter to the editor published by Variety in the same issue complained about a looming plane fare hike. “In the past four years or so [the airline] raised their fare twice [but] the salary of the people hasn’t gone up a penny yet…. [Does the airline] think that money here…just comes out of a faucet?”
On Jan. 22, 1975, the TT Ad Hoc Committee on Gambling met with two hotel managers, both statesiders, who talked about the installation of slot machines in their hotels. One of the hotels was promoting the “Casino Express” package for Guam-Saipan which included a two-night hotel accommodations as well as discounts and giveaways. The hotel’s manager said “99% of those participating have come to take advantage of the playing of slot machines, not the tours offered.”
He added that “on a recent visit to Japan, every big tour operator [the hotel manager contacted] advocated gambling, especially full scale casino gambling to entice the tourist traffic.”
According to the hotel manager, “traditional tourist sites on Saipan are not as appealing as they once were to travelers, especially young people who are seeking something new and exciting….”
The hotel manager said they were also considering “using a certain percent of the gross revenue from slot earnings for local community education on the detrimental aspects of gambling.” The other hotel manager said their establishment “has signs posted saying, ‘Gambling is Hazardous to your Family’s Economy.’ ”
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