Hagåtña, Guam – Commission on Decolonization Executive Director Melvin Won-Pat Borja joined other colonized areas in urging renewed commitment to ending colonialism by 2020. Won Pat-Borja testified before a United Nations panel during the 2019 UN Regional Seminar held in St. George’s, Grenada last week.
“A process of decolonization that must follow the rules of the colonizer is not decolonization: it is an extension of colonization,” testified Won Pat-Borja who was quoting his colleague Dr. Michael Lujan Bevacqua when the latter testified before the UN in 2017. Dr. Bevacqua also joined Won Pat-Borja at the 2019 UN Regional Seminar.
The focus of the seminar was on accelerating the implementation of eradicating colonialism through the process of decolonization. Today, according to the United Nations, there are still 17 Non-Self-Governing Territories remaining in the world: Guam, American Samoa, Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands (Malvinas), French Polynesia, Gibraltar, Montserrat, New Caledonia, Pitcairn, Saint Helena, Tokelau, Turks and Caicos Islands, United States Virgin Islands, and Western Sahara.
Won Pat-Borja used two Federal lawsuits against the Government of Guam to espouse the fundamental need to expand support of the Territory’s quest for self-determination. The first case involves a U.S. Military Captain who sued the local government after his unsuccessful attempt to register as a voter in Guam’s decolonization plebiscite. In that case, the District Court Judge ruled against the Government of Guam, declaring the island’s Plebiscite Law unconstitutional. The second case was filed by the Federal Government against the Government of Guam over the implementation of the CHamoru Land Trust Commission (CLTC), claiming the program is racially discriminatory and violates the Fair Housing Act.
“The aforementioned cases serve as reminders that Guam is a spoil of war, its people remain colonized, and that their self-determination is not prioritized by the U.S.. Worse is that laws passed by a legislative body, elected at large, are cast as racial with no recognition or critical examination of the racism inherent in our continued colonization. In fact, many indigenous and native inhabitants on Guam have a strong sense of patriotism and loyalty to the U.S. despite this history. No amount of patriotism, however, should warrant a blind eye to the inequity of our current unincorporated territory status,” Won Pat-Borja attested.
As the Territory’s first Maga’Håga, and with Governor Lou Leon Guerrero’s commitment to Guam’s decolonization, Won Pat-Borja outlined the Administration’s goals to reignite interest and educate the public on the process of decolonization. This includes a Self-Determination Study in collaboration with the University of Guam, a Self-Determination Regional Conference, and a Media Education Campaign. A Self-Determination Plebiscite will allow Native Inhabitants of Guam and their descendants to choose one of three political status options: Independence, Integration or Free Association.
“There is a clear need for more resources if we are to conduct a sustained comprehensive and effective educational campaign on Guam. Our challenges are vast and we are working against over 450 years of colonial conditioning. However, we are a resilient and determined people. We will continue to be unrelenting to achieve our fundamental and basic human right to make a choice,” said Won Pat-Borja.