Statement on Commonwealth before Congress
The Honorable Carl T.C. Gutierrez

Oct 29, 1997

"Buenas Dias, Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee on Resources. Thank you for holding this hearing today on H.R. 100, the Guam Commonwealth Act.

On behalf of the people of Guam, and as Chairman of the Guam Commission on Self-Determination, I am honored to present our testimony in support of democracy, in defense of human dignity, and in defiance of the continued colonial status of Guam by the United States.

The Guam Commonwealth Act embodies the political hopes and aspirations of the People of Guam. We are here to end the 19th century colonialism, and to create a 21st century partnership between Guam and the United States.

We wholeheartedly embrace the principles of democracy upon which this great nation was founded. They mirror Chamorro principles of family and of community which lie at the heart of our island way of life.

Given the history of this nation, I cannot imagine anyone in these hallowed halls, defending colonialism. This great country founded to end colonialism can never justify continued colonial rule over Guam.

As events around the world constantly remind us, once a people have tested freedom, there is turning back. For us, it is not a question of whether colonialism will end, it is simply a matter of when, and how it will come to an end. The people of Guam, by virtue of our relationship with the United States over the past 100 years, have been able to witness, but not experience, true democracy. Democracy has been so close, it is taught, illustrated, and held up as ideal. Yet, representative democracy does not exist in the Guam-U.S. relationship.

We are frustrated, and we are losing patience. How much longer will we, American citizens, be denied our rights? As we approach a century under the American flag, we are asking, "When will the colonized people of Guam be granted the right to self-determination?" The time to act, is now!

Today, we bring our Commonwealth quest to you, because Congress has the plenary authority and responsibility under the constitution, to resolve our status. We can work together now, to forge a democratic partnership worthy of this great nation. But, if we delay, the spirit of cooperation may fade and a collaborative opportunity may be lost. The Commission on Self-Determination has submitted detailed analysis of the provisions of H.R. 100 and our assessment of the 8 years of frustrating discussions with the Executive Branch preceding this morning's hearing.

In my brief time today, I would like to focus on the core principles upon which we can build, a mutually respectful partnership. Let me start, Mr. Chairman, with an issue that I know is of concern to you, one where I hope we will be able to find common ground. I am speaking of mutual consent.

I am pleased that our panel this morning includes former Governor Ada who was instrumental in negotiations on mutual consent, with former Special Representative Heyman.They concluded an agreement on new language which affirms that our future relationship cannot be altered without our mutual consent. It is essential that any Commonwealth Act, adopted by Congress, include a mutual consent provision.

A second core principle, undoubtedly, the most misunderstood provision of the draft Guam Commonwealth Act, is Chamorro self-determination. It is the inalienable right of the indigenous people of Guam to a process of decolonization, in accordance with international standards, standards the U.S. has agreed to. This is a right which all the voters on Guam, Chamorro and non-Chamorro alike, have endorsed, through a plebiscite. It is a process, which will be defined, in a Guam Constitution, which itself would be brought before all the people of Guam, and subsequently be brought to Congress for your ratification. Mr. Chairman, I am confident, that under your leadership, we can uphold the principle of Chamorro self-determination.

The third core principle, gives the people of Guam meaningful participation in the federal government. Today, our participation is non-existent, and this is wrong ! There is no way that Washington can understand the impact of laws and regulations on an island community 10,000 miles away not withstanding the heroic efforts or our delegate, Mr. Underwood. Short of giving us a vote in Congress there simply must be a process to give us a meaningful participation in the decisions that affect our lives. This is the essence of democracy and we have proposed a Joint Commission to accomplish this objective.

Guam serves strategic military and national security interests and also needs to be brought into the national economic strategy. We are America in Asia! As the Global economy continues to shift to the Asia-Pacific rim Guam is the natural economic bridge for the U.S.. Despite federal laws that constrain our economic development we have built an economy of almost 3.5 billion dollars! We did this with a pair of plyers and a screwdriver! Commonwealth will provide us with the power to grow and sustain an economy and become a major contributor to U.S. economic interests.

Mr. Chairman as you know immigration is also of critical importance to the people of Guam. We desire an immigration policy applicable to the unique needs of Guam. We trust this Committee will make the appropriate distinctions and recognize that the people of Guam have long-standing commitment to federal labor standards and minimum wages. We would like to work with congress and the executive branch to tailor immigration policy to meet Guam's unique needs.

There can be no comprehensive resolution of Guam's political status that does not address Guam's land issues. Let us not mince words. Land, that was taken from the Chamorros for defense purposes, and no longer needed by the military, for real defense purposes, must be returned.

Mr. Chairman, we Chamorros, refer to ourselves as "Taotao Tano", "the people of the land". Our land is intrinsically tied to our soul, the core of our being. Our determination to regain our land is not a political battle with the Fish and Wildlife Service, it is a spiritual quest to preserve the essence of our identity as Chamorros.

For the past eight years, at Congress' direction, we have attempted to work with the Executive Branch in moving beyond colonial status quo. Today, we have heard the official position of the Clinton Administration. Obviously, this position falls far short of what we have been seeking. Colonialism is still very much alive, in the minds of too many bureaucrats, throughout the federal government. They just don't get it! They refuse to think outside of the box. We aren't talking about the band-aid approach to political status, we're talking about the fundamental transformation in the relationship.

I believe, it is now time for Congress to join a tri-partite effort, with the Administration and Guam's Commission on Self-Determination, to come to closure on our draft Commonwealth Act. Let's see how far we can build on the incremental approach that the Executive Branch has advanced.

The power to make these changes is in your hands. Already, your active involvement has borne fruit for without this hearing, it is unclear, when the Administration would have ever put forward its position. What the people of Guam want now is a definitive response from the Congress. The people of Guam need to know whether Commonwealth, as we have envisioned it, is acceptable. Tell us ! Let us know where you stand. We deserve nothing less. The people of Guam can then make their own choices, after you have made yours."

-California Governor P.Wilson