VIDEO: D.C. Report – Guam/CNMI Reunification Has Pitfalls

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Washington D.C. – Former Interior official Fred Radewagen supports moves to hold a Guam-CNMI- reunification plebiscite, but cautions there are ‘pitfalls.’ 

Radewagen, a longtime Pacific islands consultant and former Interior official, says there’s little doubt, Washington hands would pay close attention to the results of any new Guam-CNMI reunification vote that has been called for in separate bills introduced in both territories.

“To the extent that there is a strong public sentiment, particularly if it was the same sentiment in both islands, it might serve as the basis for reexamining political status,”  said Radewagen,

But he says a ‘split’ vote, which is what happened in 1969 when CNMI voters backed reunification but Guam voters rejected it, could also hurt efforts to boost local political strength in Washington.  “A split vote would be a setback for reunification, because it would set in concrete some attitudes that have been held for all these years. I was at Interior Department, when that vote was taken and frankly, we were surprised the way that the Guam vote turned out.” 

But Radewagen says the local electorate has changed in the last 40-years, so it remains to be seen if there are still ‘hard feelings’ left over from World War II.

“I think this vote would be a good test of whether there are still hard feelings. You would think that those who had the direct involvement in the war and the immediate post-war, many of them have now passed off the scene. And whether those attitudes linger among their descendants is something worth testing.” 

But as for a ‘closer relationship’ with the us Radewagen says  “it’s not necessarily a given conclusion that a strong vote in favor of reunification by one-side or the other, at the same time means a mandate for seeking some sort of closer relationship.  I’m not sure what a ‘closer relationship’ would be.” 

Under the U.S. system, Radewagen says, he’s not sure the islands can have a closer relationship, because—he asks—“what else is there, besides statehood?”

Holding a non-binding vote on reunification might be easy compared with pursuing state status, though Radewagen says holding exploratory talks on reunification would be a “real act of statesmanship” on the part of local leaders.