Decolonization panel head laments self-rule plebiscite’s ‘non-binding’ aspect

Photo courtesy of Guampedia

Guam – “We’ve been colonized longer than the African-Americans have been slaves,” Melvin Won Pat Borja, executive director of the Commission on Decolonization, said during a briefing with the Committee on Federal and Foreign affairs.

While Guam may be able to choose a fitting political status for the island through a yet-to-be scheduled plebiscite, Won Pat Borja said the nonbinding process seems like an exercise in futility.

Eligible voters have three political status options to choose from: independence, statehood and free association with the United States. The plebiscite, however, is hampered by legal intricacies. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has yet to rule on Arnold Dave Davis’ lawsuit, challenging the constitutionality of a local law that restricts the vote to “native inhabitants.”

But even if the plebiscite where to be held today, Won Pat Borja noted that its result would not be automatically enforceable

“One of the challenges of the plebiscite is that [it] is nonvoting [and] nonbinding,” Won Pat-Borja said. “The way I look at it is that it’s more about what the exercising of our voice means to us. We have a responsibility to ourselves, to our maniana – to our children – to exercise that voice because that voice has been silenced for over 500 years.”

Won-Pat Borja said he does not believe the commission has put enough effort to educate people about decolonization.

“If we are talking status before we talk decolonization, we’re really putting the cart before the carabao,” Won-Pat Borja said.

Won Pat-Borja also mentioned that the United Nations recognizes Guam as a non-self-governing island, which creates friction between the two entities as the actions of the United States greatly affects the island.

Guam is among the 17 territories that remain under foreign rule in the 21st century.   More than 50 years ago,  the United Nations called for independence for all remaining colonies but it missed its 2010 home-rule deadline. The target year marked the 50th anniversary of the UN’s Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples on Dec. 14, 1960.


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Jolene joined the PNC team in 2017, as a producer, co-anchor and investigative reporter covering law enforcement, courts and crimes. Notable coverage includes the Ehlert case, the Mark Torre Jr. trial, the Allan Agababa trial, exclusive pieces on the Life of a Drug Dealer/Addict, and Life behind bars...the story of Honofre Chargualaf and Kevin Cruz. In 2019, she was promoted to Assistant News Director and Lead Anchor. From 2015 to 2017 she served as Public Relations and Promotions Manager, for the Hotel Nikko Guam handling local radio and advertorial promotions, as well as produced and directed tv commercials for the hotel. Prior to this she worked with KUAM for three years as a reporter and segment host. She began her journalism career in 2012, working with Glimpses of Guam contributing to the Guam Business Magazine, R&R magazine, MDM magazine and the Marianas Business Journal.