22 March 2011

Northern Marianas Should Reassess Commonwealth Political Status, Says N. Marianas Lawmaker


Representative Stanley T. Torres says that the  CNMI should ‘reassess’ US ties.

By Emmanuel T. Erediano 
Marianas Variety

 THE commonwealth and federal governments need to sit down again and assess their political ties, according to Rep. Stanley T. Torres. He noted that his colleagues are finally considering his political status bill that has been with the House Committee on Judiciary and Governmental Operations for more than one year now.

House Bill 17-7, which Torres introduced on Jan. 22, 2010, proposes to create a commission that will revisit the Covenant and look at an “alternative” political and economic status for the islands. Chaired by Rep. Ralph S. Demapan, Covenant-Saipan, the committee plans to hold a public hearing on the measure at 6 p.m. on Monday next week at the multi-purpose center in Susupe.

In an interview yesterday, Torres, Ind.-Saipan, said the timing is “very right to bring this proposal up because it appears that the federal government has been screwing us for a long time.” With all the problems the commonwealth is now suffering due to federal restrictions, Torres said it’s about time to reassess the islands’ political relationship with the U.S. as established by the 1976 Covenant.

“The feds give us money but instead of letting us make the best use of it ourselves, they put a lot of restrictions,” Torres said.

H.B. 17-7, he added, will bring the CNMI and the federal government back to the negotiating table which he hopes will make the U.S. “realize” the “hardship” it has imposed on the commonwealth. Once the new political status commission is formed, Torres said it can renegotiate the exclusive economic zone that, he added, the federal government “took” from the CNMI people.

The second Marianas Political Status Commission proposed by Torres will consist of 11 voting members and the presiding officers of the Legislature as non-voting ex-officio members. They will reexamine the political status of the NMI as commonwealth of the U.S. and the federal interpretation of the Covenant.

The panel members will also asses how the local and federal government lived up to their obligations under the Covenant. They will also look at a future political and economic status for the NMI that includes but is not limited to complete independence from the U.S., free association, or statehood.

“I invite the people to attend the public hearing and bring up their frustration about our political relationship with the U.S.” Torres said.

 See also:  International Governance Expert Discusses Changes in Northern Marianas Covenant

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