NMD group to form alliance with other indigenous organizations

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THE Northern Marianas Descent Council is seeking an alliance with indigenous groups in Oceania and the Americas, NMDC president John Gonzales said on Tuesday.

John Gonzales, president of the Northern Marianas Descent Council, center, speaks before the Rotary Club of Saipan members at Hyatt Regency on Tuesday.  Photo by Junhan B. Todino

The goal is “to restore the dignity of indigenous people,” he said, as he accused the U.S. of “unilaterally, deliberately, repugnantly, arbitrarily and capriciously, exercising actions against the very spirit of the Covenant,” referring to U.S. Public Law 94-241, which established “the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands in political union with and under the sovereignty of the United States of America.”

Gonzales, who was the guest speaker of Rotary Club of Saipan’s weekly meeting at the Hyatt Regency, said they have challenged some U.S. laws but have lost.

He said they will now resort to legal strategies involving the International Court of Justice in the Hague, the Netherlands, the United Nations, and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Costa Rica.

“And we're building an alliance with other indigenous peoples throughout the world,” he added.

Gonzales said he was only 4 years old when his parents and the generation before him voted for the Covenant in June 1975.

“I hear from people that there was not enough time for public education — it was rushed, because they wanted to be out of the suffering of World War II and whatnot,” he said.

The members of the new generation have been “educated around the world and have learned from the experiences of their parents and their forefathers,” he added.

“We are simply asking for the opportunity to use international law, argue in an international court and build an alliance globally, then, to bring our case to the United Nations…out of good faith,” he said.

The NMDC, he added, is also concerned about the public land leases that are expiring and the implementation of Public Law 20-84, which increases the term of public land leases from 25 years to 40 years with the opportunity to extend up to 15 years for a total of 55 years.

Gonzales said his group wants to meet with the management of Hyatt Regency and Fiesta Resort on the proposed 15-year extension of their leases.

“Let’s learn from the last 40 years,” Gonzales said, adding that renewal negotiations should be based on “data, historic average profit compared to expenditures, and tax base payments.”

Fiesta Resort’s 40-year lease will expire in June 2021 while Hyatt Regency’s will end in Dec. 2021.

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