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Variations | A royal visit and other old news stories

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THE front-page of Marianas Variety’s Sept. 29, 1977 issue was packed with big news. 

At the top of the page: “Police Probe To Get Outside Help.” The executive branch of the NMI government, which was still part of the U.S.-administered Trust Territory, announced that it would hire an independent investigator “to continue the [Marianas District] Legislature’s Select Committee probe into police brutality and corruption.” The committee was created “following accusations of police beatings, and reports that Saipan may be a ‘half way’ point for international drug trafficking and the sale of stolen government property.” Variety quoted Resident Commissioner (the chief executive of the NMI) Erwin Canham as saying, “We are doing our part to clean up the department.”

On Aug. 18, 1977, Variety reported that about 75 residents demonstrated against police corruption and brutality outside the legislative building and the police headquarters in Susupe. “Sparking the protest was a shooting incident (Aug. 5) outside the bowling center in which a Saipan man…was shot and wounded by a member of Saipan’s police force. According to its organizers, [the] protest was organized to call ‘general’ attention to police brutality, ‘past and present.’ ”

Also on the front-page of MV’s Sept. 29, 1977 issue:

COP CHARGED IN RAPE

A police officer 1 was accused of sexually assaulting a 20-year-old woman at Kobler field. He was arrested but released on a $5,000 (worth about $21,400 today) secured bond bail. He was also ordered to surrender his passport.

From the office of Resident Commissioner Erwin Canham:

“The Island is presently suffering a power reduction due to technical problems associated with the power barge Impedance boilers…

“In order that the entire Island may be provided with power on [a] reduced level, … turning off air-conditioners and clothes dryers for a 3-day period will be necessary….”

Impedance was on loan from the U.S. Navy, and was commissioned in the early 1940s. It was Saipan’s major source of electricity in the 1970s.

In Tanapag, Variety reported that a wood-and-tin house (a typical dwelling in those days) was destroyed by fire “late Wednesday night.” Electrical failure was the culprit. The occupants of the house were watching TV in their living room when the fire broke out. The head of the family tried to “quench the fire with a garden hose,” but his “efforts…were prevented by the flames’ intensity.” When the fire truck arrived on the scene [at around 11:13 p.m.], the fire was already out of control, and “almost the entire village had turned out to assist the [family] in rescuing some of their possessions, but…nothing was saved.” The assistant fire chief said “three firemen worked until 1:30 a.m. to quell the blaze, using 2,000 gallons of water in the process. Their work was hampered because [the] threads on the Tanapag…standpipes do not match those on the fire truck’s hose. Water was transported in relays from the Lower Base Procurement and Supply Office a mile or so from the village….”

The 59-year-old King of Tonga, Taufaʻahau Tupou IV, visited Saipan on Sept. 26-27, 1977 with his wife, Queen Halaevalu Mataʻaho ʻAhomeʻe. Upon their arrival at the Saipan airport, they were greeted by the resident commissioner and other TT officials. They then proceeded to the Continental (today’s Hyatt) hotel for an official reception.  With the royal couple were an aide de camp, the king’s private physician and the queen’s lady in waiting. Tonga’s current king, ʻAhoʻeitu Tupou VI, is the son of Taufaʻahau Tupou IV who passed away in 2006.

In the same issue, Variety asked, “Tourism: Is Saipan Ready”? referring to the Oct. 1, 1977 arrival of Continental/Air Micronesia’s first Tokyo-Saipan flight. Japan Airlines, for its part, would provide “four times weekly flights” to the island. The director of the Northern Marianas Visitors Bureau said a “strong advertising program is needed,” and “our first responsibility is to the visitors.” The island’s beautification “is…essential.” He said “schools and youth groups need encouragement and education in ecological awareness and the importance of a clean environment.” Litter, however, “is a major problem here.” He noted that while Guam had allotted $27,000 (about $115,800 today) for its anti-litter campaign, Saipan could spend $2,500 (about $10,700) only.  As for Saipan’s tourist bureau, it had one full-time employee.

In its editorial, Variety stated that the same NMI lawmakers who criticized the “high tuition rates”  charged by the University of Guam were about to take a month-long trip to the mainland U.S. “under the guise of seeking out institutes with lower tuition charges.” This information could be obtained with a 13-cent stamp, Variety noted.

At this point, Variety added, “all the problems besetting the Marianas are forgotten: power, water, roads, hospital, health care, and many others. Let the Marianas residents suffer the power outages, the water shortages and the lack of adequate health care. The [lawmakers’] travel is more important.”

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