Friday, 27 June 2008

Grassroots democracy

Just north of the Equator below Japan, Guam was populated 4000 years ago by a matrilineal people, the Chamoru. In the 1500s it was colonised by Spain. After Spain’s defeat in the 1898 Spanish-American war, it was claimed by the US.

It became important as a military base after World War II. Guam is only about 50 kilometres long, and US bases occupy about a third of its length.

On Monday 23rd June 2008 I had the pleasure in facilitating a public meeting with Lisa Natividad and Julian Aguon, two representatives from the Chamoru people of Guam.

They presented a simple message:
We the citizens for peace and justice on Guam voice our concern over the scheduled transfer of 8000 US Marines and the increased military buildup on Guam and the Asia/Pacific region post-September 11, 2001.

We believe that increased militarization will put our families, friends, and relatives who are living on Guam in harm’s way rather than provide safety and stability.

We voice our concern about the recent US policy and actions that would make our island home more of a target. These actions include the following: the planned expansion of runways on Guam, the presence of B-2 bombers, joint military exercises taking place on aircraft carriers near Guam, and the greater naval presence including the planned expansion of naval military facilities with more nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers.

We the citizens for peace and justice acknowledge that the US military policy is related to US economic policy, in which the valuation of the Chinese currency not being tied to the US dollar, the huge trade imbalance that the US has with China, and the Chinese owning a significant portion of the US debt through purchase of US treasury bonds in order to support the US insatiable appetite for Chinese products, has put the US economically vulnerable.

We the citizens for peace and justice on Guam know first hand the impacts of war on our families, and we believe that conflicts should, first and foremost, be resolved peacefully.

We acknowledge that the US, as the administering power, has both the moral and legal responsibility to protect the human rights to self-determination of the Chamorros, the indigenous people of Guam. As determined by the UN, increased militarization and lack of consent by the Chamorro people, infringes upon the right to self-determination.

The Australian
reported on 14 June 2008 that “by 2014 Guam will receive about 8000 US marines who will transfer from their present base in Okinawa, the Japanese Government helping pay the $10 billion-plus relocation costs. With a population of about 170,000, Guam is already home to 12,000 US military personnel and the heavy build-up promises to put further strain on local communities.”

More information can be found at the Chamoru Blog.

The public meeting was convened by the Hunter Valley Quakers and Newcastle NoWar collective.

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