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Pacific News Minute: Federal Judge Rules Guam's Decolonization Plebiscite Unconstitutional

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

Late last week, a federal judge in Guam struck down the territory’s plan to hold a plebiscite on de-colonization. The ruling said that a ballot restricted to Chamorros violates the constitution’s ban on racial discrimination. More from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute.


Guam is an unincorporated territory of the United States, occupied for the past 450 years by Spain, the U.S. or, during the Second World War, by Japan. The Organic Act of 1950 recognized its indigenous inhabitants, and independence advocates argue that they and only they are entitled to decide the islands political future.


After decades of indecision, Governor Eddie Calvo pushed an advisory plebiscite last year that would give Chamorros three choices: independence, statehood, or Free Association with the United States. Any change would have to be approved by the U.S. Congress.


A retired U.S. Airman and long-time resident named Arnold “Dave” Davis, sued in federal court for the right to participate in the vote. Last week, Guam’s Chief Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood ruled “The U.S. Constitution does not permit for the government to exclude otherwise qualified voters because (they) do not have the correct ancestry or bloodline.”


Governor Calvo said he was deeply disappointed and plans to appeal; Senator Therese Terlaje said: “This isn’t supposed to be treated like any other vote in the United States.” She told the Guam Daily Post,” This is an international right, a right above all other rights for a people to determine their future.”

The population of Guam is about 160,000. Chamorros are the largest single group, about 37 percent…there are also 6,000 U.S. military personnel on big air and naval bases.

Over 36 years with National Public Radio, Neal Conan worked as a correspondent based in New York, Washington, and London; covered wars in the Middle East and Northern Ireland; Olympic Games in Lake Placid and Sarajevo; and a presidential impeachment. He served, at various times, as editor, producer, and executive producer of All Things Considered and may be best known as the long-time host of Talk of the Nation. Now a macadamia nut farmer on Hawaiʻi Island, his "Pacific News Minute" can be heard on HPR Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.
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