Vice Speaker Terlaje Petitions United Nations 4th Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) – October 3, 2017

The United Nations Special Political and Decolonization Committee (Fourth Committee) held a hearing of petitioners on items related to decolonization from October 3rd through October 6th at the UN Building in New York City. Vice Speaker Therese Terlaje, also serving as the Vice Chairperson of Guam’s Commission on Decolonization, testified as a petitioner on the afternoon of October 3rd (morning of October 4th Guam time), along with Governor Eddie Baza Calvo, Senator Telena Nelson, Dr. Lisa Linda Natividad, and several other representatives from Guam.

You can watch all of the petitioners who represented Guam at the United Nation’s 4th Committee website here:
Time stamps for the petitioners, which begin with Governor Calvo, start at 1:52:35 and Vice Speaker Terlaje presents at 2:40:00.

The 4th committee also provided a press release regarding the hearing, noting that action on the New Caledonia and Guam draft resolutions has been postponed in order to add statements delivered during the hearing of petitioners, expressing hope that the task would be completed in a timely manner. You can read the full press release from the United Nations 4th committee here:

Read the full written testimony submitted by Vice Speaker Terlaje here:
Written TMT submission to UN October 2017_final

You may also read the transcript of Vice Speaker Terlaje’s oral testimony or view a video of her presentation below:

Håfa Adai, Your Excellency, Chairman Carreño and distinguished members of the Fourth Committee.

I am Therese M. Terlaje, Vice Speaker of the 34th Guam Legislature and Vice Chairperson of Guam’s Commission on Decolonization. Si Yu’os Ma’åse’ and thank you for the opportunity to support action toward the decolonization of Guam.

Self-determination for Guam must include the safeguarding of the non-self-governing people’s right to its natural resources and the right to participate freely in decision-making concerning those resources. It is also critically important in this time of climate change that Guam, a small island, be allowed to protect resources that increase the absorption of carbon dioxide, protect shores against rising tides, and maintain biodiversity as a hope for the future wellness, and economic independence of the community. Our situation on Guam is urgent, as our land and ocean are increasingly under threat, and access and control of our resources is impeded by the delay in decolonization.

Studies have found over 100 contaminated sites on Guam. Almost all from U.S. military activity, which result in the people of Guam’s continued exposure to many cancer-causing agents. Guam has been denied in U.S. compensation programs for radiation exposure despite high levels of cancer rates and findings of exposure as down-winders of the U.S. nuclear testing in the Marshall Islands.

Nonetheless, the U.S. military training and testing areas continue to grow beyond one third of the island and include miles of sonar and live-fire detonations, the removal of acres of limestone forests, and endangered corals.

A week ago, the U.S. filed yet another lawsuit against the government of Guam seeking to invalidate the Chamorro Land Trust Act, a 40-year-old Guam law that reserves land in trust, forever, for the native inhabitants of Guam, and allows them to reside and farm on this land. This Act was intentionally established by the Guam Legislature to address the loss of land through forced land takings and the forced resettlement of Chamorros during periods of colonization and especially after WWII, when more than two thirds of Guam’s land was taken by the U.S. military.

It is ironic and unjust that the U.S. is allowed years of inaction on decolonization, but may suddenly and unilaterally, after 40 years, attempt to dismantle a program that safeguards a homeland for the native inhabitants in its territory.

The U.S. argument that the Chamorro Land Trust law is discriminatory is inconsistent with the establishment of similar programs in U.S. states and other territories. The claim also contrasts with arguments by the U.S. in cases challenging the U.S. unilateral establishment of firing ranges in Guam, where, the U.S. argues that its courts are precluded from stopping the firing ranges because it is a political question to be determined by U.S. Congress alone; and because of an international agreement made between the U.S. and Japan (without consultation with Guam).

Make no mistake: the indigenous people of Guam do not agree and have never freely agreed, requested, voted, or negotiated that our land and waters and our food be contaminated; that our fishing grounds and ocean resources be restricted; that homes and villages be relocated; that firing ranges be built adjacent to ancient villages and sacred burial grounds; that homelands be lost; or that our borders be decided without our input.

I urge this distinguished committee to adopt a resolution demanding the immediate Decolonization of Guam before any more resources are lost.

Dangkulo na si Yu’os Ma’åse’ (Thank you very much) for your efforts and dedication to decolonization for Guam.

Therese M. Terlaje
Vice Speaker, 34th Guam Legislature
Chairperson, Committee on Culture and Justice