Monday, 20 March 2017

Senator San Nicolas voices opposition to resolution calling for Davis appeal

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The senator believes that appealing the Davis decision would do more harm than good.

Guam - One democrat lawmaker has taken to social media to voice his opposition to a recently passed resolution that calls for an appeal to the "Dave Davis" plebiscite case. Senator Mike San Nicolas says the legislature is jumping the gun when it called for emergency session of Resolution 51.

The Legislature heard impassioned testimony last Friday morning from CHamoru rights activists and others in the community on a resolution that calls for GovGuam to appeal the decision in the Arnold "Dave" Davis case. Davis sued the government of Guam for discrimination when he was denied registration into the decolonization registry for a political status plebiscite. The registration was only open to native inhabitants of Guam but earlier this month District Court Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood ruled in Davis’ favor, noting that because the plebiscite is a government-sponsored registry, it is discriminatory in nature by defining eligible registrants as native inhabitants and their descendants.

"I understand that the testimony was passionate and it did present a lot of important perspectives including historical context but the actual evaluation of the implications of the resolution itself never took place," said San Nicolas.


Emergency session was held Friday evening, just a few hours after the legislature heard testimony on Resolution 51. During session, San Nicolas walked out just before a vote on the resolution took place. San Nicolas says he stormed out because lawmakers voted to close off discussion on the matter. The resolution eventually passed.

"A lot of the testimony we received was passionate testimony about how people were feeling and reacting to the result of the Davis case but very little of the testimony had much to do with the actual implications of the resolution," San Nicolas noted.


San Nicolas believes that an appeal with the Ninth Circuit Court is not the best option. This is because in taking on an appeal, this would be the first time that the people of Guam would be asking the higher courts--which has had a history of ruling against certain rights for several other territories--to give Guam permission to hold this plebiscite.

"Never before have the native inhabitants gone to the courts and asked them to grant permission to hold this vote. It was always non-native inhabitants that were challengin. Now that the native inhabitants are going to be pursuing the appeal, they’re basically turning over the question to the courts. What I would prefer is if the native inhabitants are dissatisfied with the results of the Davis case, take that dissatisfaction to the United Nations," said San Nicolas. "Maybe they’ll pass a UN resolution telling us to have a native only vote on our own terms. Maybe they’ll pass a resolution challenging the validity of the courts to stop us; or maybe they’ll tell us to appeal. But those are all different courses of action that we could’ve considered rather than just jumping the gun and making the decision ourselves."

San Nicolas has another option he believes might be better for the island. Hold two separate votes—one for native inhabitants as the decolonization registry always intended and one all-inclusive, at-large vote for all Guam residents—a proposal that Governor Calvo has previously offered.

"I think that what the governor's proposing to have, the vote, and have the ballots separate, might actually be the best of both worlds and I can get behind that because what I might be very interested to see is if there really is a material difference in political status choice between the native only vote and the all inclusive vote. We may be very well surprised," he noted.

But if the two votes produced different results, we asked the senator which one should carry more weight and should be presented to Congress.

"I think that by doing that it would actually give us all the information we need to be able to make a decision from there. For example, let’s say if the native inhabitant vote chose independence and the at-large vote chose statehood, we could come to the conclusion that the community is irreconcilable on that and so how do we move forward? Perhaps the native inhabitants will pursue a Native American status, similar to Native Americans in the states or in Hawaii where they do have an independent status within the island but the island at-large also has a statehood track for the United States," he explained.



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