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The Contemporary Pacific 14.1 (2002) 203-205

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Micronesia in Review:
Issues and Events, 1 July 2000 to 30 June 2001

Northern Mariana Islands

Samuel F Mcphetres

Among social issues for attention in the coming year are attempts to smuggle Chinese into Guam, prostitution in western Garapan, and rising crime rates.

In mid-2001, two of at least three small boats trying to reach Guam with illegal Chinese migrants met with disaster. One, containing four Chinese, had mechanical problems trying to leave Rota. Another, carrying six Chinese, capsized in the waters off Tinian; three people were lost and three rescued by fishers. Several of those rescued were employees of Tan Holdings. The owner of the boat was arrested for illegally overstaying in the commonwealth for four years. In the third incident, involving a thirty-foot boat in Saipan lagoon, sixteen passengers were arrested by the authorities.

The problem of prostitution has arisen largely because of garment workers moonlighting at night. The governor formed a special task force to clean up western Garapan, but so far it has not been particularly successful.

The rising crime rate involves domestic violence, assault, burglary, and robbery, especially of poker palaces; many people have been injured, and at least one died. An apparent increase in rape cases has not been thoroughly documented. Recent cases involved two women from Thailand, a Japanese tourist who was raped twice, and a Korean tourist, who was apparently gang raped. The last either jumped or was pushed from her fourth-floor hotel room and was taken to hospital in serious condition. Her husband claimed he was not in the room when the incident occurred.

The issue of child molestation made front-page news. A mainland American elementary schoolteacher was arrested in Honolulu by the FBI for sexual molestation of up to nineteen of his third-grade students at a Saipan elementary school. He is awaiting trial. In a separate and unrelated case, a great public outcry was heard when a convicted local child molester was assigned to community service mowing the lawn at another Saipan elementary school. He had previously assaulted another child while on parole.

As reported last year, four teams of gubernatorial candidates and three sets of candidates for Washington representative will compete in the November elections. In addition, the people will vote on several constitutional amendments, the legislature, mayors' [End Page 203] offices, municipal councils, and miscellaneous other matters. Two constitutional issues will come up: First, a proposal to reduce the size of the House of Representatives to twelve, raise their salaries to $60,000 a year, and increase their terms to four years instead of two. Second is a proposal to create municipal councils with lawmaking authority, wherein the mayor would be the senior approving official instead of the governor. Effectively, legislative delegations from island municipalities would no longer be able to pass local laws. A possible third proposal would raise the automatic allotments to the public school system from 15 to 25 percent of the annual budget. However, this initiative faces considerable opposition and may never make it out of the legislature.

As of 8 August 2001, there were 109 candidates running for office in November. None of the four official parties--the Covenant party, the Republican party, the Democratic party, or the Reform party--had fielded a complete list for all vacancies. In addition, it appeared that none of the initiatives being discussed in the legislature would move forward to the November ballots.

The Marianas Variety reported that a group of parents and teachers, possibly led by Senator Paul Magnolia, are planning to protest Rita Inos's failure to resign as commissioner of education while running for lieutenant governor (8 Aug 2001). There is considerable feeling that she should resign public office because she cannot carry out her responsibilities toward education. The same criticism has been leveled at Tony Pellegrino, chairman of the Board of Education.

Bickering over the estate of Larry Hillblom continued throughout the year. In August, the Marianas Variety reported that Commonwealth Judge Castro had ordered the Carlsmith law firm to return $1 million in...


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