Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands
Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands
(Commonwealth in political union
with the United States)
Joined United Nations:  24 October 1945
Human Rights as assured by their constitution
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Updated: 20 February 2013
51,395 (July 2012 est.)
Barack Hussein Obama
President of the United States
since 20 January 2009
President and Vice President elected via electoral college for a
four year term; eligible for a second term. Under the US
Constitution, residents of unincorporated territories, such as
Northern Mariana Islands, do not vote in elections for US
president and vice president; election last held 6

Next scheduled election: 8 November 2016
Eloy S. Inos
Governor since 20 February 2013
Governor and lieutenant governor elected on the same ticket by
popular vote for four-year terms (eligible for a second term);
election last held 7 November 2009 (run-off election was held
on 23 November 2009)
NOTE- On 20 February 2013,
Governor Benigno Fitial resigned following impeachment
proceedings. Lieutenant Governor Eloy S. Inos was elevated to
Governor and Senate President Jude Hofschneider was
elevavted to Lieutenant Governor

Next scheduled election: 4 November 2014
Asian 56.3%, Pacific islander 36.3%, Caucasian 1.8%, other 0.8%, mixed 4.8% (2000 census)
Christian (Roman Catholic majority, although traditional beliefs and taboos may still be found)
Commonwealth; self-governing with locally elected governor, lieutenant governor, and legislature with no administrative
divisions. Legal system is based on US system, except for customs, wages, immigration laws, and taxation
Executive:  President and Vice President elected for four year terms, eligible for second term (not voted for by Northern
Mariana Islands residents); Governor and Lieutenant Governor elected for four years up to two consecutive terms by
Northern Mariana Islands citizens; election last held on
7 November 2009; elections next to be held 4 November 2014
Legislative: Bicameral Legislature consists of the Senate (9 seats; members are elected by popular vote to serve
four-year staggered terms) and the House of Representatives (18 seats; members are elected by popular vote to serve
two-year terms)
elections: Senate - last held on
6 November 2012 (next to be held in 4 November 2014); House of Representatives - last
held on
6 November 2012 (next to be held in 4 November 2014)
Judicial: Commonwealth Supreme Court; Superior Court; Federal District Court
Philippine languages 24.4%, Chinese 23.4%, Chamorro 22.4%, English 10.8%, other Pacific island languages 9.5%,
other 9.6% (2000 census)
The first people to come to the Marianas arrived over 3500 years ago, probably from Southeast Asia through the
Philippines. The south islands were occupied early, the north later. The ancient people evolved into Chamorro people. An
ancient trading route between the central Carolinian islands brought ancestors of the Carolinians to Saipan.  The first
European exploration of the area was that led by Ferdinand Magellan in 1521, who landed on nearby Guam and claimed
the islands for Spain. After being met offshore and accepting the refreshments offered to them by the native Chamorros,
the latter then in exchange helped themselves to a small boat belonging to Magellan's fleet. This led to a cultural clash
because in the old Chamorro culture there was little if any private property and to take something that one needed such as
a boat to fish with was not a crime and not thievery in their eyes. (The Catholic Church did much to introduce mores
against this practice, but even today, some young Chamorros hoping to revive their cultural heritage have come in conflict
with the law over this on the Islands.) Due to this cultural misunderstanding, over half a dozen locals were killed and a
village of 40 homes burned before the boat was retrieved, and the archipelago subsequently acquired the ignominious
name Islas de los Ladrones ("Islands of the Thieves"). Three days after he had arrived, Magellan fled the archipelago
under attack--a portentous beginning to its relationship with the Spanish. The islands were henceforth considered by
Spain to be annexed and therefore under their governance, from the Philippines, as part of the Spanish East Indies. The
Spanish built a Royal Palace in Guam for the Governor of the Islands (its remains can still be seen in 2006).Guam was an
important stop-over from Mexico for galleons carrying gold and other between the Philippines and Spain. There are
several unfound sunken Spanish galleons off Guam. In 1668 the islands were renamed by Padre Diego Luis de Sanvitores
to Las Marianas after Mariana of Austria, widow of Spain's Philip IV. Nearly all of the islands' native population (90%
-95%) died out under Spanish rule, but new settlers, primarily from the Philippines and the Caroline Islands, were brought
in to repopulate the islands. Despite this, the Chamorro population did gradually resurge, and Chamorro, Filipino and
Carolinian language and ethnic differences remain basically distinct in the Marianas to this day. The Marianas came under
German control for a brief period when Spain sold them to Germany, exclusive of Guam. In 1919 the Japanese invaded
and occupied these islands and the League of Nations, pre-cursor of the United Nations, awarded them to Japan by
mandate. The Japanese used the Islands as a military outpost. They did not treat the native population well. The Empire of
Japan captured Guam during World War II and Japanese governance of the Islands moved to Guam. The Japanese
annexation of the Marianas was not popular among its residents, and the Japanese forces have been accused of atrocities
during their occupation of the islands, including the torture and killing of the residents of Guam and the Northern Marianas.
This led to the Chamorros of Guam and Saipan bearing grudges against the Japanese, some which still remain after 65
years, despite Japanese tourists being a major contributor to the economies of Saipan and Guam. On June 15, 1944,
during World War II, U.S. Marines landed on the islands and eventually won the bitterly fought three-week Battle of
Saipan. The Marianas are a critical part of the last chapter of the war, as Guam and Saipan provided the take off point for
the bombing of Hiroshima. After Japan's defeat, the islands were administered by the United States as part of the United
Nations Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands; thus, defense and foreign affairs are the responsibility of the U.S. The
people of the Northern Mariana Islands decided in the 1970s not to seek independence, but instead to forge closer links
with the U.S. Negotiations for territorial status began in 1972. A covenant to establish a commonwealth in political union
with the U.S. was approved in 1975. A new government and constitution went into effect in 1978. The Northern Mariana
Islands have also come into the news recently due to their connection to the scandals involving Jack Abramoff and
allegedly former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. As a direct result of lobbying by Abramoff and associates, the
Northern Mariana Islands received special federal subsidies. As well, Congressman Bob Ney allegedly received free trips
to the Northern Mariana Islands from Abramoff, in violation of federal law. The Northern Marianas Islands are also the
site of another controversy involving Rep. John Doolittle (R-CA), Jack Abramoff, and Rep. Richard Pombo (R-CA) and
the alleged links to the Saipan Garment Manufacturers Association and the Northern Mariana Islands, role in stopping
legislation aimed at cracking down on sweatshops and sex shops” on the islands in 2001. The Northern Marianas Islands
allegedly harbor the most abusive labor practices of anywhere in the United States. According to the progressive think
tank American Progress Action Fund, "Human 'brokers' bring thousands there to work as sex slaves and in cramped
sweatshop garment factories where clothes (complete with 'Made in U.S.A.' tag) have been produced for all the major
Benigno Repeki Fitial was elected on November 6, 2005 and assumed office on January 9, 2006 and was re-
elected to a second, five-year term in 2009. He was impeached by the CNMI House of Representatives on February 11,
2013, and was scheduled to face trial before the CNMI Senate to determine if should be removed from office. He
resigned on February 20, 2013. Fitial became the first governor in any US insular area and the 13th in the history of the
nation to be impeached.

Sources   History of Nations;  Wikipedia: History of Northern Marianas Islands
The economy benefits substantially from financial assistance from the US. The rate of funding has declined as locally
generated government revenues have grown. The key tourist industry employs about 50% of the work force and accounts
for roughly one-fourth of GDP. Japanese tourists predominate. Annual tourist entries have exceeded one-half million in
recent years, but financial difficulties in Japan have caused a temporary slowdown. The agricultural sector is made up of
cattle ranches and small farms producing coconuts, breadfruit, tomatoes, and melons. Garment production is by far the
most important industry with the employment of 17,500 mostly Chinese workers and sizable shipments to the US under
duty and quota exemptions.
Politics of the Northern Mariana Islands takes place in a framework of a presidential representative democratic system,
whereby the Governor is head of government, and of a pluriform multi-party system. The Northern Mariana Islands are a
commonwealth in political union with the United States. Federal funds to the Commonwealth are administered by the
Office of Insular Affairs of the U.S. Department of the Interior. Executive power is exercised by the government.
Legislative power is vested in both the government and the two chambers of parliament. The Judiciary is independent of
the executive and the legislature. Local government is carried out through three regional mayors.

The Northern Mariana Islands and the United States reached a Covenant Agreement effective 4 November 1986. The
Constitution of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands became effective 1 January 1978.

Historically, the Northern Mariana Islands have been subject to the colonizing powers of Spain, Germany, Japan, and the
United States under a United Nations Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands Agreement. Each power contributed elements
that mixed with local indigenous cultures to form the current political culture of the Northern Mariana Islands.

When United States citizenship was granted in 1986 to people who qualified as descendants of the Northern Marianas,
few among the island's native population had been adequately prepared for democracy. As a result, politics in the
Northern Mariana Islands is often "more a function of family relationships and personal loyalties" where the size of one's
extended family is more important than a candidate's personal qualifications. Both scholarly works and the authors of the
controversial website charge that this is nepotism carried out within the trappings of democracy.

In November 2008, the Northern Mariana Islands held its first election for a delegate to the United States Congress.
Gregorio "Kilili" Sablan won the election, and will begin his term of office in January 2009. The delegate will serve as a
member to some House committees and may vote in those committees, but the delegate is not permitted to vote on bills
up for vote among all members of the House. Benigno Repeki Fitial was elected on November 6, 2005 and assumed
office on January 9, 2006 and was re-elected to a second, five-year term in 2009. He was impeached by the CNMI
House of Representatives on February 11, 2013, and was scheduled to face trial before the CNMI Senate to determine if
should be removed from office. He resigned on February 20, 2013. Fitial became the first governor in any US insular area
and the 13th in the history of the nation to be impeached.
Source: Wikipedia: Politics of Northern Marianas Islands
None reported.
U.S. State Department
United Nations Human
Rights Council
Amnesty International
Human Rights Watch
Freedom House
None reported.
None reported.
Unheard No More
The U.S. State Department does not issue an annual Country Report regarding the Human Rights practices of the United
States and its territories. It does, however, assess the Human Rights condition of foreign countries as stated below:

The protection of fundamental human rights was a foundation stone in the establishment of the United States over 200 years ago.
Since then, a central goal of U.S. foreign policy has been the promotion of respect for human rights, as embodied in the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights. The United States understands that the existence of human rights helps secure the peace, deter
aggression, promote the rule of law, combat crime and corruption, strengthen democracies, and prevent humanitarian crises.

Because the promotion of human rights is an important national interest, the United States seeks to:

  • Hold governments accountable to their obligations under universal human rights norms and international human rights
  • Promote greater respect for human rights, including freedom from torture, freedom of expression, press freedom, women's
    rights, children's rights, and the protection of minorities;
  • Promote the rule of law, seek accountability, and change cultures of impunity;
  • Assist efforts to reform and strengthen the institutional capacity of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human
    Rights and the UN Commission on Human Rights; and
  • Coordinate human rights activities with important allies, including the EU, and regional organizations.
Click here to read more »
29 February 2008
U.N. Resumes Struggle To Meet Contemporary Decolonisation Target

The United Nations Special Committee on Decolonisation met February 28th to begin its annual consideration of the remaining
sixteen non self-governing territories. In the Atlantic/Caribbean, the territories in question are Bermuda, Turks and Caicos Islands,
Cayman Islands, Montserrat, British Virgin Islands, Anguilla, and the US Virgin Islands. The commonwealth/territory of Puerto
Rico is not on the U.N list although two consecutive White House reports in 2005 and 2007 have confirmed its non self-governing
political status – so perhaps they should be on the list.

In the Pacific, the territories are American Samoa and Guam administered by the U.S. The commonwealth/territory of the Northern
Mariana Islands is not on the U.N. list but expanding U.S. Congressional control is becoming increasingly clear, effectively eroding
what was originally thought as an autonomous arrangement – at least that was the agreement. Perhaps, they should also be on the
U.N. list. Other territories are Tokelau (admirably) administered by New Zealand, and New Caledonia administered by France.
Other ‘listed’ territories include Pitcairn and St. Helena (U.K.).

The organizational session of the meeting proceeded in the usual manner with an opening statement by Secretary General Ban Ki
Moon who announced the election of officers which included Indonesia as chairman, Cuba and Congo as vice chairs, and Syria as
Rapporteur. Indonesia replaced St. Vincent and the Grenadines who chaired for the previous two years. Of the 28 members of the
committee, nine are small island territories from the Caribbean and Asia/Pacific, and the chairmanship of the committee, up to this
point, had rotated between the Caribbean during the 1990s and the Pacific in the new decade.

Another set of listed territories under review of the committee are those subject to sovereignty disputes. Gibraltar is claimed by U.
K. and Spain, Falkland Islands/Malvinas is claimed by U.K. and Argentina, and Western Sahara is claimed by Morocco and the
Frente Polasario. This might explain the formal presence of an interesting array of additional member countries which attended the
event, including Argentina and Brazil which represent the strong Latin American position on the sovereignty of the Malvinas
Islands. Spain, of course, was present as it is party to the disputed sovereignty with the U.K. over Gibraltar. The interest of other
non- committee members such as Thailand, Turkey, Lebanon and Malaysia is less certain, and subject to interesting speculation.

An interesting diversion from previous practice occurred as the U.S. delegate sat in his designated committee seat as the
administering power of the three territories under U.S. administration. The U.S. usually attends the meeting, but does not occupy
their seat since they had formally withdrawn their cooperation with the Special Committee in the early 1990s. Perhaps they were
seated in deference to the presence of the Secretary-General. Maybe it also signals that they may wish to resume formal
cooperation with the committee. One can only hope.
Click here to read more »
No Reports from Freedom House mentioning Northern Mariana Islands after exhaustive search of their database. Please
forward any information you may have regarding Freedom House efforts on behalf of Northern Mariana Islands to the
Pax Gaea World Report editor at the link below
Contact the editor »
No Reports from Amnesty International mentioning Northern Mariana Islands after exhaustive search of their database.
Please forward any information you may have regarding Amnesty International efforts on behalf of Northern Mariana
Islands to the Pax Gaea World Report editor at the link below
Contact the editor »
Northern Mariana Islands foreign workers win United States federalization of immigration control, 2007-2008
Samantha Bennett, 03/04/2011

Beginning in early 2007, foreign workers in the Northern Mariana Islands (mainly Saipan, the most populated of the islands)
campaigned for the United States government to take control of the Islands' immigration policy. The Northern Mariana Islands are
located in the Western Pacific, in the region of Japan and the Philippines.

Although a Commonwealth united with the U.S., the Northern Mariana Islands’ immigration control was under local rule, and the
Commonwealth's Governor Fitial planned to keep it that way. Foreign workers believed that this local immigration control resulted
in labor and human rights abuses. About one quarter of Saipan’s population was Filipino and worked for extremely low wages.
Alleged abuses included forced prostitution, long hours without weekends or holidays, and harsh living conditions.

In order to end these conditions, Filipino workers, along with other workers, human rights activists and other supporters, held a
series of protests (including a 10,000-person rally) that supported legislation to place the Northern Mariana Islands’ immigration
under U.S. federal control. In congruence with that campaign, islanders protested in a different campaign as well, one that had
similar objectives. Specifically, this second campaign was fighting for long-term residency for foreign workers. Some of the
actions of the “Federalization campaign” had the dual goal of reforming residency as well (especially in the Unity March).

In early March, workers planned on a general strike to show the government what the economy would look like if human rights
abuses persisted. The workers, however, did not follow through with the general strike.

In early April, members of the community held an exploratory discussion regarding the immigration matter. A few days later, 100-
200 workers and community members held a prayer vigil in support of the U.S. Senate-sponsored federalization bill, as well as a
draft bill granting long-term residency to foreign workers. Organizers and speakers at the prayer vigil included Attorney Mark
Hanson, Representative Tina Sablan, and representatives of the Filipino, Chinese, and Bangladeshi communities. At the end of the
prayer vigil, attendants signed a petition that they sent to the U.S. Congress, the Human Rights Watch, and Nikolao Pula of the
Interior that showed their support for the bills being debated in Congress regarding immigration in the Northern Mariana Islands.

In May, President George W. Bush signed the Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008, which turned Northern Mariana
immigration control over to the United States government. The actual takeover by the United States began November 28, 2009.
Click here to read more »
Role of Federal Ombudsman in Northern Marianas Expanded
(May 23, 2011)

Assistant Secretary of the Interior, Tony Babauta, during a meeting today with US Attorney Alicia Limtiaco, discussed plans to
expand the responsibilities of the Interior Department’s Northern Marianas Islands Federal Ombudsman to include Guam. The
Federal Ombudsman, Ms. Pamela Brown, was present for the meeting between Babauta and Limtiaco.

“Initially, I have asked Ombudsman Brown to work closely with USAG Limtiaco in her efforts to raise the awareness of human
trafficking issues for the Marianas Archipelago.  Even without the realigning of US military forces in the Pacific, there is a growing
concern with all types of human trafficking both internationally and domestically which cannot be tolerated by our communities,”
Babauta said.

The Obama Administration stepped up its efforts to raise awareness and to address human trafficking.  In its 2010 Trafficking in
Persons Report, the Administration reported on human trafficking for the first time in the United States and its insular areas.  In
response to that Report, President Obama established the Senior Policy Operating Group on Anti-trafficking in Persons; which
Babauta was appointed to last year. Further, the report recommended that in order to better combat human trafficking, the United
States needed to intensify enforcement and workers rights infrastructure, such as ombudsman offices, in insular areas. Expansion
of the Northern Marianas Ombudsman’s responsibilities to the entire archipelago is the first step in the adoption of that

“Since becoming the regional USAG Limtiaco has provided training to law enforcement community in combating human trafficking
and to the community to raise awareness of the issues of human trafficking. Officially adding Ms. Brown will supplement her

Ombudsman Brown provides alien workers with the opportunity to state claims, including human trafficking, to a federal official
who can then assist the workers in the appropriate handling of such claims by a local or federal agency.  Since the office opened,
her office has assisted approximately 10,000 individuals with such claims.  Of this number, approximately 320 have been identified
as human trafficking victims.

Ms. Brown was the first Federal Ombudsman in the CNMI, establishing the Northern Marianas Ombudsman’s office in early
1999.  In 2002, Ms. Brown left the office to work in the administration of former Governor Juan N. Babauta becoming the CNMI
Attorney General.  Under her tenure, she was responsible for labor and immigration enforcement as well as lead negotiator for the
establishment of the first refugee protection program in the CNMI as part of the United States’ international treaty obligations.  Just
prior to returning to the Ombudsman position in 2009, Ms. Brown served for a year as executive director of an Orange County,
California NGO combating trafficking in S.E. Asia.
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New U.S. Immigration Policy Results In Mixed Reactions For CNMI
Governor ‘deeply concerned’ while foreign workforce lauds move
By Haidee V. Eugenio
SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, June 19, 2012)

In the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), Press secretary Angel Demapan said yesterday that Gov. Benigno
R. Fitial is "deeply concerned" about the "potential for fraud" in President Barack Obama's latest immigration policy stopping the
deportation of certain young illegal immigrants from American soil for a period of two years if they meet certain criteria.

"While President Obama's policy is effective immediately, it will likely take months to implement. There's no procedure to follow or
form to fill out at this time. And with much still unknown the governor is deeply concerned about the potential for fraud," Demapan
told Saipan Tribune.

The Fitial administration said for a period of two years, those who qualify will not face deportation and they will be eligible for a
work permit, "which will allow them to obtain sought-after government identification such as a driver's license and a Social
Security number."

"The key factor here is that those who meet the criteria will be eligible for a work permit. This means that there must be an
employer willing to hire first," Demapan said.

The CNMI is facing high unemployment rate among locals and foreigners, coupled with work hour cuts, as the economy continues
to tank.

"What is important to note, before people get misled yet again, is that the president's new policy does not bestow any sort of
substantive right, immigration status or pathway to citizenship. An action as such would need to be done by way of an Act of
Congress," Demapan said.

He said the White House can only set policies, or regulate, within the parameters of existing governing statutes.

"That said, those unaffected by the criteria set forth by the White House should continue to honor all existing laws governing
immigration and foreign labor," he added.
Click here to read more »
Investigate Governor Fitial and his DPS Thug Squad
October 1, 2012

Governor Fitial, DPS Deputy Police Commissioner Ambrosio Ogumoro and his DPS thug-squad should be investigated by federal
authorities and if found in violation of any laws, arrested. All federal funds connected to the Department of Public Safety, the Ports
Authority and the Governor's Office should be stopped until a full investigation into the escape of fugitive AG Buckingham is
conducted and the involved offices are swept clean of corrupt officials and employees.

The Office of the Public Auditor has linked CNMI Governor Benigno Fitial to the incident at the Saipan International Airport where
thug-policemen, including the governor's body guard were ordered to aide and abet the former Attorney General Edward
Buckingham in avoiding being served a penal summons.

Some officials from the Office of the Public Auditor were called to appear before the House panel that is investigating the 16
charges against the governor in the impeachment resolution filed last month.

Juan Santos, the OPA Chief Investigator testified that DPS Deputy Commissioner Ambrosio Ogumoro "instructed DPS not to assist
the OPA investigators" in serving the summons to Buckingham. Furthermore, he wrote in an "after-action report" about
inappropriate behavior of the police officials at the airport that the DPS Deputy Commissioner also threatened to arrest OPA
investigator Juanette David-Atalig if she "insisted on serving the penal summons."

A DPS police officer told OPA that he believed Ogumoro was carrying out the governor's orders.

The Saipan Tribune detailed what happened in the VIP lounge where the thug-police were sheltering Buckingham and his wife so
no one could serve the summons:

 Santos said when Park opened the VIP lounge door, Ogumoro and Commonwealth Ports Authority ports police chief Jordam
Kosam tried to stop him. Also present in the VIP lounge was the governor's security/driver, DPS Police Capt. Jermaine Nekaifes.

 Santos said Park told Ogumoro to do his job while he does his. Santos said Park also told Ogumoro that if he touches him, he will
arrest Ogumoro.

 “And that's when Ambrosio and Jordan stepped away and SA H. Park approached Buckingham and served him with the penal
summons. SA H. Park said that Buckingham's biggest concern is whether he can still fly/leave this morning,” Santos said in his

 Santos also said Park reminded Buckingham that he was served a summons, and he has to appear on Aug. 6 in court.

 “Buckingham said to him [Park], 'I am under direct orders to make sure that I get on that flight,'” Santos said in his report.

Did the governor ordered Buckingham to get on that flight? Attorney General Buckingham answered to no one else except his
puppet master, the governor. It appears that Buckingham was so tangled in the governor's schemes that he had to leave. Why else
would an attorney violate the law, risk being arrested, and jeopardize his career?

Others who testified included OPA investigator David-Atalig, OPA Legal counsel George Hasselback,  an Aquarius Tower employee
and Glen Hunter who was at the airport witnessing the incident. KSPN reporter Tina Sablan who was assaulted by the police-thugs
at the airport and shot video footage also testified/

Other DPS officials will be subpoenaed by the committee, including those from OPA, DPS, the FBI, and the Office of the Attorney

Last week Rep. Frank Dela Cruz pre-filed House Resolution 17-114, which calls for the extradition of fugitive Edward
Buckingham, the former Attorney General of the CNMI. The disgraced attorney is said to be in San Francisco. It is highly unlikely
that Governor Fitial and his new puppet AG Viola Alepeyo would take steps to extradite Buckingham. It is also unlikely that
Buckingham would ever do the right thing and return to face charges. What a pathetic cast of characters in this CNMI soap opera.
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Joseph Robinette Biden, Sr.
Vice President of the United States
since 20 January 2009
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Click flag for Country Report
Jude Hofschneider
Lieutenant Governor since 20 February 2013
None reported.