Marianas Variety — (Office of the CNMI Congressional Delegate) — Returning from the congressional delegation led by Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop, R-Utah, recently, U.S. Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan said he “sent notes of thanks to everyone in the Marianas who helped make this important visit a success, and to the members of the delegation themselves, who took time away from their own districts to visit ours.”
Kilili said the last time a CODEL came to the Marianas was in 2014, when Agriculture Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Oklahoma, and Natural Resources Chairman Doc Hastings, R-Washington, included the islands in a trip to Australia and New Zealand at my request.
The recent CODEL, Kilili added, “was the first time that the new chair, Rob Bishop, has visited us; and I feel I owe a special debt of gratitude to him for including Rota in the itinerary — a first for any congressional delegation.”
The following is Kilili’s letter to Chairman Bishop:
“Thank you for accepting my invitation to visit the Marianas, see our islands for yourself for the first time, and meet with the people whose lives are affected by decisions we make here in Congress, and, particularly, in the Natural Resources Committee.
“You could well have spent the Presidents Day recess in your own district in Utah interacting with your constituents. Instead you chose to devote those eight days, traveling over 19,000 miles, to fulfill your responsibilities as chairman of the committee with jurisdiction over the insular areas of our nation.
“Of the four congressional delegations I have brought to my district before none has ever visited each of our communities on Saipan, Tinian, and Rota, as you did at my request. I was touched by your willingness to reach beyond the typical official agenda. Your private consultations with Governor Torres and with the business and political leaders he invited to the dinner meeting with you were important, of course. But the personal connections you made — speaking with family members of indigenous people killed during World War II, observing the tears of Mayor San Nicolas as he described his unwillingness to see Tinian used for live-fire training, and standing in respectful silence with present-day Chamorros at the site of our ancient Monchon village, which someday the Committee may collaborate with the local government to honor and protect-will just as surely inform your future decisions.
“Lastly, and sadly, I must apologize for recent criticism of your visit in our local press.
“Comparing how much time the delegation spent at any of its stops betrays a total lack of understanding of the complexity of the schedule you put together, particularly given the military crew-rest requirements. The comparison was also wrong in that you scheduled more work time in the Marianas than other places we visited. More importantly, in our island culture we do not publicly disrespect a guest, as you were, who honors us with the gift of your time. I only hope that the one instance of criticism does not take away from your positive memories of the Marianas and our people.
“Thank you, again, for your visit.”