Variations | Politics and crimes 48 years ago

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1972 was an election year in the (Northern) Marianas, one of the six districts of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands which included the Marshalls, Palau, Ponape, Truk and Yap. The TT was administered by the U.S. “on behalf of the United Nations.”

Saipan was the capital and the seat of the TT government whose chief executive was the high commissioner, an appointee of the U.S. president. Each of the six districts had an administrator appointed by the high commissioner with the consent of the Congress of Micronesia.

In 1972, the NMI would elect four members of the Congress of Micronesia — one for the Senate, and three for the House of Representatives. Also up for grabs were the 16 seats of the Marianas District Legislature: 11 from Saipan, three from Rota, one from Tinian and one from the Northern Islands. The islands’ two rival political groups were the Territorial and Popular  parties. They would eventually be known as the Republican and Democratic parties. 

The top election issue back then was the NMI’s future political status. A year before, the Marianas legislature adopted a resolution declaring the islands’ intent to “secede” from the TT “if necessary by force of arms, with or without the consent of the United Nations.” The NMI’s goal, the resolution added, was close association with the U.S. A day after the resolution was passed, the House and the Senate chambers of the Congress of Micronesia on Saipan were set on fire. (See Don A. Farrell’s ever helpful “History of the Northern Mariana Islands.”)

In May 1972, the Marianas legislature adopted another resolution reiterating that the islands “desire membership in the United States political family.” In Dec. 1972, the negotiations that would result in the drafting and approval of the Covenant began on Saipan. 

But we’re getting ahead of that story which is not this week’ story.

On Oct. 13, 1972, a new weekly newspaper called Marianas Variety (“a refinement of the erstwhile Micronesia Star”) reported that the campaign period was underway, and that although the two political parties’ “arguments and approach differ…[both] obviously advocate closer relationship…with the United States.”

Page 3 of the same 12-page mimeographed issue was devoted to police stories. These included an incident about a man who crashed his car and was arrested for drunk driving; a woman who filed a complaint against another woman for pulling the complainant’s hair; rock throwing brawls; drunk and disorderly conduct; burglaries; assault.

“[BSG] reported that while driving on Beach Road near Oleai, a blue Datsun sedan passed by and someone from inside threw something at his car and broke his left front windshield. [The victim] said he chased the sedan and stopped it on Beach Road at Garapan. [He] asked the people inside the car why they broke his windshield. They came out and beat him up.”

“[MI] of the Smiling Bar reported that a fight was in progress inside the bar. [SRJ] of San Roque was arrested for disturbing the peace and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon. [SRJ] hit [a woman] on the forehead with a chair. [She] was taken to the hospital for treatment.”

“[DS] phoned the station and told police that there are two persons arguing and pointing guns at each other in front of the Beach Road monument at Oleai.”

“[EC] of Susupe reported to police that while attending the Territorial Party rally in San Antonio, two youngsters called him and when he approached them they began beating him up.”

In Nov. 1972, MV’s top stories were bloodier.


“A fracas, which began inside Diaz Soba Lunch in Chalan Kanoa last Friday night, left one man dead and three injured.

“Authorities identified the dead man as [ETA], age 20, of Chalan Kanoa Dist. #3. [He] received what appeared to be a knife wound on the left side of his chest which pierced the heart, police said….

“According to police, the melee allegedly began after someone threw beer cans in the direction of [HL] and [NO] (both Filipinos) while the two men were eating soba.”

Two days later, CE, “a 56-year-old Filipino…was at his house in San Jose working on his car. [PC] also a Filipino in his late 50’s was helping [CE]…. [S]hortly after 5 p.m., a red Toyota sedan pulled up to [CE’s] house and three men got out from the sedan and approached [CE and PC]. Sensing imminent danger before them, the two elderly Filipinos took off running. According to police, one of the men from the sedan chased [PC] but could not catch him. The other two ran after [CE] and one of them caught the old man and struck [him] on the head three times with a blunt instrument. The three men then returned to their sedan and left.” CE was in critical condition and had to be transported by a Navy C-130 aircraft to the Naval Hospital on Guam. “The old man was [eventually] transferred to Guam Memorial Hospital where his condition is believed to be improving, police said. Police…have three suspects…. Two…have been brought to the…police station for questioning. The third suspect is believed to be out of Saipan.”

In its 1972 news roundup (now known as “the year that was”), MV said the most tragic story of the year was the early-morning fire that destroyed Saipan’s main power plant “and left the island sweltering in the mid-summer heat.” MV reported that “the early round of the fight to quell the flames was lost when it was found that [the] fire hoses at the plant did not fit the water valves.”

MV also recounted that in Sept. 1972, it received its “first and very official threat” from two Popular Party congressmen who were furious over the publication of an unsigned letter to the editor from a member of their party’s central committee. “It appeared, however, that the benevolent congressmen had decided in the course of [their] threat-packed tirade to spare Saipan’s only locally owned newspaper by not taking the press to court. Thus your weekly newspaper survived its first major challenge in printing timely comments submitted by…citizens who, presumably, have the right to voice their opinions.”

Right on.


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November 2020 pssnewsletter

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