Political Land Grab Alleged in Marianas

(CN) – A farmer in Northern Mariana claims in court that she spent thousands of dollars to improve 11.9 hectares of leased public land, only to be told that the Commonwealth’s “big boss” wants the land back.
     Congxiang Su Palacios sued Secretary of Public Lands Pedro Tenorio on March 15 in Federal Court.
     Palacios received a temporary authorization to use public lands in Unai Dangkulu in Saipan on Feb. 28, 2013.
     Palacios proceeded to develop the roughly 29 acres into a commercial orchard growing dragon fruits and betel nuts. But just as she was ready to start operating in full, Tenorio summoned her to his office to cancel the permit, Palacios says in the lawsuit.
     She claims that Tenorio wanted to cancel her permit for the “big boss,” the Speaker of the Northern Mariana Island Joseph P. Deleon Guerrero.
     Guerrero is not a party to the case.
     When she objected, Palacios claims, Tenorio became enraged, “slammed his hand down on the desk, and told her the ‘big boss’ was getting the land back.”
     Palacios claims there is “no legitimate reason” to cancel her permit, but that “(t)he newly installed governor and his cabinet wanted to reward those individuals responsible for his rise to the governorship.”
     Former Northern Mariana Islands Governor Benigno Fitial resigned on Feb. 20, 2013, pending a trial for removal from office before the Northern Mariana Senate.
     The House of Representatives, led by Speaker Guerrero, had filed 18 articles of impeachment against him. Eloy Inos succeeded Fitial.
     Palacios also claims that the cancellation of the permit was done because she “is of Chinese descent and has little or no political power in the CNMI.”
     She wants her permit reinstated and damages for breach of contract and constitutional violations.
     She is represented by Braddock Huesman, of Saipan.

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