As we begin this New Year, let us renew our commitment to find the best solution for Chuuk’s political status. Perhaps we should pause now and review the facts of a troubling 2014 and work harder in this new year for enlightened solutions. For if we did not work hard to be part of the solutions in 2014, then we will become part of the problems in 2015 and beyond.
Fact 1: The Chuuk Political Status Commission (CPSC) was established in May 2011 by the Chuuk State Legislatures, Public Law 11-18 with the intention to “review and recommend possible political status suitable for long term financial survival” of Chuuk State after the economic provision of the Compact of Free Association expires in the year 2023.
Fact 2: The CPSC was given until November 2012 (18 months total) to study alternative political status, conduct public hearings in the 40 municipalities in Chuuk and meet with Chuukese citizens living abroad before submitting its final recommendation to the Chuuk State Legislatures and Governor. The Legislatures would certify the CPSC’s recommendations to the Chuuk Election Commission to put the recommendation on the ballot for public votes.
Fact 3: In the March-May 2014 issue of their Beyond the Compact newsletter, the CPSC proclaimed that “the Commission has essentially decided to focus its study on an independent status, fully separated from the Federated States of Micronesia. Any association with another nation would remain open to future negotiations. Thus, to accelerate its work and to move in the most practical and realistic direction, the Commission has indicated its agreement on the need to end the status quo and to effectively move toward an independent and sovereign Republic of Chuuk. ” In other words, without any public hearings, cost analysis, economic plan, or the basic research on all the different options, the CPSC made an uninformed decision for Chuuk to secede from the FSM and form its own independent country with no public input as required by the enabling law.
Fact 4: Fast forward to November 2014, the CPSC scheduled the first public hearings in Guam, Hawaii, and the US mainland. When asked how many of the 40 municipalities have held public hearings, the two members of the CPSC who came to Hilo, HI answered that they were aware of two (2) public hearings…one on Uman and one for the Mortlocks leaders and that more were scheduled. In other words, they’ve sent more commissioners to Guam, Hawaii, and the US mainland than anywhere in the entire Chuuk State. Mind you, government employees receive more per diem for travels outside of Chuuk than any boat trips in the lagoon or to the outer islands. That’s a fact!
Fact 5: The “public hearings” in Hawaii, Guam, and the US mainland were NOT public hearing; instead, the CPSC representatives came ALREADY set to sell their uninformed conclusion that Chuuk State is better off as Republic of Chuuk. They did not cite any study, present a viable economic plan, produce any cost benefit analysis, point to actual communique from a foreign country of their financial support for an independent Chuuk…anything that would assure the public of a better Chuuk outside of the FSM.
Fact 6: During the public hearings, they informed the people that the March 2015 ballots will already include a vote for YES or NO on the Chuuk independence. This would have meant, according to the enabling law, that a final recommendation from the CPSC had already been submitted to the Chuuk State Legislatures and the Governor. The Legislatures have already certified the report by a joint resolution thus putting it up for voting in March. In other words, the viewpoints of Chuukese citizens in Guam, Hawaii, and the US mainland were done after the fact rendering them completely useless because a report had already been done. So, these politicians knew it and proceeded to spend the State financial resources to travel before Christmas to hold “public hearings.” And they came knowing full well that whatever viewpoints were expressed in the public hearings were not going to inform the final recommendations which were already done.
Fact 7: Upon returning to Chuuk from the public hearings in Hawaii which produced more questions and suspicions than real answers, the Chuuk State Attorney General Sabino Asor who also serves as the CPSC Chairman of the Public Hearings in his public hearing report to the Chuuk State Legislatures questioned whether to let Chuukese citizens outside of Chuuk (i.e. those in Guam, Hawaii, US mainland) to vote on the Chuuk indpendence in March. He noted that the real Chuukese are those living in Chuuk and not those living abroad.
Fact 8: In their public hearings, the CPSC members made it very clear that their strategy is very simple: Ask the public to vote “YES” on the March 2015 ballots. If it passes, then the CPSC will start the ACTUAL work of developing an economic plan, feasibility study, cost analysis, etc. The people will elect representatives for a Constitutional Convention to write a new Constitution for the Republic of Chuuk, negotiate foreign relations, etc. In other words, jump off the cliff and while you’re on your way down look to see what lies below you and hope for the best.
Fact 9: The CPSC members have NO answers for these basic questions because they have not done the work to answer them first: How many years will it take to set up a new independent Republic of Chuuk? (Fact: The FSM took 11 years of negotiations…1975 – 1986… before President Tosiwo Nakayama became the first president of the FSM). How much will it cost to set up and sustain all the resources that Chuuk State already enjoys under the Compact between FSM and US, i.e. immigration, foreign affairs, defense, environmental protection, law enforcement, etc? What kind of government structure will be the best for the Republic of Chuuk? While the CPSC (or whoever will negotiate Treaties) negotiate a new Compact between the US and the Republic of Chuuk what will happen to all the thousands of Chuukese citizens already living in the United States under the immigration protection of the FSM / US Compact?
Fact 10: According to the CPSC members, it is all set that the March 2015 ballots will contain the options to vote for or against Chuuk independence.
2015 New Year’s Resolutions
Perhaps we should all do these New Year’s Resolution for the sake of our beloved Chuuk:
- Educate Yourself: Don’t just take the empty promises of the CPSC members as truth of a better Chuuk. If they have not done adequate studies or research on all the possibilities out there, then they have no right to tell us that the Chuuk independence is the best option. Maybe it is or maybe it is not, but without knowing all the options, the risks, the advantages, disadvantages…we are being asked to vote blindly.
- Educate Your Relatives Back Home: Tell them about the disadvantages of separating from the FSM under the Compact…how that leave all Chuukese citizens in the US vulnerable to deportation since we will no longer be protected by the Compact with the FSM. I’m not so worried about the Chuukese citizens living outside of Chuuk as I’m confident that we will vote a resounding “NO” on the March 2015. I’m worried that our relatives back home will believe the CPSC members in their uninformed conclusion that Chuuk independence will lead to more money for Chuuk when they have not even the basic cost analysis.
- Write to Your Legislators in Chuuk: Write letters to your own representatives in the Chuuk State Legislatures telling them respectfully your disagreement with the CPSC conclusion and how the lack of answers from the members leave you with more questions than answers.
- Sign our Online Petition: Take a few minutes of your New Year to join the more than 400 Chuukese citizens and friends who have signed our online petition protesting the Chuuk independence movement. We will print the petition with all of our viewpoints and send to every member of the Chuuk State Legislatures to seek their help in changing the course of action before it’s too late. Please be respectful in what you write in your reason for signing this petition. We want to keep our culture of respect intact while speaking our minds. Sign Now>
- Demand Answers to be Published: The CPSC would save the State so much money by simply utilizing modern technology to educate the Chuukese communities outside of Chuuk. With the money that they have spent on travels to the US, they could have easily paid a web design firm to design a website for them. In good faith that the CPSC members also want the best for Chuuk, I have agreed with their lawyer and CPSC member, Mr. Johnny Meippen, to publish any rebuttal or answers to all the questions posted on our website (www.chuukstate.org). I promised to him that I will publish his statements verbatim on our website for public consumption and responses. While Mr. Meippen has agreed to submit such a document, none has been sent yet. The invitation remains open.
- Boycott CPSC Public Hearings: Unless the CPSC produces the answers to all the questions that were unanswered in their first set of public hearings outside of Chuuk, then there is absolutely no need for the commissioners to spend another dime of the State financial resources to travel yet again. If they do, then we should all boycott these sales pitch sessions. If they choose to spend time and money to travel our communities rather than spend time and NO MONEY by emailing their answers, then let them deal with their own conscience of spending public funds that can be better utilized elsewhere in Chuuk.
- Take Legal Action: If all else fail, then we should organize ourselves and sue the CPSC to seek a court-approved injunction to leave the vote for Chuuk independence off the March 2015 ballots for reasons that the CPSC has failed to fulfill its basic charge as set forth in the Public Law 11-18 to seek public hearings before concluding on the Chuuk independence.
Lastly, I can’t help but think of that quote from Saint Augustine who says, “Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you.”
Let us use whatever gifts and talents God has given each of us to be part of the solution and not the problem. The generations after us deserve a much prosperous and vibrant home, a Chuuk State that they can be proud of, too.