(This article by Vid Raatior was originally posted in October, 2014.) All of a sudden there is a flurry of activities about a movement in Chuuk to secede from the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) to become an independent nation to be called Republic of Chuuk. Initial review of the documents (see below) coming out of the Legislature-appointed Chuuk Political Status Commission (CPSC) has me feeling uneasy about this.
I’m not sure if it’s the sight of so many politicians on the commission or the absence of grassroots representation of women, youth, educators, traditional leaders, or the diaspora that has me weary and wory. Or is it because many of the people pushing for this were the same folks that pushed for Faichuk region to secede from Chuuk State to become a State in the FSM?
I don’t know…maybe I’m overly sensitive after hearing these same leaders complain that the United States is meddling in our sovereignty whenever the OIA folks want fiscal accounting / responsibility for Compact funds. Yes, the same Compact funding that our own Chuukese leaders have squandered on “public projects” (aka campaign handouts) for so many years.
Perhaps I’m just not ready to think about independence from the United States so we can sell our souls, our islands, our human rights to the Chinese government with their terrible track record. But I think our leaders will negotiate away our rights for money. Remember Ting Hong? We gave them free passes so they can use their per seiners fishing boats to scoop up whatever was in their way and now we’ve practically depleted our tuna population. And where has that gotten us?
Or maybe I’m too overly sensitive to the fact that it’s October 2014 and the commission is pushing to put a referendum on the March 2015 general election ballot without adequate public education. Or is it because the commission’s own consultant in a memo to them thinks it’s a bad idea to leave out the voice of the Chuukese citizens living abroad? This is as a result of members of the commission actually expressing that the focus of public education should be on those Chuukese living only in Chuuk…as if the rest of us abroad are less worthy of their attention.
Maybe if Chuuk was advanced in its educational systems, less corrupt, and filled with inspirational leaders who bring out the best in us as Chuukese, then I may be open to seceding from the FSM. Until that happens, I have no trust in the current leadership on the Commission that they have our best interest in sight.
I’m open to listen and dialogue with members of the CPSC in their public hearings if they ever make it to Hilo, HI. For now here are some initial reasons why I’m very skeptical. I raise them here now with the hope that people can ask them at the public hearings:
1) CHUUK: The Commission is playing with people’s emotions when they talk about us as a people, our indigenous rights, our freedom as a Chuukese people. Every reason given for why Chuuk should be independent is filled with emotional appeals and very little with research data and independently verifiable feasibility study based on today’s global reality.
As a Chuukese, I find my heart moved with emotion to be free and self-empowered. Of course we all want to claim our own place in the world, to negotiate our own political relations with the global community. Yet the rational part of my brain tells me…why do these people on the Commission think that all the problems we already face in Chuuk today based on misuse of public funds by congressmen, lack of visionary leadership locally, abuse of power by elected officials, lack of educational reform, disempowerment of Chuukese women and youth, unfinished road projects, underserved outer island municipalities, and on and on…all will change overnight when we become a nation? I think they will get amplified and things will worsen for us.
My brain screams, “whose interest are these people looking out for?” Who will ultimately benefit from independence? Who will suffer greatly if we become a nation of corrupt political leadership? If our leaders cannot handle our affairs now as a state in the FSM, how the hell will they be able to lead us as a nation? We are where we are now not because we are being suppressed by any other nation, but because our own leaders have screwed things up. If we cannot build decent schools for our children given all the millions of dollars that are returned to the US government, how can we expect to change overnight?
Yes, I love Chuuk, but I hate the greedy politicians who currently run our government. I love Chuuk, but I hate the way our politicians readily blame others for our own decisions or indecisions. I do love my Chuuk, but I cannot stand how the islands in the lagoon enjoy most of the government services at the expense of the outer islands. I really love my fellow Chuukese people, but I dislike incompetent and greedy leaders who promise the world to the people during campaign seasons and feed our people’s mouth more than their brain and hearts.
2) INDEPENDENCE: Have we forgotten our own history and the sweat of those founding fathers of the FSM? Those wise leaders (Tosiwo Nakayama, Anton Amaraich, John Mangefel, Pedrus Mailo, Raymond Setik, giants in their times who fought for our independence from the United States. They worked tirelessly so we can enjoy the freedom of electing our own leaders. Unfortunately, we’ve also witnessed some of the worst kind of leaders who have squandered billions of Compact money for their own pet “public projects.” We are a free people because of the work of those wise and courageous leaders.
Have we really forgotten the significance of May 10, 1979…the day WE as a people of the FSM represented by our founding fathers gained our independence through the ratification of the Constitution of the Federated States of Micronesia? We are already independent. We elect our own leaders. We choose our own government. We are free to go anywhere without the United States restricting our movement except for the normal immigration laws that protect all borders.
3) FROM WHAT? If we are already a free people as part of the nation of FSM, free to travel, free to live our lives on our own terms, then from what are these leaders claiming we are still bound? Sure, there’s plenty of rhetoric and nationalistic, patriotic statements of the Chuukese people needing to be free from the meddling fingers of the United States government.
The last time I checked the political leaders of Chuuk travel in and out of Chuuk more than the average Chuukese. They use our public funds to roam free. No one is impeding their travels or their freedom of speech. It is embarrassing that while other grassroots movements around the world are fighting for the basic human rights to be free from violent oppressive regimes, our Chuukese politicians and their supporters are fighting to be free to spend someone else’s money on their own little projects to ensure their electability.
4) FOR WHAT? What these politicians really mean is that the US government should not keep Chuukese politicians from doing whatever the hell they are doing with the Compact money that the US gives to the FSM. What these greedy leaders want is more freedom to spend public funds without anyone including the US government keeping us fiscally responsible for it. What these greedy politicians want is freedom to fool other rich nations to entrust us with money but keep their hands off it so we can do what we (they) please with it.
Which nation in their right frame of mind would want to give money to Chuuk given our track record with the Compact funds? Which allied country of the United States would dare forfeit their national interest to support a Republic of Chuuk that is practically proposing to flip a finger at Uncle Sam?
Think about it, Chuuk. No bank invests in a business plan that has no guaranteed return on the investment. What bank will dare give money to an individual who continuously makes unwise and unethical spending decisions on the money. This is pretty much what the Commission is proposing. Perhaps they are bluffing the US to keep their hands off the rest of Compact funds lest Chuuk negotiates with the Chinese government. Whatever the real reasons, I have yet to find. I do look forward to the day that I can sit in one of these public hearings and ask the members of the commission all my questions.
5) QUESTIONS: Now the logistical questions that are not answered in any of the documents released by the CPSC:
- What currency will the Republic of Chuuk use? If the US dollar, then what’s point of becoming independent when we’ll be right back to where we are now…dependent on the mighty US dollar?
- What postal system or passport will we use?
- Where will the national government be located?
- What money will build that capitol? On whose lands will the national government offices be located?
- Can we afford to have an office in New York for our ambassador to the UN?
- How will the Chuuk national government pay for our diplomatic corp including embassy and consulate offices, staff, travel expenses, in Washington DC, New York, China, Guam, Hawaii?
- What military force will protect our Chuuk national security?
- Where will we get the money to purchase our own patrol boats to protect our territorial waters?
- Where will we get the funds to pay for public education?
- What will happen to the Chuukese citizens living in the United States with regards to their immigration status? How will the Chuuk national government issue them the Chuuk passport to replace the FSM passport? Will those living abroad need to fly back to Chuuk to apply for their Chuuk passport?
7) COMMISSION’S DOCUMENTS: I invite you to download these documents from the commission and review them thoroughly to form your own opinion.
- “Beyond the Compact – Official Newsletter “
- “End of Compact – What Chuukese Should Know “
- “Independence For Chuuk – By Oneisom“
- “Public Hearing – Agenda for Discussion“
8) FURTHER READINGS: (Updated, January 2015): Please read the following articles and opinions on the Chuuk independence movement as posted on chuukstate.org