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By Charles P. Reyes Jr.

SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands (Nov. 10, 1999 – Saipan Tribune)---The U.S. government has often been blamed for failing to create enduring prosperity in the Federated States of Micronesia, and particularly in the Marshall Islands--a militarily strategic location. Yet it is not the mandate or the responsibility of the U.S. government to look after the Micronesian people.

If the Micronesian people are to be successful, they must look to themselves. They must become self-reliant. After all, they can hardly blame Uncle Sam for all of their failures. America reportedly poured more than $2 billion into the region.

What happened to all of that money?

It was probably squandered, mismanaged, siphoned off to special interest groups--to the ruling elite. America bears no responsibility here.

Besides, the Micronesian people should be extremely careful in asking Uncle Sam for help. For help always comes with strings attached.

Are the people of the FSM willing to trade their sovereignty for a false sense of security? For food stamps and other federal subsidies? Micronesians should be extremely wary of U.S. federal paternalism.

The U.S. government, for its part, should have only one issue in mind when dealing with the FSM: their strategic national interests. Which means: leasing Micronesian land for military purposes. For this, the U.S. government should pay a fair price. What the people of the FSM do with the loot is their own business. This should be a straightforward business transaction: land for money and nothing else.

The U.S. government, for example, should not offer the people of FSM free and open access to the CNMI for education or other purposes. For this is a violation of the rights of the people of the CNMI.

The islands are not all alike. We do not collectively make up one island family or community. The people of the CNMI generally feel no special kinship with--or affinity for--the rest of Micronesia. If we did, we would have joined up with them when we had the chance, instead of breaking of politically as we did, which was one of the wisest decisions we ever made: had we joined the rest of Micronesia in political union, we surely would have shared their impoverished plight today.

The Federated States of Micronesia must look out for itself. The U.S. government must look out for its strategic interest. And the CNMI should certainly see that it is not exploited in the current compact/free association negotiations, as it has been in the past.

For additional reports from The Saipan Tribune, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Saipan Tribune.

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