PROPOSAL TO CANCEL FSM COMPACT WITH U.S. PREMATURE

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Brief resolution yet to be heard in committee

By Bill Jaynes POHNPEI, Federated States of Micronesia (Kaselehlie Press, Oct. 19, 2011) - A resolution (17-60) introduced by veteran Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) Senator Peter Christian who was the FSM’s chief negotiator for the terms of the Amended Compact of Free Association with the United States has spawned what one FSM Congress staff member described as an international media "feeding frenzy."

"Even US representatives are calling Congress to find out what’s going on," the staff member said.

Senator Peter Christian introduced an eight paragraph resolution requesting FSM President Mori to terminate the Compact no later than 2018. The Compact’s financial arrangements are set to expire in 2023 but the treaty between the two nations has no expiration date.

[PIR editor’s note: The Compact of Free Association (COFA) between the Federated States of Micronesia (Chuuk, Pohnpei, Yap, and Kosrae) and the United States provides for U.S. economic assistance, defense of the FSM, and other benefits in exchange for U.S. defense and certain other operating rights in the FSM, denial of access to FSM territory by other nations, and other agreements. Citizens from the Freely Associated States are eligible to travel to and from the U.S. without visas’ to work, school, and live for an indefinite period of time. Legislation on FSM’s Compact with the U.S. was signed into law on November 13, 1986.]

The dozens of news stories we read online from news agencies as far away as Israel or in what was likely first publication of the news item that appeared in the Marianas Variety in Guam left out some important facts. At the time of first publication of the news story not only had the resolution seen no vote or consideration by the full body of the 17th Congress of the Federated States of Micronesia, it hadn’t even yet been assigned to a standing committee.

None of the articles mentioned that if President Mori wanted to cancel the Compact treaty he wouldn’t have sole authority to do so though it is his constitutional duty to manage FSM’s foreign affairs.

International news sources also didn’t say that the Amended Compact of Free Association with the United States is a treaty that under the Constitution cannot be dissolved by Congressional whim.

A problem with the FSM Congress website (www.fsmcongress.fm ) that is currently being resolved may have caused international media representatives to think that the resolution had been adopted by the FSM Congress. Before Congress switched to new and improved software for handling its website, each listed resolution or bill included the date of passage or the date that it was defeated in Congress. It was previously clear on the website that resolutions or bills that carried no date of passage or defeat had not been considered by Congress.

On the previous website one could find that many introduced bills and resolutions were never voted on by the assembled Congress.

Despite the international media attention, the resolution is currently only one Senator’s idea presented for Congress discussion and consideration. Even if the resolution is eventually passed by the full body of the 17th Congress it would still only be a request for the President of the FSM to consider and would ultimately serve only to open the doors for further discussion on what can be done about the source of the current tensions between the two nations.

Senator Christian’s widely debated resolution says that the Compact was agreed upon by the two sovereign nations "with the intent of maintaining a close and mutually beneficial relationship between our two nations," and that the U.S. derives many benefits from the relationship "not the least of which is its exclusive control over the military use of the Federated States of Micronesia’s extensive territorial waters and airspace."

"Recent words and deeds of United States policymakers suggest they view the Amended Compact as an act of charity by the United States rather than a treaty between two sovereign nations," the resolution said.

It said that the U.S. "has abused its majority position in the US-FSM Joint Economic Management Committee (JEMCO) to force through resolutions that are contrary to the interests of the Federated States of Micronesia."

As one example of abuse, the Senator’s resolution pointed out that most recently the U.S. members of JEMCO unilaterally made drastic cuts to the funding of the College of Micronesia-FSM without prior discussion or consultation with the FSM.

Senator Inouye’s U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations recommendation that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security pre-screen and require advance permission for prospective travelers from the FSM and other Freely Associated States before they can enter the United States figured prominently in the resolution.

Despite the hundreds of responses both pro and con on the subject of Senator Christian’s "bold move to cut ties with the U.S. on the Micronesia Seminar Discussion Forum (www.micsem.org) there is currently no official move to terminate the treaty between the Federated States of Micronesia and the United States.

‘The resolution has been introduced and assigned to the Committee on External Affairs and at this point in time, nothing has been done with it," Lynn Narruhn wrote in an email at press time for The Kaselehlie Press. Narruhn is the Protocol and Public Information Officer for the FSM Congress.

The Kaselehlie Press

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