First Official Meeting to Promote National Unity Held In FSM

Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

News Release

FSM Information Services Palikir, Pohnpei, FSM

February 3, 2015

The first official meeting to promote National Unity took place at the College of Micronesia (COM) National campus on January 29, 2015. Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) President Emanuel (Manny) Mori met with COM staff and students to exchange views on the Chuuk State Government’s Secession Initiative.

In front of a standing audience, the President expressed profound gratitude for the students’ positive response to meet. It reflects they care about what the future holds for them. That was one of the reasons COM-FSM was chosen as the first ground to enlist support against secession given the number of Chuukese students there that could potentially be impacted from secession. He indicated that some may not be aware of the full implication of the Initiative. It is a very important issue and the people deserve ample time to understand its pros and cons. As it turns out, the Chuuk State Government has put it on the ballot on March 3, 2015, and urges Chuukese to vote "YES" to secede. The National Government on the other hand is promoting unity.

It was highlighted that the Secession Initiative is a response to the Nation-wide 2023 Action Plan, which shows a $40.4 million fiscal gap to meet the $94.5 million required to sustain the annual operation of the five governments after the Year 2023. Chuuk’s share of that budgetary shortfall is $21.7 million. Instead of galvanizing efforts to implement the 2023 Action Plan and overcome development challenges, Chuuk State Government opted for secession. The rhetoric advanced by secessionists is Chuuk would prosper under independence, whereas remaining in the Federation would hinder socio-economic development. However, the secessionists are not transparent on how the State Government would tackle the basic and critical factors of development, including, among other things, land use and effective resource allocation, which have languished and regressed development efforts for more than 20 years.

The Chuuk financial crisis of late 1990s to mid-2000s exposed flaws and shortcomings in public governance and had sparked national remedies for them. The National Government bailed out the State from its financial debacle through financial reform.

The President underscored the fundamental importance for the four states and the National Government to maintain unity as a nation as enshrined in the Constitution. As Head of State and Government, he has a solemn duty to uphold the Constitution and advance the principles of unity.

Among other nation-building initiatives, the President has organized a FSM Task Force on National Unity to educate and raise awareness among citizens about this political issue while correcting the misinformation that have been brought forth by CSPSC representatives. While voters’ disconnect is a primary concern, it is believed that the Secession Initiative is fomented to distract efforts needed to ensure success of the Action Plan for 2023 and beyond.

The President encourages Chuukese to make an informed decision comes March election. He referenced Palau Compact with the US Government, highlighting uncertainty of a Compact negotiation for a new independent Republic of Chuuk. Palau’s Compact has been inactive with the US Congress for some time now and shed light on the often lengthy and difficult process of negotiating a treaty, especially under a GOP controlled Congress, who are known to be more conservative --- not as generous as the Democrats. A U.S. representative, who was present at the meeting, confirmed misleading information in the media by pointing out that there has been no exchange between any member of the CSPSC and U.S. officials on a possible Compact negotiation for Chuuk if it were to secede from the federation.

Also present with President Mori was Assistant Attorney General, Joses Gallen, who clarified the legal process concerning this Initiative. Part of the discussion noted secession as unlawful. The legal pathway to amend the constitution was also addressed, which would require 75% of voters and 75% of state votes. No legal action can be taken as of now as it would be a violation to people’s right to freedom of expression.

President Mori strongly urges Chuukese to maintain solidarity and unity with the Federation and thwart any obstruction to nation-building and to vote "NO" on March 3rd. Though ideology division plays an important role on both ends of the argument, the President hopes to pull together by working on areas of common interest that would further nation-building throughout the states.

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