Chuuk State To Hold Secession Vote In March

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Proposal to form independent Republic of Chuuk on ballot

By Bill Jaynes

POHNPEI, FSM (Marianas Variety, Feb.6, 2015) –The Chuuk State Political Status Commission has presented its final report to the Chuuk Legislature.

As a result, on March 3, 2015, voters will not only be asked to vote for Senators to represent them at the Federated States of Micronesia Congress but they will also be asked to vote on whether Chuuk State should secede from the Federated State of Micronesia and become a new nation, the Republic of Chuuk.

The report says that it "represents the culmination of long hours of meetings, debate, analysis, research, writing, travel, discussions and public hearings, all aimed at fulfilling the responsibilities of the Commission under duties mandated by the Legislature in 2012."

Since the report was adopted by the Chuuk Legislature, FSM’s President Manny Mori has been on a campaign pleading with voters to keep the FSM united by voting no to the plebiscite question of independence for Chuuk.

[PIR editor’s note: The Fourth Branch website is compiling documents and videos related to the secession movement in Chuuk, under the title ‘Making Sense of an Independent Chuuk.’]

The report says that the Commission assessed options for political status for Chuuk besides independence but eliminated those other options as "impractical, unrealistic or impossible. It says that the status quo option would continue Chuuk’s lack of autonomous political power and even further delay their economic development. "With autonomy, the development of our infrastructure and the systems within will be accelerated according to Chuuk’s own priorities," it says.

Citing CNMI’s lack of full political and economic control over the years, the Commission also ruled out the "commonwealth option." They also reasoned that "the actual formation of a commonwealth would have to await separate national independence processes which could be years down the road, too long for our serious need.

President Mori and the Assistant Attorney General Joses Gallen at an address at the College of Micronesia said that the FSM Constitution does not allow for secession. President Mori pointed out that in order for any state to secede, the

FSM Constitution would first have to be changed, which requires a vote of 75 percent for any proposed change and 75 percent of the states voting in favor. Such a plebiscite vote would first require Congress to vote to put the question before the voters in the first place. President Mori said that a "yes" vote for secession on March 3 would not mean that Chuuk would automatically become an independent nation.

He intimated that a vote for independence would likely be the start of what could be a long legal battle.

The Commission also abandoned the idea of pursuing status as a U.S. State or Territory as unrealistic, "especially in view of the growing sentiments in the U.S. against immigration and further overseas development."

"The FSM Constitutional scheme has become the driving force in our desire for independence," the report says.

"From the Commission’s viewpoint, Chuuk’s whole state experience with the Federation has been unsatisfactory on all fronts: political, economic and cultural. Our legal recourse is independence."

It claims that the legal processes in the FSM fail to recognize Chuuk as the majority population in the FSM. "As a result, government processes, decisions, allocations, laws, regulations and implementations are not consistently reflective of our majority percentage of the FSM population."

It says that the prevailing revenue allocation formulas are "to Chuuk’s great disadvantage." It says that structure has meant that Chuuk’s infrastructure, including transportation, remains underdeveloped in many areas of the State. It also claims that under the FSM arrangement, Chuuk does not have sufficient means to protect and preserve its rich and distinctive culture.

It says that under international law Chuuk has the right to declare its own independence. It points out that in 2009 the International Court of Justice found that the people of Kosovo had acted in accordance with international law in their declaration of independence from Serbia. It cites the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights article 15 as another basis for the legal authority to secede.

"Chuuk’s direct access to foreign economic resources, long denied under the FSM arrangement would be its right as a sovereign nation", the report says and goes on to list various sources of funding that the Commission feels that Chuuk could reasonably expect with independence, including the Compact of Free Association, the Compact Trust Fund, and the FSM Trust Fund. It says that Chuuk’s ownership shares in the two funds are expected to be substantial.

The report did not say that Chuuk is negotiating with the United States government about the possibility of a Compact of Free Association nor did it say that the United States had expressed willingness to negotiate a new Compact.

One of the Commissioners members did publically make that claim however. Other Commission members quickly pointed out that the Commission had never made that claim.

"I am the United States Ambassador to the Federated States of Micronesia, and as President Obama’s personal representative, I am responsible for the relations between the U.S. and the FSM through its national government. If anyone claims that they are having discussions regarding Chuuk’s separation from the FSM with the United States government, it is without my knowledge or sanction. There have been no discussions between the Chuuk Political Status Commission and U.S. government officials," wrote Ambassador Doria Rosen on the same forum in which the claim was made.

William Cook, Economic/Consular Officer of the U.S. Embassy to the FSM said that he had initiated a meeting with one of the Commission’s members in order to find out what was going on. He said that he asked the members if at any time during the Commission’s two and half years of existence the Commission had ever had contact with either the FSM or the U.S. governments.

Cook reported the reply as "of course not."

Both by phone and during President Mori’s presentation, Cook said that he told the Commission member that the United States does not interfere with the internal affairs of sovereign nations and that it supports the basic human right of self-determination.

The Commission also expects that a new Republic of Chuuk could make as much as $40 million per year in licensing fees and other income in what would then be its own Exclusive Economic Zone. It projects that local revenues from its tax base would also increase since taxes would no longer be divided with the FSM. It also would be able to implement a Value Added Tax that the FSM failed to implement.

It says that in view of the fact that growing economies in Asia are presently contributing to infrastructure development in the region, a Republic of Chuuk could expect that Foreign Assistance will be a major source of funding. It points out that such development would be simply charitable, but will be based on mutual interests with contributing nations.

Regarding sources of revenue, the report last says that a Republic of Chuuk would develop and pursue an aggressive direct foreign investment agenda that would bring direct revenue streams to existing enterprises in Chuuk.

The report says that with rare exceptions, the 50 public hearings in Chuuk, Guam, CNMI, Hawaii and Oregon revealed strong majority support for a new independent Chuuk.

"When concerns, worries, or uncertainties arose, we explained our choice for the future based on our common history, our inequitable relations with the FSM, and especially our lack of economic and social development under our present political arrangement."

The report said that the hearings reached thousands of Chuukese within and outside of Chuuk. "The Commission is confident that the people will support the choice for independence."

The Commission proposed an eight step series of political procedures to take place over the next few years in order to attain a new sovereign status for Chuuk. One of the steps is to invite United Nations Observers to be present in Chuuk during the plebiscite in March. If the measure passes at that time they suggest that a Constitutional Convention be formed by April 2015 with a goal of producing a new Constitution by October. After public education, the Commission recommends a referendum on the Constitution by March of 2017 unless funded earlier by the Chuuk State Legislature. It concludes that nearly all of the current operations of the Chuuk State Government can be transitioned as operational bases for the new National Government of Chuuk. It recognizes that Chuuk would need to establish its own office of External or Foreign Affairs.

No analysis was presented in the report regarding what the immigration status of Chuukese citizens currently living overseas under the Compact of Free Association with the United States or its citizens living in the other states of the FSM might be if Chuuk is successful in seceding from the FSM.

On January 27, 2015, President Mori signed an Executive Order establishing an FSM Task Force on National Unity.

The writer is managing editor of Kaselehlie Press.

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