Problems With Independence Raised By Chuuk Reform Movement

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Political Status Commission did not honesty consider pros and cons

By Maria Hernandez

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Feb. 24, 2015) – Citizens of Chuuk state, in the Federated States of Micronesia, on March 3 will vote on whether to seek independence from the Federated States of Micronesia as that nation's treaty with the United States expires in 2023.

The Chuuk Political Status Commission, created under Chuuk law, has been holding public meetings on the political status options, while officially endorsing the concept of an independent Chuuk. The commission's goal is for Chuuk to secede from the FSM and renegotiate a separate Compact of Free Association with the United States.

But some from Chuuk think the idea of pursuing independence is premature, with unclear consequences.

The Chuuk Reform Movement, a citizen-led non-profit organization formed in response to the creation of the status commission, is fighting the commission's choice of independence as the state's preferred political status.

The group's founder, Videlino Raatior, a former Chuuk resident born and raised in the state who now resides in Hawaii, said the Political Status Commission last March made its position clear in a newsletter, which states, "to accelerate its work and to move in the most practical and realistic direction, the commission has indicated its agreement on the need to end the status quo and to effectively move toward an independent and sovereign Republic of Chuuk."

Emotion vs. reason

Raatior said he was receptive to the idea of independence for Chuuk at first, but said he was alarmed when he found there was no concrete data to help Chuukese citizens understand the pros and cons of the Chuuk secession.

"I am a very proud Chuukese and I would want nothing more than for my beloved Chuuk to claim its rightful place in the global community," Raatior said. "But that patriotic emotion was soon replaced by reason, facts and the absence of them in the political status commission."

Raatior, on the organization's website, claimed that "without any public hearings, cost analysis, economic plan, or the basic research on all the different options, the (commission) made an uninformed decision for Chuuk" without public input.

Raatior created a petition on in an effort to stump the Chuukese independent movement, garnering 1,440 electronic signatures since it was created around two months ago.

However, Sabino Asor, attorney general for Chuuk, said the commission held public hearings in Chuuk and overseas before formally recommending independence to the legislature and governor's office.

He said the commission presented it in a more indirect way, simply as a suggestion, but was receptive to hear about other options stakeholders had in mind.

"People were upset because they thought in the presentation the commission was already recommending independence when we were presenting the choices," Asor said.

He said if individuals came forward with other proposals for status options, the commission would have been receptive to their ideas.

"There were no individuals who were really pushing forward for another option," Asor said. "No organized alternative was really put forward."

He said individual opinions on other alternative options were "sometimes not convincing or persuasive."

What happens in US?

Raatior said he is concerned about what would happen to Chuukese citizens in the U.S. if secession succeeds.

"As soon as the secession occurs all Chuukese citizens in the United States would no longer be FSM citizens and therefore our FSM passports, our ability to work, live, attend schools, seek medical care will be rendered obsolete because we would no longer be FSM citizens," Raatior wrote.

Asor said many individuals at the forums expressed the same concerns as Raatior and the Chuuk Reform Movement.

Asor said many were concerned that the move would adversely impact their right to live and work in the United States.

While he said he felt the concerns raised are valid, he wanted to stress that the intention of the commission is to "assure a separate compact with the U.S., based essentially on existing terms of what we have with the U.S. and FSM."

He said the national government doesn't share profits from commercial fishing with the states. He said he hoped the FSM government would offer to change the national system and share some of the revenue from fishing activities with the states, but they have declined to do so.

He said Chuuk commissioners have met with FSM government officials to discuss ways to ensure the state's financial viability, but no solutions were drawn.

As for concerns raised about there not being any concrete economic or political plan to sustain the island after it secedes from the FSM, Asor said it's not possible to present concrete plans just yet.

"We understand their apprehension and anxiety. They want to see the whole picture politically and economically. The problem? We have very limited authority about what we can present," Asor said.

Asor said the commission is hoping to have a draft constitution by 2017 that will include a section that specifies continued rights under the FSM compact until Chuuk has its own compact with the U.S.

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