FSM National, Chuuk State Elections Get Underway

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Controversial secession proposal removed from ballot

By Gaynor Dumat-ol Daleno

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, March 4, 2015) – It's been 35 years since Ekit Kikku left his home state of Chuuk in the Federated States of Micronesia.

He moved to Guam in his late teens to study at the University of Guam, and this has been his family's home since.

Despite the decades that have passed since he left his home island, Kikku keeps his connection with Chuuk by voting for candidates in his home state's local elections, which occur every two years.

Kikku was one of close to 1,000 migrants from Chuuk who turned out to vote in Chuuk elections yesterday on Guam.

Also national elections

Just a few miles from the Mangilao Community Center, at the University of Guam's Calvo field house, more than 2,000 regional migrants from the Federated States of Micronesia also were expected to turn out to vote in the FSM national elections.

Chuuk has the largest population among the states in the federation, and has the greatest number of migrants on Guam.

FSM national and local elections were held in the FSM and in communities including Guam and Hawaii, where many of the island nation's citizens live.

[PIR editor’s note: According to The Fourth Branch website, voting also took place in Honolulu. Results will be posted on their website when available.]

Last year, Guam was host to 22,161 regional immigrants. Of that total, 19,065 are from the FSM, of whom 14,216 are from Chuuk, government of Guam data show.

In the FSM election, voters chose their delegates to the island nation's national Congress.

In May, the Congress' newly elected delegates will choose the FSM's president and vice president from among them, said FSM Consul General to Guam Robert A. Ruecho.

Migrant status uncertain

One of the issues that stood out during the campaign was a move by some of Chuuk's leaders to separate from the island nation and be its own country, Ruecho said.

A vote on the proposed Chuuk independence was removed from the ballot about a week before yesterday's election, to allow more time to educate voters, but the issue lingers among voters.

Some of those who showed up at the Chuuk election on Guam said they don't support an independent Chuuk.

Eva Tok, who participated in the Chuuk election on Guam, firmly voiced her stance against an independent Chuuk. An independent Chuuk faces a bleak future, she said.

"We really care for our country, that's why we participate in our election," Tok said.

FSM migrants aren't eligible to vote in Guam elections unless they become U.S. citizens.

If Chuuk becomes independent, Ruecho said, the immigration status of thousands of Chuukese who came to Guam and other parts of the United States as FSM citizens could be in limbo.

The FSM's current compact agreement with the United States allows FSM citizens to enter and work in the United States without the need for visa screening.

Some of the Chuuk leaders who are for independence say they're not getting a fair share of the national government's funds, Ruecho said.

Those for an independent Chuuk want to negotiate directly with the United States on the belief that U.S. government funds would go directly to Chuuk, Ruecho said.

"The question is, will the U.S. be willing to work with Chuuk?" Ruecho said.

Ruecho said 70 percent of U.S. financial assistance for the FSM is divided among the federation's states based on the population size of each state. Chuuk has the highest population among FSM states, so it gets the bulk of the compact money, Ruecho said.

The government of Guam has stated that the influx of regional immigrants to Guam, primarily from Chuuk, has strained GovGuam's ability to provide health, education and other public services. GovGuam agencies providing these services are at "a breaking point," Gov. Eddie Calvo said recently.

GovGuam wants to bill the U.S. government $144 million for the cost of hosting regional migrants last year.

Over the past 11 years, the cost exceeded $856 million, according to a recent GovGuam compact-impact report.

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