Former FSM President Concerned About Amending Constitution's Citizenship Clause


My Fellow FSM Citizens:

POHNPEI, Federated States of Micronesia (Kaselehlie Press, Feb. 8, 2017) – I write this Open Letter to you to share my deep concern about the proposed amendment to Section 3 of Article III of our national constitution. This current provision of our national constitution requires that an FSM citizen who is also a citizen of another country should “register his intent to remain a citizen” of our country, the Federated States of Micronesia, and “renounce his citizenship of another nation” within 3 years of his 18th birthday. In plain English, it means that a minor who holds a dual citizenship of Federated States of Micronesia and the United States, for example, because he or she was born in the United States to parents who are both FSM citizens or one was FSM citizen must register his or her intent to remain FSM citizen before he or she reaches 21 years old. If he or she fails to register as FSM citizen he or she will no longer be FSM citizen, but he or she will remain as a FSM national. A national is a person who remains in FSM, but does not have the right to run for public office and participate in state and national election.

This proposed amendment is being dressed up as a dual citizenship proposal, but is not. It deletes the citizenship provision in our national constitution, and leaves nothing in its place. Some members of our national congress tell us that the FSM Congress will enact a dual citizenship law later. The issue here is that the framers of our national constitution deemed citizenship as an important national issue that the FSM citizens must have national conversation and debate it before the voters approve or reject it in a national referendum. If our congress is given the power to enact a citizenship law, you as the member of the public and keeper of our national sovereignty will have no chance to debate and discuss the issue at all, given the current practice of almost no transparency our national congress. In essence, this proposed amendment is a disempowerment of the FSM public and voters to discuss, debate, and approve or reject any proposed amendment to the citizenship provision of our national constitution. To put it the other way, this proposed amendment is an empowerment of the FSM Congress and disempowerment of the FSM public and voters.

I think we should insist that any changes to the FSM citizenship provision in our national constitution must be approved in a national referendum because citizenship is linked directly to the ownership of land in our country. I am sure that as citizens and voters, you want to review, discuss, and debate any impact of any proposed citizenship law on your land. Here our congress is asking all of us to hand them a blank check to fashion and craft a new citizenship dual citizenship law, not knowing its impact on landownership in our country.

Now let us focus on dual citizenship itself. I think our national congress has a total misunderstanding of dual citizenship in the United States. I know that we are trying to make ourselves eligible for dual citizens of the FSM and United States. For those of us who are born here in our country, it is impossible to get that dual citizenship we coveted. We need to apply for immigration visa to migrate to the United States. We will need to meet the US government immigration law requirements. Once we are in the United States, we must go through the US naturalization process, which required us to take the OATH OF US CITIZENSHIP and pledge of allegiance. The oath of US citizenship and Pledge of Allegiance to the United States read as follows:

"I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God." (Emphasis mine)

As you can see, this oath of US citizenship and pledge of allegiance to United States required us to renounce our FSM citizenship. So we become US citizens and lost our FSM citizenship. We will never get dual citizenship for the FSM and US this way .

The FSM citizens who migrated to the United States under the Compact are not eligible to apply for naturalization to become US citizens. (This Compact restriction does not apply to the Micronesian citizens in the United States armed forces.) If the FSM immigrants want to apply for naturalization to become US citizens, they must return to the Federated States of Micronesia and apply for US immigration visa and wait for their visas approval. I do not know how long it takes the United States to approve immigration visas. However, I do know that the United States does not look favorable upon economic refugees’ request for immigration visas. But suppose you are lucky and you get a US immigration visa. When you migrate to the United States using your immigration visa and at some point you will take the required Oath of US citizenship and Allegiance to the United States. At his point, and as shown in the previous case, you will renounce your FSM citizenship to become US citizen. So again, you become US citizen and lost the FSM citizenship. This pathway to dual citizenship for the FSM and US is closed as it is in the previous scenario.

The people who will be benefitting from a FSM dual citizenship law vis-à-vis the United States are the children of FSM citizens who are born in the United States and the children of mixed-marriages between FSM citizens and United States citizens. For the former group, they become US citizens by virtue of being born in the United State (jus soli) pursuant to the 14th Amendment to the United States constitution. For the latter group, they will become US citizens because one parent is a citizen of the United States (jus sanguineness). So if our country allowed dual citizenship, then these people will retain their FSM citizenship as well as their US citizenship. All of my five grandchildren are in this group because they were born in the United States. Now, because none of them have reached 21 years of age, they are dual citizens of FSM and the United States. But before each of them reach the age of twenty-one, he or she will have to choose whether to renounce his or her FSM citizenship and retains the United States citizenship. If this happens, he or she will not be able to own any land or holds elective office in the FSM. From my perspective, it will be unfortunate but it is their life and it is their choice to make. If I am still alive, I will give it my blessing. My hope is that all of them will choose to renounce their US citizenship and remain FSM citizens.

I do not favor or advocate for dual citizenship for the FSM and the United States or other countries, for that matter. To me, the essence of our country, the national sovereignty and the continual development of nationalism, are paramount. I do not want to sacrifice the essence of our country for the sake of enabling my grandchildren to acquire dual citizenship. When they grow up, they will decide for themselves, and bear any consequences. The people in this group will be the only people who can acquire dual citizenship of FSM and the United States. The issues we need to address are: How many people in this group who will benefit from a proposed dual citizenship? Is it worth enacting a dual citizenship for these people and risk allowing foreigners who are able to acquire dual citizenship for FSM and their respective countries to own land in our country?

Our country’s citizenship is linked directly to our national sovereignty. Sovereignty is the supreme authority of a country to enact its own laws regarding its population and national territory within its boundary without any interference from outside. Our national sovereignty rests upon three pillars (or posts). Each of these pillars must remain strong all the time. These three pillars are (1) the territory, (2) the government, and (3) the citizens of our country. Allowing dual citizenship will weaken the third pillar because these dual citizens would have divided loyalty to our country and their other country of citizenship. Should they be loyal to the FSM or to their other country of citizenship? Citizens with divided loyalty are not compatible to a strong and robust national sovereignty.

Today our country is still struggling to develop a full blown nationalism, a prerequisite for a robust national sovereignty. Nationalism is loyalty, patriotism, and devotion to one’s own country. In essence, it is a sense of national consciousness exalting one’s own country over all other countries. Nationalism is the main ingredient of our national sovereignty.

The development of nationalism in our country is still in its infancy, like a Micronesian baby rolling around in its small baby mat. If we allow dual citizenship, it will be one more barrier to our country’s development of full nationalism and the achievement of a strong robust national sovereignty. Our national politicians treat our nation’s political development like the weather. They talk about it, but they do nothing, absolutely nothing, to enhance its development. In fact, they do the opposite. They attempt to weaken our country’s political development. This so-called dual citizenship amendment proposal is a example of contradictory political development that would weaken the essence of our country’s national sovereignty.

In insisting to allow dual citizenship, our national congress has come perilous close to violating Section 3 of Article XIII of our national constitution. This section makes it a “solemn obligation of the national and state governments to uphold the provisions of this Constitution and to advance the principles of unity upon which this Constitution is founded.” (emphasis mine) Of course, our congress can propose amendment to our national constitution at any time, but that amendment should not be harmful to the national essence of our country. This proposed dual citizenship amendment, if it can be called that, would be harmful to our national sovereignty and it is an impediment to the development of nationalism in our country.

I sometimes wonder what has happened to our congress. I spent four years of my life as member of the House of Representatives of the now-defunct Congress of Micronesia. I was elected to the first FSM Congress and served for eight years. I left at the beginning of the fifth FSM Congress to serve as the second president of our country. Our congress now is not recognizable to me anymore. The FSM Congress I knew was keen on pushing our nation’s national agenda, such as the Compact negotiation, participation in the UN Law of the Sea Conference, and convening the Micronesian Constitutional Convention. It was not interested in giving itself an enormous budget. In fact the mantra in congress at that time was always trimming the congress budget. Before I left the congress, the salary for each senator was $18,000 per annum, and the official expense allowance was $3,000 per year. These figures are puny figures in comparison to the salaries and official allowances of our national senators today. Today, members of our congress received $27,000 in salary each year and an obscenely enormous $120,000 of official expense allowance per member per year. For the fourteen national senators alone, the amount of their official expense allowance is a whopping total of $1,680,000.00 per year. For a poor country such as our, this amount is morally and ethically unjustified. It is a complete rip-off of our national treasury. It is a violation of our congress members’ fiduciary relationship with the FSM public. As members of our national congress, the senators are the trustees, and the guardians of our national treasury. They should safeguard our national treasury, not raiding it for their own benefit and for enhancement of their reelection.

Another despicable practice that members of our congress are engaging in is offering scholarship of their own under their own control. This practice is good for their reelection, but it violates the separation of power between the congress and the executive branch, a main doctrine of our national constitution. The FSM Supreme Court has ruled in Udot v FSM Finance that this kind of practice is violative of our national constitution. And yet, members of our congress continue to engage in this kind of activity without any legal consequences.

Unfortunately, our constitution does not prescribed any penalty for violation of its provision such as the separation of power and violation of public trust and ethic by members of our congress. However, as voters, you are not entirely helpless. The purpose of election is to evaluate the performance of your representatives in our national congress. On March 3rd of this year, you will have your chance to vote. If you disagree with what is happening in our congress and the direction it has led our country, by all means express your disagreement through your vote. Send them an unequivocal message that they never forget.

I want to conclude this open letter by saying that this so-called dual citizenship proposal is bad for our country. It has the potential of allowing foreigners, when they become dual citizens, to own land in our country. Furthermore, only a small group of people can acquire dual citizenship for FSM and the United States, the main purpose of this amendment effort.

The damage a dual citizenship amendment will do to our sovereignty and nationalism is incalculable because the impact can only be measured over time. However, I encourage you to consider what I have said in this open letter before you cast your vote on the so-called dual citizenship amendment proposal.

Thank you very much and I remain

Sincerely yours,
John R. Haglelgam

The Kaselehlie Press
Copyright © 2017 The Kaselehlie Press. All Rights Reserved

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My concern and reaction to John R. Haglelgam letter. I'm extending my disappointment for Mr. Haglelgam for him not provided his support for the Dual Citizenship statues as Mr. Haglelgam stated clearly on his reasoning of why he won't supporting the process of Dual Citizenship seems so negatives. I can imagine a professor and scholar and student of democracy seems not interested to help creating opportunity for his people and citizen of Federated States of Micronesia. The major issue I'm sure have been affecting the FSM leaders today is jealousy & envious about the success of their every FSM citizen were creating success in their own lives & their family & their children were living and calling United States their second home, too. And this is what the FSM leaders does, they hit the nails on the head of their people with inferiority of bad policy have preventing success and open opportunity, but closing doors from both sides, the Federated States of Micronesia and United States. The basic problems of Chuuk governance remain and are at the core of especially Chuuk State poverty problem to this day is associated with ongoing of bad leadership, social and environmental degradation. Lets face it, the poverty trap in Chuuk State appears have no exit and have no hope for the million of Chuukese will be returning home to Chuuk State, because the writing of the Compact of Free Association have printed out from John R. Haglelgam's today, February 22, 2017 have put great deals of negatives impact for the future of FSM and its citizen at both United States, and in Federated States of Micronesia. It is so troubling and very concerning, when you notice such announcement of the Compact of Free Association policy have written from Haglelgam's seems calculating and the timing of his “Open Letter” at times of immigration crises under President Trump, seems abnormal. Lets highlighted the reality still existed in Chuuk State. Well, the systematic abuses of human right have not yet solve in FSM, an increases in crimes and violence against woman and vulnerable people not going away, there have no guality of hospital throughout entire lagoon, suffering of health problems among our people still a cruelty, no guality of food, sometimes poor elderly and young people goes hungry with no food for days, no running water and no clean and accessible to all islands, no electricity throughout entire region, no transportation between islands, no structure of economy, no decent wages on both public, and private business's, and the ongoing rampant environmental degradation on land and marine are intolerance, and hostility. These are the major issue I was hoping the professor and scholar, Mr. Haglelgam should be put in his priority to help addressing, instead Mr. Haglelgam have closing doors of opportunity and human right on both sides for the people of Federated States of Micronesia. Respectfully, Angela E. VanHorn civil right activist and Native of Chuuk State.

A.E.V no one wants to know about your disappointment...

To anonymous author, Chuuk, You sounded very Chuukese and I'm sure you are one of those ex government employee have now getting fatter to secured your family with government money have living wealthier after all. One of the Chuuk professional that no one can spotted where you hided all those government funds since you carved well on your employment with both Chuuk government, and FSM government. Just like the way you have hided behind your anonymous and insulted the reality have facing Chuuk today. You sneaky rat... PS. I reposted this on my face book, so feel free to read, and respond maturely. Angela E. Vanhorn/Chuuk native & activist civil right...

My fellow Chuuk citizen ( in USA and FSM): Tirow and Fairo. I have reason to have grave concern for the human right in especially Chuuk State have getting worse and very harmful to majority ordinary people lives, if the "dual citizenship" won't shape and make rooms for improvement. The unlawful act of transgression by isolating Chuuk citizen from advancement in both United States and Chuuk by neglecting and not shaping human right policy with United States is a crime of atrocity. Country and leaders they tent to isolated and oppressed on their citizen from progressive society will end up into a nation of terrorism, and criminals of enterprises will abuses and depraved their own citizen from advancement.  We must maintain to protect democracy & rule of law as Chuuk citizen. Without rule of law in Chuuk, we won't have no society, and no family. Sadism but true, I do not think any of Chuuk and FSM leaders (today) have really care about their citizen human right at all.  Well, lets face it, what have been done by the Chuukese leaders lately while continue employed and emptied out every resources from Chuuk government? Do you know that one famous family of Chuuk owned a law firm so far? The point is the entire Chuuk government cannot afford and have not accomplishing to set up a civil right organization for entire FSM. I wonder why? However, this is not a new question have been asked many times over and over again... why is it that the overwhelm of poverty, unemployment and no job, no industry for entire Chuuk lagoon to this day is zero.  Where is the Chuuk government census about the increases of population have now jammed like sardines? The Infamy of Chuuk State is the most dysfunctional state in the region among the rest of states in Federated States of Micronesia.  The Chuuk government is so beyond disorganized & lacking no management at all. The immoral role of leadership in Chuuk State (today) is so wicked and vile. The government job is to provided all citizen to have access to clean water, electricity, waste dumps/toilets, recycles from toxic waste on land and ocean, and the ongoing of poor and lacking no housing and horrible living condition still hardship to this day in entire Chuuk lagoon, and the lists will go on and on...lets talk more about the serious of toxic and bad sanitation in Chuuk State is getting horrifying to all people healths, and what happen of toxic and pollution is easier to keep spreading around old and new diseases over and over again. Chuuk State have one main hospital have lacking not enough equipment and not enough medicine to treating all diseases and illness at the same times.  The crises of public health hazard is where have the Chuuk hospital disposing their waste and toxic of garbages everyday? Chuuk have no public dumpster at all throughout entire islands, and lagoon. The lack of basic hygiene, water and food related diseases is another classic cause of diseases, if majority of our Chuukese people will continue to live poor (remain unemployed in Chuuk...) and cannot afford “safe food and safe water” to feed their family, children, elderly and themselves. There is no standardization to separate cemetery from the living people. Cemetery should be more treated like Church where everyone go pays their respect. Lacking no public cemetery is a deadly potential for public health hazard and concern. Chuuk State have hit hard on cholera's epidemic, and TB and will be coming back worse, if Chuuk will continue neglecting and ignoring the rising of overcrowded population, then the epidemic of diseases will spread faster like typhoon all over Chuuk Lagoon. It will affecting all people, poor and wealthy living in region. The impoverished communities in Chuuk is getting worse, and Chuuk leaders have continue authorize the crimes on poverty and diseases to be governing for our policy and culture in Chuuk State everyday, and it would put unrest and social division of consequences on people lives today's, and tomorrows. We must start to take care of our small island as home (Chuuk Lagoon), otherwise we will become homeless tomorrow's.  Australia is not far-away from Chuuk Lagoon. The flooded of refugees fled on boat is overwhelmed have to be housing on Nauru's to this day. Chuuk do not have that resources to protect our small island and lagoon from war, and invaders. Today's we are still blessed to be protected by US military. We are grateful some of our Chuuk and FSM citizens have take on sacrifices to served well in US military in that respect, too.  We live in a smaller society and every bad and ill decision, created from Chuuk leaders by neglecting their accountability will affecting everyone lives, and future. Thank you. Angela E. VanHorn/ongoing activist protecting civil right and human right for Chuuk State...

COFA Treaty is well thought-out piece of oeuvre, we composed enough notes therein to cover what is called magnanimous lyrics, unique, meaningful, soothing, and in parallelism with the last 4 Islands' soul; authors must had happy hour complexity as the signature block appeared in 1986. To sum it all up succinctly, no treaty, agreement, accord, trusteeship will ever overcome appalling behavior---whether in terms of legal residency, dual citizenship,legal migrant it does not matter let's behave first as a guest.

The best argument Mr. Haglelgam has provided is the dual citizenship bill may leave a void in FSM’s constitution which could empower the FSM Congress to further exploit the government somehow. However, the FSM Congress cannot assign themselves as administrators of citizenship status, because administering immigration policies is a role of the executive branch. Haglelgam claims the bill is missing public debate prior to the plebiscite. On the contrary, the national government funded awareness campaigns to include community meetings and high school debates over this topic, in recent years. But more debate and squabbling may be beneficial to a professor. Then, he claims that citizenship is linked directly with land ownership. This is just not true. Most Micronesian citizens don’t own land, e.g. youth and tenants. They sometimes inherit land when they are adults but the owner of lands are usually elders in their family unit. Some adults don’t get to own land if their parents haven’t any to pass on to them, or perhaps their siblings have inherited the lands. Many Micronesians live on land properties that they don’t own. Another controversial point is when he stated “it is impossible” for those Micronesians who are born in the FSM to become US citizens due to the Pledge of Allegiance. Opposite to his claim, we have seen many do, especially our smartest and bravest youth who are recruited by the U.S. military or those who are later married to US citizens. His argument seems to suggest that one can’t be loyal to two entities, or both a father and mother simultaneously. On the contrary, many citizens from countries that are close allies to the US enjoy dual citizenship. You can be loyal to both your mother and father or both the US and the FSM. His most appalling argument is against his five grandchildren. He says that people who will be benefiting from dual citizenship are the children of FSM citizens who are born in the United States, and children of mixed marriages. He suggests that dual citizenship is inequitable despite his five grandchildren will lose their roots and inheritance without it. Why would he say such a thing? There’s a sense of xenophobia here, but he can’t be racist. He was in essence suggesting red-taping his descendants from their Micronesian roots/ inheritance. That’s equated to instructing your kids that “Mom and dad are now sparated. If you choose to live with your mom than you will disclaim any inheritance from dad. It’s moral, because it’s your choice.” This is not moral at all given the future of your seed. It is also not economically sound considering the ongoing human capital and brain drain problem in the FSM. Haglelgam suggests that sovereignty and nationalism are paramount. Every non-delusional person knows sovereignty comes with some extent of self-sufficiency. On the contrary, under no circumstances has this man refused US aid, or any other foreign aid for that matter, during his short-lived presidency. His main source of revenue is foreign aid. On the other hand, nationalism is often evident with Micronesians abroad. These brave individuals go on voyages like ancient Micronesian and Polynesian navigators in search of opportunities, to earn wealth, contribute and pay taxes, improve themselves, make new friends and defend countries to include his own nation of foreign aid recipients. His idea of nationalism must be the status quo: foreign aid, taxation, price inflation, intoxication, and medical referral. Haglelgam then quoted Section 3 of Article XIII of the FSM Constitution which calls for “the advancement of unity.” Yet, he would rather disown his grandchildren if they chose the country that has provisioned him, his family and his island nation for half a century. I agree 100% with the former president that the FSM Congress makes too much money with their salaries and bloated allowances, but that has nothing to do with the subject at hand. Plus, I thought he was over paid, when he was president.

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