(This is a record of a recent Chuuk Political Status Commission hearing on Chuuk's Independence. It's broken down in two parts because it's kind of long, but the same message as one):
Pursuant to its statutory mandate, the Chuuk State Political Status Commission has been holding public hearings with the Chuukese public, including last week on Guam and the CNMI, and also in Faichuk, Northern and Southern Namoneas, and the Northwest. On Thursday, October 30, 2014, the Commission’s Southern Namoneas ESG Committee held its hearing on Uman Island, at the Holy Cross Parish Hall (which is about the size of the Chuuk High School Gymnasium and painted in the traditional Uman Color, Red and White, coincidentally similar to the national color of the Arabic Republic of Yemen).
The SubCommittee included: Commissioners Sabino Asor, Joe Suka and Johnny Meippen, Commission Executive Director James Fritz, and Chuuk State Public Affairs technician, Akasio Shorey, who recorded the proceeding for broadcasting on V6AK Radio. The turnout, according to Director Fritz, was “so far the largest turnout for a Commission hearing, which included about one hundred people,” including both men and women.
After introductions and preliminary remarks by Committee Chairman Asor and municipal officials, and after the audience was provided with copies of the Commission’s relevant literature, Commissioner Meippen then presented the Commission’s proposal recommending Chuuk State to secede from the FSM Union/Federation and become an Independent Nation in Free Association with the US or any other willing partner, including the brief history on political independent movements including the Trust Territory under the UN Trusteeship System. After Commissioner Meippen’s presentation, the Uman audience started asking questions and comments.
The first question was from the Uman Traditional Chief, Deacon Joseph Albert: “Does the FSM Constitution allow any FSM State to secede from the FSM Federation?” Commission Asor (current Chuuk State Attorney General) says his Office has not researched that question because there was talk within the Commission to invite an opinion from the FSM Attorney General, who would be most appropriate to opine on the question of a FSM Constitutional issue. Commissioner Meippen assured the audience the FSM Constitution does not expressly prohibit a FSM state from seceding. If the FSM Constitution implies that prohibition somewhere in its text, then that is what’s needed to be researched.There was additional comment by Committee members that other FSM states (i.e. Yap and Pohnpei) actually entertained the idea of secession, so that supports the position that the FSM Constitution may not expressly or totally prohibit secession.
A related question was from another church minister, Sinifes Namwel: “After Chuuk decided to be part of the FSM since 1979, after a first Compact and now in the middle of the second Compact, why has Chuuk State ‘suddenly’ decided on secession and independent?” Commissioner Suka responded that “we are not sure if we can call it ‘suddenly’ since the idea for a Chuuk secession first came during Governor Ansito Walter’s time, then the other states have started also talking about secession, and now Chuuk has raised the question again and decided to actually moving forward with it as its response to the scheduled termination of the Financial Provisions of the Amended Compact in 2023.
Another question was from Uman’s Mayor, Nakashima: “Is Chuuk ‘ready” to secede from the FSM and become an independent entity?” Chairman Asor noted that was quite the heavy duty question, and proceeded to answer it first: “Being ‘ready’ has to be measured in certain ways: politically, Chuuk can argue it is ready: it already has a functioning form of government with political subdivisions, there have been successions of peaceful and orderly government transitions, observance of the rule of law and the democratic processes;
in terms of ‘human resources and manpower’, it is an open debate in light of the current issue within the State’s Education Reform where the requirement for teachers’ certification has shown a critical shortage of certified classroom teachers and school principals, eligible nurses and doctors at the Chuuk Hospital, certified mechanics in the few auto shops on Weno Island, and even shortage of lawyers in the governments’ various offices;
Commissioner Asor continued that Chuuk would be ready “economically and financially,” if for example, the new Independent Chuuk Government would have ability to generate annual government operations revenue of at least $41,000,000 similar to its current FY15 operations budget, plus some additional operations expenses like the FSM Government’s annual cost of operating its Department of Foreign Affairs and network of overseas embassies at about $3 million annually, plus the annual surveillance costs of about another million for patrolling its 200 Mile Economic Zone, plus annual membership fees and donations in various international organizations like the UN and Pacific Island Forum, and other national costs. The State’s $41 million annual government operations budget usually is not enough to provide for economic development projects like statewide coconut processing plants or chicken farming, and infrastructure projects like roads and electricity on the neighbor islands. So it means an Independent Chuuk would have to have new sources of revenues or at least continued assistance from the US to make up the $30 millions in US grants and assistance in the state’s $41 million annual budget, plus other new sources of revenues for new economic development projects and neighbor island infrastructure development projects.
The Commission members also explained that the new Independent Chuuk expects to have its new Economic Zone to generate fishing license fees for Chuuk, similar to the FSM’s fees, and retain 100% local revenue instead of sharing 50% with the National Government, and other foreign assistance like from China and Europea Union, aside from the US Assistance. Also some revenue from Chuuk’s share of the Compact Trust Fund, whichcould be in the annual neighborhood of $4 million annually. Commissioner Suka explained that according to the Commission’s economic expert’s research of possible financial assistance and economic development assistance to the new Independent Chuuk, Chuuk could receive annual revenue of about $150 million, about triple the current operations budget of $41,000. (The audience failed to ask for the expert’s name or a copy of his research).
Another question from one Saku Narruhn: (I am an unemployed father. I have children and families working in Guam, Saipan, Hawaii, the US that have been supporting my family here in Chuuk. I would ask that whatever kind of government your Commission is trying to create for us, please make sure that you do not jeopardize my children's livelihoods in Guam and Hawaii, and their abilities to assist me and my family back here.Commissioner Asor explained that in as much as a new Independent Chuuk will be created, one of the goals is to retain the relationship with the United States that provided the opportunity to find work in the US.Other commissioners also assisted.
A related observation from one Alphonso Otto: "May be it is better if the Commission makes the new Chuuk just like Guam and Hawaii where Chuukese can work and live." Before any commissioner could answer, another from the audience, one Taropas Detor, pointed out that Mr Otto only went to the Philippines for medical referral and never lived in Hawaii to know how good Hawaii is. (Laughter from the audience made any answer unnecessary).
(Continued next page)