Letter to the Editor: Secession?

Dear Editor:
I write this letter as an open letter to the Chuukese. I tried to discern the motive for the Chuuk secession, but I just cannot find it. I do not see any human right violation or heard of any genocide committed by the FSM government officials in Chuuk. Usually the justification for secession movement is systematic violation of human rights, genocide or ethnic cleansing committed by national officials (as in Kosovo, Southern Sudan, and other places). Chuuk is plagued with social and administrative problems, but it is all internally brewed. None of these problems are fomented by national officials or officials of the other states. The blame seems lie squarely with Chuuk state officials.
If Chuuk secedes, it will take all of these internally created problems with it. It owns all of its social and administrative problems. Chuuk officials complained almost incessantly about the formula used to divide Compact I funds, but Chuuk’s share was larger than individual share of the other states. All the three other states benefited from Compact I funds. They at least improve their infrastructures, but Chuuk did not have anything to show for its share. It just simply gobbled up its share of the funds.

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Guest Perspective: Domestic Violence Act passes after nine years

After a prolonged review and deliberation period, the Ninth Pohnpei State Legislature, in a unanimous vote (20-0) voted in favor of the Domestic Violence Act of 2017. This new law basically established family violence offenses as a separate chapter under the criminal code, provides for emergency protective orders for the victims, and incorporates rehabilitation opportunities for the perpetrators.
Over the years while the Bill sat in Legislature, the Pohnpei Women Council organized lobbying activities and appeared before the Legislature more than once to lend support to the passage of the Bill. In an effort to preempt passage of the Bill, the council took one step further and renovated an old government building to use for response and intervention services to victims of family violence. Now that the law is finally in place, it’s time to operationalize the delivery of that service.
Former Senator Magdalena Walter worked tirelessly to get her colleagues to come on board, so special acknowledgment of that work is proper and timely. The Pohnpeian students who came down from University of Guam to testify before the Committee did an excellent job of sharing their stories and a huge “Kalahngan” is extended to every one of them. The Association of Pacific Island Legislatures (APIL), back in 2011, passed a resolution urging passage of the Bill by the PSL. The foreign missions based in FSM, especially the Australian Mission, have consistently urged individual senators to support the Bill. At one point or another, during the past nine years, people in various capacities have expressed strong support for the Bill. Thank you all very much.
In 2013, when Kosrae State Legislature passed their Family Protection law, there was much confidence that the momentum would spill across the ocean to the PSL to follow suit, but unfortunately, there were still outstanding concerns regarding certain provisions in the Bill. According to the coconut wireless, the perceived conflict this law would have on Pohnpeian custom was a dominant factor in the delay of its’ passage.
Then right after Kosrae State passed its law, the UNFPA came into FSM and carried out a Family Health and Safety Study which revealed what was already known by many that violence against women exists in FSM (32.8%). In the final Standing Committee Report, it was the definition of the Discipline of Children that remained a concern so that was changed to align with the Constitution and Pohnpeian traditions. It should be noted here that Art. 5, s. 2 of the Pohnpeian Constitution clearly provides that where a statute is in conflict with Pohnpeian customs, the Legislature shall enact a new law to uphold that particular custom. The protection of Pohnpeian custom is therefore still paramount in this regard.
November 7, 2017 will go down in the history of Pohnpei as a particularly important day because of the passage of this new law establishing family violence as a criminal offense. At the end of the day, it is you, the Senators of the Ninth Pohnpei Legislature that made it all possible because you cast your affirmative vote on that day. Kaping lap oh mwuledek pwehki doadoahk eh pweidahr.
Now, onto enforcement!!!
Marstella E. Jack

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Guest Perspective: Is China a Threat in the FSM?

Strategically located in the northwest Pacific, the Federated States of Micronesia, (FSM) has been in diplomatic relations with China for more than twenty-five years. However, this relationship has been a subject of political debate between the pro and anti-Chinese forces in the FSM. Critics of China claim that China is using the FSM as part of its moving frontier in the Pacific. This has been refuted by the pro-Chinese observers declaring that the FSM is acting within its own constitutional means which defines FSM’s foreign policy; China is part of such a policy. Moreover, China has brought many benefits to the FSM, and so this relationship remains firm particularly in view of the scaling down of the USA's financial assistance under the Compact. The FSM’s desire is to lessen its dependency on Compact funds; it is actively exploring different avenues to satisfy its economic objectives internationally. Perhaps, the USA is suspicious of China's motive as it perceives China as a growing threat to its security interest in the northwest Pacific. A unilateral decision by the USA to undermine or dislodge China may violate the FSM’s Constitution and relevant international laws.
For the purpose of promoting discussion, I am raising the following questions: firstly, is China a threat in the FSM, and if so, a threat to whose interests? Secondly, how has this perceived threat emerged and does it constitute a real threat? Finally, if China is positioning itself to unleash its influence in the FSM, how is it doing this?
These fundamental questions are conceptually related to the old issue of super power rivalry in the FSM since the dawn of colonization. It further raises the question of whether or not Micronesians are passive bystanders or active participants in the decision making process that affect their own interests in this political equation. Many argue that the FSM considers China not as a threat, but an opportunity to expand the scope of its own international interests. They perceive the threat by China as foreign induced, one which does not sincerely take into account Micronesian perspective. Others perceive China’s growing presence as positive especially in light of its economic assistance to the FSM coupled with its policy of non-interference in FSM’s domestic and international affairs.
China's presence, however, has been under intense scrutiny by critics querying the reason for China’s sudden increased interest in the region. They have speculated that China is positioning itself to confront the US in its own so called territorial domain. China’s intention, according to the critics, is to create a climate of mistrust which is likely to evolve into a new cold war front in the Pacific. This China phobia may be a new phase in FSM politics, but it is reminiscent of the legacy of the cold war period. Not surprisingly the critics continue to claim that China, like its former predecessor, the USSR, is working on completing the global socialist revolution to replace the USA to usher in a new world power. This underlying fear of China is foreign induced. Outside powers have not sought to consider islanders’ perspectives of their relationship with China.
Many Micronesians perceive this antagonism towards China as part of the concerted efforts by the traditional powers to serve their own interests by constantly feeding islanders’ propaganda reinforced by an entrenched system of indoctrination in an attempt to shelter them from engaging in an alternative form of economic system which they claim is not conducive to islanders’ ways of life. In my interview with an official from China, he claimed that China is moving toward a market economy and the growing middle class has evolved albeit via a different route from the US. As China’s Ambassador to the FSM articulated, “China understands that the FSM has a deep relationship with the US, and does not intend to work against that relationship. China has a policy to assist the developing countries in the world and the FSM is one of such countries”.
Additionally, the Ambassador further noted that the China/FSM relationship is consistent with the principle of global cooperation espoused in the FSM Constitution which states:
“We extend to all nations what we seek from each: peace, friendship, cooperation, and love in our common humanity”.
Zag Puas (PhD)

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