In this episode of our series we were fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to connect with Chuuk State Senate President, and member of the Commission (CFPSC), Mark Mailo. We gathered 19 questions and 7 statements from the public and emailed them to Mr. Mailo.
Please continue to read his responses.
TFB = The Fourth Branch
MM = Mark Mailo
- TFB = If Chuuk secedes from the FSM will citizens’ passports immediately become invalid? If yes, will Chuukese citizens living abroad have to fly back to Chuuk? Will they get deported?
MM = No, there would be a transition period to take care of that.
- TFB = There are rumors going around the social networks that a blank vote, that is, not marking “yes” or “no” on the ballot, will automatically count as a “yes” vote. Is this rumor true?
MM = Normally, a blank ballot would be voided.
- TFB = The Commission was given $400,000 to research political statuses, where was that money taken from?
MM = Since its inception in 2012, the commission has received a cumulative total of 325K in separate appropriations from the legislature to finance its operation. The funds weren't taken out from any departmental or office operational budgets as alleged by many of our good citizens.
- TFB = Why are most of the newsletters written in English? Who are they written for?
MM = The newsletter is not aimed at any specific readership or audience. Efforts were made to translate relevant information into Chuukese language. I believe the student population outside/inside of Chuuk should appreciate the English versions.
- TFB = Are all Chuuk State leaders in favor of independence?
MM = A survey has not been done to quantify that statement but the democratic process does work quite well in Chuuk where the consent of the majority rules as in other democratic societies around the globe.
- TFB = On the final report by the CPSC, many leaders did not sign, why?
MM = The law requires the commission, not the state leadership, to submit its final report to the legislature. Each commissioner is entitled to his/her own opinion whether to sign the final report or not. Passage of the report was by majority votes.
- TFB = Does secession from the FSM require a constitutional amendment?
MM = No (Based on legal review of the FSM constitution by local and expatriate attorneys; expecting there may be differing legal opinions out there in the legal community).
- TFB = Will the people of Chuuk have the option to choose "Chuukese" or "FSM" citizenship?
MM = Depends on the new constitution. I hope that option is open.
- TFB = Is it in the Commission’s or Chuuk State’s interest to seek a new compact of free association with the United States?
MM = The commission has a mandate to carry out which led to the recommendation of free association with the US to promote effectively Chuuk's long term interests; like the independent nations of Palau and RMI.
- TFB = Will Chuuk seek a new COFA with the USA that will include compact funding?
MM = Negotiating access to similar assistance and benefits provided under the current Compact is the immediate priority, not to rule out possibilities for such requests after 2023.
- TFB = If the United States rejects Chuuk’s proposal for a COFA, will Chuuk seek other political status options with the US?
MM = Based on historical facts and given the geopolitical trends in the region, US would not want to degrade its strategic denial right in the Micronesia region. For now, the preferred option remains free association.
- TFB = If the US rejects Chuuk’s proposal for a COFA or any political associations, will Chuuk look to other countries to propose a similar association?
MM = Refer to Q11. However, the opportunities for economic cooperation with other foreign governments is the right of any sovereign government.
- TFB = Can Chuuk achieve economic self-sufficiency with the resources they have?
MM = Yes. Like all of the independent nations in the Pacific, Chuuk has the basic ingredients necessary to promote self-sufficiency; air, land, sea, people and not the least a distinctive culture and language. With these come the challenges of geographical isolation that translate into high transportation and energy costs, small market, and out-migration. How well we blend and balance these basic ingredients to produce a net positive outcome is the ultimate challenge for current and future generations. Foreign assistance is still essential.
- TFB = Can Chuuk compete with the FSM for foreign assistance and economic growth?
MM = Foreign assistance is needed for economic growth of many underdeveloped countries. The provision of foreign aids from donor countries isn't necessarily based on competition but the urgent and genuine needs of the recipient country as viewed by the donor country, and sometimes on the reciprocate benefits to the donor government.
- TFB = What will happen to the COM Chuuk campus?
MM = High enrollment is good from the financial stand point of any college. There is no logical or business sense why the central COM would not be amenable to continue having its campus in the four states including Chuuk. So the board of regents would have to do a balancing act, one that is not based on political correctness. The Chuuk campus must remain.
- TFB = Will an independent Chuuk be in favor of dual citizenship?
MM = Refer to Q8. I hope that option is open.
- TFB = If independent, will former politicians who were [found guilty] of corruption be allowed to run for office, or work in government?
MM = Refer to Q8.
- TFB = Can the FSM deny compact fund allocation to Chuuk state following a “yes” vote this March? Following a declaration of independence?
MM = Jim Stovall mentioned something to that effect in his memo. The fact of the matter is those so called "facts" are only "implications" IF and WHEN Chuuk secedes from the federation. We have yet to cross those bridges. Those "implications" are matters of negotiations between the US and Chuuk, as the commission is already quite aware of from the beginning.
- TFB = If independent, will Chuuk get its share of the FSM Trust Fund?
MM = Refer to Q18.
(statements/sentiments collected from the public)
TFB = The creation of the CPSC is illegal.
MM = All acts of the legislature are presumed legal or constitutional until struck down by a court of competent jurisdiction. So far the law has not been challenged in court.
TFB = Many of the numbers in the newsletters are wrong or misleading. (i.e. 80,000 Chuuk population; 30,000 Chuukese living abroad etc.)
MM = The 2010 census placed the total population of Chuuk at about 56,000 if my recollection serves me right. Birth rates and mortalities since then could sway that figure upward or down.
TFB = The reason Chuuk leaders want independence is because the national government withheld [millions] because of Chuuk’s land issues.
MM = The FSMNG has the sole responsibility as primary allottee of Compact grants to implement and manage all compact-funded projects in the four states. An FSM public law established the project management unit(PMU) as the implementing office. For years, GAO reports has pointed the inefficiency of the FSMNG to implement projects in the states in a timely fashion. It took an additional $9 mn to the original price tag of $26 mn to get the Weno Road project to hire another contractor. The road which was supposed to be completed in 2012 but it remains unfinished as of today not because of land issue but lack of proper oversight on the part of the FSMNG. The previous contractor has sued the FSMNG for $14mn for wrongful termination. The question now is, should the claim be deducted from Chuuk's share of compact grants if the plaintiff prevailed in court? [The Fourth Branch] may want to directly contact the PMU to find out why 20 schools and dispensaries throughout Chuuk are not being implemented despite the fact that there are no land issues involved. These projects have been held up at the PMU since 2013. Those congressional candidates who are current employees of the FSMNG should know these facts. The reasons to secede from Yap, Pohnpei and Kosrae is total sovereignty and economic advancement. The commission believes the current framework creates a slow, cumbersome and inefficient decision-making process. Independence would hasten the pace of economic advancement less the bureaucracy of a bloated central government.
TFB = The CPSC and Chuuk legislators are making private deals with China.MM = [The Fourth Branch] would retain its integrity if it provides proof of such allegations.
TFB = The vote won’t matter, Chuuk leaders will find a way to make it pass.
MM = The FSMNG turned down Chuuk's request for UN observers.
TFB = This is a waste of time and money. Instead of preparing for 2024, we’re doing this. At least wait until after 2024.
MM = Will take that under advice.
TFB = Chuuk cannot just borrow FSM’s action plan. The action plan was created for FSM, it cannot just simply be copied.
MM = The 2023 Action Plan committee consists of the governors of the four states and the president. The committee has a technical task force that work on the plan in consultation with the state governments. Is it Chuuk's plan? The objectives and goals in that plan draws on current realities in the states and challenges facing the states. That plan also relies on the individual state's own strategic development plans which comprised the Nation's SDP. The name of the new action plan may be different but the contents are not something totally new that have been the subject of discussions during several SNLCs.