Making Sense of an Independent Chuuk (Part 6)

As talks of independence continue to ring in the air, we return to our series to look at both sides of the Chuuk Independence argument. In this part of our series we look at a more simplified approach to gauge Chuuk's readiness. We take a few steps back and ask the citizens of Chuuk a simple question: "Are you ready for an independent Chuuk?".

(A letter from the author)

Please read parts 1-5:

To satisfy this question I've devised a quick test, consisting of only 3 questions or problems. A simple test that I like to call, "the Chuuk Independence Challenge" (#TestFreeChuuk).

I've administered this test to my peers and any who was interested. Although this test is intended for Chuukese citizens, anyone is welcome to take it. To those I've given this test to, 100 percent have passed Problem 1. About one in three have been able to pass Problem 2. And no one thus far has been able to complete Problem 3.

The questions/problems...

Problem 1:
Think of one corrupt politician from Chuuk.

Problem 2:
What crime did he/she commit?

Problem 3:
Write down the name of the politician, the crime, and also write down your name in a public post for the public to see.

The Questions/Problems Explained:

Problem 1 explained:
With all of the people I've given this test to all have been able to answer Question 1 without a problem. Some even answered this question enthusiastically. The purpose of this question is to illustrate that people are aware of corruption in Chuuk.

Problem 2 explained:
Although many people from Chuuk know or are aware of the corruption, people do not know the nature or the details of the corruption. Citizens are simply not informed. There is no healthy "Fourth Branch" (press) of government to deliver information to the masses and to keep the three branches of government at Check.

Problem 3 explained:
Chuuk lacks a strong press. There is no newspaper from Chuuk and there’s barely a radio station. The people depend on social media sites like Facebook and the Micronesian Seminar for their news. Although sites such as those do a decent job of disseminating information (Problems 1&2), they do a lackluster job at confronting Problem 3. At best, those social media sites have become cogs in a rumor-mill. Problem 3 tests reliability. If a story or news has an anonymous writer and source, then that is not news. That is a rumor or a gossip.

In order for a healthy democracy to function properly, it needs a vibrant “Fourth Branch” (press) of government. Information needs to be available to the public and that same information needs to be open for independent research and fact checking.

But what does this have to do with an independent Chuuk? To my knowledge, cases of political corruption are dealt with at the national level. Information about certain cases can be found on national websites such as the Public Auditor’s website, FSM updates, and the FSM Supreme Court website. All of these offices/sites are handled by the national government. Will an independent Chuuk have sites such as these available to their citizens?

To my understanding Chuuk was without a state auditor for nearly a decade. And as I’ve explained there is no press/media in Chuuk. And what of the courts? Or Chuuk’s Department of Justice? Will the people of Chuuk be able to try and judge their own corruption? Why have we been unable to stifle corruption all these years to begin with?

The simple answer is, because of our culture of respecting our elders and our strong Christian value of forgiveness. There are numerous examples of respect for our elders that get in the way of democracy. Very recently, religious groups, government officials and traditional leaders asked former president Mori to pardon a handful of Chuukese citizens of their crimes.

We can also point at, "Ke pach ke tento", our local version of political cronyism and nepotism. Will an independent Chuuk favor all of its citizens or only those who are in positions of authority?

This same culture of respect and value of forgiveness was the reason why many failed to complete Problem 3.

Can an independent Chuuk look beyond their culture of respect and hold corrupt politicians accountable for their wrong-doings?

So, we return to the original question: are the people of Chuuk ready for independence? Let's take a few steps back and try to answer an easier question. Can the people of Chuuk complete this test?

Here's my attempt:

1. Think of a corrupt politician from Chuuk.
- I assure you that I know of some.
2. What is/are the crime[s].
- criminal conspiracy in violation of Title 11 of the FSM Code Sections 203 and 529.
3. Write down your answers for Problems 1&2 and your name in a public space.
- My name is Otis Aisek. I am a citizen of Chuuk State. I know of political corruptions in my home state and the nature of such corruptions as detailed above. But out of respect for my elders I refuse to print their names in public.