In 2014 the Chuuk State Legislature enacted a law which created the Chuuk Future Status Commission the purpose of which is “to review and recommend possible political status suitable for long term financial survival of Chuuk State after the economic assistance provided under the amended compact between the FSM and US expires in 2023, and for other purposes.” To fulfil this long-term financial survival, the Commission imported economic and legal theorists to undertake a study for the purpose of recommending a pathway to ‘solve’ Chuuk’s financial shortfalls post 2023. However, they argued that in order to do so Chuuk must disengage itself from the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM). Consequently, a Report was produced by the Consultants hired by the Commission, however the whole Report has not been released to the public. The reasons for that is unknown.
The Commission is taking a strong pro secessionist movement by littering the political landscape with distorted language that is driving a system of self-perpetuating disinformation. Its objective is to convince the people of Chuuk to march falsely towards a brave new world just looming over the horizon. In the Commission’s mind the Chuukese people have been economically oppressed by the wrath of FSM’s own internal colonialism, and thereby seeks to progress secession, which they assert should emancipate the people from this notional oppression.
They assert that independence for Chuuk will mean to live in a harmonious utopia saved by the magical hands of the Commission. The problem with this utopian dream, however, is that the Commission is fundamentally involved in the usurpation of the spirit, scope, and the textual languages of the FSM Constitution. It is the FSM Constitution that will be the battleground for any attempt to secede from the Federation. In many public forums the Commission condemn the FSM Constitution as nothing more than a convenient document used as a vehicle by the forefathers to facilitate their earlier wish of a federation. The Commission argue that such a case no longer applies today especially when a state, like Chuuk, wishes to determine its own future. This is in spite of the very fact that self- determination was decided by Chuuk residents in 1978, when they voted to be a part of the FSM.
Self-determination was then sealed in 1979, today the Commission has invented an issue where one did not exist. On what basis does the Commission assert that Chuuk can now ignore the past decision of their forefathers who created the FSM, and attempt to disassociate itself from the rest of the federation, and then assert under International law the ability to become a Republic.
It should be remembered that self-determination has been formalised by the FSM Constitution. The Constitution deliberately established the doctrine of “unity in diversity”. This is the very foundation upon which the FSM is founded as an undivided sovereign nation, and it has been fully upheld by the community of nations.
The Constitution is the collective power of the people. It provides points of reference for citizens to rely upon when confronted with complex issues from both within, and outside the FSM. The Constitution epitomizes Micronesian independence, reconciles internal differences, and asserts a distinct politico-cultural identity. It also represents a Micronesian centered outlook in terms of its future survival regarding economic development, the Compact of Free Association, foreign relations, climate change, globalization, secession movement, and leadership issues. The future success of the FSM could be found in the depth of its own historical experiences, which ensure the perpetuation of control, self-preservation, and continuity.
The people of the FSM should continue to harness their strengths to deflect this uninvited pursuit by the Chuuk Commission and its creator, the pro-independence members in the Chuuk State Legislature. It must be remembered that the founding fathers fought hard for Micronesian unity as framed and advanced by the FSM Constitution. It is therefore only proper that the FSM Constitution should be protected at all costs if Micronesian values are to remain the shield in this changing globalised world.
Differences in opinions between the states and the national governments often arise because of jurisdictional issues and it is not new. Domestic debates, however, are fundamentally essential steps towards developing FSM’s social and political health; they provide opportunities for self-evaluation, and thus the resolution of complex issues. The pro- independence members of the Chuuk Legislature and its Commission should take note of this.
The Constitution is not a romantic novel wherein the Commission can seductively sweep the Chuuk population off its feet and lead it to its imagined promised land. Of course, the Commission is testing FSM’s strength, integrity, and continuity. What the Commission does not fully comprehend is the historical appreciation of the enduring hard work of our forefathers and what they had to shoulder in order to propel the FSM onto the international stage. Such is not written in the annals of Micronesian colonial history; it requires deep intellectual engagement with the historical literature for one to comprehend the inner sanctum of Micronesian perspective.
Many observers have predicted that Chuuk’s independence will not succeed. That is because the principal issues for independence are deeper than mere economic ideals. For example, the Commission’s express a desire for Chuuk to be economically independent, but do not suggest or provide any plausible economic model for Chuuk that would enable it to sustain itself into the future. The economic outlook for a “Republic” of Chuuk would rely heavily upon foreign aid sources, and a separate Compact with the USA. However, a terminal problem to that hope is that the USA has stated unreservedly that it will not enter into a separate Compact with Chuuk. The Commission has ignored the statement from the US Ambassador and continues to mislead the public asserting that the USA will somehow change its mind in the future.
The Commission using its art of persuasion proposes a two-pronged process. In the first instance, Chuuk will disengage or disassociate itself from the Federation and then secondly, enter into a separate Compact with the USA. Herein lies what political observers have referred to as the “Compact of Dis-Association and Re-Association”. This is mind boggling. The proposed relationship with the USA is a fictional relationship outside the realms of both international relations and international law.
The Commission’s insistence upon secession is not new, as it is revisiting the old rhetoric regarding the division of the FSM economic pie. This rhetoric constantly reasserts that Chuuk should have the lion’s share of the Federation’s funds since it is the most populous state. It also blames the other states for draining the nation’s purse by chronic mismanagement; and that this is to blame for Chuuk's present dire financial position. The litany of blame, has impacted negatively on the Chuukese diaspora. The cry for independence, some have argued, is a political ploy employed by the prime movers of the secession movement, in order to maximise their personal chance of becoming the main beneficiaries in the imaginary Republic of Chuuk.
The Commission must seriously understand that its reckless behavior will trigger the beginning of the end of what we know as Chuuk state. Chuuk is therefore sitting on the edge of a cliff ready to inflict self-harm which will eventually lead to the fragmentation of the Chuuk State itself. For example, no one genuinely knows what action the other regions such as, the Mortlocks and Northwest of Chuuk, will consider in the pursuit of their own regional interests. This stems from the fact that each municipality has an inherent right, under the Chuuk Constitution, for self-determination. If self-determination is the premise upon which the Commission is used in pursuit of independence, then equally the same argument applies to each of the municipalities in respect to their own future. The Commission should not intervene in a municipality’s own constitutional affairs. Those in the secessionist movement need to understand that to secede they will need to overcome many complex hurdles not yet apparent to them, with no prospect of USA financial support. Such hurdles include compliance with Constitutional processes both at the state and national levels, international law, statutory and also the common law system, which is often ignored. There are more hurdles at the state level not yet fully exposed as all depend upon how the Commission operate its political game, but may include litigation on the basis that the Commission is operating outside its jurisdiction as established under the Chuuk law.
Recently, the US Ambassador to the FSM, Mr. Riley, travelled to Chuuk state to clarify the position of the USA in relation to the suggestion by the Commission that a separate Compact will be forged between the USA and the imagined Republic of Chuuk. Unfortunately, the Ambassador had to endure cheap and arrogant remarks targeted at him by the pro- secessionist proponents. He was accused of intervening in the political process of Chuuk and its desire for independence. Ambassador Riley’s comments resulted in angry outbursts towards him personally, as exemplified by the remarks of the spokesperson of the Commission wherein he stated that, “nowhere in the Compact does it allow the ambassador of either FSM or USA to go into the other country to directly and personally participate in the political process to influence the outcome of a local election or plebiscite”.
This venomous personal vendetta defies the deep customary practice of “sufen” (respect) towards a high-ranking official of a country, in this case the USA, when delivering a message from his superiors in Washington DC. Additionally, perhaps the Chairman should closely and objectively review the history of the Compact, its relationship with the FSM Constitution, and the practices of international protocols governing the conduct of ambassadors.
The Commission was embarrassingly caught red handed by the public about how the USA have not agreed to a separate Compact. It has also apparently dawned on the Commission that the proponents will ‘lose’ the currently enjoyed cargo-cult perks, without a Compact with the USA. Its economic dream is quickly evaporating into a distant memory and yet the Commission continues to drive a movement towards a Republic that would be bankrupt and isolated and possible smaller if the outer municipalities determine their future is to remain as part of the FSM.
The fact remains that Chuuk is a part of the FSM, and cannot unilaterally disassociate from the FSM outside the provisions of the Constitution. Moreover, how can the Commission continue to operate and voice an ‘authoritative’ view when it was dissolved on March 31, 2016, pursuant to the terms of the legislation which created it. The Commission must stop confusing the Chuukese population with unattainable and self-promoting dreams of independence when it is neither simple, nor better economically for the population of Chuuk. The Commission needs to come to a sobering reality, and that is the public can no longer tolerate its untruthful spin.