Tuna, Chuuk visit and our strategy? Micronesian Podcast Episode 71

Tuna week

The tuna commission just concluded their annual meeting in Honolulu, HI last week.  More details on the outcomes on the next podcast, or visit pacific note

Chuuk visit

Over in Chuuk, the Commander of the Indo-Pacific command stopped by to drop some stuff onto Chuuk.  Nothing bad, he helped drop some toys, tools and other things for the annual Christmas drop.  He was joined by the usual suspects, including the Vice President of the FSM, Yosiwo George.  Plus, he had two Micronesian service members who helped drop stuff over Chuuk.  It was a drop over Nama, where one of the participants, Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Lorin Robert, is from.  Nice, eh?

What is our strategy

Finally, on the podcast I pose the question that I posed also on social media.  What is our strategy for the increase in attention from our neighbors in the Pacific?  Japan, Australia and NZ have stepped up their engagement with us.  These are no small items either.  Opening up Embassies, creating new positions, increasing staffing, increasing budget.  All very real and very important for their respective countries.  

What are we doing here in the FSM? Do we continue to react? Do we respond with purpose? Or is it status quo, business as usual? And more importantly (for me, at least) will our government tell us?

Miracle Micronesia

What a wonderful way to end the week in Micronesia, with a Miracle!

True Colors

Yesterday, the 28th of September, an Air Niugini 737 crashed in the waters of Chuuk Lagoon.  Amazingly, all passengers and aircrew lived to see another day.  There were some injuries, but all in all, it was a miracle and a testament to the pilots, aircrew and especially the people of Chuuk who responded brilliantly that day.

You may recall, nine years ago a US carrier landed in the Hudson River with no loss of life.  That was the Miracle on the Hudson.  Today, and halfway around the world, we have the Miracle in Micronesia.

About time

It is so timely.  Why? Because, as you may have seen on this blog, there has been a lot of racial tensions for the Micronesians, and specifically Chuukese, in nearby Guam and Hawaii.  Editorials were written, social media posts were shared and a lot of bad press was generated on behalf of the Micronesians in these two places.  They were called names that I would rather not repeat on this blog.

Just to be clear, the vast majority of Chuukese who live in Guam and Hawaii are cheerful, hardworking and humble people.   They have done what every single group of people in the history of world has done.  Moved from one place to another in search of better opportunities.  Hardly a new thing. Hardly the last time this will ever happen.

So it was indeed a miracle that the whole world, and I mean WHOLE WORLD, was able to witness their fearless and selfless acts almost in real time.  The first videos to come out showed a plane floating in the water and so many civilian boats helping passengers off.  More than one passenger said the boats were there when the emergency hatch was open.  Remember the majority of the boats were not rescue professionals but locals who ply the waters of the lagoon on a daily basis between the islands.  They showed up cheerful, happy to help and projected an image that all was well and under control.  No worries.  Just another day in the lagoon.  That’s how they made it seem.

Honor and remember

I hope that the actions of the 28th of September will be remembered for years to come.  I hope that our fellow Pacific Islanders in Guam and Hawaii will remember that we are Humans (as I’ve said many times before on more than one platform).  I hope that when the entirety of Micronesia is judged for the actions of a few, people will remember the few Chuukese who took action and represented the humanity of Micronesia to the rest of the world.

See you on the next blog or podcast.

 

What do Micronesians really, really want?

If you follow me on Facebook, you would’ve read an article that I shared titled: What do Micronesians really want? it was written by a young American who is living in Chuuk.  Always good to see, hear and read another perspective on the issues that we Micronesians live in.

What do you think we want?

I guess this is the question we must all ask ourselves over and over and over again.  With 2023 looming, ask the question.  With the Chuuk seccession, ask the question.  With Chinese influence growing, ask the question again.  But do we ask? Or do we just reject and argue out of fear?  Fear of loss, fear of the future and just fear of not wanting to ask the questions that will require some sort of sacrifice.  That’s just my opinion though.

Back to the article.  One thing that did resonate with me, was what the author said was the Compact of Free Association’s greatest flaw:

But perhaps the greatest flaw with the Compacts is the escape valve they created for individuals, especially those well off, to ignore their own society and live off of someone else’s largesse.

The compact has many great benefits.  We can all agree.  But, our people are and will always be our greatest resource.  The mechanism that brings us benefits is also depleting our greatest resource.  How’s that for a catch-22?

What does this Micronesian want?

Sadly, I can’t answer the question posed for everyone.  I can only answer from a personal view point.  What does this Micronesian want? Let me share with you some points and if you agree, let me know:

  • Increase the minimum wage across the nation, maybe that will give our people a reason to stay?
  • Downsize the government and outsource services to private businesses, maybe this will give our people jobs and opportunities?
  • Allow businesses and individuals to sell their products by mail (If this is already happening, please note that the compact says you can’t), maybe we can have a Micronesian Amazon-type company?
  • Raise public awareness on what is going in the government, maybe by knowing what is going on, we can decide better on the next vote?
  • Reform social security, no brainer
  • Consider the Marshallese ban on absentee votes by post, maybe?
  • I’d like to know why certain first year Xavier student’s tuition is funded through the General fund via the FSM Congress? Why not fund all of them? I know there is a reason, I’m just asking 🙂

I guess that’s all for now.  If you have anything to add, please do.  IF you disagree with me, great.  To disagree with me means you are thinking about what I wrote or said…. Mission accomplished!

See you on my next blog or on the Micronesian Podcast.

The real voices of Chuuk

Where are the real voices of Chuuk? In this blog post, I want to explore and ask questions about the situation in Chuuk.

Where are they?

As we continue down the road of secession or not in Chuuk, I find myself wondering, where are the real voices of Chuuk?

Not the juvenile, cocky, disrespectful, name-calling, entitled and victimized voices.  But the wise, gentle, respectful voice of the people?  Where is that authentic voice crying out in the wilderness? Excuse the Bible reference 😁.

I spent a couple of my childhood years in Chuuk.  I remember the men who spoke with passion and respect.  I remember the women who drew the respect of those men simply by their presence.  Sure, I saw many loud, obnoxious tough guys and gals.  Chuuk is known for that.  But, there was always that leader who commanded the respect of others.  Whether it was in the family, clan, village or from a region.  A leader always stood out.  You can’t miss a leader when you see and hear him/her.  You will tend to follow him/her.

Vision

I recently shared a post on the Micronesian News Broadcast Facebook page.  It was about vision.  No vision and the people perish or in the FSM’s case, migrate.

I don’t see any vision shared on the YES or NO side.  One is status quo, the other is fuzzy.  No vision.  I’m not going to include the US Ambassador as a voice, because I’m specifically referring to Chuukese here.  The US Ambassador did his part to educate the people.  What effect did it have?  I hoped that with his involvement, there would be some clarity on either side.  Again, I’m looking for the Chuukese voice.  The interference argument is over.  It’s done.  How do CHUUKESE move forward now.

Conclusion

As I have said before, this is very educational for me.  I am excited to see who will emerge as a Leader to provide the clarity needed.  A Chuukese LEADER.  Until that is done, I’m for the people to win.

See you on my next blog or the Micronesian Podcast.

“The Chuuk Solution?”

Thanks for joining me today.  In this blog post, “The Chuuk Solution” I would like to share a further $0.02 to the ongoing secession movement in the Federated States of Micronesia. This is not the first post I’ve written on this subject.  So this will bring the grand total to $0.04 on this subject.

Stumblebum

The break down of this situation goes like this:

Chuuk state, the most populated and arguably the state with most of the “issues”, wants to secede from the Federated States of Micronesia and determine their own destiny.

Their situation has been a sore spot for the Federation for many years.  Consider this view from Francis X. Hezel:

 Chuuk has gained the reputation of being the stumblebum of FSM, the poor step-sister of the other states in the federation. The recent spate of criminal indictments for misuse of public funds, nearly all against Chuukese, has given credence to the suspicion that political and fiscal mismanagement in the state is endemic.

This is from a 2004 article titled The Chuuk Problem: At the Foot of the Political Pyramid.  What is interesting to note about this article is the options that were listed on what Chuuk should do. The first option was to:

 let an outside authority assume final responsibility for governing its people. If its political legacy is an insuperable obstacle to genuine self-government, then Chuuk State must be prepared to step aside and accept the fact that FSM National Government will be the arbiter of the use of funds and the enforcer of policy.

Which really has been the case for all of Chuuk’s life in the Federation, maybe even for the rest of the Federation? Here is the second option:

The second option is for Chuuk to summon the political will to overcome all cultural obstacles and see itself, perhaps for the first time, as a real political entity so that it can act accordingly. This vision and mindset may need to be cultivated, but they are the essential preconditions for developing the controls that Chuuk needs to advance. This will be a long and painful process, but modernization usually is. There is no reason why Chuuk, which is able to run churches and businesses second to none, can not do the same with its government

Too true Fr Hezel.  I think Chuuk has finally summoned her “political will” to do that with this secession movement.  I don’t think Chuuk can see herself as a “real political entity” as part of the Federation.  Just my $0.02.

A new/old player

Just recently, the US Ambassador to the FSM weighed in on this issue.  In a 15 minute long video, HE Robert Riley III cautioned Chuuk to be “realistic” and confirmed that no separate compact will be negotiated outside of the current one.

Some of what he said, that I thought was encouraging were the following changes if Chuuk seceded:

  • Visas would be required to travel to the U.S. – Great… that would slow or even halt the migration out
  • Probably no longer able to enlist in the U.S. Armed forces … No more Micronesians fighting and dying  in foreign lands? Remember there is no provision for Veterans services in the current compact
  • A separate agreement would have to be negotiated (not another compact) – I think that would be great to negotiate new terms after 30 years under the compact?  Imagine the lessons learned….

There were also some not so encouraging changes:

  • No access to the Compact Trust Fund, how about the FSM Trust fund?
  • No disaster response or search and rescue assistance
  • Security and defense including the ongoing civic /construction assistance provided by the U.S. military

There were some grey areas that he couldn’t confirm though, like pell grants, CDC grants, Health and Human services grants.  He said they were less likely to remain and possibly go away.

He ended on what I believe is a very positive note.  He said the U.S. Government wants Chuuk to succeed or was it secede?  He confirmed that Chuuk has every right to make their own decisions, and probably will.  Ambassador Riley ended by telling Chuuk to understand how their decisions will affect their relationship with the U.S. Government.

Conclusion

I think this is all very exciting.  Watching this process has been very educational for me.  I’d like to think that this had to happen considering Chuuk’s history as a “stumblebum”.  Even if they do not succeed to secede, all of this has been one great exercise in democracy and is in keeping with spirit of the UN Charter:

by virtue of the principle of equal rights
and self-determination of peoples enshrined in the Charter of the
United Nations, all peoples have the right, freely and without
external interference, to determine their political status and to
pursue their economic, social and cultural development, and that every
State has the duty to respect that right in accordance with the
provisions of the Charter; Read it here.

Is that realistic?

See you on my next blog or at the Micronesian Podcast.