August 16, 2006

The Kaselehlie Press

The FSM Congress during its recent special session took decisive action in response to reported problems at the country's embassy in Washington, D.C.

Public Law No. 14-68 appropriates more than $131,000 to fund repatriation of FSM Ambassador to the United States Jesse B. Marehalau as well as an audit of embassy operations and an FSM Department of Justice investigation.

President Urusemal signed the bill July 17. However, he has yet to issue a recall of the ambassador, however.

Concerns arose in January when, according to government officials, a former driver for the embassy was arrested and charged with conspiracy to import illegal aliens to the United States using altered FSM passports.

The man, identified by authorities as Rico Calderon, allegedly procured sample copies of FSM passports and distributed them.

A subsequent FSM Department of Finance investigation revealed other problems, including the absence of an embassy check registry spanning four fiscal years as well as the embassy's failure to submit timely reports to the department.

Questions were also raised about possible improper procedure regarding the renovation of part of the embassy facility.

Subsequent public hearings convened in Palikir by the Special Committee on FSM Washington Embassy Oversight revealed concerns about the financial feasibility of recalling Ambassador Marehalau.

Therefore, according to Legislative Counsel T. Lam Dang, Congress pursued the legislation to encourage timely response to the issue and to preclude a failure to act based on lack of funds.

That the president has yet to act on the legislation is a source of frustration among senators said Dang.

Congress originally passed a resolution proposing the recall during its 4th Regular Session in May.

The 4th Special Session took place July 10 - 14.

Funding is to be appropriated from the country's General Fund.