November 26, 2008

By Bill Jayes
The Kaselehlie Press

Pohnpei, FSM - The spirit of cooperation amongst leaders at the 8th Micronesia Presidents' Summit "makes me proud to be a Micronesian," said Pohnpei's Governor Ehsa at the opening ceremony for the meetings held in Pohnpei on November 19. The Micronesian leaders present were President Emanuel Mori of the Federated States of Micronesia, President Tommy E. Remengensau, Jr. of the Republic of Palau, and Tony deBrum, Minister of Foreign Affairs for the Republic of the Marshall Islands.

Governor Ehsa was the first speaker at the opening ceremony and welcomed the group to his island. He told a story about two brothers who always did the opposite of each other, each wanting to be stronger than the other. When they got into a canoe to get breadfruit and coconuts from another island as their father had charged them to do, they sat in the canoe facing each other. When one brother turned around so did the other. They found out that only when they faced in the same direction were they able to go anywhere. He challenged the Micronesian leaders to work together so that Micronesian countries could get somewhere together that would make all of Micronesia a better place for its people.

Much was made about the fact that each of the leaders, including Governor Ehsa had graduated from Chuuk's prestigious Xavier High School, a school that has produced many of Micronesia's leaders.

Mr. deBrum apologized that the President of RMI could not attend the summit. He chuckled and said that perhaps the fact that his country was represented at the summit by a non-President would be balanced by the fact that of the group he was the most senior graduate of Xavier High School.

President Mori challenged the leaders to live up to the motto of their common alma mater, "Ut Omnes Unum Sint-That All May Be One."

Each of the leaders spoke of the common challenges facing the Micronesia region. They spoke of the problems of accessibility and travel, communications speed, the international trade environment, energy dependence, and sustainable development.

President Mori asked the leaders to consider how they could work together on joint maritime surveillance plans, reciprocal labor and immigrations laws, communications infrastructure, development of capacity for public safety and the capacity to combat transnational crime, and for the environment through the Micronesia Challenge. He congratulated those who had signed on to the Micronesia Trade Commission and challenged those who had not signed on to do so in the interest of all of the countries.

All of the leaders agreed to discuss the possibility of making joint fuel purchases in order to get the best possible energy prices throughout the region.

Though much of the work on the Communique for the Summit had already been done before leaders arrived in Pohnpei, Mr. deBrum, of RMI asked that the leaders consider another topic for discussion. He spoke provocatively while members of the Australian, Chinese, Japanese, and U.S. Diplomatic Corps looked on. He called for the Micronesian leaders to consider what message they should send to the United States about the relationship between the Micronesia region and the U.S. under Compact II, "I submit that all is not well," he said.

He said that when people from outside of Micronesia fly over the island paradise they often think that everything is wonderful and Micronesians are happy because they are close to nature and to the ocean. "That is true," he said, "but what many people fail to realize is that world challenges are felt here too."

He said that there are those in the U.S. Government who still think of the Micronesian nations as Trust Territories rather than as sovereign nations. They think that Micronesians are incapable of making their own decisions. He contended that new government leaders that will soon be coming into power in the United States might think that everything is okay unless Micronesian leaders say otherwise, and soon.

He said that "drop dead" deadlines assigned by the U.S. are a problem. "True relationships amongst friends must be dynamic," he said.

President Remengensau of Palau in his earlier comments said that one of the unique features of the Micronesian region is the people's commitment to traditional values and the preservation of culture within a framework of democracy. Referring to that comment, Mr. deBrum said that the traditional leaders of the Marshall Islands had met. The overwhelming message from the group was that the days of Micronesian countries seeking handouts are over.

"We have survived colonization, war, pestilence, famine and floods," he said. "Micronesia will survive again no matter what happens but we must work together going in the same direction."

The leaders continued their summit at the Nahlap Island Resort where they discussed their issues and concerns.

According to a press release by FSM Information Services (FSMIS) several presentations were given at the Summit including: Quarantine Standardization, The Micronesia Challenge, Fuel (Bulk Procurement of Petroleum), Extradition Treaties and Laws, Labor and Immigration, Airport Improvement Program (AIP), The Pacific Plan, Maritime Surveillance Operation (Patrol Boat Program), Trans Pacific Fiber Optic Cable, Regional and International Trade Related Issues, Micronesia Public Safety Training (Micronesia Police Academy), SPC/Northern Regional Office, Micronesian Village, Micronesia Center for Sustainable Development, the Sasakawa Peace Foundation (Regional Coast Guard Project), Reform of PNA Fisheries Management, Framework for Economic Cooperation with Japan and Post-Kyoto Protocol.