April 01, 2009

The Kaselehlie Press

Palikir, Pohnpei - All of the discussion on the bill that would have potentially admitted Faichuuk as the fifth state of the Federated States of Micronesia was conducted in recess. It wasn't the kind of happy skipping and jumping recess any elementary school student knows about but the kind where any comments made by Senators are "off the record" in terms of the Congressional Journal.

The journal simply shows that the bill was announced by the Chief Clerk and that immediately afterward at 10:23 in the morning, Senator Joseph Urusemal called for a short recess. 22 minutes later Congress reconvened.

The first "on journal" record of the proceedings was from Senator Peter Sitan who said, "Speaker, you're wrong-we don't even-I move that we pass the bill (C.B. No. 15-61) on first reading so that we can discuss."

Senator Setiro Paul seconded the motion and Speaker Isaac Figir asked if there was any discussion on the bill.

Senator Paul called the question, meaning that debate on the issue would stop if his colleagues agreed with him. They did. A roll call of members was taken by the Chief Clerk.

Each of the six senators from Chuuk voted affirmatively for the measure as did Senator Dion Neth of Pohnpei and Speaker Figir of Yap. The eight affirmative votes were not enough to pass the measure and as a result it was defeated on its first reading in Congress.

The only clue as to what took place in Congress during the 22 minutes of recess is the statements made during the Miscellaneous Business agenda item-scant evidence.

Senator Dohsis Halbert of Pohnpei used his speaking time to congratulate the two Senators from the Faichuuk area, Senators Aritos and Paul "for being so sincere and forthright in their efforts to put forth the statehood issue before the Congress to act on it." He said that the people of Faichuuk should understand that their representatives acted with sincerity in their efforts to make Faichuuk a new State of the FSM.

He said that he appreciated the fact that the Senators did not present anything that might be construed as a threat in order to influence the votes of the members of Congress.

"Maybe, for sure in the future they will find it possible and viable for them to make another attempt."

Chairman Urusemal was the next to speak. He said "I wish to note that my vote on that issue (the Faichuuk Statehood issue) has not diminished my desire in whatever way that this Congress and this government can assist to develop that region and any other region in the FSM.

"I for one, Mr. Speaker, agreed that without developing the lagoon islands to a point where they can maintain power, maintain good roads, maintain running water, sewer and have development made, I think that Chuuk will continue to have problems. I always cited the fact that if in the case of Yap-250 people living on an island can have 24 hour power-I cannot see why 4000 people living on a bigger island cannot have that kind of infrastructure."

According to Urusemal's statement, the Chairman of the Pohnpei delegation, Senator Primo pointed out during the recess that there is another aspect to the move that would have allowed Faichuuk to become a new state of the FSM. He said those issues made the Faichuuk statehood move even more "complicated and complex". Adding another state to the FSM might lead an existing state to claim that "if one can be formed, one can be subtracted from the Federation."

Urusemal said that as a member of the Joint Compact Negotiating Committee he was aware that during the preparation and initial negotiations on the Compact, the desire of the people of Faichuuk was brought to the table. The delegation from Faichuuk at that time was told that the negotiations were between two governments and that whatever internal problems that the FSM had was up to the FSM to resolve.

"So I just wish to indicate here, Mr. Speaker, that my vote on that issue does not diminish and has not diminished and will not diminish my support for development of all the regions within the FSM, be it within the lagoon of Chuuk or outer islands of Pohnpei, Chuuk, and Yap." With that, Chairman Urusemal closed his statement on his vote.

Senator Paul, the at-large Senator from Chuuk was the next to log in with a comment on the issue of Faichuuk Statehood. He said that the task of having Faichuuk approved as a state had been tedious at best and has been going on since 1981. "Congress has spoken today, although it was very difficult to digest, but what else can we do? That's the decision through the system upon which our nation was founded on; democratic system-people elected their representatives. And I for one continue to believe that the admission of a State in the Federation-that prerogative rests with our National Congress."

He thanked the two other Senators that joined the Chuuk delegation in voting affirmatively for Faichuuk statehood. Paul assured the other five Senators (Vice Speaker Resio Moses was absent on that day) that his delegation would continue to work for the betterment of the nation.

Senator Sitan spoke next saying "Chuuk has a very unusual geographic setup where we are all spread out unlike the other States; and yes, maybe we have more of the funding in the past and up to now for infrastructure, but physical setup and the geographical setup-it's impossible to fix Chuuk…Faichuuk has more people than any region in the State of Chuuk and I sincerely hope that if there is a small way Congress can assist in the economic development-Congress and the National Government should."

For now, the issue of statehood for Faichuuk is dormant but it is in no way, shape, or form, a dead issue.