Vice president Alik, "I owe the man. He was like a father to me."

February 03, 2010

By Bill Jaynes
The Kaselehlie Press

January 27, 2010 Federated States of Micronesia, - The sitting Chief Justice of the FSM Supreme Court Andon Amaraich, one of the FSM's founding fathers died at Straub Hospital in Hawaii on January 26, 2010, at 9:00 in the morning Hawaii Time. He had been suffering from complications from pneumonia in Pohnpei and was referred to Straub on January 15. He was 77 years old.

More than the sum of his myriad accomplishments on behalf of the Federated States of Micronesia, Amaraich was a self educated man who, as the FSM's Vice President Alik Alik put it "knew how to manage people and to help them to grow."

The Vice President said that Amaraich, who served as the FSM's first Secretary for External Affairs under President Tosiwo Nakayama recruited him as a foreign service officer. "He raised me up and guided me as a Foreign Service officer," Alik said. The Vice President said that one of the most important things he learned from his mentor, "something he carries with him until today" was to always think of the FSM as a nation and to work with that value in mind.

Alik said that was the most important thing to him in his capacity as a government representative. Talking to the Vice President it was obvious that Amaraich's other traits were even more important to him as a man. "Whenever I had been overseas and returned I always stopped and greeted him, and Andon would always smile like, you know, he's really happy, like 'Hey! There's my boy! I raised you up.' I could tell he was really proud of that."

He talked about the last time he saw his good friend. "I asked him how he was doing and he didn't say anything. He just smiled and started punching me to let me know that he was still strong."

Alik became emotional, "I owe the man. He was like a father to me."

Amaraich and his wife Pwerech Smail Amaraich of Tama, Mortlocks had eleven children of their own. Just the same he was like a father to many other people in the FSM.

His secretary, Lori Bernet had only worked for him for two years and had decided, "You cannot find a judge like him. We're going to miss him. I never had such a very nice boss. I considered him like a father."

Craig Reffner was his staff attorney for many years. When Reffner was in the FSM he always spoke highly of his boss. In an email he said, "I worked with Judge Amariach and considered him to be an extraordinary person. He -- one man -- was instrumental in changing the political and social landscape of the Pacific. The FSM will not be the same without him; neither will I, nor anyone else who had the distinction of knowing him."

Bethwel Henry, one of the FSM's founding fathers in his own right said that Amaraich and he served together as far back as 1965 in the first Congress of Micronesia. "There were two Senators from Chuuk. One of them was Tosiwo Nakayama who became the FSM's first president and the other was Andon Amaraich," Henry remembered. "There were 33 of us in the first Congress of Micronesia and Andon was the hardest working of all of us."

"He was a self educated man and he learned the law very quickly," Henry said. Chief Justice Amaraich, who was born in 1932 on Ta, one of the islands within the Morlock Islands in Chuuk, graduated from the Pacific Islands Central School (PICS) and then attended one summer session at the College of Guam. That was the extent of his formalized education. He began his professional career as an elementary school teacher in Chuuk from 1951 through 1952.

A press release by the FSM Public Information Office said that Amaraich then went on to serve in the Truk District Court as the Assistant Clerk of Courts (1955-56), and then as the Chief Public Defender for ten years followed by the position of Assistant District Administrator for Public Affairs under the Trust Territory Government.

Amaraich also served in the legislative branch in the Truk District Congress, the Council of Micronesia for the Trust Territory Government in 1959 (representing Chuuk State), and the Congress of Micronesia Senate from 1965 to 1974. In Congress, he was the Chairman on the Committee on Judiciary and Governmental Operations and a member of the Ways and Means Committee. Starting in 1962, he served as the Micronesian Advisor to the U.S. Delegation to the Trusteeship Council and continued in this capacity a total of three times. Considered to be one of his greatest accomplishments, he served as chairman of the Commission on the Future Political Status and Transition from 1976 to 1987, which led to his appointment as the chief negotiator on the Compact of Free Association with the United States Government. Later, he was a special consultant to the Micronesian Delegation to the United Nations Law of the Sea Conference. Bethwel Henry said that under his leadership the 200 mile Exclusive Economic Zone was established.

Amaraich also served as legal staff to the 1975 Micronesian Constitutional Convention where he personally drafted many of the provisions of the FSM Constitution.

In 1979, at the establishment of the FSM Constitutional Government, Amaraich was appointed to be the first Secretary of the FSM Department of External Affairs under President Tosiwo Nakayama. He served for both terms under President Nakayama from 1979 to 1987, and then served in the same capacity under President John Haglelgam until 1990. During these years he played an instrumental role in developing diplomatic relationships with other nations in the Pacific and the world, established missions in Tokyo, Fiji (Suva), Washington D.C., Guam and Honolulu, and almost single-handedly organized the Department of External Affairs.

In 1990, President Haglelgam nominated Secretary Amaraich as an Associate Justice for the FSM Supreme Court based on his "significant legal training and court experience", combined with his lead role in negotiation of the Compact, a very complex legal document, to satisfy the statutory requirement regarding qualification of a Supreme Court Judge. He served as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the FSM from June 1992 to 1994.

In 1993, President Bailey Olter nominated Amaraich as Chief Justice of the FSM Supreme Court. He was, at the time, serving as the Acting Chief Justice following the resignation of Chief Justice Edward C. King. President Olter wrote in his nomination transmittal letter to Congress that, "(Amaraich's) career of public service is without equal. His qualifications for the office of the Chief Justice of the Federated States of Micronesia are truly beyond question." He further said that, "I have every reason to believe that Andon Amaraich will not be simply a competent Chief Justice. I hold great hope that he will be a great Chief Justice." During the Second Special Session of the 8th FSM Congress in 1994, Amaraich was confirmed as Chief Justice of the FSM Supreme Court and for the first time in the history of the nation, all branches of the FSM National Government were entrusted to a citizen of the FSM.

In addition to the many government positions he held during his years before becoming Chief Justice, Amaraich was also very active in serving on Boards and in Corporations. He was the chairman of the Micronesian Maritime Authority in 1990, Vice Chairman and later Chairman of the National Fisheries Corporation, President of the Board of Trustees for Ponape Agriculture and Trade School (PATS), and a member of the Board for the Micronesian Legal Services Corporation.

During the Trust Territory Administration, Amaraich began participating in numerous legal trainings and seminars. He attended many judicial conferences throughout the Pacific and Asia. As Chief Justice, Amaraich was an active member of the Pacific Judicial Council, which is comprised of all insular jurisdictions including the American Samoa Judiciary, the CNMI Judiciary, the Palau Judiciary, the Guam Judiciary, the U.S. District Court of Guam, and all four FSM State Judiciaries. He was also the Vice Chairman of the Pacific Judicial Development Program Executive Board comprised of the judiciaries of all the fourteen Pacific Island Countries from the Cook Islands in the east, to the Republic of Palau in the west.

He was instrumental in founding the FSM trial counselors program. Several trial counselors practicing in the FSM went through that program where he always maintained a vital role.

Acting Chief Justice Martin Yinug said, "The passing of Chief Justice Amaraich signifies the end of an era in Micronesia for those who remember well the noble things he did and said throughout his exemplary life. We have much to remember about him as the best model, which we try to emulate."

Associate Justice Dennis Yamase said, "The Justices and staff of the FSM Supreme Court are deeply saddened by the passing of long time Chief Justice Andon L. Amaraich. We will all miss his presence and leadership immensely. Chief Justice Amaraich will not only be missed as the head of the FSM national government judicial branch, but also as a founding father of the Nation. In the history of a nation, a man like him comes along only very rarely. He was an intelligent, hard working, and gifted visionary whose foresight and work forged the path for the Nation, helped create its current democratic form of government which ultimately led to the birth of the FSM, and most importantly assured the independence and sovereignty of its people. We should all be very thankful for his immense contributions."

Speaker of the FSM Congress Isaac V. Figir said of the Chief Justice, "This is truly a loss for the nation. Chief Justice Andon L. Amaraich was one of few remaining Founding Fathers, and the loss of such great men always leaves a big void in the nation, most especially in the governments they helped establish. He especially was a true pioneer of his time, always at the helm of uncharted waters. He was exploring ideologies of independence and self-sustenance which during those times in Micronesia were unheard of and even considered radical. The other precedence he set was his great conviction about the unity of the FSM through its people, and his trust in the ability and competence of the local citizens. His beliefs helped change the landscape of the workforce in Micronesia, forever.

"I personally am saddened by the unfortunate loss of this great man. Although his health condition should have prepared me, the actual loss of this great leader is still a devastating blow to the government and especially those of us whose lives were altered for the better because of him.

"Although I had seen Andon before, I personally got to know him when he hired me to be a researcher for the Commission on Future Political Status and Transition, and I eventually became the Executive Director and a member of the Commission. I learned a lot from him.

"Andon was a very humble leader who never compromised his vision of unity and nation building. His unwavering faith in the goodness of men and the unity of our nation continue to be an inspiration for me. He was one of the pillars of this nation. Not only is this a public loss, but it is a personal loss for me. But I do take comfort in the fact that he is at peace and free of physical discomforts.

"I ask citizens of this nation to keep Andon's family in their prayers as they go through this difficult time."

The remains of Chief Justice Andon Amaraich are scheduled to arrive in Pohnpei on Continental Airlines fl ight 957 on Saturday February 6, 2010. Arrangements are being made for a state funeral but at press time those arrangements had not been finalized.

"He was a good man who has gone on. I hope we can meet him there," Bethwel Henry said.

Andon Amaraich will be laid to rest on Sunday, February 7 in the Sokehs Municipality in Pohnpei.