August 8, 2011

By Bill Jaynes
The Kaselehlie Press

Palikir, Pohnpei-Faichuk's desire for sovereignty and self-rule is not a new story. The small group of islands that make up Faichuk has been pursuing sovereignty on one level or another since 1959; U.S. Trust Territory days. Following the majority of the requests by Faichuk leadership to begin discussions regarding possible statehood Faichuk was forced to suffer the unbearable indignity of receiving no reply whatsoever.

What is new is that Faichuk representatives are now actively pursuing the sovereignty they announced and their electorate approved nearly eleven years ago. No more kid gloves. Faichuk is now pursuing total sovereignty as a country completely separate from the Federated States of Micronesia.

The Faichuk Commission's de facto leader, Kachutosy Paulus, who lives in Guam, has begun to identify himself in communications as the "Acting President of the Republic of Faichuk." His most recent email to The Kaselehlie Press had a bold heading at the top of the letter, "Republic of Faichuk." It looked suspiciously like an offi cial letterhead.

There is no question. Certain leaders of the Faichuk Commission are actively trying to carry out the Faichuk Declaration of Self Governance, a unilateral declaration of independence signed by many of Faichuk's leaders some of whom are now deceased.

Faichuk's Constitution passed a plebiscite vote in November 2000. 96% of Faichuk's 7500 voters at that time agreed that the islands of the Faichuk region should secede from the FSM.

The Constitution, approved by Faichuk voters, announced the presence of a new nation on the world arena; a nation with international standing and international recognition. There was no talk in that document of Faichuk becoming a State of the FSM. Both the Constitution passed by voters and the Declaration of Self-Governance adopted by Faichuk leaders referred to Faichuk as a Republic and not as an FSM State.

Chuuk State Legislators supported the idea of Faichuk as a separate State of the FSM. In December of 2002 the Chuuk State Legislature passed Joint Resolution 5-00-SJR-09 which gave a detailed description of the history of Faichuk's efforts toward self-government. The resolution lent the support of the Chuuk State Government and encouraged the FSM President and the Congress to support the will of the Faichukese people by submitting and passing Bills for Statehood.

President Leo Falcom, who was the FSM President at that time, was the next in a long line of people to ignore the plaintiff cries of Faichuk.

The closest Faichuk ever came to FSM statehood was a bill passed by the FSM Congress early in FSM history. But that Bill was vetoed by then FSM President Tosiwo Nakayama who said that Faichuk lacked a comprehensive plan for statehood.

Though documents show that statehood was not Faichuk's goal, its representatives actively pursued statehood. The Chuuk resolution said that the intention was never to foster division but to help the Faichuk people to enjoy the same rights as every other citizen of the FSM states enjoyed; something they said had not happened in the past.

Today, Faichuk's infrastructure is still nearly non-existent and that is the crux of the problem. The people of Faichuk have long felt that they have been marginalized by the FSM.

According to Senator Dohsis Halbert, the current chairman of the FSM Congress Ways and Means committee the FSM Congress has appropriated millions of dollars for Faichuk "What happened to all that money," he asked?

Faichuk needs a great deal of money according to a 2001 letter sent to then U.S. Chief Negotiator Alan Short. The letter requested a meeting and attached a copy of a social and economic package prepared by the Faichuk Statehood Commission with a proposed budget of $288 million for Faichuk infrastructure needs. The budget included budgetary needs for the construction of an electrical power plant, a circumferential road on each island, water and wastewater facilities, a Capital Complex, Education Facilities, Health Services facilities, an Airport facility, a dock, Telecommunication, Housing Developments and an economic revolving fund.

Paulus said that the plan for independence was delayed early on because four months after the 2000 plebiscite vote FSM Congress Senator Tiwiter Aritos, who serves on behalf of the Faichuk region convinced the leadership of the Faichuk Commission to put off implementation of the Declaration of Self Governance that the Commission transmitted to then FSM President Leo A. Falcam.

"The Honorable Senator Tiwiter Aritos requested to Commission members that he would like the Commission to let him try one more time for the second time to introduce a bill in Congress for the Faichuk Statehood. And that the RFI matter will be suspended until the outcome of the Statehood bill in our Congress. The Commission agreed to it with a condition that if the Statehood bill does not pass in Congress the Nationhood will continue its implementation. The bill in Congress was voted upon in 2009 and did not pass. So the implementation continued since the bill was voted down by the Congress," Paulus said in an email.

Senator Aritos said by phone that as far as he knew Faichuk is not planning to become an independent country. "The plan is still for Statehood," he said. We were not able to get further details from the Senator because he did not show up for a breakfast interview we had scheduled.

The FSM National Government seems to have been blindsided by Faichuk's recent activity toward secession. On July 8 of this year the Department of Foreign Affairs received a telephone call from Ambassador Zhang Weidung, the Ambassador to the FSM of the People's RepublicofChina. AccordingtoSecretary Lorin Robert, the Ambassador wanted to know if the FSM knew anything about the presence of an Ambassador from the Republic of Faichuk. He said that he certainly did not.

Ambassador Zhang later told the K-Press that he had received an official visit from a woman who is the President of Red Dragon construction company in Guam. Though she is not a citizen of the FSM much less of Faichuk, she represented herself as the Ambassador for the Republic of Faichuk. Ambassador Zhang said that he received her as the representative of Red Dragon Construction but he did not receive her as the Ambassador for the Republic of Faichuk.

Many people wonder whether the movement for Faichuk secession is just the actions of a few determined men who are acting according to their own desires rather than the desires of its people. While 96% of voters in 2000 did vote for the new Constitution that was structured like a Constitution for a new country rather than a new State, that was eleven years ago, many say; so long ago that many people don't even remember that it happened. There are some questions about whether that aged document is still in force.

Acting President Paulus was at first hesitant to speak with The Kaselehlie Press because he feared National Government reprisals against Faichuk. It's possible that those fears were not unfounded.

If National Government leaders are thinking about the situation at all rather than just ignoring it as some are doing, at least publically, they are thinking about it with a certain amount of angst. President Mori had some choice words to say about the situation and asked us not to print his initial reaction when we asked about it. Ultimately he questioned whether the Faichuk Commission is even legal. He also openly wondered why Faichuk's "Acting President" is still living in Guam rather than in Faichuk.

Paulus said that what steps the Commission is currently taking in its pursuit of sovereignty is a conversation for another day. He says that the Commission is very serious about its intent and has hired an attorney to represent them through this process

In all of the documents, lists of the islands that are a part of Faichuk differ. The 2002 Chuuk State Resolution said that the Faichuk islands consists of Eot, Fanapanges, Oneisom, Paata, Polle, Ramanum, Tolensom, and Udot.