- Federated States of Micronesia
The period covered by this review was one of disruption and transition. The administration of President Emanuel “Manny” Mori wound down after eight years of fitful socioeconomic progress and frequent battles with the Congress of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) (Mulalap 2015, 211), but not before grappling with several body blows to the federation: three successive typhoons (including a super typhoon) and a strong push for secession by government officials and other political figures in Chuuk, one of the four states in the federation. To the end of its tenure, the Mori administration also strove to address various challenges of particular relevance for a small island developing state, including the conservation and sustainable use of limited natural resources, the combating of climate change, and the careful tending of fragile economic prospects. As the Mori administration gave way to the administration of President Peter M Christian, uncertainty and hope pervaded the federation, acknowledging the bruised relationships between the executive branch under the Mori administration and the FSM Congress as well as between the national government and the states of the federation, and signaling a renewed commitment to shoring up the FSM’s economic prospects in anticipation of the termination of the financial provisions of the Compact of Free Association (cofa) between the FSM and the United States in 2023.
The FSM endured a number of disruptions during the period under review, but perhaps the most serious disruption—and certainly the most widely discussed—was a secession push by the state of Chuuk. As befitting a loose federation made up of geographically dispersed and culturally distinct island groups, secession rumors have percolated through the federation since its inception, particularly for the states of Yap and Pohnpei, which are the more fiscally sound members of the federation and which frequently bemoan the financial burdens they shoulder on behalf of their counterparts in Chuuk and Kosrae. Those rumors, however, have yet to gel into concrete actions by the respective state governments. By contrast, the secession initiative in Chuuk took shape over several years through discrete legislative and executive actions and climaxed—for the time being—in a serious push for a plebiscite to formally launch negotiations for an independent republic of Chuuk. The story of that fractious and contentious secession process underscores, among other things, the fragility of the federation, the extreme economic problems in Chuuk, and the [End Page 172] resentments between the FSM national government and the states to which that government is supposed to defer.
The Chuuk State Government formally initiated the Chuuk secession movement by establishing the Chuuk Political Status Commission (cpsc) in 2012, pursuant to Chuuk State Public Law 11-18 (csl 11-12-08). Twelve individuals were eventually selected as cpsc voting members—ten selected by the five regional groups represented in the Chuuk State Legislature and two selected by the Chuuk State governor—to join the Chuuk State Senate president and the Speaker of the House of Representatives (who were nonvoting, ex-officio members). Among the members were Sabino Asor, the current attorney general of the State of Chuuk; Redley Killion, a former FSM vice president; and Kachutosy Paulus, the self-styled “Interim Governor of the Faichuuk Interim Government” (which had long advocated for admission to the FSM as a fifth state) and cpsc chairman (cpsc 2014a).
In accordance with Public Law 11-18, the primary cpsc mandate was to “review and recommend possible political status suitable for long term financial survival” of Chuuk after the expiration of the cofa economic provisions in 2023. The enabling legislation contemplated a range of status options, including Chuuk becoming a US territory or commonwealth or entering into free association with the United States (csl 11-12-08). However, in early 2014, ostensibly to “accelerate its work and to move in the most practical and realistic direction,” the cpsc decided to focus its efforts on a single recommendation: Chuuk becoming a fully independent and sovereign republic (cpsc 2014a). Only after arriving at this determination did the cpsc begin formulating a public education program on its sole recommendation for all of Chuuk’s forty municipalities and many communities abroad.
Public Law 11-18...