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  • Federated States of Micronesia
  • John R. Haglelgam (bio)

In his inaugural address two years ago, President Emanuel "Manny" Mori announced to the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) public that cultural preservation was a top priority for him, and this year has seen his administration move ahead on this promise. In my analysis of this issue in last year's review, I pointed out that the power of each constituent state to preserve its own cultures is the very essence of FSM federalism (Haglelgam 2009, 115). When the national government elevated the Office of Historic and Cultural Preservation to the level of the cabinet early in the Mori administration, it seemed to violate the spirit of federalism embodied in the national constitution. The impracticality of having the national government control cultural preservation is one reason the national constitution delegates this responsibility to the states. It is more efficient for the people of each state to preserve their own culture or cultures because they know their cultures best, whereas others may rely on stereotypes or misinformation.

Both President Mori and Vice President Alik L Alik addressed this issue of cultural preservation on different occasions during the year in review. Vice President Alik told the people at the Micronesian Endowment for Historic Preservation meeting in August 2008 that "construction of a cultural center that will house the national archives office and serve as a national museum is in the planning stage" (FSMIS 2008e). In his State of the Nation address to the congress in May 2009, President Mori specifically mentioned a budget request for the construction of a national museum to house the national archives and to serve as the centerpiece of FSM cultural preservation (FSMIS 2009a).

In addition to the question of whether or not the national government has a role in cultural preservation, the administration's focus on the national museum as a means for achieving this goal is arguably misplaced. Some feel that the best place to preserve living cultures is not in the museum but in the classroom. Knowledge of canoe making and all the necessary skills to sail canoes, for example, could become part of the curriculum in the elementary schools. Preserving cultural skills, knowledge, arts, and songs through classroom learning is already part of the elementary school curriculum in Yap state, and perhaps this model could be emulated in other states.

The national museum argument points to an emerging pattern of national government involvement in state affairs. In July 2008, President Mori and a delegation of national government officials attended the [End Page 126] third annual Mortlocks Leadership Conference in Chuuk State. At the conference, the national delegation "reiterated some issues that are central to Mori's administration, which include the maintenance and promotion of cultural skills given the global crisis relating to the escalating costs of fuel and food, as well as promotion of quality education in the outer islands" (FSMIS 2008c). In addition, the national secretary of education met with the principals of the Moch and Ettal elementary schools.

The FSM President's Office reported that President Mori was able to convince Chuuk State Governor Simina to appoint a person Mori favors as head of the state's Department of Administrative Services. The press release further stated that the US Office of Insular Affairs would concur in the joint appointment of the new director by President Mori and Governor Simina. The president's action appears to be an unconstitutional interference in the internal affairs of a constituent state, as the national constitution clearly states that the only powers the national government has are those expressly granted to it and those that are beyond the power of the states to control. The appointment of the director of the Chuuk State Department of Administrative Services is neither an express power nor a power that is national in character and beyond the power of the state to control. In addition, the president's action appears to establish a dangerous precedent that future presidents may follow.

On 5 September, President Mori continued a precedent set by the previous administration that is viewed by some as an unconstitutional expansion of the powers of the president. Mori amended Presidential Order 30...