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The Contemporary Pacific 12.1 (2000) 194-196

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Political Review

Federated States of Micronesia

Joakim Peter

Micronesia in Review: Issues and Events, 1 July 1998 to 30 June 1999 *

As the new millennium dawns, the Federated States of Micronesia's political shores are without three of its founding fathers. Mr Bailey Olter, the third president of the nation, died on 16 February 1999 after a long period of illness since his stroke in 1996. Mr Petrus Tun died in March 1999 in Honolulu. He was the chairman of the Joint Committee on Compact Economic Negotiations (JCN) at the time of his death. Tun's long list of civil offices also included the first vice presidency of the Federated States of Micronesia in 1979, and governor of Yap. Another "passing" of a sort took place at the end of December 1998, when John Mangefel retired after thirty consecutive years of public service dating back to the Trust Territory period. He was the first governor of Yap State, and served as a special adviser to the governor of that state, national planner, and special assistant to the president.

The period under review saw the trend of belt tightening of the economy continue, and the initial preparations for the upcoming renegotiations of the economic provisions of the Compact of Free Association with the United States. The March elections produced new leadership in the executive office, but no major changes in the Congress. The issue of revenue sharing between the nation and the states was decided in Congress, the courts, and the general electorate.

The JCN pushed forward with its preparations for the upcoming renegotiations of the economic provisions of the compacts that are due to expire in the year 2001. JCN was first created by the FSM Congress to gather information in preparation for the negotiation. By act of Congress, the same team is now charged with responsibility for the negotiations as well. The committee is chaired by Mr Epel Ilon, secretary of external affairs. After a period of gathering information, the committee has met several times to prepare for the negotiations. It heard reports from the Economic Management and Policy Advisory Team (EMPAT), created in conjunction with the Asian Development Bank, on economic conditions in the islands.

JCN has also hired Dr Glenn Skaggs, who retired from the US Department of Defense in Spring 1999, as an advisor on security and defense matters. In a news story in Island Tribune in December 1998, JCN legal counsel said that even if defense and security (Title III of the compact) are not part of the renegotiations, "[t]he economic progress of this Nation is part of the security interest of the region...the JCN realized it needed an expert to counsel to see whether Title III of the Compact needs adjustment and to be prepared [End Page 194] to understand the implications, should anything need to be changed in the section of the Compact" (Islands Tribune, Dec 1998). Although only the economic provisions are due for renegotiation, it is clear that the JCN is preparing for any other possible scenario that might be brought to the negotiating table. Furthermore, officials in Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and Hawai'i have expressed interest in pushing the issue of open immigration or habitual residency, which gives open access to the United States for FSM citizens. These governments have been vocal in claims that their social services and other resources are overburdened as a result of the flow of FSM migrants.

Alan B Stayman, former director of the Office of Insular Affairs, has moved to the State Department and assumed the position of special negotiator responsible for representing the United States in the negotiations. In his testimony on Resources and International Relations before the US House of Representatives on 1 October 1998, Stayman, then director of insular affairs, claimed that the freely associated states lacked economic experience, expertise, and planning capacity, leading to poor growth in these island nations' private sectors. Mr Stayman visited the FSM and the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) in July 1999. In an...


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