Statement by Ambassador Jesse B. Marehalau
Annual Gathering of the East Coast Association of FSM Citizens
Greenville, North Carolina, July 4, 2002
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Fellow Citizens and Friends of the Federated States of Micronesia:
From thousands of miles away, Martha and I send you warm greetings and best wishes for success in your annual gathering. It is gratifying to me as FSM Ambassador to the United States to see you taking the initiative to recognize the independence of our host country. I am further pleased to note that many of our fellow FSM citizens in other parts of the United States - in California, in Oregon, in Missouri, in Texas, in Florida, in Iowa, in Oklahoma, in the State of Washington, as well as in Hawaii and Guam and others - are doing the same as you are doing in North Carolina: celebrating America's birthdate.
This historic event for the American people is also celebrated in the FSM this year in a special way. You and our American friends will be happy to know that yesterday, which was already fourth of July in the FSM, President Falcam issued a Proclamation designating the Fourth of July in the FSM as Compact Appreciation Day.
There are many reasons for us Micronesians to be thankful to the American people and their government and leaders. Make no mistake about it, the American people are our steadfast friends. However small, this gathering in our own Micronesian Way is a token of our sincere appreciation for all the support and goodwill that our American friends have been extending to us over the years. This is consistent with the spirit of the Presidential Proclamation.
It is also fitting and proper that, on the 226th anniversary of the birth of the United States of America, we resolve to further cultivate and strengthen the special friendship between the peoples of our two countries. This task cannot be executed by the government alone; it can also be carried out effectively at the grassroots levels - that is to say, in our personal interactions with our friends, colleagues, co-workers, and acquaintances.
As some of you may know, I had looked forward to joining you in celebrating the 4th of July there in Greenville. I apologize that I am unable to be with you in person today; this is due to call of duty to our country, which necessitated me to be in the FSM and away from the East Coast. I am with you in spirit, however, as I reflect on our sojourns in the US and the significance of the special privileges extended to us to enter the US to reside, work, and go to school.
I would like to take the opportunity here to express my heartfelt gratitude to the organizers for asking me to say a few words at this gathering and for extending the invitation to the staff members of the Embassy in Washington, DC and their families. We thank you many times from the bottom of our hearts.
is our intention at the Embassy in Washington to reach out to as many of our citizens in the US and its territories as we can. You will agree, however, that we cannot possibly reach every individual citizen residing in the US and the territories because of our limited personnel, materičl, and other resources. But this kind of gathering provides perhaps a better arrangement through which we can interact directly with you to learn firsthand your concerns, difficulties, and even ideas as to how we can better the lives of our people in the islands.
In my view, we need to interface and dialogue from time to time. You have important roles to play in our nation- building endeavors. I must ask that you do not take lightly your responsibilities and contributions in the development of our Nation and our various island communities. Those of us who have sojourned in the US have acquired skills and talents that may be useful to our islands. Whether you like it or not, you are expected to provide the torch of wisdom and knowledge to light the path of our country. Our people have high hopes for you in the years to come.
I do not have to tell you that many of us in the government are reaching our sunset stages. Your time is coming; and you will be called upon. Each one of you in your own way can help our young Nation.
Let me change the subject of discussion to also give you a general update on the status of the negotiations on the Compact of Free Association. As you know, the Compact is the cornerstone of our relationship with the United States. It is the treaty that provides the bulk of our economic assistance.
The first thing that has to be said is that the Compact negotiations have very little, if any, to do with our political status. We are an independent country, and our independence is not a subject of the negotiations.
Second, the process that is already underway is not intended as a wholesale renegotiation of the Compact. The FSM has a negotiating team, which has the mandate to negotiate only the expiring provisions of the treaty.
Third, the focus of the negotiations is on the economic provisions of the Compact. Addressing US budgetary, technical, and program assistance to the FSM, these are the major provisions of the treaty that are expiring. The US has agreed to continue to provide assistance to the FSM for the next twenty years, although there has not been formal agreement on the exact level of future US assistance.
The fourth and final general aspect of the negotiations is that the structure of future US economic assistance to the FSM in the second Compact will be fundamentally different in at least two ways: one, there will be a trust fund that is intended to minimize our reliance on US direct appropriation after twenty years of the second Compact; two, unlike the present system, use of funds will be earmarked for specific sectors of the economy.
It is our hope that the benefits that we have been enjoying under the current Compact will be extended in the next Compact treaty. Such benefits include the ability to enter the US, with fewer restrictions, to work, to reside, and to go to school. We also hope that our eligibility to a wide range of federal programs will continue in the next Compact.
We will not know the final results until the negotiations are completed. The negotiating delegations from the two countries are still talking and exchanging ideas. While we do not know exactly when the negotiations will be concluded, it is anticipated that they be completed within a year.
The success in extending the expiring provisions of the treaty relationship with the United States depends on many factors. One of them is the manner in which we conduct ourselves, individually as well as collectively as FSM citizens, in our respective communities in the US. As you well know, the assistance that we receive through the Compact comes from the sweat of the American taxpayers.
But the generosity and kindness of the American taxpayers cannot be forever sustained if we, as guests in their land, disrespect their laws and traditions and their way of life in general. We ourselves on our islands back home have similar expectations. We expect visitors to our respective islands to be good guests by conducting themselves appropriately. I ask each and every one of us, especially as we celebrate America's birth and participate in the activities of this occasion, to showcase the best of Micronesia's good behavior and proper respect. I am confident that you are all good ambassadors of our country today and in the many days ahead.
Let me conclude by asking all the citizens and friends of the FSM here at this gathering to join me in wishing the people and leaders of the United States of America a very happy Fourth of July. Thank you.