Congress of the Federated States of Micronesia

U.S. Lip service

PALIKIR, Pohnpei (FSM Congress): January 13, 2003 - Senator Peter M. Christian, Chairman of the Congressional Committee on Resources and Development and Chief Negotiator for the Federated States of Micronesia on the re negotiation of the expiring provisions of the compact between the governments of the FSM and the United States is upset with the way the U.S. is negotiating. In his remarks during the third day of the 4th Special Session January 10, the senator called the United States "lip service." Here is the full text of his statement:

"Mr. Speaker, members of Congress, people of Micronesia,

Mr. Speaker, very often on the road people ask me what is happening with the Compact of Free Association and I'd like to take a few minutes to tell you. If you don't already know, but if you do, permit me to be redundant at this time.

What is happening with the Compact right now is that the United States Government is taking its time to review that document. And while they're doing that the clock is ticking. Ticking away from an important period in the budgetary process of the United States Congress into which system we wanted to get the document for process.

In November of 2002 the United States and the Federated States of Micronesia initialed, as you know, the draft Compact of Free Association ad referendum. And even though the FSM and the U.S. had not settled on some very important issues, the FSM conceded to initialing the document based on previous agreement with the United States negotiations team that the FSM may take the reservations to the United States Congress and lobby for resolution of the issues we consider important for the FSM, but still outstanding.

Two weeks after the initialing of the draft amended Compact, the FSM was informed that the United States has changed its mind. It has changed its position and would not allow the initialed document to go to the United States Congress with items in reservation.

During the JCN's last visit to Washington, D.C., which was immediately prior to the initialing, every office that we visited, both in the Administration and the United States Congress, were informed of the agreement to initial the document with reservations important to this country. This arrangement was deemed necessary by both sides to accommodate the need to expedite submission of the document to the United States Congress in order to meet the current budgetary process of the U.S. Congress.

Well, not only has the United States said they would not agree to send the initialed document to the United States Congress with those reservations, they also have taken their word back that the issue of immigration will be handled separately from the Compact process. They now are saying that the immigration issue must be handled now and through the Compact process and that the document will not be released by the Administration unless the immigration issues are included. The United States and us have been told by some United States congressional staffers about the possibility of delays in congressional review if the issue of immigration and labor are included in the Compact document. Knowing this, the United States continues to insist that the immigration and labor issues be handled now.

This is not only sad, Mr. Speaker. It is a sign of bad faith by the United States Government. It is a signal that the United States does not take us seriously. The United States has only been paying lip service to the "special partnership" created 15 years ago between us and the United States.

But what is more sad, Mr. Speaker, is that very little time is left for negotiations. And not only is time short, but the United States seemed determined that they have given us their best offer. It now seems apparent that the United States has purposely led us down this path at a slowed-down pace so that we would have no other choice but to agree to their terms. When their change in Administration occurred in 2002, we waited patiently for almost six months before resumption of talks. Then when the 9/11 tragedy occurred, we again agreed that talks need to cease out of respect for the situation that is in the United States.

Now the people of Micronesia need to understand that the economic assistance we receive from the United States if not free. This money does not come free, Mr. Speaker. This assistance is given in exchange for military rights requested by the United States Government to insure military security and stability for the United States and its interests.

This is rent money. And when the negotiations are done and agreed to, the United States should not interfere with our exercise of government. They should not use us as political guinea pigs for good governance. Nor should they dictate to us what they themselves are unable to fully govern and manage in their own government.

I realize, Mr. Speaker and Members, that I have often said in this forum that one should not speak ones mind when in anger or in disappointment. But sometimes I think that this is one of our weaknesses in Micronesia, our ever wanting to be accommodating. This is a weak link in this partnership with the United States and we must change this attitude. At times we are often too concerned about voicing our disagreement with the ways our partner changes its mind with no room for consideration for the FSM.

If, indeed, ours is a special partnership, why then do I feel that the United States' current attitude toward us is more condescending than supportive. Our request to the United States for economic assistance is the only question that remains to be solved. None of the military issues are in question. The FSM agreed to the terms in the Compact regarding the military and use rights in the FSM because we believed that the relationship that we have with the United States if based on mutual interests, mutual need to cooperate, not only in the development of the economy of the FSM, its government and social services, but also the need to preserve peace and security in this region.

I know that we are here today, Mr. Speaker, as a Nation because we chose to be. But there are those who believe that we had no choice but to agree with the United States; that if we had chosen another political path we probably would not be here today as the Federated States of Micronesia.

Ours is a small nation and that is all we have and that is all we got. Perhaps that is how God chose us to be. Nevertheless, we should be proud of it. We should be thankful for this heritage. That we have formed this Nation knowing our differences and accepting them should make us ever so proud. But along with this position of being proud citizens, we must recognize our civic duty to support and protect this fragile Nation, to protect the land, to protect the ocean and its resources. This is an important part of our duty here as members of a legislative body. This I say is our duty and a duty we cannot shrink from. We also have a sacred responsibility to uphold this.

For us, it was a way to set out a new venture to gain for ourselves what most people in the world would shed blood to have. And that is to have a constitutional government based on the people's will. The building of this new constitutional government took a major part of our resources in the formative stages. We took care to insure that the government we built not only is good for the people as constituents but it becomes a good foundation for good business enterprises. And I believe that today the environment in Micronesia is good and secure for businesses to enter.

Our dedication to the economic development of this country had taken a lot of our resources. We must now dedicate more of our efforts to seeing that the economic development of the FSM does not come at the expense of the social services that we often during campaign periods promise our citizens. I ask you, those of you who are running for office in this next election, to keep in mind that we cannot promise the constituency any service that is beyond the ability of any member of a legislative body to do. We can only promise them our good effort to be good representatives.

And having said this, Mr. Speaker, I wish all of you well who are running for office. I wish myself well too. I do want to come back. And I also want to declare here that in the next at-large election I have decided to run for the at-large seat. I make the statement here so that the three members who are running will know that I run because I would like to run and not because a particular person is in office. Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker and Members."

Like the other statement made by Senator Isaac V. Figir regarding the compact negotiations, members of Congress showed agreement by nodding their heads and voicing their own agreement. Again members suggested that a leadership conference must be called for to discuss the matter at hand.

For further information on this release, please contact:

Congress of the Federated States of Micronesia
Public Information Office
P.O Box PS-3
Palikir Station, Pohnpei, FM 96941
Tel.: (691) 320-2324/2325
Fax.: (691) 320-5122