Congress of the Federated States of Micronesia

Independence Day Message

PALIKIR, Pohnpei (FSM Congress): November 6, 2002 - Speaker Jack Fritz inserted in the November 4, 2002, congressional journal a statement on the occasion of the FSM Independence Day. The statement made is as follows:

"Greetings, my fellow citizens, members of the Diplomatic Corps who are present today, members of the US Compact negotiations team who are visiting our country, members of our JCN team, distinguished guests and visitors, I want to wish you all happiness, peace and joy on this most symbolic Independence Day. Sixteen years ago, on November 3, 1986, over two hundred years of domination by foreign powers and decades of United Nations Trusteeship came to an end for us, the people of the Federated States of Micronesia. We became an independent nation with the right to govern ourselves completely. Self-governance and political independence was the democratically-expressed wish of our people and we achieved it. We can be very proud of ourselves for this achievement. Many nations have faced terrible struggle, hardship, violence and the ravages of war on their roads to independent self-governance. But in 1986 we reached this very important milestone in our history smoothly, peacefully and democratically. We achieved it with the tremendous support, peaceful cooperation and generosity of our longtime friend, the United States of America, for which we are very very grateful. We also achieved it thanks to the strong will, spirit and determination of our own people. For this we can be very proud indeed. With every right comes also responsibility, and with political independence and the right of self-governance, a great deal of responsibility suddenly landed upon our shoulders. Indeed, a great deal of responsibility landed upon our shoulders. It has now been 16 years since we have been functioning in our new role as independent nation, freely associated with the United States of America, under our new Compact of Free Association. In some respects we handled the responsibility very well, and in other respects we could have done better. We are still learning and we have much to learn yet. We have come a long way since 1986 and we have a long way to go. Our Independence Day is always a day for us to reflect back on our achievements and failures as a new nation. But on this Independence Day more than ever, we must take stock of ourselves and set new goals for the future, because this Independence Day is a very special one. 16 years ago, November 3, 1986 marked the end of the UN Trusteeship Agreement and the beginning of our new relationship with the United States of America under the Compact of Free Association. Today, November 4, 2002 our leaders have initialled a new set of agreements in this 2nd phase of our Compact of Free Association with the United States. This is a key first step along the way to finalizing this new agreement which will define our relationship for the next 20 years. On this Independence Day, we are at a critical transitional point. Today we envision the next phase of our development with wisdom gained from the last 16 years and with renewed confidence and commitment to our future. As we do take stock of ourselves, let us not forget one thing: that as a newly self-governing nation, we are truly still in our infancy So, what have been our accomplishments and our mistakes? The list is endless. For a nation that truly is in its political infancy, we have some remarkable traits and accomplishments. Perhaps most importantly, we have peace and respect for basic human rights (things that many newly independent nations struggle dearly for). We have a stable democratic system of government, a well-functioning independent judicial system, relatively good basic infrastructure, education for our youngsters, and, consistent with our strong cultural and family values, our people take care of each other well (our people are not starving, not homeless, not orphans, our streets are not crime-ridden, etc.). These are but a few of the things that we as people of Micronesia can all be proud of. Our positives are numerous. Hopefully we will not lose these things.Our mistakes? As with any country in its political infancy, our mistakes are also numerous. We have many things to work on.National Unity is one area in which we need to improve. Before we entered into the original Compact of Free Association with the United States, the people of Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei and Kosrae decided to join together in unity to create the Federated States of Micronesia. National unity was the will of the people and it was so important to us that it was included in our Constitution:

"With this Constitution, we affirm our common wish to live together in peace and harmony, to preserve the heritage of the past, and to protect the promise of the future. To make one nation of many islands, we respect the diversity of our cultures. Our differences enrich us. The seas bring us together, they do not separate us. Our islands sustain us, our island nation enlarges us and makes us stronger."

Unity between our states is still the will of our people. But one thing that we have learned from the last 16 years is that maintaining national unity is easier said than done.

Today as we celebrate our independence and renew our commitment to working together as a nation in free association with the United States, we must recognize the differences between our four states and celebrate them. Intolerance of our cultural differences should not be tolerated. Intolerance of our cultural differences is a very dangerous road down which I donıt wish to travel and I ask you, the people of our Federated States of Micronesia, not to begin the journey down that road. In fact, mere tolerance of our differences is not even good enough. We must celebrate, appreciate and embrace our cultural differences, for if we were to lose our cultural difference then, by definition, we will have lost our cultures!

Each of our four states has its unique qualities and needs. Let us really work on learning to work as team in positive, proactive ways. When rifts exist between us, let us work together to solve problems instead of widening the gaps. This is a new experience for us. Perhaps on this Independence Day, we should all commit to acquiring the interpersonal, professional and political skills required for effective, positive, productive teamwork amongst our states. Let us not forget the words of our Constitution. Resourcefulness and economic responsibility and self-reliance is another area on which we must focus as we renew our commitment to ourselves and our relationship with the United States. As we celebrate the anniversary of our right to govern ourselves, we cannot ignore the tremendous responsibilities that accompany self-government. Let us all examine and re-examine our roles as participants in the community and ask ourselves: what can I do to better myself, my community and my country? what can I do to contribute to the well-being of my community and my country? These are questions that all of us, as citizens of Micronesia, should ask ourselves as we enter this next phase in our young countryıs development and as we are about to enter into this 2nd phase of our Compact of Free Association with the United States of America.

This brings me to the topic of our new Compact of Free Association. I want to take this special opportunity to thank and congratulate the members of our Joint Compact Negotiations team for a job well done. Our members have worked extremely hard at putting together an agreement which, hopefully, is acceptable to both countries. From the perspectives of each of us, the FSM and the United States, the agreement may not be ideal. But that is the very nature of negotiations and of negotiating major agreements such as this one. Rarely (if ever) will the end result of negotiating a major agreement be the ideal situation envisioned by each side - surely that is almost always an impossibility in most negotiations. This is the nature of negotiations - compromise is always required. I want to personally extend my deep gratitude and appreciation to all the members of the negotiating team for producing the best agreement possible.

Let us now take this new agreement and move forward with a new vision for our nation.

There is a famous saying: "if you give a man a fish, he will eat for a day, but if you teach a man to fish, he will eat for a lifetime". Perhaps this should be our motto, as we celebrate our independence on this important day and as we enter into a new phase in our history. As Micronesians, we certainly know how to fish! But of course the saying was probably not intended to refer only to fishing, but rather, to all things that one needs to learn to be self-reliant and self-sufficient.

On this Independence Day, with profound gratitude let us acknowledge and be grateful for the genuine desire and renewed commitment of the United States to assist our country in achieving economic self-reliance. We have a great challenge ahead of us in this regard. If we believe in ourselves, we can meet and conquer this challenge.

Let us take hope and inspiration from the words of the Bible, Mark 2, verses 23-25, (the lesson from the fig tree):

"Jesus said: "Have faith in God. I assure you that whoever tells this hill to get up and throw itself in the sea and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. For this reason I tell you: When you pray and ask for something, believe that you have received it, and you will be given whatever you ask for. And when you stand and pray, forgive anything you may have against anyone, so that your Father in heaven will forgive the wrongs you have done."

So, my fellow people of Micronesia, lets all have hope for our future and know that with faith in God we can fulfil our dreams. Let us be proud.

Thank you, God bless you, and have a wonderful Independence Day."

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