Government of the Federated States of Micronesia

FSM Appellate Court hears what has been called FSM's most important case

POHNPEI, Palikir (FSM Information Service): April 2000 - The FSM Appellate Court listened Saturday to University of Hawaii law professor JonVan Dyke present the four states' arguments for overturning the FSM Trial Court's decision against them in what has been called the most important law case in FSM history.

Attorney Elizabeth McCormick presented the FSM Attorney General office's rebuttal.

The appeal puts forth two issues. One being, are the states of Chuuk, Kosrae, Pohnpei, and Yap the underlying owners of the living marine resources within the FSM's extended economic zone and thereby entitled to the revenues received by the FSM national government from foreign fishing entities licensed to fish the FSM EEZ?

And the second being, do the fees collected by the FSM national government from foreign fishing entities licensed to fish in the FSM EEZ constitute a "tax" under Article IX, section 5 of the FSM Constitution?

The two questions stem from an original complaint filed by the four states that argued that fishing fees collected by the FSM national government for fishing access to the FSM extended economic zone should be distributed to the states.

The FSM Supreme Court ruled against the states, and the states filed an appeal in April 1999.

The case is considered the most important case in the short history of the Federated States of Micronesia, for it gets to the very basic question of whether the states are more sovereign than the national government, especially in regard to control of the FSM waters beyond the states' 12 mile limits. Essentially, if the states are the owners of the marine resources, then what does the FSM own? If the FSM is merely an administrative authority over state-owned resources, then does the FSM exist at all, except in name?

If the FSM loses, then the case is over. If the States lose on the two points, they have the right under FSM Appellate Court Rules of Procedures to file for reconsideration.

A decision isn't expected for several months.

For further information on this release, please contact:

FSM Office of the President
Public Information: Press, Radio, Video
P.O Box 34
Palikir Station, Pohnpei, FM 96941
Tel.: (691) 320-2548/2092
Fax.: (691) 320-4356