Government of the Federated States of Micronesia

President Mori Invites Members of the 15th and 16th Congress to Dinner

Palikir, Pohnpei (FSM Information Services): May 12, 2009 - On the night of May 7th, in an effort to continue to improve consultation and facilitate discussion on some of the more difficult issues that the President and Congress are working to find solutions for, President Mori hosted an evening out for Speaker Isaac Figir and other Members of the 15th and 16th Congresses at the Oceanview Restaurant. While this type of event is not the first of its kind, there were an unprecedented number of members of Congress (10) that attended the meeting. In addition, Vice President Alik and some members of the President's Cabinet and staff were also in attendance.

After dinner, the President opened up the meeting portion of the event by stating that he had three topics to address. The first was the issue of constitutional difficulty the President has with Public Law 15-74, in the transferring of the Program Management Unit (PMU) to the Department of Transportation, Communication, and Infrastructure (TC&I). The President's legal advisors continue to advise him that Congress has encroached in the Presidential sphere of responsibility. Although PMU was originally placed with direct responsibility to the President under Executive Order No.1 (As amended January 2008) the PMU has always been and continues to be organizationally placed under TC&I (this means that the Secretary of TC&I is the official that PMU reports directly to on issues and the Secretary of TC&I is the one who approves and signs Travel Authorizations and Purchase Orders for the PMU office and personnel). Currently, it is not physically located in the Kaselehlia Building in Palikir, which houses the Department of TC&I. It is instead located in the Office of the President's building. The President reiterated that he intends to move the PMU back to the TC&I building but that it is all about the timing. He continues to stand by his promise to physically move the PMU back to the TC&I building when more projects have been accomplished. For now, according to the President, "the time is not right."

In response to this, several members of Congress expressed that they believed that Public Law 15-74 has been enacted and that it is the President's duty to enforce the law. If the President doesn't enforce the law, then the only way for our lawyers to agree over it is to go to court. Everyone agreed that they don't want legal issues to slow down the progress that has been made this past year or future progress with the 16th Congress, but they are still looking for common ground on this issue.

The second issue the President raised was about the constitutionality of Congress to appropriate money designated as Foreign Financial Assistance. The FSM Constitution says that "enactment of law is not required to withdraw funds from the Foreign Financial Assistance Fund". It has been done in the past, but it is not necessary according to the Constitution. The President stated that it was important to find a way forward on this in a constructive manner.

There was good discussion on this issue and points were raised about previous times when Congress made resolutions for these types of grants and other times when they did not and just let it go. A clear example of when Congress did not appropriate money for a Foreign Financial Assistance project is the current Pohnpei Runway expansion project funded by Japan. Speaker Figir said that, "If we can find a way to move forward, that's what I'd like to see. We don't want to get stuck in court and arguing." And later he said, "We must uphold the Constitution to the best of our abilities." Both sides agreed that there needs to be more dialogue on this, but that the way forward should be clearly defined in the Constitution. It needs to be reviewed and the direction agreed upon.

The third issue the President brought up was on the new JEMCO law (Public Law 15-70), which states that the President will select one member from the FSM Government to serve on the JEMCO board and the other member will be selected from a list of 4 nominations, each state governor nominating one person. The President feels that this puts him in an awkward situation, one that the National Government should not be in, especially since two of the governors nominated themselves. The President stated that he has already drafted an amendment to the law and submitted it to the 16th Congress for consideration.

The consensus of the group was that this new JEMCO law does put the President in a tough situation and either the law needs to be amended to give the President the ability to pick both JEMCO members or that it needs to specify that the governors cannot select themselves. Either way, they said that the upcoming State National Leadership Conference will give us an opportunity to talk to the states about it.

The end result of this meeting was that everyone involved was pleased with the opportunity to dialogue about these issues and thinks that it is healthy and good for these types of events to continue. Both Congress and the President want to move forward on these issues and others that will be forthcoming during the 16th Congress, which begins on May 11th, 2009.

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