REMARKS BY PRESIDENT HAGLELGAM
AT THE WILLAMETTE UNIVERSITY CONFERENCE: "IN THE PACIFIC INTEREST"
Salem, Oregon, February 23, 1990
Check Against Delivery
Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. It is a great honor
for me to address this important conference. I want to thank
the President for extending his gracious invitation to me to
return to my old campus, and I certainly must also thank all
those who have worked so hard to make this event possible.
Speaking as only one of the many of my people who have been
blessed to attend this fine institution, we can all be proud
that today, a Micronesian is featured in a discussion of self-determination
and democracy in the Pacific. As a student here, I believed like
most students that anything was possible, but in those days the
"Era of The Pacific" was only poised to begin, and
even the basic structure of my country was not yet determined.
Quite honestly, as I stand here now, that time does not seem
long ago at all, but I know that there is not a Pacific person
in this room, from whatever country, who is not affected by the
events in our region that have occurred since then. Thus, I am
privileged to offer a brief viewpoint of my own people's experience
during this critical period of history.
When I first thought about speaking on "Self-Determination
and Democracy in the Federated States of Micronesia," I
was afraid the subject would be almost impossible to cover within
these short remarks. After all, many of the basic principles
of Democracy have been part of the Micronesian culture longer
than anyone can now remember. As for self- determination, the
process that led to the formation of our country was started
in the early 1960's, and it took over twenty years of internal
and external debates, negotiations and votes before the goal
But after giving it a good bit of thought, I realized that
the basic story can be told rather simply. The details become
complicated, but the real value lies in the fundamentals, much
like the legends passed down orally in our traditional island
culture. I am going to speak first of Democracy as my people
have long known it, because without democratic processes, our
self-determination would not have been achieved.
Like many Pacific peoples, it is only in more recent times
that Micronesians' political interests have expanded beyond the
shores of our individual islands. But for many generations before
that, in villages and on atolls throughout Micronesia, the most
important decisions affecting our lives were made in about as
democratic a fashion as can be imagined. I refer, of course,
to the practice of decision-making by consensus. This practice
is deeply rooted in our culture. It is neither majority rule
nor minority rule. Instead, it is a dedicated effort by all concerned
to reach agreement on a common approach. It often frustrates
those, especially outsiders, who desire a fast decision, dictated,
perhaps, by some powerful individual, but it certainly guarantees
due respect for all points of view.
So, with the consensus principle in our blood, it was inevitable
that when we gathered together to design a government that could
address broader interests that government would take a form recognizable
to the outside world as Democracy. For Micronesians, anything
else would have been revolutionary - and we are not inclined
Thus, today, our Nation is organized at the national level
and in our four states under constitutions democratically adopted,
with the same three separate branches of government, executive,
legislative and judicial, that most of you are probably familiar
with. Our 14-member unicameral Congress is directly elected,
and our President and Vice President are chosen by the Congress,
from among its membership, for fixed, four-year terms. Our federal
judges are appointed, with the advice and consent of the Congress.
We apply much the same system of separation of powers and checks
and balances as are utilized in the United States.
But even though our Constitutions might, on their face, appear
to have been influenced by Western democratic examples, they
are tailored to incorporate special features of our society,
such as the continuing role of traditional leaders. And while
it is not expressed in our laws, the age-old consensus principle
is still in the background of our governmental actions. I am
happy, then, to say that things like individual freedoms, minority
rights, the rule of law and orderly process are continuing in
modern-day Micronesia, even as we have joined together as a Nation.
With that background, I would like to turn now to the subject
I am most grateful to be able to discuss today, namely, my people's
long and successful struggle for self-determination. I am grateful
because the World needs to understand correctly how we came to
take our place as a Nation, and unfortunately, there has been
some misunderstanding. Occasions such as this give us a valuable
opportunity to present the facts that give an accurate picture
of the Federated States of Micronesia.
Most people who follow Pacific affairs are familiar with the
fact that following World War II Micronesia became a United Nations
Trust Territory administered by the United States, that we negotiated
with the United States for roughly twenty years to define post-Trusteeship
relations between us, and that we finally agreed to continue
a close relationship with the United States as provided in a
document known as the "Compact of Free Association. "
What some fail to realize, however, is that the Compact, important
as it is to us, is only tangential to the process of self- determination
which unfolded alongside, but apart from, the long Compact negotiations.
At this point I am going to mention a vital fact, which I
will ask you to keep in mind as we go along. The Compact of Free
Association is not organic to Micronesian sovereignty. It is
not an instrument which transfers sovereignty to the Micronesian
people. It is a treaty, entered into by two co-equal sovereigns,
and made effective, not unilaterally, but by the constitutional
processes of each. The importance of this fact cannot be overemphasized.
It is not surprising that there should be confusion on this
point, because there is a superficial resemblance between Micronesia's
former Trusteeship status and the relationship of a colony to
its parent country. Colonies, which are non-sovereign by definition,
can only obtain sovereignty through a unilateral grant from their
parent. This has been seen time and time again in recent years,
and international observers have become accustomed to it. In
such a case whatever document makes the parent's concession is
organic to the sovereignty of the former colony.
But, as I have said, that is not the case with Micronesia.
It is not the case because the United States never assumed, obtained
or exercised sovereignty over the inhabitants of the Trust Territory.
For that matter, though it is now an academic point, most authorities
agree that Japan also never had sovereignty over Micronesia.
In any case, the United States took pains from the outset of
the Trusteeship to make it clear on the record that it was not
assuming sovereignty over the former Japanese mandated islands.
There is actually no way that the United States could have done
so, because the United Nations was not in possession of Micronesian
sovereignty and therefore had nothing to convey to the United
States. The Micronesian people had never consented to any transfer
of their sovereignty, either to the United Nations or to the
United States, or to anyone else. Micronesia had not, at any
point in history, been a party to or consented to or associated
itself with the Charter of the United Nations. For that matter,
the Micronesian people were not consulted as to the establishment
of the Trust Territory of the Pacific.
Why does this matter to us today? It matters because it is
the key to overcoming the obstacles that are being thrown up
against us by some, presumably friendly nations, who, in their
effort to protect interests of their own, seek to prevent Micronesia
indefinitely from participating in its own name and right in
international affairs. This is intolerable for us. Since we can
no longer rely on the Trusteeship we must deal directly with
other nations and international organizations to fulfill certain
critical needs and to develop. The irony is that Article One
of the United Nations Charter lists as one of the basic purposes
of the UN the development of "friendly relations among nations"
based on respect for the principle of "self-determination
of peoples." Yet, the parties I mention continue to argue
irrelevant points about UN Trusteeship termination procedures
as though they, and not the Micronesian people, are the gatekeepers
of Micronesian self-determination. They may be well-intentioned,
but they are wrong, and I want you to understand why they are
The argument by our detractors is that Micronesia can never
be a State in the international community until the Trusteeship
has been terminated in accordance with their interpretation of
proper UN procedures. But this argument assumes that Micronesian
sovereignty is not in Micronesian hands, and that our right of
self-determination is somehow an incomplete right, subject to
preconditions set by the United Nations. These are incorrect
Given that sovereignty resided with the Micronesian people
throughout the Trusteeship period, it follows that their unilateral
actions in carrying out a constitutional convention in 1975,
in adopting that constitution in a plebiscite in 1978 and in
electing and installing a government pursuant to that constitution
in 1979 were all sovereign acts of self-determination. None of
these acts needed the permission or approval of the United States
or the United Nations, nor were they limited or controlled by
the United States or the United Nations in any way. The United
Nations Trusteeship Council, accepting the reports of various
visiting missions, acknowledged that this had been a valid act
of self- determination. That endorsement, however, as much as
we welcomed it, had no legal significance.
In 1979, the United States and the new Micronesian Government
began to cooperate immediately in an orderly transfer of functions
from the Trust Territory Government. The pace was governed by
the ability and readiness of my Government to assume specific
functions. The United States, with our permission, retained residual
responsibilities for government in its capacity as Trustee until
we were ready to take full control, and it could report that
its obligations under the Trusteeship Agreement had been fulfilled.
This took place in May 1986, and the two governments agreed to
implement their new relationship on November 3, 1986. At that
point the FSM Constitution was fully implemented, Micronesian
self-determination was complete, and the Trusteeship could have
no further application to Micronesia.
While our constitutional and governmental development was
taking place, Micronesian representatives were also negotiating
with the United States on the nature of a post-Trusteeship relationship
between the countries. Early on, it had been thought that the
relationship would be similar to other examples of something
called "Free Association," a loosely defined status
in which a smaller political body, which might or might not be
fully sovereign, relies on a larger state for the conduct of
external functions like defense and foreign relations. But as
time went on, both the United States and Micronesia realized
that, for different reasons, it was important to both that the
world see a clean break between the Trusteeship and whatever
came after, and that there should be no mistaking Micronesia's
full sovereignty. Thus, the terms of the Compact of Free Association
finally evolved so that Micronesia would be managing its own
foreign affairs and looking to the United States only for its
The Micronesian Constitution had provided for the reality
that our new country might at first have to rely on a more established
power as its agent for some purposes. A special procedure for
the approval of treaties delegating major governmental powers
was inserted, and it should not be overlooked that, while we
were looking at the United States as our most likely partner,
it was not the only possibility in the minds of the delegates
to the constitutional convention. In the end the Compact of Free
Association was ratified by both governments. Having followed
the provisions of our Constitution, we in the FSM thereby delegated
to the United States the defense function, according to the terms
of the treaty. Again, let me stress this critical point. The
Micronesian Government was not given governmental powers of any
kind by the United States, through the Compact or by any other
means. It possesses full governmental power and authority through
a sovereign process of self-determination carried out by the
Micronesian people. Thus, the fact that under the Compact the
United States has the responsibility for our security and defense
is not a consequence of the United States retaining anything
or conveying less than full self-government to Micronesia. Our
governmental power was never something the United States possessed
You might ask, "Why does it make such a difference? Isn't
the practical result the same either way?" The answer is
that while there may be no practical difference in the way the
defense responsibility is carried out, there is a great difference
in the way that other nations are obliged to view and treat Micronesia
under international law. Looking back again at the colonial situation
I mentioned earlier, if a parent country chooses to devolve some,
but not all governmental powers on its former colony, that new
entity cannot be regarded as fully sovereign. It will not be
treated as a State within the international community. On the
other hand, where a State, such as the Federated States of Micronesia
has emerged into full sovereign self-government through a process
of self-determination, it is well-accepted in international law
that that State can, even immediately, delegate substantial governmental
powers to another State without compromising either its sovereignty
or its Statehood. So you see, it is important to keep all the
concentrated events of my country's recent history in their proper
There has been a good deal of hand-wringing over the past
several years by those who miss the point about our self-determination
and want to insist that the United States has "held back"
governmental powers to some degree that strikes them as offensive,
so that they conclude Micronesia just doesn't make the grade
of having achieved self- government. To those I merely say that
the shape and content of the governmental power that Micronesia
chose to delegate to the United States was an informed decision
of the people, and the delegation was accomplished in strict
conformity with our Constitution which makes explicit provision
for just such action.
There are yet others who say that unless and until the United
Nations procedures are carried out for terminating the Trusteeship,
(and no one seems able to agree what those procedures are), Micronesia
must remain a ward of the United Nations and cannot be accepted
into the international community. To those I say that the UN
Trusteeship system was never intended to operate so as to inhibit
self-determination, Self- determination has not only occurred,
but it has even been certified as such by one of the principal
organs of the UN, The Trusteeship Council.
The United States and my Government are in full agreement
that since Micronesia's self-determination is complete and its
constitutional self- government fully implemented, whatever basis
there might have been for the application of the Trusteeship
to Micronesia has disappeared. This is both a matter of law and
a matter of fact, which is understood and accepted by a growing
number of nations of the world, as well as by courts of law.
Essentially, it is an expression of respect for self- determination,
consistent with Article I of the UN Charter.
If it pleases certain UN Members to regard some nominal vestige
of the Trusteeship as still applying to Micronesia pending the
execution of internal procedures, I do not choose to argue that
point. I do insist, however, that procedural considerations cannot
properly be invoked by individual members to nullify basic purposes
listed in the Charter itself, and especially not to defeat self-determination.
The final section of these remarks, and I do appreciate your
patience, is perhaps the most upbeat part. It is where I tell
you how, despite the difficulties I have just gone over, our
friends in the world have made it possible for us to provide
the most convincing evidence of all that we exist - State practice.
My lawyers tell me that some years ago, at a conference in
Montevideo, the international community agreed on the basic characteristics
that would entitle a political entity to recognition as a State,
internationally speaking. To qualify, the entity must have:
- a defined territory;
- a permanent population;
- an established government; and
- the capacity to conduct relations with other States.
No one can dispute that the FSM measures up to the first three
of these requirements, and as to the fourth, not only is our
capacity for international dealings clear as a matter of Constitutional
expression it has been proved on the world stage.
Since November 3, 1986, when we fully implemented our self-
government, FSM citizens have traveled only with Micronesian
passports. The old Trust Territory passports are no longer valid,
and since the FSM does not recognize dual citizenship, the FSM
passport is the only valid travel document for a Micronesian
Up to now the Federated States of Micronesia has established
diplomatic relations with thirteen countries of the world. We
have exchanged resident ambassadors with the United States and
completely replaced the old Trusteeship apparatus with relations
conforming to the Vienna Convention. Ambassadors from Australia
and the Philippines also have taken up residence in Pohnpei,
our capital, and they are soon to be joined by the Ambassador
of the Peoples' Republic of China. We maintain resident ambassadors
also in Suva, Fiji, and in Tokyo. Non- resident ambassadors have
been accredited to the FSM from Japan, Israel and New Zealand.
Other nations that have recognized our Government are Papua New
Guinea, Tonga, Nauru, Kiribati, Tuvalu and the Republic of the
Marshall Islands. The list continues to grow, but in light of
our limited personnel resources we are compelled to go slowly.
As for international organizations, we have long been active,
even during the Trusteeship, in the affairs of our Pacific Region.
Thus, immediately after Trusteeship termination our proudest
moment was to move into full membership in the South Pacific
Forum. We also feel it is important to continue to play a cooperative
role in various regional organizations devoted to common interests
such as the South Pacific Commission, ESCAP, the Forum Fisheries
Agency, the Pacific Island Development Program and the Asia-Pacific
Broadcasting Union, as well as others. A very significant recent
development is that we have completed negotiations to join the
Asian Development Bank, and expect to participate in the Bank's
annual meeting in May as a full Member.
Beyond our region, we were gratified last year to be accepted
to full membership in the International Civil Aviation Organization,
a specialized agency of the United Nations. We have not yet decided
whether to pursue membership in the main body of the United Nations,
but make no mistake about it, the Federated States of Micronesia
meets the basic requirements for application.
It is always good to conclude on a practical note, and that
is what I am going to do. One of the first lessons we learned
as the caretakers of a brand new country was that the conduct
of international relations has its own built-in limitations,
in terms of personnel resources if you are small, and in terms
of cost. No matter how strong the temptation to leap onto the
stage in a big way, establish widespread relations and join many
prestigious organizations, it is necessary from the very beginning
to identify priorities and fit them into available resources.
We have given a high priority to establishing a credible pattern
of State practice, to gain acceptance into the world community
so that the needs I mentioned earlier can be met. I think that,
thanks to our friends, we have succeeded with a moderate program
that concentrates first on our own Region, and makes the showing
we need to make to the international community.
Our real goal, however, is not international prestige, but
rather economic development and movement toward self-sufficiency.
The achievement of self-determination will have been a hollow
victory if we fail to provide for our future generations.
Self-determination is basically driven by a belief that a
given body politic can do itself the most good by making its
own decisions. There is a lot more at stake than pride. For a
long time, the remote Pacific Island peoples lived a subsistence
existence, making for themselves what few decisions needed to
be made. As the World drew nearer to our islands, we grew accustomed
to permitting others to make the decisions for us which related
to that little-known outside region that they liked to call,
"Civilization. " In some parts of the Pacific, this
patronage came to be institutionalized in colonial form.
As time went on, and we saw more of the World for ourselves,
we came to have less confidence that these outside parties always
operated in our best interests, or, even if they did, that they
should be deciding our future for us. Thus, the "Tsunami"
of self-determination has swept the Pacific, and many Islanders
now have, along with Micronesia, the thing we fought so hard
for - freedom? Yes, but along with it, responsibility the responsibility
to show that we ourselves can deal with the outside world and
with one another more productively than did our former patrons.
You will be relieved to hear that I must reserve for another
occasion any in-depth comment on how we go about making a success
of this freedom and responsibility. Let me just say for now that
because individually most of us are weak, a key is going to be
how we work together. This is the impulse and the realization
that brought my people together to form the Federated States
of Micronesia. I believe, in a broader sense, there must also
be a similar spirit of mutual activism among all Pacific Island
peoples in the years ahead. We are not likely ever to achieve
full national or even regional self-sufficiency, but never mind.
That concept in its pure form has about as much validity in today's
inter-active world as isolationism. What we do want to achieve
is more balance between what we acquire from others and what
we are able to produce.
Here is the challenge, and I will put it bluntly. There are
many who believe that the Pacific Islands are permanent welfare
cases, and that all this self-determination has been little more
than an exercise in ego- gratification for politicians. We will
be more than embarrassed if we fail to prove these skeptics wrong.
We could lose what has been so hard won, and witness a reemergence
of colonialism. Join me, in working to prevent that from happening.
I certainly want to thank you for your kind attention while
I have traced the recent development of the Federated States
of Micronesia and discussed some of the problems associated with
our unique situation. I hope I have made a useful contribution
to your examination here of the ongoing process of self-determination
in our Pacific Region.