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Opinion: The time to establish the state of Faichuk has come

ONCE more, this coming September, the FSM Congress will consider whether to admit Faichuk as the fifth state of the Federated States of Micronesia by enacting C.B. 15-61. The people of Faichuk have been seeking this status for more than 40 years, it has been supported repeatedly by the people of Chuuk as a whole, and it is time for the nation to take this important step.

Faichuk consists of the islands and municipalities of Eot, Udot Fonuweisom, Romanum, Fanapanges, Tolensom, Oneisom, Paata Tupunion, and Pwene (Polle) (28.19 square miles), along with the surrounding reefs, shoals, and marine spaces. The desire of the Faichuk people for statehood was documented in the late 1970s, when a referendum demonstrated that more than 80 percent of the people of Faichuk wanted to become a separate district. The Truk Legislature supported this effort in Resolution No. 1-191 (June 6, 1980), urging the FSM Congress to enact legislation granting statehood to Faichuk. In 1981, the Second FSM Congress did unanimously approve a bill to make Faichuk the fifth state, but President Nakayama vetoed the bill.

After many frustrating years, delegates from Faichuk drafted a Constitution, and on Nov. 28, 2000 the Faichuk voters approved this Constitution for the new state of Faichuk, by 5,620 (91.1 percent) to 547 (8.9 percent). An interim Faichuk government was then formed in 2002.

Faichuk has a population of more than 17,000, roughly equal to the combined populations of Kosrae and Yap, but Faichuk has very limited public services, inadequate schools, no roads, no airports, no electricity, no hospital, no running water, no sewers, no major docks, and no police or fire services. The people of Faichuk have a distinct culture — they are humble, generous, and proud. Their efforts to become a separate state are based on a justified aspiration for self-determination and autonomy.

Art. I(4) of the FSM Constitution says that “[n]ew states may be formed and admitted by law, subject to the same rights, duties, and obligations as provided for in this Constitution.” The FSM Con Con delegates stated clearly in SCREP No. 40 that “the National Legislature is the appropriate body to admit new States.” Art. I(2) requires the consent of the legislature of the state concerned if any state boundary is changed, and the Chuuk Legislature has repeatedly indicated strong support for the creation of Faichuk as a new state.

The right to self-determination and self-governance is the most basic human right. Many examples exist of new political subdivisions being created within a country. Kosrae was created as a separate state from the Ponape District in 1976 during the Trust Territory period, with the approval of the Ponape District Legislature as well as of the Congress of Micronesia. In the United States, 35 counties from the State of Virginia seceded to become West Virginia in 1861. Earlier, in the 1790s, Vermont was admitted as a state in territory from New York, Kentucky was admitted as a state in territory from Virginia, and Tennessee was admitted as a state in territory from North Carolina; and in 1820, the State of Maine was formed from territory that had been part of Massachusetts.

In Switzerland, the region of Jura seceded from the Canton of Bern in 1979 to become its own autonomous canton. In Spain, Catalonia and the Basque area have been given substantial autonomy from the central government. Scotland now has its own autonomous legislature, within the United Kingdom. Canada recently created a new (and very large) political entity in the Arctic — the Nunavut Territory — to give the Inuit People a central role in controlling the resources of that region.

In 1998, the Canadian Supreme Court recognized the right to pursue secession, ruling that if there were a “clear expression of a clear majority of Quebecers that they no longer wish to remain in Canada” then the government of Quebec would be authorized “to pursue secession” and the remainder of the country could not “remain indifferent” to such an aspiration. The national government of Canada and the governments of the other provinces would be obliged to enter into negotiations with Quebec to reach an appropriate solution regarding the rights and resources of all concerned.

Faichuk has met the conditions identified by the Canadian Supreme Court. We find a “clear expression of a clear majority” of the Faichuk people that they no longer want to remain in Chuuk, and repeated evidence that the Chuukese as a whole support the idea of Faichuk as a separate state. The National FSM Government is therefore obliged to work toward an appropriate solution regarding the rights and resources concerned. C.B. 15-61 is a carefully crafted bill designed to promote such a result. It defines the boundaries of Faichuk State, explains the process of transition, protects existing property rights, and provides a procedure for resolving disputes.

Faichuk’s status as a separate state within the FSM will serve to strengthen and rejuvenate the Federation. The Faichuk senators in the National Congress will act independently and will work closely with the senators from the other four states to promote the well-being of the entire Federation. A more active Faichuk will promote prosperity throughout the Federation and will increase the overall economic vitality of the country. The people of Faichuk have been patient, but the time for patience is over and the time of action has arrived. I strongly urge the enactment of C.B. No. 15-61.

Jon Van Dyke has been a regular visitor to Micronesia during the past two decades, and has been advising the Faichuk people regarding their efforts to become a separate state. He has been teaching constitutional law and international law at the University of Hawaii since 1976.