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Regional News

FSM’s Panuelo addresses anti-human trafficking conference

PALIKIR, Pohnpei (FSM Information Services) — From July 17 to 19, 2019, the government of the Federated States of Micronesia’s Department of Justice hosted an anti-human trafficking conference, where both law enforcement officers and service providers serving the citizens of the FSM received trainings from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation special agents and others in areas such as how to work with human trafficking victims, how to prosecute human trafficking matters, best practices for coalition building and community awareness in the FSM, forensic interviewing, and more.

The theme of the conference was “Through Collaboration and Unity We Can Combat Trafficking in the FSM.” David W. Panuelo, president of the FSM, provided the keynote address in the conference’s opening.

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From left, Joses R. Gallen, secretary of the Department of Justice; David W. Panuelo, president of the Federated States of Micronesia; Lara Studzinski, Secretariat of the Pacific Community’s Regional Director for Micronesia; and Abigail Avoryie, assistant attorney general of the Department of Justice and director for the Federated States of Micronesia’s Anti-Human Trafficking Program.  FSMIS photo

“I have been saying this many times, and I will say it again today as well as in my inaugural address,” President Panuelo began. “This administration is committed to transparency, accountability, and upholding the rule of law. …I want it to be known here at the beginning that you all understand that this will be something I will demand and expect.”

The president described how one of his key initial goals to build upon citizens’ faith in leadership is predicated on service to citizens above all, with the law reigning supreme. “As your president, I am still your public servant,” he continued. “I want justice for all, and I demand justice for all, because that’s how we’ll build our trust and confidence in each other as we work together to build our nation.”

President Panuelo described how, in an effort to demonstrate commitment to transparency and accountability, the FSM national government is making efforts to reinvigorate the Micronesian Transnational Crimes Unit, in addition to its request with the Australian government to host the Pacific Fusion Center. “The FSM is [dedicated] to address…common security related issues, and to intensify the fight against transnational crimes, illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing, cyber-crimes, and human trafficking.”

Additionally, the president noted that he has instructed the FSM DOJ to “look into reviewing” what’s necessary for the FSM to become a member of the International Criminal Police Organization or Interpol. The FSM is one of perhaps startlingly few countries not yet retaining membership in this organization, which facilitates worldwide police cooperation and crime control.

“We will send a message from the FSM to the world,” the president said. “If you’ve come here to exploit our youth, you’ve come to the wrong country…we are unified and singing the same song in our work together to prevent and end the evil of human trafficking and exploitation.” The president expressed that any would-be exploiters and traffickers would be swiftly investigated, found, and prosecuted.

“And to the victims [of exploitation and/or trafficking]: we are here to support you; you are cared for, and we value you…that is our message today! This is the FSM’s contribution in the [global] fight against human trafficking.”

The FBI trainers for the anti-human trafficking conference were Monica Rowsey, FBI victim specialist; Dr. Deborah Richardson, FBI clinical coordinator; Mr. Eric O’Malley, assistant U.S. attorney; Karen Blackwell, FBI child & adolescent forensic interviewer; and Melvin Gonzalez, FBI supervisory special agent. Their presentations were augmented by the International Organization for Migration’s Genevieve Gruss and Dudley Lorrin, and FSM DOJ’s Lelean Kephas and Mori M. Mori. The FSM DOJ’s director for Anti-Human Trafficking Programs is Assistant Attorney General Abigail Avoryie.