FSM Information Services
The FSM Celebrates 33 Years of Independence
PALIKIR, Pohnpei—On November 3rd, 2019, the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) celebrated 33 years of independence, with formal celebrations occurring on Monday, November 4th at the FSM-China Friendship Gymnasium in Kolonia, Pohnpei.
Through partnership with Pohnpei Public Broadcasting Corporation and FSM Telecommunications Corporation (FSMTC), the FSM National Government livestreamed the event which can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8JQSB-5f4hM
What follows below is the address from His Excellency, David W. Panuelo, President of the FSM, to the people of the Nation, sans salutations.
Citizens of our Nation,
Kaselehlie, Len wo, Ran annim, and Mogethin!
May I first, on this important and happy occasion, wish you all a Happy 33rd FSM Independence Day!
On October 24th, 1986—United Nations Day, you’ll recall—the Government of the Federated States of Micronesia and the Government of the United States of America agreed, pursuant to Section 411 of the Compact of Free Association, that the effective date of the Compact would be November 3rd, 1986.
That’s why November 3rd is our Independence Day. November 3rd, 1986 is when our Nation formally left the bounds of Trusteeship and became a sovereign Nation unto itself, or a sovereign Nation by its own actions. Today we celebrate 33 years of independence, and continue to celebrate—and this is very important—40 years of Constitutional Government, or since May 1979, when we as a Nation ratified the Constitution of the FSM.
So, you can draw the distinction that we became a country with aspirations of self-determination when we ratified our Constitution in May 1979, and became a fully-fledged independent Nation when we signed our Treaty with the United States in 1986. And by the virtue of the action by the United Nations, dissolving the Trusteeship Council. Thanks to you, our citizens, and in particular our Founding Fathers.
We, the generation of today, thank the Founding Fathers for the hard work that they put into the Nation-building process.
At this juncture in our history, may I say that we truly owe a debt of gratitude to our Founding Fathers, such as the First Speaker of Congress of the Federated States of Micronesia, Mr. Bethwel Henry, and the First President of the FSM, the late Tosiwo Nakayama, for building the canoe and navigating us away from the lagoon of trusteeship towards the ocean of independence. That debt of gratitude can only be repaid by ensuring that we keep the memory of those lost—like President Nakayama—in our hearts and in our minds, with their legacies taught in our schools. And for those still with us today, we can take the opportunity to thank them in person.
To our First Speaker of the Congress of the FSM, Mr. Bethwel Henry,
Thank you so much for joining us today, on this 33rd anniversary of our Independence Day. Just a few nights ago when I met the First Speaker of the FSM Congress, a very humble man in my opinion—one of the most humble leaders of our country—when I saw him at the US Embassy at the reception with the US Interagency team, I told Bethwel Henry that I hope he feels like he’s 33 years old as we are celebrating the 33rd anniversary of our independence. He looks healthy and very vibrant!
Thank you for doing so much to build what were first dreams, and then ideas, into actions that built what is now our Nation, that we proudly call the Federated States of Micronesia. May I ask that we give a big round of applause to Mr. Bethwel Henry, and all of our Nation’s Founding Fathers at this time in our history?
You know normally, on occasions like this, speeches are written because it’s a very solemn occasion—but I’m one of the individuals who like to stray off formal speeches, and now I want to talk a little bit about our Youth. Some of them voluntarily come to join us to celebrate our FSM Independence Day, and I thank the Youth of our country, those who came from Sokehs to sing our National Anthem—thank you to the Youth of Sokehs. I thank the students of PICS High School—is it Class A?—that volunteered to recite our Constitution.
And I want to talk a little bit about the Youth because I want to contrast our Founding Fathers and then our Youth today. You know, when I was a recent graduate of college—I did an internship in our Government, at the Department of Foreign Affairs, and then I applied for a job. And what I learned is that I was not among the qualified shortlist, because I didn’t have work experience. But I had done internships many times in the past as a student coming from university to here. But one day I was walking around for a job, after I applied for a Foreign Service position.
And then, in a kind of desperate mood, not knowing what I was going to do as a young college graduate, in what used to be the Chamber of the FSM Congress here at the old capitol—the late Andon Amaraich, who was our first Secretary of Foreign Affairs, called me out and said “Dave what are you doing?” And I said “Oh Secretary, I’m sorry. I came here because I’m looking for a job, and I’m going to apply for another job because I wasn’t qualified after having done an internship in the Department of Foreign Affairs.”
But Andon said to come back Monday to see him, and somehow, for some reason, I think—I was considered as one of the individuals with work experience, because I actually had done several summers of internship. And then the rest were history.
But what I want to say today about Founding Fathers and our Youth today is that the late Andon Amaraich had confidence in me as a young individual, even when I didn’t even have confidence in myself as a young college graduate. But the confidence he had in me as a youth helped me, lifted me up, to become a young individual who had passion then and continues to have passion, and inspiration to help our Nation-building process.
So today, with the action of Andon Amaraich, where he felt that he had confidence in me as a young student, I want us all in our respective capacities throughout the Nation to look at the young in a different way, to look at them and lift them up. And have confidence in them because that small confidence can really do miracles for them in our Nation-building process, so today I want to reach out to all the youth throughout our Nation and ask that we give our youth a big round of applause, and do what we can to inspire and instill the confidence in our youth going forward. So, can I ask that we please give our Youth a round of applause?
My fellow citizens,
For 33 years, our canoe has sailed, guided by our four shining stars of Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei, and Kosrae, as reflected in our flag. Four stars with the background of a big blue ocean, which connects us—not separates us.
One might ask: what is the destination of our journey—and how will we know when we’ve reached it?
Our canoe’s destination is self-reliance, which can only be achieved by you, and I, and all of us working together, paddling our canoe as we sing the same song in harmony.
We’re making good strides in reaching self-reliance. And although there is still much to be done, as you may all know the FSM and the United States have already started the initial formal process of renegotiating the expiring provisions of our Compact of Free Association. The Compact between our Nation and the U.S. is the embodiment of a very special and enduring relationship, and we look forward to the negotiations proceeding smoothly.
Our sovereign FSM Trust Fund has reached nearly 300 million dollars, thanks to our Congress and the leadership of our Nation. Our Compact Trust Fund has reached close to 700 million dollars, and we project the Compact Trust Fund to reach 1.2 billion by 2023. Part of the desired outcome is that these two trust funds will continue to grow and mature beyond 2023, so that the interests gained from them will be able to supplement our growing local revenues for essential government services in perpetuity while the corpus fund remains intact. This, along with other important initiatives, represents tremendous progress, that we need to celebrate on this happy occasion.
But as I have just mentioned, there is still so much to be done. We continue to be grateful to all of our development partners, and allied Nations, for their active, and generous assistance in our Nation Building process.
To highlight some recent developments, I have recently returned from Japan where I met with Prime Minister Abe—and our good friends and partners from Japan have given us the greenlight on the major project for the Pohnpei State commercial and fishing port expansion.
Just before going to Japan, we had the groundbreaking ceremony for another major project: the FSM National Convention Center in Palikir, to be constructed by our good friends and partners from the People’s Republic of China.
During the Pacific Islands Forum, I met with the Prime Minister of Australia, and having been informed about Australia’s continuing help in the surveillance and patrol of our very big EEZ, Prime Minister Morrison and I spoke about the delivery of two new Guardian patrol boats to replace the old ones that we are currently using, plus a component of aerial surveillance to be coordinated with the Forum Fisheries Agency and others.
These are but only a few examples of recent development cooperation between the FSM and our development partners, who work with us to reach our destination of self-reliance.
We will know that we have reached our destination when our National and State Governments are adequately prepared to fully provide essential services – like education, health, and infrastructure, among others – to the citizens of our young and growing Nation.
We will know that we have reached our destination when the Youth, like the ones who are represented today and throughout our country, are fully prepared to continue the responsibilities of the Nation-building process, with much greater capacity and even firmer resolve.
We are working very hard to revive the old PATS School so that we can establish a regional vocational center to help our Youth gain skills so that they can be productive in our country and when they decide to go to other countries.
We’ll know that we have reached our destination when every Micronesian who lives abroad lives there because they choose to do so—not because they feel forced to do so. We’ll know that we have reached our destination when we can look in the mirror and not only recognize who we are, but feel proud of it, all of us and all the time.
Who are we? We are Micronesians. We are masters of the ocean and masters of the land, and we are a peace-loving Nation, so naturally we aspire to uphold our principles of peace, unity, and liberty.
My fellow citizens,
Our Nation’s Constitution says, as our students recited: “we affirm our common wish to live together in peace and harmony, to preserve the heritage of the past, and to protect the promise of the future. To make one nation of many islands, we respect the diversity of our cultures. Our differences enrich us. The seas bring us together; they do not separate us. Our islands sustain us, our island nation enlarges us and makes us stronger.”
You’ve likely heard these words many times, but they’re worth repeating again and again because they help to define who we are. Just as our languages, our cultures, our stories, and our families build part of our communal identity, so too does our nationality.
The ocean connects us, and so too does our national spirit. Feel proud to be Yapese, to be Chuukese, to be Pohnpeian, to be Kosraean; and feel prouder to know that we are all brothers and sisters, we are all family, because we are all, first and foremost, Micronesian.
Today, My fellow citizens,
We’re making so much progress on issues that matter to us all. We’re tackling climate change. We’re building relationships and alliances. We’re promoting peace, unity, and liberty at home and abroad.
We are showing the world that we don’t wait for opportunities to appear before us—we make opportunities for ourselves. We are showing the world that we don’t wait for life to happen to us—we make life happen to us. We are showing the world that we are in control of our destiny, that sovereignty isn’t just an idea but a practice.
There’s so much that still needs to be done, but for now—for today—let us rejoice, and celebrate our independence. These islands belong to you, these islands belong to me, for indeed these islands belong to us all, and together we will ensure that all of us feel in our hearts and know in our minds that we belong to our islands, this paradise in our backyard. Because truly paradise is really in our backyards.
The wisdom embedded in the preamble of our Nation’s Constitution says: “Our ancestors, who made their homes on these islands, displaced no other people. We, who remain, wish no other home than this. Having known war, we hope for peace. Having been divided, we wish unity. Having been ruled, we seek freedom…we extend to all nations that which we seek from each: peace, friendship, cooperation, and love in our common humanity.”
Thank you, my fellow citizens, for all of your contributions in our Nation-building process. Our Actions Today is Our Nation’s Prosperity Tomorrow! God bless each and every one of you, and God bless the Federated States of Micronesia.
Happy 33rd FSM Independence Day!