PACIFIC ISLAND TIMES – By Henry S. Falan, Governor of the State of Yap
Yap is a small island in a great expanse of ocean that our ancestors discovered centuries before explorers from some of the world’s wealthiest nations stumbled onto it and claimed it for their own purposes. They often attempted to quash our culture and traditions while planting their flags to assert their sovereignty.
Now, once again, we are in the middle of a tug-of-war between two powerful realms: the United States and China. But there is a distinct difference between these two nations’ interests and intentions.
When we established the Federated States of Micronesia in 1987 after 40 years as a U.S.-administered UN trusteeship, the constitution resulted from dozens of meetings with leaders from distant islands that were joining together to form four states under one flag. U.S. representatives served as counselors as we created a new path toward a democratic nation that would make its own decisions about its future. Referendums allowed the citizens to vote for their choices among those being considered.
It was hard work but we carved out an agreement for, by and of the people that still stands today.
To ensure that future generations will continue to live in a democracy offering opportunity and equality for all, it is imperative that we again engage in open dialogue about what we want for our state and our nation. Only we have the power to ensure that our aspirations of a free and equitable society are sustained.
Opening up that conversation, not just between Yap and the U.S. military but with the citizens of Yap, was my intention when I responded to a journalist’s inquiry about my thoughts on the recent announcements about Palau inviting the U.S. military to establish a base on their shores, and the report that former military officials recommended Palau, Yap and Tinian as strategic positions for US bases.
A small contingent in Yap has aligned themselves with China despite common knowledge and trustworthy reports of their destructive actions in other countries, including human rights abuses against minorities in their own country and underprivileged citizens in developing countries.
Henry S. Falan is the governor of the State of Yap
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