Concerned Chuukese everywhere don't have to wait long. Some believe manipulation of their upcoming vote on Chuuk’s status has already reared its ugly head, solidifying worries and fears for Chuukese abroad. On March 5, 2019, Chuukese are scheduled to head to various polling places and cast their votes on whether Chuuk remains in an already 33-year long relationship with the Federated States of Micronesia or not.
"I'm really concerned about Chuuk Gov. Johnson Elimo trying to convince the Chuuk state legislature to fund the moving of the plebiscite to January rather than March," said Dr. Vidalino S. Raatior, "because that would really affect the outside Chuukese voters."
Raatior, a California-based education specialist, has been a very strong opponent of Chuuk secession on the Internet. He added, "I think in March the Chuukese abroad will be predominantly against the secession for obvious reasons. I'm worried."
A few years ago, Chuuk leaders gathered together and decided to put themselves into a Chuuk state political status commission for the purpose of studying a suitable political standing for the most populated state in the Federated States of Micronesia and its four individual states: Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei and Kosrae.
The leaders feel Chuuk must break away from its sister state connection. Now, the polling place is almost set and Chuukese everywhere are ready to cast their vote, but Gov. Elimo’s effort to move up the balloting to January has caused alarm.
It’s a move some believe would guarantee victory for a Yes-vote for separation, a reality many Chuukese abroad see as very wrong and dangerous for themselves and their families at this time.
Damian Jones of Dandan, Saipan said of such move: "One reason the Chuuk state political status commission wanted to move the election date to January is to punish and expose those candidates that push the 'No' side of the issue. And maybe by moving the election date forward, they'll catch the Chuukese abroad off-guard, rendering them unable to cast their votes; essentially, guaranteeing a Yes-vote victory."
Former FSM Ambassador to Washington, D.C., James Naich, who has been closely monitoring the secession discussion on social media as well as in person, shared this: "The original election date was March 5, 2019; but the commission has just proposed to the legislature to re-schedule to January. The legislature has tabled the proposal until they reconvene on August 27."
Naich, a resident of Alexandria, Va., added that elements of the proposal included "budgeting, public education program, constitutional convention and the plebicite date."
"That's where the marble is at, right now," he added.
Pacific Island Times took to the "streets" of social media to ask a small sampling of Chuukese in various locations, what they think about the upcoming election.
As it turned out, those who responded seemed to believe Chuukese voters outside of Chuuk will vote no when they go to the polling places.
Dilia Beasley of Tucson, Ariz., represented a number of these Chuukese abroad declaring emphatically, "My vote is a big fat 'NO!'" But fears continue mounting that there might not even be a March election. That is, if the commission and Gov. Elimo have their way with things in Chuuk.
Speedy Micky of Salem, Ore., said he is convinced cheating will be part of this election: "Majority of the votes will be 'NO.' But when they tally the votes in Chuuk they'll count Yes-votes only." Micky added, "Chuukese abroad understand the risks of the secession." His wife, Kapi, said the majority of outside Chuukese voters outside will vote no. "But if (the people in Chuuk) cheat, then majority will be a Yes!" she added.
While some of these Chuukese abroad believe a No-vote will be the only choice for all their brethren outside Chuuk, Jones added that the commission in Chuuk is very confident a Yes-vote will pass.
"I think the most Yes-votes would only come from the people in Chuuk. They are brainwashed," said Phil Choun, resident of Hilo, Hawaii. "The secession and its idealogy is at its strongest in Chuuk right now with the Chuuk administration enforcing it."
Choun also said: I'm afraid that if a Yes-vote is passed, then that will only be the beginning of things going from bad to worst [sic]."
"It's going to be very sad," Kapi Micky said, adding that Chuukese with sick and disabled children who are U.S. citizens and in need of constant care will be forced to become U.S. citizens. Micky too will become a U.S. citizen.
Raatior, who is also a candidate for FSM Congress, said, "I don't like the fact that FSM Congress is sitting idly by while Chuuk State leadership is taking one state down a suicide path. "If separation passes, then we have to figure out what is in the best interest of our
Northwest...either to secede from Chuuk and stay in the FSM as Chuuk State or part of Yap.”
"I don't see why not," added John Patis, board member of Chuuk Association-Guam, "we can claim the same reasons why Chuuk want to secede from FSM. It can be done!"
"If I were in the FSM Congress," added Raatior, "I would fight for legislation that enables those regions in Chuuk that unanimously voted against the secession to remain and form a new and improved Chuuk State with a smaller population, but a more organized Chuuk State. Heck, we might as well fight to keep Chuuk state in the union and let all those lagoon islands go on their own."
Stan Sablan, another strong opponent of the separation said: "I think even if the Yes-vote passed, there would be a lot of legal challenges. It might just die in court (hoping!)."
Sablan also agreed the outer islands should splinter off on their own and remain in the Federation.
"I hope our island people haven't been brainwashed enough by these so-called 'educational sessions' that they'll vote against our own best interests," Sablan also said.
In Palikir, Pohnpei, the Kaselehlie Press reported that Chuuk Sen. Robson Romolow introduced a resolution regarding the upcoming referendum for his State to secede from the FSM.
The resolution did not reach the floor of Congress for consideration during the short fifth special session but is still open for consideration in a future session.
Romolow’s proposed resolution says that “there are many unanswered questions with regards to the financial future and financial stability for Chuuk should it secede from the Federation.” It says that “the governments of the Federated States of Micronesia and the United States have both expressed that an independent Chuuk nation will not be eligible for any funds from the Compact Trust Fund or otherwise.”
The proposed resolution asks the 20th Congress of the FSM to request the Governor of the State of Chuuk to reconsider moving forward with the referendum related to Chuuk’s secession from the Federated States of Micronesia.