By Alex J. Rhowuniong
Battling bad publicity on Guam
FSM community offers to be part of the solution to social problems
Typically, community leaders from the Federated States of Micronesia on Guam would pick up the newspaper in the morning and stare helplessly, sometimes in disgust, as they read about criminal activities and other heinous crimes allegedly committed by their own people.
Today, FSM community leaders are actively seeking to be part of the problem-solving process on Guam, starting with individual members of the Micronesian community and their families with the help of village mayors and the governor's office.
“Our people have been seen as a major problem for the island of Guam for far too long. Today, we want to be part of the solution,” said John Patis, spokesman for the FSM Association on Guam. “We want to help.”
A few years ago, the Chuuk community woke up one morning to learn of a heinous triple homicides in Harmon allegedly committed by young Micronesians. Such horrific murders caused the entire Guam community to shudder, prompting then FSM president, Manny Mori, a Chuukese, to come to Guam and talk to his Chuukese constituents and FSM leaders in the community.
It was these very bloody crime that became the impetus for the FSM movement on Guam to better themselves and give back to the local community. Individual FSM leaders on Guam seized the momentum. They formed an organization and started formulating plans. They continued over the years to hold discussions and meetings with FSM consulate officers, the governor’s office, Guam Police Department and village mayors to find ways to help Micronesians on Guam.
Recently, FSMA officers started their multi-sports leagues at the Agana Heights and Astumbo gyms on weekends to engage young members of their community and keep them from doing drugs and other criminal activities.
Their next course of action, the leaders say, is to engage and dialogue with the incoming administration after the elections to become part of solutions. “The plan,” Patis said, “is to have direct involvement with the new administration to help the FSM community. We want to see how we can deal with the growing concerns regarding youth crimes and other problems caused by our FSM Citizens.”
He said the organization also wants to work closely with Guam Police Department to see how it can help address the rising crimes involving FSM citizens. “Those are a few of the things we see as most important in our battle against real crimes perpetrated by our people,” he said.
Unfortunately, the actions of a few misbehaving people tend to affect the good ones, finding themselves unfairly lumped together in the same box.
FSM citizens on Guam use the social media as their platform to air their own concerns, such being tagged automatically as the suspects in any crime. The cops are called on them. Sometimes, it would turn out the crime is perpetrated by others. “That’s why you need to just walk away,” one Facebook user said.
But it’s not just on the streets that FSM citizens receive such negative attitude. They are oftentimes the subject of political discussions — derided like the Hispanic race in the U.S. mainland – becoming the pawns between the territorial and federal government over their disputes over the Compact impact reimbursements.
A few years ago, Gov. Eddie Calvo began the quick deportations of convicted FSM citizens, a move that the governor said was meant to ease congestion at the Department of Correction to make Guam a safer place to live for all Guamanians. This was seen as a frontal attack on the entire FSM community on Guam, triggering outcry from FSM citizens abroad as well as the FSM capital, Palikir, in Pohnpei.
Through the FSM consul general at the time, Robert Ruecho, Palikir retaliated by refusing to cooperate with Calvo on expediting the deportation process through verification of the citizenship of the candidates for deportation. “That’s the federal government’s job, not Adelup’s,” said Vid Raatior then, a Micronesian activist from Chuuk based in California.
Recently, though things have started to look up. It seems efforts exerted by the FSMA are beginning to make a dent, albeit the first one, in this monster issue of FSM versus Guam local community. Or COFA problems versus “peaceful” Guam.
On Oct. 14, FSM citizens on Guam received the first invitation—via social media — from Guam gubernatorial candidate Lou Leon Guerrero and her running mate Josh Tenorio to a meeting to discuss how they could become part of solution on Guam.
But this is not the only area where positive and seemingly productive seeds are sprouting. Ryan Kusto, a young Micronesian living in Yona, is taking initiative. “Honestly, the desire has always been there. I was just never vocal about it,” he said.
He wants to start small with roadside cleanups, bus stop painting and other small similar projects. Kusto said he wants to raise awareness to his cause first. “The first move is to show that we are capable of giving back to the community in positive ways.”
Kusto’s basketball team, MicroFriends, is part of FSMA’s ongoing basketball league at the Astumbo gym in Astumbo. They’ve participated in many other leagues around the island including the annual TakeCare SummerJam Youth Basketball tournament in Tamuning. As a basketball coach, Kusto has a small army of youngsters he is molding to become model citizens for others.
“As I got older and able to understand more of the issues we face on the island that involve FSM citizens, I wanted to do things to show that we can contribute positively to the island, too — whether it’s helping keep the island clean, helping paint bus stops, reaching out to the younger generations. Anything. Anything is something.”
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