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  • Writer's pictureBy Alex J. Rhowuniong

Chuuk legislature facing lawsuit over plebiscite delay

The chairman of the Chuuk Future Political Status Commission announced plans to take the Chuuk State Legislature to the Federated States of Micronesia Supreme Court for violation of freedom of speech in connection with the lawmakers’ decision to postpone the March 2019 independence plebiscite.

"'Censorship,'" Sabino Asor, chairman of the commission and also the Chuuk's attorney general, "is a violation of speech.”

The Chuuk Future Political Status Commission was created by the legislature.

“If the Chuuk State Legislature does not understand that, the commission and some private Chuukese individuals will take the Legislature's Act No 14-23 to the FSM Supreme Court this week for a declaratory judgment, whether or not the act violated the private individuals' as well as the Status commissioners’ freedom of speech under the FSM Constitution,” Asor said. A declaratory judgement, according to Law Information Institute on the Web, "is a binding judgment from a court defining the legal relationship between parties and their rights in a matter before the court. Additionally, LII stated, "a declaratory judgment does not provide for any enforcement, however. In other words, it states the court's authoritative opinion regarding the exact nature of the legal matter without requiring the parties to do anything." CSL 14-23 was a controversial piece of legislation passed in October this year by Chuuk legislature but recently vetoed by Chuuk acting governor, Marius Akapito. Back on the floor, bill CSL 14-23 got reinstated Dec. 6 as both Houses in the Chuuk Legislature overrode the acting governor's veto, allowing the bill to become Chuuk State law No. CSL 14-18-23. The new law postpones Chuuk’s March 5, 2019 plebiscite to March 2020. It has also "suspended CSPC from further carrying out its public education function on the state's Independence Movement." “This is fair and official warning to the presiding officers of the Chuuk State Legislature and their legal counsels," Asor said. The Chuuk March 5, 2019 election would have decided whether or not Chuuk State pulls out of FSM and becomes an independent nation.

Chuuk citizens engaged in fireworks of debate on Facebook.

Proponents of Chuuk independence support Asor’s plan to sue, condemning the Chuuk legislature for “disrobing” the commissioners of their function to educate the public on self- governance. Those against an Independent Chuuk came out almost hysterically sarcastic. Other on the same side were downright angry. Still others tried to stand in the gap and talk of peace, especially with Christmas a few days ahead. "Wow! (Senate) president Mark Mailo and (Representatives) speaker Innocenti Oneisom will sue their own offices and their fellow senators and representatives?" said Elvis Shirai, Chuukese resident of Oahu in the Hawaiian Islands. Mailo and Oneisom, Chuuk Gov. Johnson Elimo and Lt. Gov. Akapito were also named among people Asor will take to court.

"This is the fruit of skillful moves in a democratic government where strict procedures are involved regarding the exercise of 'vetos' and 'overrides,’” said Cassanova Nakamura, FSM Association president.

Nakamura warned of “the grass getting hurt,” as in African philosophy, saying, “Remember the Zulu,” saying: 'When two elephants fight, the grass get hurt.” "This is what might really happen if this show of force between titans and giants occurred — us grassroots get,” Nakamura said. “This shows that we are in the era of revolution, change for our livelihood is on the horizon. Let's embrace that with truth and love. God save our Chuuk and all our elected leaders." Posting on Facebook, Charity Lei J-luv, noted the irony. "The government is suing the government!" To which, another Facebook user Jay Rufes replied, "One word, and one word only: Obscenity.”

Gable Benshamen asked: "Why didn't the (legislature) first consult with the AG before they embarrassed themselves by doing their job and break the law in the process? Do they think they know more than the AG?" On the other hand, Stan Sablan responded directly to Asor: "Mr. AG, why shouldn't they (censor your commission)? If they created you, they sure as hell can dissolve you. They are heeding the will of the Chuukese people. The people have spoken!" Tarwis Takasy said: "First replace the millions of dollars you wasted!" "I guess I failed to understand the fine lines," said Pres S. Shirai, another Facebook user, "that a commission, legally formed, created and/or established by its own government is entitled to freedom of speech? It is as FSM Speaker Simina said, 'Don't bite the hands that feed you!'" Some warn of government collapse. "The fall of a nation is from within,” Rapax Emcy said. “The difference between Chuuk and Troy is that Troy had one Trojan Horse. Chuuk got tons!"

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