Pacific Island Times Yap-based correspondent Joyce McClure won't be kicked off the island as "persona non grata" as demanded as by a body of traditional chiefs there. And questions are being raised about the legitimacy of the letter conveying the chiefly demands to the Yap State Legislature and then on to the Federated States of Micronesia Congress.
On March 29, a letter was hand delivered to Vincent Figir, former governor and current Speaker of the Yap State Legislature, by the Council of Pilung, one of two councils in Yap whose members are traditional chiefs. The council has 10 members, one for each municipality in the four contiguous islands that make up the mainland and is charged in the state constitution with performing “functions which concern tradition and custom.”
Signed by nine of the 10 members, the letter called for the Speaker’s support in “requesting to the FSM Congress the granting of a persona non grata against this particular american citizen.” The citizen, a resident of Yap for nearly three years, is Joyce McClure, a marketing consultant and freelance writer who provides news and travel articles about Yap to the Pacific Island Times and other regional and international media. A list of reasons was headed “Unethical Journalistic Behaviour.”
Similar letters were delivered to Yap Gov. Henry Falan and Yap State Congressman Joseph Urusemal.
The letter was posted on Facebook the following week and picked up by media from Guam, Australia and New Zealand all of which called for freedom of the press and supported McClure. Comments to the Facebook post also supported McClure and some called for the elimination of the COP or, at a minimum, that their attention be concentrated on “culture and traditions” as the law states.
Speaker Figir sent the letter to Senator Theodore Rutun who chairs the Committee for Government Health & Welfare and it, in turn, decided to submit it to the Council of the Whole which is comprised of the state’s ten senators meeting under relaxed rules. On April 30, the COW met to discuss the letter and determine what, if anything should be done with it.
The COW found that the request from the council asking for the Legislature’s support was out of line and that they have no jurisdiction over the subject matter. The accusations, they determined, had no basis in the first place. It was also noted that different font sizes and typefaces were used in the letter, indicating a high probability of plagiarism. A member of the COW was appointed to respectively convey the message of its rejection back to the chiefs.
“It is with great humbleness and gratitude that I thank the committee for their decision,” said McClure upon hearing the news. “But I am saddened that the council was embarrassed by the letter. It is reported by several people who hold positions of high authority within the legislative and administrative branches of the Yap State Government that the council was used by others who, remaining in the shadows, wrote the letter and got the council members to sign it. I hope the council brings them to task for their unconscionable actions that publicly embarrassed the many wonderful people of Yap whom I consider my friends, neighbors and family.”