Dual citizenship, land ownership emerge as top issues for Micronesians living abroad
As newly elected members of the Federated States of Micronesia’s Fourth Constitutional Convention prepare to convene, Micronesian citizens living abroad are also sorting through their own thoughts and packing them up to ship out to their elected representatives.
Dual citizenship, land ownership and government reform emerge as their top priorities.
“Most, if not all, of our younger generation born abroad would very much want to possess both U.S. and FSM passports,” said Stan Sablan, a Chuukese who lives in Dededo.
“I wish they would allow for dual citizenship and put it on the ballot so we (majority of the citizens) can pass it,” said the former security guard at Hilton Guam Resort & Spa.
Sablan’s daughter, Bree and her two daughters are all Guam-born. Without dual citizenship, he said, they might become part of the group of FSM citizens acquiring U.S. citizenship. And not allowing foreign-born FSM citizens to acquire dual citizenship would entail “the loss of brain power,” Sablan said.
According to the 2018 Estimate of COFA Migrants, there are approximately about 19,000 FSM citizens living on Guam, 3,000 in the Northern Marianas, 17,000 in Hawaii and thousands more in the U.S. mainland. Children of FSM citizens born in the U.S. soil are not accounted for in this survey.
“One of our reasons for pushing for dual citizenship is to ensure our cultural practice of land ownership continues despite our children and their children becoming citizens of other nations,” said Sam Illesugam, a Yapese who lives in Mangilao.
Illesugam noted that the dual citizenship proposal has been struck down by FSM voters three times in the past. That decision, he said, must be respected. “Instead of proposing it again, let’s work it in through the definition of the ‘FSM National’ [clause],” said
Illesugam, executive director of Guma Mami Inc. “The Constitution tells us what a ‘national’ is but it fails to define the rights and responsibilities of such label.”
He is proposing that the 4th ConCon expand the definition of “FAS national” by inserting the rights to own properties.
Clara Kanis, a native of Chuuk who is now based in New York, wants ConCon representatives to ensure that non-citizens are not allowed to own land in FSM — just as provided in the FSM Constitution.
Despite the constitutional land restrictions, Kanis believes investors from China and India have already acquired and owned properties on Weno, the island capital of Chuuk.
Article XIII, General Provisions, Section 4 of the FSM Constitution states: “A non-citizen, or a corporation not wholly owned by citizens, may not acquire title to land or waters in Micronesia.” Section 5 provides: “A lease agreement for the use of land for an indefinite term by a noncitizen, a corporation not wholly owned by citizens, or any government is prohibited.”
Article XIV Section 2 of the FSM Constitution stipulates that every 10 years, voters shall decide whether a constitutional convention is necessary “to revise or amend the Constitution.” FSM concluded the ConCon election on. Nov. 5 and the Office of the President has announced the winners.
Phil Choun, who is from Chuuk and now a resident of Hawaii, said his main concern is “not to have any loose amendment proposals that can be misinterpreted and cause havoc in the future.”
Illesugam, for his part, is recommending the establishment of an independent prosecution office that “would not be influenced by our legislative and executive branches.” He raised concerns that “corruption and misuse of public funds are an impediment to our development as a nation.”
Besides addressing corruption and misappropriation of public funds, FSM citizens are looking forward to ConCon fixing outdated, weak or loose provisions of the FSM Constitution.