By Joyce McClure
Salalu sworn in as Yap's new governor
Jesse John Salalu has been sworn in as Yap's new governor, succeeding Henry Falan who was ousted by the legislature on Dec. 16.
Salalu took his oath of office before Chief Justice Cyprian Manmaw on Dec. 29, during a small ceremony in the governor's conference attended by Speaker Vincent Figir and other members of the legislature, cabinet members and staff.
Salalu served as lt. governor beginning in January 2019. He was Falan's running mate during the November 2018 gubernatorial election.
The swearing-in follows the recent removal from office of Falan by a second vote of the Yap State Legislature to approve Resolution 10-74 calling for his removal based on misfeasance and malfeasance.
The first vote on the resolution failed with a vote of 7 to 3 on Oct.19. The second vote resulted in a vote of 8 to 2 on Dec. 16. The following day, another resolution was passed announcing the office of governor vacant and requesting the chief justice to swear Salalu into office as governor.
Attorney Marstella Jack of Pohnpei represented Falan at the legislature’s closed-door hearing on Oct. 15 to “investigate” the charge against him.
She has filed a motion for a temporary restraining order with the FSM Supreme Court to invalidate Falan’s removal.
An online petition calling for the rescinding of the resolution and reinstatement of Falan to the governor’s office was posted on Facebook on Dec. 22 by concerned citizens and has received more than 600 signatures as of this writing.
The petition is also being circulated on paper in Guam, Hawaii and Yap among Yap’s citizens.
The deadline for the petition is Jan. 7 after which it will be filed with Yap State Court for action and presented to the legislature.
The petition states: “The false accusation of malfeasance and misfeasance is the latest in a series of attempts to remove Gov. Falan from office.
“Gov. Falan was fairly and legally elected to office in November 2018 by a majority of votes cast, and inaugurated into office in January 2019. He has served the Citizens of Yap with honesty and integrity.
“During that time, members of the legislature have endeavored to undermine his administration on multiple occasions by false and slanderous accusations; petitioning of the public (which failed); refusal to respond in a timely manner to requests for action by the Governor and his administration; and with derision when called before the Council of Pilung and mandated to work together on behalf of the People of Yap. They have also willfully withheld information from the public about their intentions and actions related to this and other matters.
The petition concludes, “We demand the immediate reinstatement of Henry S. Falan to the office of Governor of the State of Yap. If this is not done post haste, proceedings will be initiated to recall members of the Yap State Legislature from office.”
The outpouring of anger and dismay at the action of the legislature on social media is highly unusual for a culture that is not known to express personal opinions in an open forum, and where the chiefs historically tell voters who to cast their ballot for.
The 2018 election was considered unusual when many broke with the chiefs and voted for Falan and Salalu. A core issue during that election that has now broken through the cone of silence is focusing on those legislators, including Speaker Figir, who support Chinese development schemes, versus those like Falan who support the U.S.