Whose vision and will are going to prevail in Micronesia!

It seems to me that there must be a secret “handbook” on how to “deal with uninformed and sometimes naïve Micronesians” which some foreign businesses study and employ when they come to our islands – the handbook must state that the best way to deal with us is to divide and confuse us, and while we fight amongst ourselves, to quickly get what they want. The “handbook” must state that the best way to do this is to pit traditional leaders against government officials, civil society organizations and the private sector against governments, villagers against local partners, etc...

I say this because our national and state strategic and sustainable development plans call for sustainable development in the areas of agriculture/agroforestry, fisheries and eco-tourism. You will not find in any of our national and state plans, nor in any of our regional and international commitments, a call for large hotels and casinos to be build on these islands. There is also nowhere in those plans a call for the taking of sea-cucumbers and other marine resources en masse and in highly destructive ways. And yet, these types of ventures are becoming more common, and are actually gaining support from a lot of our current leaders – these schemes usually take center stage and have become more of a priority for some of our leaders than the plans that we have painstaking put in place. And these schemes often cause major discord amongst our people.

Why do we allow for someone else’s vision of Micronesia to take priority over those that we have identified in our constitutions and associated plans? I was part of a team that just spent the last three months consulting with all relevant government, private sector and civil society organizations around the country to update our National and State Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plans. It was a difficult and time-consuming process which included research, interviews, workshops and all sorts of consultations with hundreds of our residents to figure out the best way to sustainably develop our islands and to protect our environments. And these updated plans don’t seem to be getting the interest and attention of some of our leaders. And yet, when someone comes in with a “quick cash” or a “boom and bust” business idea, their case is looked at immediately and more seriously by some of our leaders than that which our residents are most concerned about – to develop our nation in a way that we all live a honorable and appropriate livelihood, while still maintaining control of our islands and our environments. And importantly, that we don’t rush decisions that will lead our children to become minions and work slaves for others after we have passed.

Our Preamble, which by the way is the vision for our nation, states, “WE, THE PEOPLE OF MICRONESIA, exercising our inherent sovereignty, do hereby establish this Constitution of the Federated States of Micronesia. With this Constitution, we affirm our common wish to live together in peace and harmony, to preserve the heritage of the past, and to protect the promise of the future.” How does one feel inherent sovereignty, when their own vision of their country comes only second to the will of shady foreign businesses? How does one affirm his/her common wish to live together in peace and harmony, and to preserve the heritage of the past, and to protect the promise of the future, when the vision we now bow to is the vision of those who want big $$$$?

“To make one nation of many islands, we respect the diversity of our cultures. Our differences enrich us. The seas bring us together, they do not separate us. Our islands sustain us, our island nation enlarges us and makes us stronger.” How does one feel respect for a diverse culture when our traditional ways are continuously being eroded because of our focus on making more and more $$$$, and when it sometimes feels like nothing else matters? How can our differences continue to enrich us when we are all being told our ways and traditions are holding us back, and the sacred places we used to revere, are now being bulldozed and dredged for the sake of development and more $$$$? And how are we going to continue to pull strength from our differences and diversity if the only culture that matters is the culture of making more and more $$$$, no matter the environmental, social and traditional implications? How are our islands going to sustain us and enlarge us when we pillage them daily for the sake of more $$$$?

“Our ancestors, who made their homes on these islands, displaced no other people. We, who remain, wish no other home than this. Having known war, we hope for peace. Having been divided, we wish unity. Having been ruled, we seek freedom.” How do we continue to unite, when we are being divided by those who come to us with their “quick cash” and “boom and bust” business schemes? Why did we fight so hard to gain our freedom from foreign governments, only to succumb to the rules and tyranny of shady foreign business interests?

“Micronesia began in the days when man explored seas in rafts and canoes. The Micronesian nation is born in an age when men voyage among stars; our world itself is an island. We extend to all nations what we seek from each: peace, friendship, cooperation, and love in our common humanity. With this Constitution we, who have been the wards of other nations, become the proud guardian of our own islands, now and forever.” How do we continue to be proud guardians of our own islands, now and forever, if it’s the will of the shady businesses that will win out in the end?

Our national anthem states, “we’ll all work together with heart, voice and hand, ‘til we have made these islands another promise land, ‘til we have made these islands another promised land”. Did the framers of our constitution and this beautiful anthem, envisage our islands’ lush green forests and mangroves, bountiful ocean, and pristine corals teeming with natural life, be replaced by 200 room hotels, with casinos on dredged up or reclaimed land? Did they envisage a promised land, a kind of heaven on earth, swarming with obnoxious gamblers, scammers, money launderers, human traffickers and prostitution? Is this the promise land we all so proudly sang when we were in grade school?

Willy Kostka

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