Young Sun gives notice of $9 million claim against Pohnpei if sea cucumber contract canceled by new law

By Bill Jaynes

The Kaselehlie Press

 

March 20, 2020

Pohnpei—After the new law on sea cucumber harvests passed which established a five year moratorium on Sea Cucumber harvests and set up a Sea Cucumber Commission, Marstella Jack, attorney for eight young plaintiffs filed a motion to dismiss the case asking the court to put a permanent stop to the contract between Pohnpei State and Young Sun International Trading Company to do a sea cucumber harvest.  However, on March 6 she filed another motion on behalf of her clients asking the court to hold in abeyance her previous motion to dismiss.  The new motion came after Pohnpei Governor Reed Oliver wrote a letter to Speaker Ausen T. Lambert that, though he unreservedly associates himself with the new sea cucumber harvest law, a legal question had arisen regarding the contract with Young Sun.  He quoted Section 5 of Article 4 of Pohnpei’s Constitution which says “No law may impair an existing contractual obligation, except for protection of an essential public interest.”

                The reason that Jack had initially filed a motion to dismiss was because the new law would have made the claims of the case moot. However, since it appears that the Legislature is considering changing the law so that it does not apply retroactively to Young Sun, the claims may once again be applicable.

                Young Sun opposed the dismissal of the case because they want to be able to sue the young defendants for damages.

                The Governor’s letter to the Speaker of the Legislature seems to have been motivated by a notice of intent to collect $3 million in damages if the State cancels its contract with Young Sun dated January 31.  Salomon Saimon, attorney for Young Sun wrote that it is his client’s position that no essential public interest needs to be protected as the Constitution allows because earlier studies had already showed that the planned sea cucumber harvest is sustainable.  Saimon wrote that the amount of damages is “because of thrashing my client’s reputation and destruction of my client’s business in the market.”

                On March 3, Pohnpei Acting Attorney General responded to the notice of intent to sue saying that the Governor had submitted an amendment to the law in question that if passed would allow for the contract to be honored as planned.

                On February 3, Saimon increased the amount of damages that Young Sun intends to claim from the State to $9 million.  He said that the reason for the increase was that in training in preparation for a harvest, Young Sun’s expert revealed trade secrets to employees of the State.

                The Governor’s proposed amendment to the law has been assigned to the Legislature’s Standing Committee on Resources and Development.