Public education on proposed constitutional amendments deferred until further notice; President Panuelo suggests a special referendum after the March 2021 election
- Category: News
- Published: Monday, 30 November -0001 00:00
- Written by Bill Jaynes
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FSM Information Services
PALIKIR, Pohnpei—On December 4th, 2020, following consultations with President of the 4th Constitutional Convention (ConCon) of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), the Honorable Redley Killion Sr., and the Speaker of the 21st FSM Congress, the Honorable Wesley W. Simina, His Excellency David W. Panuelo—President of the FSM—informed the Governors of the States of Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei, and Kosrae that public education on proposed Constitutional Amendments will be delayed until further notice.
The reasons for the delay in the public education process are legalistic, logistical, and public health-oriented in nature.
On the legalistic and logistical side, while the 4th FSM ConCon has indeed passed two proposed Constitutional Amendments for the public at large to vote on—one regarding the threshold required to amend the Constitution, and another allowing FSM citizens to obtain dual citizenship with a foreign country—the 4th FSM ConCon itself has not yet concluded its business due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. President Panuelo, President of the 4th FSM ConCon Killion, and Speaker Simina agree that it is plausible, perhaps even quite likely, that additional proposed amendments will be passed by the 4th FSM ConCon; if so, questions arise regarding how to ensure the public is well-informed in advance of the proposed Constitutional Amendments, and further questions arise regarding the logistical implementation of including all of these Amendments in a fair and transparent ballot process.
On the public health side, while the FSM remains COVID-19 free, both the National and State Governments recommend social distancing, and should the FSM become a COVID-19 infected country then the
President’s Social Distancing Decree will take immediate effect. It is the view of the FSM National Government that conducting broad interstate and intrastate travel for the purpose of public education on proposed Constitutional Amendments is in direct opposition to the Government’s public health directives of encouraging social distancing. While a wide and vocal body of the public has access to the internet and radio, a substantial body of the public does not have access to these materials, and a smaller but not inconsequential percentage are adept at using their native language but may not have the requisite capacity in English to make use of informational materials in that language. Therefore, a successful public education process requires virtually every village to be visited in person, with informational materials developed for the language or dialect of that village, and such visitations are not recommended until the COVID-19 Condition Level is raised to Level Five (i.e. “No Threat”).
“What the Executive Branch has recommended in collaboration with the Congress and the ConCon,” President Panuelo said in a statement, “Is to hold a Special Referendum on ALL proposed Constitutional Amendments once the 4th FSM ConCon concludes its business, and to devote all public education resources, personnel, and processes towards that Special Referendum. We’re not canceling the vote on the proposed amendments, and we’re not canceling the ConCon; we’re simply delaying the public education component on proposed Constitutional Amendments until we know what all of them are, and until it’s safe for large groups of people to travel around the Nation for this purpose.”
President Panuelo’s letter to President Killion, in addition to the amended Executive Order, may be found here: http://gov.fm/files/Presidential%20Orders/Dec__4_2020-Ltr_to_Killion_Re_EO_Delaying_Public_Education_and_Awareness_Initiative_on_Proposed_Amendments_FSMConcon_1.pdf