Civil Action filed in Chuuk names two FSM Senators alleging abuse of public project funds to influence elections

By Bill Jaynes

The Kaselehlie Press

 

March 25, 2021

Chuuk—This afternoon, Attorney Sabino Asor filed a civil action on behalf of six Plaintiffs at the Chuuk Trial Division of the FSM Supreme Court regarding alleged inappropriate actions regarding Chuuk election processes.

The Plaintiffs in the case (FSM CA 2021-1003) are Sabino Asor, Setiro Paul, Takamichy Mori, Johannes Berdon, Maimichy Masis, and Simay Casro Karen.  The named defendants are FSM Congress Speaker Wesley Simina in his official and personal capacities, FSM Senator Tiwiter Aritos in his official and personal capacities, Amando Marsolo as Mayor of Tol in his official and personal capacities, Alexander Narruhn, the FSM Department of Finance, the FSM Department of Justice, the Chuuk Statewide Development Authority, and the Faichuk Development Authority.

“This is a Civil Rights case brought: (1) to prevent the defendants from using the authorities and resources of the FSM National Government to commit voter oppression and violate voters’ and citizens’ civil rights for the purpose of influencing and controlling the outcome of political elections in Chuuk State, in ways contrary to law…(2) to seek specific performance in referring the allegations of election fraud and voters oppression to the defendant FSM Department of Justice to assign a special counsel to look into such allegations if there are criminal violations involved; and (3) to seek punitive damages against the named defendants for such alleged civil rights violations against opposing voters’ and opposing candidates’ during the March 2021 general election and other local state and municipal elections,” the civil action begins.

Plaintiffs point out that in 2003, the FSM Supreme Court ruled that it is a violation of the Separation of Powers of the FSM Constitution for members of the Congress to be directly or indirectly involved in the distribution and implementation of public projects funds appropriated by the Congress.  It says that the Chuuk Statewide Development Authority, and the Faichuk Development Authority were set up by Speaker Simina and Senator Aritos, respectively, in order to process and administer their public projects approved by the FSM Congress.

Plaintiffs allege that the two named Senators backed Marsolo, the incumbent Mayor of Tol by not only promising but by actually providing public project funds for boat motors and other things to voters who

pledged to vote for their candidate.  They allege that the Senators withheld project funds to people who would not vote for their candidate.

Plaintiffs also allege that the congressmen, Mayor Marsolo and their municipal election officials “coordinated a plan to urge votes at the polling places to openly vote for Mayor Marsolo to ascertain their entitlement to the public projects as they all agreed…Some of the voters who tried to refuse to vote openly, some of the election workers and supporters went ahead and check(ed) the ballots for them over their objections.”

They allege that during the inauguration of Mayor Marsolo, Senator Aritos told the crowd that voters who voted for Aritos during the congressional election, Alexander Narruhn for Governor, and other named candidates for the Chuuk Senate and House of Representatives would receive public projects after the gubernatorial election.

They claim that the FSM Department of Justice sent its patrol boat to take Speaker Simina, Senator Aritos, and Alexander Narruhn to municipal functions in the Lower Mortlocks islands of Satowal, Lekionich, and Oneop.  They claim that during those functions Speaker Simina told the people that he and Senator Aritos could help them with a project grant of $50,000 to extend their municipal office.  Plaintiffs claim that promise was premised on votes for their candidates.

Plaintiffs claim that on the day before the gubernatorial elections, the Senators and Narruhn met with Udot municipal officials at the Truk Stop Hotel on Weno “to urge the municipal officials’ support for their candidate in exchange for projects for their municipality and themselves.”

They claim that after the March 2 election, Speaker Simina and Narruhn also met with officials and people from Uman at the Uman House of Representative’s home and distributed bags of rice and cases of chicken while urging to vote for Alexander Narruhn.

The Plaintiffs finally allege that after the March 2 election Senator Aritos, using his personal and official resources, took his relatives and Narruhn to Tonoas for campaign purposes.

The case filing includes several affidavits from witnesses of events claimed.

Plaintiffs are asking the court to declare that the defendants violated their civil rights by using their official authorities and their national public projects to advance their own candidates and injuring opposing candidates.

They are asking the court to issue injunctions barring defendants and their governmental agencies from distributing any public projects to individuals, family, or groups of people other than an official government entity during election years, or not less than 12 months before or six months after any election.

They want the court to issue permanent injunctions requiring all agencies, including development authorities involved in processing and distributing public projects, to process only public projects showing the minutes of a board’s votes. They want the injunction to also bar development authorities from being located in congressman’s residence nor include any employee that is closely related to a congressman.

They want the court to refer the allegations contained in the civil action to the FSM Department of Justice for referral to outside counsel for appropriate referral or actions.

They also want punitive damages for each of the plaintiffs in an amount equal to the amount of public projects distributed by each defendant Senator for the Tol Municipal and Chuuk State 2020 and 2021 elections.

As the civil action has only just been filed, none of the defendants have yet had opportunity to officially respond to the court filing.  Their sides have not yet been heard.