Excerpts from Letter from outgoing Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) President David W Panuelo to FSM leaders, March 9, 2023
…One of the reasons that China's Political Warfare is successful in so many arenas is that we are bribed to be complicit, and bribed to be silent. That's a heavy word, but it is an accurate description regardless. What else do you call it when an elected official is given an envelope filled with money after a meal at the PRC Embassy or after an inauguration? What else do you call it when a senior official is discretely given a smartphone after visiting Beijing? What else do you call it when a senior official explicitly asks Chinese diplomats for televisions and other "gifts"? What else do you call it when an elected official receives a container filled with plants and other items? What else do you call it when an elected official receives a check for a public project that our National Treasury has no record of and no means of accounting for?
This isn't rare. This happens all the time, and to most of us- not just some of us. It is at this point that I relay, simply as a point of information, that 39 out of 50 Members of Parliament in Solomon Islands received payments from China prior to their vote on postponing elections that were otherwise scheduled for this year. Have you personally received a bribe from the PRC? If the answer is "no", you are in the minority. That is why I am submitting proposed legislation on money laundering, disclosure, and integrity requirements for Congress' review, and also why I encourage passage of many floating legislation including the Freedom of Information Act.
You likely would ask for, and certainly deserve, a concise example of bribery-or attempted bribery. Shortly after Vice President Palik took office in his former capacity as a Senator, he was invited to the Chinese Embassy for a dinner with other Members of Congress. The Vice President was asked by Ambassador Huang if he could sit up front, with other Senators, and also to accept an envelope filled with money; Vice President Palik refused, telling the Ambassador to never offer him a bribe again, and upon doing so was advised by Ambassador Huang something close to the effect of "You could be President someday" as the rationale for the special treatment.
This past October 2022, when Vice President Palik visited Kosrae, he was received by our friends at Da Yang Seafoods. Our friends at Da Yang have a private plane, and they arrived in Kosrae (along with several senior FSM Government officials) on that private plane. Our friends told the Vice President that they can provide him private and personal transportation to anywhere he likes at any time, even Hawaii, for example; he need only ask.
In our context in the FSM, with the Vice President's story as the singular exception, I will refuse to name names, but it is not out of courtesy; it is to keep the emphasis on the problem, and what the problem is, and how the problem festers, instead of naming or shaming any particular person or group of people. Senior officials and elected officials across the whole of our National and State Governments receive offers of gifts as a means to curry favor. The practical impact of this is that some senior officials and elected officials take actions that are contrary to the FSM's national interest, but are consistent with the PRC's national interest.
I want to be clear that I am professing to you- those who will succeed my administration, and likely continue to remain in political power at the National or State level- that if your administration is like mine, you will have Cabinet who record bilateral meetings and transmit those recordings to China. You will have Cabinet and/or senior officials tell the Chinese Ambassador "I will help you if you help me" behind your back. You will have Cabinet accept gifts, such as envelopes filled with money, and alcohol. You will have Cabinet attend meetings with foreign officials- sometimes officials from countries the FSM doesn't recognize, or doesn't recognize yet- without your knowledge. It isn't going to be just one of them, and what one will tell you in public versus what they will tell you in private-or behind your back- may prove to be very different things…. (pg 10)
So, what does it really look like when so much of our Government's senior officials and elected officials choose to advance their own personal interests in lieu of the national interest? After all, it is not a coincidence that the common thread behind the Chuuk State secession movement, the Pohnpei Political Status Commission and, a to lesser extent, the Yap independence movement, include money from the PRC and whispers of PRC support. (That doesn't mean that persons yearning for secession are beholden to China, of course-but, rather, that Chinese support has a habit of following those who would support such secession).
At best, it means I find out about a visit by the man (Ambassador Qian Bo) who would have instructed staff to follow me at the Pacific Islands Forum in Suva less than 48 hours before its occurrence, despite our Government having to know about it, and prepare for it, weeks prior, and only for the man to advocate for initiatives I've rejected (i.e. the Deepening the Blue Economy MOU) and to call such rejections a totally agreed-upon consensus (i.e. the 2nd China-PICS Foreign Ministers Meeting). At worst in the short-term, it means we sell our country and our sovereignty for temporary personal benefit. At worst in the long-term, it means we are, ourselves, active participants in allowing a possible war to occur in our region, and very likely our own islands and our neighbors on Guam and Hawaii, where we ourselves will be indirectly responsible for the Micronesian lives lost. After all, this isn't about the United States or Japan or Australia or any other country-but it must be about our own Micronesian citizens, and the fact that Guam by itself, and Hawaii by itself, each have Micronesian populations larger than Yap and Kosrae combined and, together, have a Micronesian population larger than Pohnpei. In other words: this is about upholding our duty to our FSM Constitution, to which we swear allegiance to, including our duty to protect the security and sovereignty of our own country and our own people…. (pg 11)
…I can scarcely think of elected officials who don't seek additional home ownership in places like Hawaii, Guam, and Portland, or operate multiple businesses…. (pg 12)
PDF: Full Text of Letter (13pgs)
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