FSM community feels backlash; Guam inclusion in COFA negotiations proposed

FSM Consul General Teresa Filepin, right, lived in the same village where Bergeron was shot. (PNC file photo)

The Mangilao machete incident in June triggered a discriminatory backlash felt by the Federated States of Micronesia community, according to FSM Consul General Teresa Filepin during the public safety meeting held at the Dededo community center.

Filepin expressed concerns over the treatment of some members of the FSM community following the incident last month. 

She said: “Violence and crimes don’t have any race and ethnicity attached to it. It doesn’t know if you are from Yap, or Chuuk or Chamorro, or from Hawaii or somewhere else, Palauan or African-American. Crime is a crime. Violence is violence, and there are victims.”

In the aftermath of the machete attacks, the court charged brothers Emmanuel Reselap and Jordan Rachulap, both from the FSM, for their involvement in the attacks. One of them, Reselap, was charged with attempted murder as a first-degree felony.

Filepin said: “So when we generalize a group of people saying that they are all criminals because they hail from the FSM, that’s discrimination. I’m sorry to say this, but not all FSM people are criminals. Not all FSM people come to Guam not knowing the laws of Guam. Not all FSM people come to Guam with intentions of committing crimes in the communities of Guam. So…it is really painful. And there are negative consequences to these types of attitudes. We see that in the schools where children of Micronesian background are challenged on a daily basis because of where their parents came from. We see it in the stores when Micronesians are not provided that service because they wear their muumuus or their skirts.”

“It’s becoming a mantra, ‘you are from the FSM’ therefore, this and that.  That’s what I really wanted to bring out tonight – that we have to grow that mutual understanding, which the governor has been saying all along — diversity. We have to all accept that we are all diverse on this small island of Guam.”

COFA agreement

During the meeting, Senator Jose ‘Pedo’ Terlaje also brought up a proposal to include Guam in the  Compact of Free Association (COFA) agreement negotiations. The current amended agreement between the United States, the FSM, and the  Republic of the Marshall Islands will expire in 2023. Meanwhile, Palau’s agreement will expire in 2024.

Terlaje, who chairs the public safety committee at the Guam Legislature, said: “We need to compromise with the federal government, first of all. Because the agreement that is going to happen in 2023 is going to happen in 2023. And we would like the leaders of our island to be part of that agreement, on the negotiations, because since we are the hosting island, I think it merits that we should be involved in those negotiations.”

Terlaje added: “Let me just say this. We welcome our brothers and sisters from the FSM but we want to make sure that when they come to Guam, they understand the way of life here on our island. And before they come here, they need to understand the custom, the culture and the way of life here on our island.” 

According to Terlaje, he wants the FSM community to follow the compact agreement provisions. 

“I remember when they first talked about the migration of our FSM brothers and sisters to the island– there are three conditions that were made during the agreement. One is for medical reasons. The other is for them to go to school. The other one is for them to work here on the island. I want to make sure that they abide by those conditions. Like I said, we are not prejudiced, and we want to welcome our brothers and sisters but they need to understand how life exists here on our island,” the senator said.

In reaction to Terlaje’s proposal to include Guam on the Compact negotiating table, Filepin clarified several points. She said: “Whether there will be renegotiations or not, it is not definite yet. None of the parties to the Compact has made certain that there will be renegotiations.”

Under the Compact agreement, FAS citizens are allowed to enter and reside indefinitely in the United States, including its territories. The agreement also provides the FAS nations access to economic assistance and to certain federal services and programs. 

Dededo public safety meeting, July 3 (PNC photo)
Dededo public safety meeting, July 3 (PNC photo)
Dededo public safety meeting, July 3 (PNC photo)
Governor Lou Leon Guerrero and other officials at the Dededo public safety meeting, July 3 (PNC photo)