Monday, September 24, 2012

The Pacific Way

Guambat posted a short while back about China's involvement with a economic development in the neighboring state of Yap, in the Federated States of Micronesia.  See here It has been reported that the plans are gobsmacking: 
As originally envisioned, the plan was to bring as many as 10,000 hotel rooms to various locations in Yap, along with golf courses, spas, restaurants and all the other amenities of an intensive visitor industry development. “The objective of this project is to develop the State of Yap into a world renowned tourism destination,”the agreement states.

The scope of the planned development is mind-boggling. ETG agrees to upgrade the airport and seaport facilities to accommodate the requirements of what will be the largest investment and development in the entire FSM, by far, since the founding of the nation. ETG will also fund the creation of a new public park and a new state capitol.

The impact of all of this on Yap is a worry. The land of stone money is the most traditional of the Micronesian states, and things haven’t really changed very much there for the past 50 years. It’s a small, tightly knit community where traditional leadership is more highly respected than the elected leadership. Although Gov. Sebastian Anefal signed the agreement on behalf of the state, he would not have been able to do so without the acquiescence of the Council of Pilung, the traditional chiefs of Yap, who were present at the signing.
Well, maybe not so fast.  There is a Pacific Way in the islands.  It values consensus over domination, dialogue and relationship stabilization over power plays, deference over challenge.  Leadership is earned through diplomacy and trust rather than brash competition.  They won't usually even look you in the eye, let alone get in your face.  They can be quite militant if pushed, but prefer a different approach, traditionally any way.

This is illustrated by the slow boil resistance to the ETG offer.  Now, it is reported in the print edition of the Marianas Variety Guam Edition, September 24th, that the Paramount Chiefs of Yap are speaking out.  Not in the adversarial way Westerners like to "debate" their differences, mind you:
The Three Pillars, Paramount chiefs of the State of Yap known as the "Dalip Pi Nguchol", have jointly signed a letter which was submitted to the whole State Leadership, in response to a fake version previously made public.

The alleged letter claimed the Dalip Pi Nguchol commanded that the ETG project be prohibited from proceeding.  The official letter issued September 21 is reported to read as follows:

"We understand that you may have received a letter allegedly from the Dalip Pi Nguchol.  As far as we know, the Dalip Pi Nguchol has neither been consulted nor contacted on any matter whatsoever.

"However, we feel that it is now of the utmost importance that, as leaders of the State Government, you come together with a unified voice in addressing the many challenges facing the State and her peoples.  No matter the challenges, this Yapese maxim will always hold true:  Ra tareb lungdad ngay ma ra fel, ma rawagey lungdad riy ma rawagey.  [Guambat only wishes he could translate that.]

"Recent events have revealed great public concerns on foreign investment.  Not all these concerns are the same, nor do they all come from the same points of view.  But they all recognize one simple truth -- that Yap State needs sustainable foreign investment.  And they all share one common underlying goal -- that foreign investments must be truly suitable for the State in terms of their sizes, types, and impacts.

"We are, therefore, requesting the State Leadership to unify and ensure that the line agencies of government will always continue to promote foreign investment, but with the underlying goal that the totality of foreign investments be sustainable and suitable for Yap, considering the size of our lands and waters, the limitations of our resources, the fragility of our environment, and the livelihood of our customs and traditions.

"This underlying goal must apply to ETG as it must to all others.  We ask that you make and keep this as a commitment to the peoples of the State.  Thank you."
 How does that compare to the bombasting and lambasting we see in our local and national governments?  Who's the more civilized?, Guambat ponders.

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