I write the following open letter to all the newly elected leaders who will represent my region of the Northwest (Pattiw, Pafeng, and Namonweito) in the Chuuk State Senate, House of Representatives, and the FSM Congress. I am very optimistic that the people will have elected new leadership for our small remote outer islands which have a lot of needs and challenges that demand our collective efforts and attention. I’m sure our various elected officials have their personal priorities on how to meet those challenges. My hope is that rather than trying to do too many small things separately, the new leaders would unite (rhuulap), come together to identify the three common top priorities to tackle together in the next 60 days. In this letter, I humbly present my recommendations to my leaders with the utmost humility and hopefulness.
An Open Letter of Hope & Optimism for Our Northwest Region
by Vidalino Raatior
March 4, 2013
Dear Northwest Leaders,
Tirow and congratulations on your win. Now that a difficult and crowded campaign season is over and the Northwest people have spoken through their votes, I hope and pray you honor the people’s vote of confidence by implementing your top 3 campaign priorities in your first 60 days in office. I humbly offer the following three recommendations to you from a long list of needs and strategies that I have published on my website. Consider these as humble auuten waami from a lowly citizen of the Northwest who cares as deeply as you are in helping to improve the lives of our people. I hope your priorities match up with any of these. Feel free to use them them or throw them away if they are worthless to you. Regardless, I still hope that you can share your top priorities here so we can support your efforts in moving our region forward in the next two years.
Priority 1 – Achasefal
We need the spirit of forgiveness and unity to return to our region. Our people have gone through probably the worst campaign season yet with so many of you running for office. The sheer number of candidates from the Northwest for every one of the state and national seats have caused us to divide more than unite. Politics has continued to break us apart by its nature. Families are divided. Clans are breaking apart. Churches are in discord. Leaders distrustful of each other. People are losing hope. Now we need all of you to lead us back to a region of forgiveness, united in heart and mind. We need you to come together as representatives of the people and show us through your example that we can become stronger as a united people. We need you all to rebuild our sense of hope, our trust in government, our belief in the common good. We need you to step up as leaders to talk to each other, share your visions, combine strategies, work together, and consolidate your efforts. We desperately need you to show us how to forgive and move forward by working together as leaders for ALL, not only those who voted for you.
For the past several years, we have lacked great selfless leadership in the Northwest. Everyone seemed to focus on their own selfish agendas. We need one of you to step forward and rally ALL of our newly elected leaders to show a united Northwest leadership. We need you to travel together on one boat to visit ALL of the islands in the Northwest. Our people need to honor and celebrate all of you, together, and hear all of you talk about forgiveness and unity. All of you must set aside your own personal animosity or agenda for the common good of our people. I hope you invite the religious leaders from both the Catholic and Protestant faith communities from the Northwest to accompany you on this boat to help with ecumenical services of achasefal.
We need bridge builders, not wall builders. We need leaders who can be humble enough to admit their fault in contributing to the division that is the reality of political campaigns. We stand ready to forgive and unite behind you if you all can lead by example.
Priority 2 – Education
We have many challenges and needs in the Northwest, but nothing is more important in the Northwest, Chuuk, FSM, and the world than providing a good education for the children. Education opens doors; it opens minds and hearts. Education wipes away ignorance and it improves one’s view of self and the world. We need to give our children a well rounded education that is based in the beauty of our culture and the reality of our changing world. Doing so gives them the key to a brighter future that is rooted in the depth of their knowledge of themselves as worthy human beings in this world. Education strengthens our own traditions and cultures for through an open mind comes the seed of self-confidence and self-actualization. We need leaders in the Northwest who are visionaries who can imagine a much better world for the children and will do whatever it takes to give them the tools to get there. Only through better resourced schools, well trained teachers, competent administrators, and highly involved parents can the Northwest truly move forward.
For these last few years, the Northwest schools have been at best at a stand still, at worst receding into low performing places of learning. Yet, our region is scheduled to be decentralized according to the Chuuk State Reform Plan. We are nowhere near ready because we lack the opportunities to come together and plan for this imposed decentralization plan by the State. Making matters worst, we currently lack effective representation on the Chuuk State Board of Education. We need all the elected leaders to sit down together with the newly elected governor to demand immediate action for the appointment of a Northwest citizen to represent the region on the board. We need all of you as the leaders of the people to give your full support to improve our one regional school, the Northwest High School (formerly Weipat). We need the leaders to unite as one caucus to prepare for the State’s reform plan by strengthening the Northwest Unified Schools by supporting in action and appropriation the Northwest Educators Summer Training (NEST) program to be held at Xavier High School during the week of July 29-August 2, 2013. Educational reform must be the common priority of all of you whether you are in the FSM Congress or State Legislature.
Nothing is more important for the future of our region, state, and country than to improve the schools in our region. As you know I decided not to run for office to focus on the educational reform efforts for Chuuk State so I know a little about the statewide initiatives. I am ready to help all of you to advise you on how to proceed with educational reform in our region.
Priority 3 – Fanapi Center NGO
It is crucial that our leaders have a new approach to empowering our people living in the Northwest region and those of us now living abroad in Guam, Hawaii, and the US mainland. As outer islanders we need a place on Weno that we can all depend on to give us the tools to help ourselves. We need to create a system of getting the vast resources around the world to benefit our people in the Northwest in educational reform, community development, economic empowerment, and leadership trainings. The development authorities have all failed. The Northwest region is still undeveloped. People are still poor. And the Northwest citizens who have managed on their own to leave our shores to work abroad are still not empowered and given the system of bringing their talents and gifts to support our region. We need all of our Northwest leaders to think outside the box, to think globally, to vision big, to be collaborative, to engage the Northwest people abroad to bring back all of our expertise to help our people.
We need innovative approaches to moving our region into the 21st century while retaining our values and traditions. Since the late 80’s when the Compact brought a lot of CIP funding, our politicians then had focused on the “Development Authority” model of service delivery. Most of the “authorities” involved the same old small-minded approach of funding small individual “projects” including fiberglass boats, sewing machines, cash handouts, fishing projects, housing loans. All of them failed to pan out into sustainable economic development programs that benefit the region as a whole. The few lucky individuals who received these small projects were somehow expected to create revenue-generating businesses out of their handouts without any training or resources. As can be expected, all of the “projects” to individuals have all failed. None of the authorities survived. Yet in the last two years, the Northwest region received FSM Congressional appropriations of about half a million dollars to fund the…you guessed it…same old failed small projects. Twenty years later and the Northwest region is still repeating the same failed strategies. Someone once said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. The Northwest region has been under the insanity spell.
We need our new leaders to break this insane approach to leadership. We need you to maximize the global success of non-governmental organization (NGO) models of self-empowerment. It is time we join the rest of the world in creating a non-profit center on Weno called Fanapi Center – Uuten Ataween Fanapi. whose mission is to centralize educational reform, community development, leadership training, cultural preservation, healthcare, and economic empowerment for the entire Northwest region…not just a few people. Having a well operated Fanapi Center on Weno will support people in the Northwest and empower the sons and daughters of the Northwest living abroad to give back to our region. I have founded the Fanapi Foundation, a US-based 501(c)3 nonprofit organization to raise funds and provide technical assistance to the Fanapi Center from abroad. But the leadership of the Fanapi Center must come from within the people supported by the visions of the elected leaders who want only what is for the good of the people and not their own pockets.
Lastly, I want to congratulate you again on getting the trust of our people to lead us. Please take these recommendations for whatever they are worth to you as you embark on the next two years of public service. Good luck to you and God bless the Northwest region. Again, feel free to contact me if there’s any way I can help support your vision for our region. We have a lot of challenges, but we have to start with some practical and achievable steps. I believe we can build on small accomplishments.