Pohnpei acting governor, 4 other state officials arrested over quarantine, civil rights violations


Pohnpei Acting Governor Christina Elnei; Norleen Oliver-DeOrio, chair, Pohnpei State COVID-19 Task Force; Patrick Carl, director, Department of Public Safety; Patrick Pedrus, Pohnpei State Public Information Officer; Peter Sam, commissioner, Pohnpei Public Broadcasting Corporation were arrested on Thursday for over 200 counts of breaches of civil rights and quarantine violations.

According to court documents filed by plaintiff, Federated States of Micronesia national government, the latter sued the five defendants in FSM Supreme Court for over 200 counts of criminal violations involving breaches of civil rights considered as a felony under national law, false imprisonment, multiple violations of emergency decrees and Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for COVID-19 quarantine, and the intentional disabling of the Medical Monitoring Area (MMA) quarantine facility in Dekehtik during the June 12 repatriation flight from Guam.

In this file photo, several FSM citizens were aboard an HC-130 Hercules aircraft of the U.S. Coast Guard during last year’s repatriation flights to FSM. Photo by US Coast Guard An Air Station Barbers Point HC-130 Hercules

A total of 71 passengers were repatriated from Guam to Pohnpei on June 12, all but one were assigned to quarantine at the Emergency Medical Unit, or EMU, which only had 26 rooms. According to the government’s release, this led to overcrowding of the lobby and hallway, and forcing passengers to sleep on the floor with neither beddings, bedsheets, pillows nor clean water.

Under these conditions, there were no adequate bathroom facilities to meet the needs of 70 passengers under quarantine. With no social distancing at the facility, the national government said there was no quarantine in the sense of the COVID-19 Protocols required under the circumstances.

In a release, the national government said, “criminal charges were for alleged violations of Section 701 of Title 11 of the FSM Code for the unnecessary extended quarantine from five days to seven days, with no fault on the part of the passengers; violation of civil right consisting of not providing safe quarantine under the COVID-19 Standard Operating Procedures and protocols causing overcrowding and people sleeping on the unsanitary common areas of the EMU; obstruction of official discharge of duties, on the part of the Chair of the Task Force, for giving instruction not to prepare and clean up the MMA for the repatriation flight; and the “conspiracy” on the part of the defendants, having acted in concert with each other, in carrying out uncooperative and obstructive behaviors and violations, including
malicious misinformation to the public through social media. An example of the latter may include a letter from the Acting Governor that was posted online, but the President’s explanation in addressing the issues in that letter were otherwise hidden from the public, resulting in a serious imbalance of information critical for public knowledge and consumption, and potentially misleading social media posting. Another potential example could include the assertion by Pohnpei State officials on social media that the FSM National Government refused to delay or postpone the June 12th repatriation flight, which allegedly resulted in the overcrowding of the EMU; this information is misleading on the premise that, at the time the request was made, the boarding process for the flight had already begun, and the passengers had already completed a strict pre-quarantine requirement in the U.S. Territory of Guam.”

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