Local Micronesian Community Eager to Fill Key Leadership Vacancy Under COVID-19
Hawai?i’s Pacific Islander community is seeing a bump in COVID-19 cases after weeks of declining numbers. The situation has been particularly rough on the state’s Micronesian community, which has experienced a void in diplomatic leadership throughout the pandemic.
The Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) has been without a representative at its consulate in Honolulu since 2019. Local community leaders say they don’t know why the seat hasn’t been filled, especially with the continuing pandemic. O?ahu resident and Kosraean native Shanty Sigrah Asher was recently nominated to fill the position.
“At this point, whether it’s me or whether it’s someone who can run that office, we will be grateful and we’re gonna stand by ready to support that leader,” says Asher.
Asher's nomination failed three times to gain the necessary votes in the FSM Congress. Her supporters began an online petition that’s gained more than 1,700 signatures so far.
Asher has since joined the City and County of Honolulu as a temporary liaison to the Pacific Islander community.
“Right now, with my work at the city and county, it’s really trying to build a solid communication channel, a systematic one,” says Asher, “If there are resources to send to Pacific Islanders, then we know who to send it to. And then community can also voice their concerns they might have about the lack of resources available to them.”
Pacific Islanders in Hawai?i, including Micronesians, have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic – making up 27 percent of the state’s COVID-19 cases but only four percent of Hawai?i’s population.
For Micronesian community leaders like Asher, filling the leadership void at the consulate could be the game changer in the community’s ongoing fight against COVID-19.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story mentioned Asher was an "O?ahu attorney" but she has not yet passed the bar.