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Mayarin Daily Tribune
19 July 2008 Issue

"We're Making This Happen"
President Servillano's SONA highlights national sovereignty, outlines plans for future.

"The Islas Fuerte Grasya are achieving change, and we, the Grasyanos, are making this happen."

At his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) today, President Benjamin Servillano was quick to highlight the foreign and economic policies taken by his administration and Congress since his inauguration last August.

He began by recalling Congress' rejection of a proposal extending the ISAF presence.* This rejection effectively ordered the immediate return of all ISAF forces to their home countries by the end of this year. They also rejected a proposal extending the presence of the refugee camps, ordering all refugees repatriated to their home countries by the end of 2010.

"If someone enters your yard and camps on it, will you allow that?" he said. "It is wrong to leave them alone and simply expect them to behave. And so I ask for solidarity from our people regarding this issue. Let us speak with one voice."

Mr. Servillano cited the sharp increase in crime rates in cities where refugee camps were based, as well as the cities around Grasyano military installations opened up to ISAF transport during the war. He then cited statistics tracing the decline of that crime since ISAF troops began leaving earlier this year.

While he praised the bravery of the Grasyano troops involved in the campaign, he questioned whether the logistical support given to the amphibious landing operation in Nam-An as well as the overall campaign was worth the domestic suffering.

"These are also the ones who say, 'Let go of the past. Unite. Forgive and forget so we can move forward as a continent,'" Mr. Servillano said. "I find this unacceptable. Yes, we sheltered our allies so they could reclaim their lands. But does that also mean they were above the law?"

He then cited how the FGNP increased its focus on prosecuting soldiers that committed crimes during the ISAF presence, as well as their efforts to protect witnesses and prosecutors. He then went on to explain the administration's new national defense policy, which will nearly quadruple the current defense budget to more than P100 billion.

"We will conduct an extensive upgrade of our equipment across the FGNP, the AFFG and the Department of Justice," he said, "So that we may not entirely rely on other nations to defend us for them."

Nevertheless, he reiterated that the country does not want to appear hypocritical when it comes to the recently-ended conflict.

"We are consulting experts, every leader of our nation, our allies in the region, even those on the other side** to ensure stability in our region and the continent."

Mr. Servillano then went on to thank Congress for rejecting the Trade Amendment set forth by allies of former president Dominguez during the final months of her administration. The Trade Amendment, which was found to have been endorsed by the "Newfield Cartel" of Usean investors, would have amended the constitution to allow majority foreign ownership of business.

"We have seen the exploitation by military personnel, yet they are at least duty bound to represent their country. Should we expect the same from businesses that do not even have such restrictions?"

He pointed out that the country's annual GDP growth has surpassed every ISAF nation apart from Comona and North Point since the end of the war despite the rejection of the Trade Amendment, thanks to the efforts of domestic investors and foreign remittances. He has also cited the increase of tourism to the country thanks to its intact infrastructure.

Turning to domestic issues, Mr. Servillano said that there was a long road ahead for the country's development, not least because of the war.

He asked Congress to pass a series of legislation aimed at combating the corruption of the previous administration. This included amendments to anti-money laundering acts as well as providing for stricter enforcement of these laws.

Mr. Servillano also laid out a plan for further development of infrastructure and social services. These included:

- The complete restoration of the GraceRail network across Lusoa by the end of 2009, and the completion of a new planned line in Sambao by 2012.

- The completion by 2013 of five new airports.

- The universal enrollment of all Grasyanos in GraceHealth by 2011.

He also laid out a plan for educational reform, to narrow the student-teacher ratio. This included the construction of at least 500 new schools and the hiring of at least 12,000 new teachers by the end of his term.

He also added, "A reduction in the population growth rate will also help keep this ratio from rising. Perhaps the reproductive health bill can help address this."

The comments received the loudest and longest applause from the assembly, among the domestic issues discussed.

Mr. Servillano concluded his speech by saying, "I stand before you today and tell you: this is not my Sona. You made this happen. This is the Sona of the Grasyano nation, the nation of grace. Thank you."

The end of the SONA address was met not just with a standing ovation from Congress, but also from the crowd of activist groups gathered outside the Congressional Hall.


*The government of President Maria Paz Dominguez allowed ISAF troops to transit and resupply through the IFG, bolstering the country's reputation among ISAF member states but creating severe domestic unrest. This led to her party's collapse in the 2007 election to Benjamin Servillano, the son of popular former president Luz Servillano, who died shortly before the campaign season.

**A thinly-veiled reference to the country's diplomatic overtures to Erusea, the IFG's military modernization program would acquire a substantial number of excess defense articles from the dismantled Erusean military, including fighter, training and support aircraft as well as utility and SAR helicopters at reduced prices. The IFG would become a regional military power in its own right into the 2020s before falling under GR's sphere of influence.