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July 17, 2002. RMI Informs US Congress of Progress on Compact Renegotiations
Washington, DC — The RMI Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Chief Negotiator for the Compact, Gerald M. Zackios, joined representatives from the Federated States of Micronesia, the US State Department, the US General Accounting Office, the US Department of the Interior, and the US Department of Defense in reporting to the US House of Representatives Committee on Resources on the current status of Compact negotiations. For the RMI, this oversight hearing capped an intense 8-day visit to the US capitol by the RMI Compact negotiating team.
RMI representatives began their visit with a joint RMI/FSM Congressional staff briefing on July 12, hosted by Representative Robert Underwood from Guam. The purpose of the luncheon briefing was to educate Congressional staffers on the strategic and political successes fostered by the Compact of Free Association, and to inform staff on the status of on-going negotiations. Representative Underwood opened the briefing, and then yielded the floor to Robert Muller, Executive Director of the RMI’s Office of Compact Negotiations. Following Muller’s 20-minute slide presentation, staff members engaged in a substantive question and answer session with Muller and other Compact team members, legal advisor Gregory Danz and economic advisor Tony Costanzo. Thirty staffers, whose members sit on the House Resources Committee, the House International Relations Committee, and the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee attended, as well as from the Hawaii Delegation, Interior Appropriations, and other member offices. The strong turnout, the professionalism of the RMI team, and the dialogue generated during the question and answer session made the briefing a success.
The successful staff briefing drew attention to the House Resources oversight hearing on the Compacts of Free Association that was held the following week on July 17, 2002. The hearing was opened by Committee Chairman James V. Hansen, and presided over by Rep. Tom Osborne. The long and comprehensive hearing signaled renewed interest of House Members in the status of the Compact negotiations and the provisions of any new agreement to come before Congress before existing U.S. economic assistance terminates on September 30, 2003.
In recognition of his expertise on the region, Rep. Underwood provided the opening statement for the hearing in which he emphasized the strategic significance of the Compacts of Free Association to the United States, and the importance of maintaining and extending the uniquely close relationships fostered by the Compacts with the RMI and the FSM. In addition to Rep. Underwood, Rep. Faleomavaega, Rep. Donna Christian-Christiansen, Rep. Butch Otter, Rep. John Duncan, Rep. Grace Napolitano, Rep. Tim Holden, Rep. Mary Bono, and Rep. Jay Inslee attended the hearing.
In his testimony before the Committee, Minister Zackios focused on the significant progress that both the RMI and US have made in negotiations on the Title II economic provisions of the Compact. Touching specifically on the base grant, intergenerational trust fund, and improved fiscal accountability and management procedures, Zackios relayed his confidence that the Congress would receive a final agreement that will not only maintain the economic stability of the Marshall Islands, but simultaneously allow for improved financial management and monitoring systems in the RMI. Minister Zackios also clarified for the Committee the RMI’s position on including non-expiring provisions of the Compact in the negotiations. While the RMI is willing as an ally and strategic partner to discuss new implementing procedures in such areas as immigration, this must be as may be mutually agreed. The RMI wants to assist the U.S. in matters of legitimate concern, especially for security reasons, but Minister Zackios informed Congress that this can best be done through subsidiary agreements rather than amendments to nonexpiring provisions of the Compact itself.
The Minister’s written statement included additional information on other issues of importance to the RMI, including the status of the RMI’s Changed Circumstances petition, discussions on extending the term of the Kwajalein military use agreement, the need for an extension of U.S. funding for the 177 Health Care Program, and a request that the USDA supplemental food program for the 4-Atoll communities continue under the new twenty-term of the Compact assistance. In addition, Zackios highlighted immediate infrastructure concerns such as the Majuro airport repaving needs and refurbishment of the Majuro hospital that could impact the funds available for the RMI’s upfront contribution to the trust fund.
In the question and answer session that followed panelists testimony, Rep. Underwood commented that the economic viability of the Freely Associated States helps the entire Pacific region, including Guam. Rep. Faleomavaega brought his attention to bear on legacy of the U.S. nuclear weapons testing program in the RMI, remarking that the U.S. still has much to do to address the hardships endured by the Marshallese people who sacrificed their lands and their health as a result of the testing program. Questions posed to the DOD representative, Mr. Terry Brooks, also highlighted the express interest of the U.S. Department of Defense in maintaining full access to the Freely Associated States, including land, airways, and seaways. The DOD further testified that providing additional money to the RMI and the FSM is in the best strategic interest of the United States.
Realizing that there is still work to be done, Zackios reflected on the foundation for success that the Compact provides. Minister Zackios commented: “Free association is a political and strategic success that allows both the RMI and the US, as partners, to focus on building economic stability over the next twenty-year term.”
Minister Zackios was accompanied by Health and Environment Minister Alvin Jacklick, Ambassador Banny deBrum and staff from the Embassy in Washington, D.C., as well as the RMI Compact negotiating team.
June 25, 2002. The RMI Makes Progress in Washington D.C.
Washington, DC — The Hon. Gerald M. Zackios, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Chief Compact Negotiator for the Government of the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI), pursued a full agenda while in Washington, D.C. last week to further progress on Compact negotiations. As a result of Minister Zackios’s well-timed visit, the RMI Government took concrete steps forward both at the negotiations table and in Congress where Members will consider and approve a final package.
Minister Zackios initialed four subsidiary agreements that will be a part of the renegotiated Title II provisions of the Compact on June 19, 2002. The four agreements include: U.S. Postal Services; Civil Aviation Economic Services and Related Programs; Establishment of the Civic and Humanitarian Assistance Program (CHAPs); and Civil Aviation Safety Services and Related Programs. The event marked the culmination of two weeks of technical talks between the RMI and the U.S. that involved members of the RMI Compact Negotiation Team, led by Executive Director Robert Muller, Legal Advisor Greg Danz, Economic Advisor Tony Costanzo and key staff from the RMI Embassy in D.C. The initialed agreements demonstrate the RMI’s commitment to concluding a successful agreement with the U.S. Administration on the expiring provisions of the Compact.
Minister Zackios also concluded a successful round of meetings with Congressional representatives and staff that focused attention on the status. of Compact negotiations. Meetings with The Hon. Robert A. Underwood from Guam and The Hon. Patsy T. Mink from Hawaii underscored the long-standing friendship and support of the RMI’s neighbors in the Pacific. As a member of the House Resources Committee with oversight responsibilities for the Compact, Congressman Underwood offered during his meeting with Minister Zackios to host a staff briefing to educate the Committee on Compact-related issues. Minister Zackios also received a warm welcome from Congresswoman Mink who came off the House floor to reaffirm her support for Marshallese residing in the RMI and in the United States. In addition, Minister Zackios met with key staff working on and with the Committees with jurisdiction for Compact issues in the Senate and the House. These committees include the Senate Energy and Appropriations committees, and the House Resources and International Relations committees. Ambassador Banny deBrum and First Secretary Kristina Stege accompanied Minister Zackios on his round of meetings.
By increasing awareness on Compact renegotiations, Minister Zackios has set the stage for the July 17, 2002 hearing scheduled by the House Resources Committee to provide Congressional oversight on the renegotiations process.
Minister Zackios also took advantage of the time in Washington, D.C. to meet with members of the Kwajalein Negotiation Commission (KNC) and Johnston and Associates, the firm representing KNC interests in D.C. At the meetings, the RMI Government reiterated its willingness to cooperate with the KNC on issues of mutual interest to the RMI and the landowners of Kwajalein.
Joining President Kessai H. Note in a meeting with former U.S. Attorney General Dick Thornburgh over the weekend, Minister Zackios also focused his attention on the need for an impartial assessment of operations of the Nuclear Claims Tribunal, and the adequacy of the remedies provided through the Tribunal to victims of the U.S. nuclear testing program. President Note was in Washington D.C. during a brief weekend layover en route back home from Rome for the Food and Agricultural Organization’s annual meeting.
The week concluded with a well-attended reception at the RMI Embassy that included U.S. Administration representatives and Congressional staff. In his remarks at the reception, Minister Zackios recognized the unique strategic partnership that has flourished under the Compact of Free Association during the last fifteen years. Looking ahead, he stated:
“We look forward to strengthening and extending our partnership as we move into the next stage of the Compact. Members of the RMI Compact Negotiation Team have been in town the last few weeks, working hard with Mr. Al Short and the U.S. team on Compact renegotiations. We are pleased to be making progress. As in any negotiation, there are some issues that still need to be ironed out, but rest assured we are committed to the process, and to getting a package to Congress for its consideration.”
June 18, 2002. REPUBLIC OF THE Marshall ISLANDS COMMISSIONS INDEPENDENT STUDY ON NUCLEAR CLAIMS COMPENSATION
Washington D.C. -- Ambassador Banny deBrum of the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) announced today that his government has commissioned an independent study of the manner in which a 1986 claims settlement between the RMI and the U.S. has been implemented. Congress approved the settlement in 1986 to create a mechanism to compensate citizens of the RMI for personal injuries and damage to lands resulting from the U.S. nuclear testing program conducted at Bikini and Enewetak atolls in the RMI from 1946 to 1958.
The government-to-government settlement of the nuclear claims was enacted as a federal statute in 1986, as part of a compact under which the RMI became an independent republic with the special political status of an associated state in strategic partnership with the United States. That partnership includes the RMI’s role as host to the U.S. Army’s Ronald Reagan Missile Range located at Kwajalein Atoll, a critical facility in the U.S. program for development of a national missile defense system. The RMI also supports other mutual security programs with the U.S. that promote and preserve international peace, and after 9/11 was one of the first nations to pledge unconditional support to the U.S. in the war on terrorism.
Under the 1986 settlement, the U.S. accepted responsibility for paying compensation to nuclear test survivors in the RMI, including those island populations that received near lethal doses of high level radiation as a result of fallout from the tests. The settlement provided a politically rather than judicially determined process of compensation, and Congress adopted a statutory policy barring litigation of the claims in the federal courts in order to allow the political settlement mechanisms to be put into place. Those mechanisms included establishment of a Nuclear Claims Tribunal to adjudicate claims and award compensation in addition to that required for specified victims under the terms of the settlement.
The U.S. paid $150 million into a trust fund to provide a source of payment of claims during the first fifteen years under the 1986 settlement. Congress now must make a determination of whether the compensation provided under the settlement to date is just and adequate, or whether further politically determined remedies should be provided in order to sustain the statutory policy which terminated over $6 billion in personal injury and land claims that were pending in the U.S. courts when the settlement was entered.
That $150 million trust fund was provided to cover payment of claims for injuries, damages and losses known in 1986, based on information available at that time. However, recognizing that additional compensation might be required, Congress created an extraordinary statutory right for the national government of the RMI to present additional claims to the U.S. Congress directly based on injuries, damages and losses discovered or determined subsequent to 1986.
The Nuclear Claims Tribunal established under the 1986 federal statute and RMI implementing laws has made awards significantly exceeding the initial U.S. contribution of $150 million to the Nuclear Claims Trust Fund, and those awards form part of the basis for RMI’s petition to Congress seeking additional compensation. In order for Congress to make an informed determination as to the need for addition compensation, an authoritative and impartial evaluation of the awards made by the Nuclear Claims is imperative.
The study being undertaken for this purpose will be conducted by former U.S. Attorney General Dick Thornburgh (pictured left), currently counsel to the law firm of Kirkpatrick & Lockhart LLP. RMI President Kessai H. Note stopped over in Washington, D.C. en route from Rome after the World Food Summit and met with Mr. Thornburgh to formalize the retention of his firm for this important undertaking.
The study will be conducted independently and will provide the RMI and U.S. with an impartial evaluation of the operations of the Nuclear Claims Tribunal, and thereby provide Congress with critical information with respect to the legal sufficiency for the remedies available to the survivors of the nuclear testing program under the settlement.
In addition to serving as Attorney General under President Reagan and former President Bush from 1988 to 1991, Mr. Thornburgh was twice elected Governor of Pennsylvania. He also served as Under Secretary General of the United Nations from 1992-1993. Mr. Thornburgh was Governor of Pennsylvania at the time of the Three Mile Island nuclear accident.
After meeting Governor Thornburgh, President Note stated that,
“We are honored that a leader in the American and world legal community with the stature of Governor Thornburgh will analyze the results of the 1986 claims settlement according to U.S. standards of jurisprudence, by focusing on the performance of the Nuclear Claims Tribunal established under the 1986 claims settlement. Our goal is to enable the RMI and U.S. to make informed and fair decisions on the question of adequacy of compensation paid to date, based on the determinations made by the tribunal Congress created as an alternative forum to the federal courts.”
Governor Thornburgh stated that,
“We are pleased to have the opportunity to provide an objective and reasoned assessment of the tribunal's efforts to ensure just and adequate compensation under the settlement, so as to assist both governments in meeting their respective obligations and commitments.”
June 10-13, 2002. President Note Travels to Rome
President Note traveled to Rome, Italy to attend the annual meetings of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) annual meetings. At the meetings, President Note met Italian Prime Minister, the Honorable Silvio Berluscani (right). Also while in Rome, President Note paid a visit to the Vatican for a first time meeting with Pope John Paul II.
June 6, 2002. A Successful and Productive Meeting: The Republic of the Marshall Islands and the US Department of Energy Convene Annual Meeting in Honolulu
Honolulu, HI. On June 4-5, 2002, the Republic of the Marshall Islands (“RMI”) and the US Department of Energy (“DOE”) convened their annual meeting to discuss the medical and environmental programs operated by the DOE in the RMI. The RMI Government, 4 Atolls, and representatives from the 177 Health Care Program and the Nuclear Claims Tribunal met in Honolulu with representatives of the DOE, the Department of State, and the Department of Interior.
The DOE delegation was led by Mr. Steven Cary, the new Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health Program (the office of DOE with responsibility for the RMI’s program). The RMI delegation was extremely pleased by Mr. Cary’s interest in and desire to become fully engaged in RMI issues. Mr. Cary expressed his intention to stay in his new position for several years. This was good news for the RMI because of the frequent turnover of DOE personnel in recent years.
In the RMI’s opening statement, Secretary Maddison requested full disclosure of information relating not only to radiation exposure from the testing program, but also from any hazardous material used in or near the RMI during the Trusteeship. The US Department of Defense recently released information about the testing of biological and chemical agents off of Enewetak in 1968. The RMI Government believes this testing could be linked to a nation-wide outbreak of flu the same year that resulted in extreme illness, and in some cases death (including a woman from Ailingae exposed to fallout from Bravo in 1954, and an 8-year old boy from Rongelap).
Much was achieved at this year’s annual meeting. The RMI and the DOE agreed to establish a working group that will meet several times a year between annual meetings. According to the Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Marie Maddison, the working group will be important “because we no longer have to wait an entire year before sitting down face to face to address problems and issues related to DOE’s programs in the RMI. We now have a mechanism in place that will allow us to make substantially more progress on issue of mutual concern.”
In addition to the government-to-government meeting, each of the 4 atolls had an opportunity to sit down with Mr. Cary and the DOE to discuss individual atoll issues. Secretary Maddison praised the atoll leaders for their active participation throughout the meeting, and for setting a tone at the meeting that signaled to Mr. Cary that the RMI wants to work cooperatively in a friendly manner with DOE.
At the end of the meeting, the RMI, DOE and DOI signed a record of discussion that stated work objectives for the coming year. Minister of Health and Environment, Alvin Jacklick, signed the document on behalf of the RMI Government.
Mr. Cary plans to visit the RMI for the first time in August when he will meet local leaders and community members, and travel to some of the atolls most affected by the U.S. nuclear weapons testing program.
May 28, 2002. President Kessai H. Note Visit Marshallese Community in Springdale, Arkansas
Washington, D.C. At the invitation of the Marshallese community in Springdale, President Note led an RMI delegation on a two day visit to join the communities who traveled from all over the United States to attend the 23rd Anniversary of the Marshall Islands Constitution in Springdale, Arkansas.
During the visit, President Note and members of the delegation met over a luncheon reception hosted by the Springdale School Administration which included Superintendent Dr. Jim Rollins, Deputy Superintendent Dr. Marsha Jones, members of the School Administration Board, principals and faculty members of the Springdale schools, and members of the local community. Dr. Rollins welcomed the President and delegation and expressed how pleased they were with the Marshallese students attending their schools. “Once they leave the Marshall Islands and reach our borders, we consider them as our own” said Dr. Rollins. In a brief statement, President Note responded by recognizing the efforts by the school administration and said he was encouraged to hear reports on how well the school system is structured to help foreign students like the ones from the Marshall Islands. Dr. Rollins read from a Proclamation by the Mayor’s office recognizing the special visit by the RMI President and delegation.
President Note and members of the delegation were also hosted to a number of performances at the High School Performing Arts center by Marshallese students from each level of the schools in Springdale, including J.O Kelley Junior High, Parson Elementary School and Springdale High School. The students provided gifts for the RMI delegation. In his address to the parents and teachers, the President praised the Marshallese parents and the teachers for their support and for recognizing the strength of a diverse student population. He also thanked the school administration for welcoming Marshallese children into the community with open arms. President Note encouraged the students to return home to help their country further develop upon completion of their education in the United States.
President Note made a courtesy call on John Tyson, the current head of Tyson’s Food, Inc., and largest employer of Marshallese living in Springdale. Aside from a common interest in fishing, both discussed issues relating to capacity building and training programs to help the Marshallese workforce at Tyson’s Food. Mr. Tyson expressed his commitment to help improve any work related concerns by the Marshallese in his company.
The RMI delegation also met with the Marshallese community in Springdale in an open panel discussion meeting. Following the President’s brief on a number of initiatives that the administration has undertaken since its inception, members of his delegation were allotted time to address few concerns by the community with respect to compact negotiation process, changed circumstance petition, immigration status issues, passport, employment, health and education, social services programs, and so on. The President indicated that he plans to visit the community and others again in the near future to provide an update of the compact negotiations.
As the keynote speaker, President Note concluded his visit to Springdale by addressing the Marshallese and members of the local community during the opening ceremony of the 23rd Anniversary of the RMI Constitution Day celebrations and sporting events scheduled to commence over the Memorial weekend. He indicated that contrary to the perception that Marshallese are a burden to the US, recent reports on the community in Springdale have proven that Marshallese in the US have also provided some level benefit to the US economy.
President Note was accompanied by First Lady Mary Note, Minister of Finance, Michael Konelios, Minister of Justice Witten and Mrs. Philippo, Senator Ataji Balos, and RMI Embassy DCM, Mr. Mattlan Zackhras.
April 01, 2002. PRELIMINARY RESULTS OF PILOT SURVEY OF MARSHALLESE IN ARKANSAS INDICATES POSITIVE OUTCOME
Washington, D.C. - The Marshall Islands Embassy in Washington, D.C., has received preliminary statistics from a recently conducted pilot household survey on the Marshallese migrant community in northwest Arkansas.
The pilot survey was conducted at the request of the Embassy and carried out under the auspices of the Office of Insular Affairs (OIA)/Census Bureau Statistical Enhancement Program. The preliminary data covers a sample of 541 migrants in 78 households concentrated in the town of Springdale. The pilot survey was the first of its kind for a US mainland Marshallese community and follows similar but more extensive surveys conducted on the Marshallese communities in the US island areas of Hawaii, Guam and CNMI (in 1997 and 1998) and a pre-census RMI survey conducted one year prior to the RMI Census of Population and Housing (in 1998).
The two primary objectives of the Arkansas pilot survey were to obtain basic housing and population data on the Marshallese community (now considered to be the fastest growing and perhaps largest Marshallese community outside of the RMI) and to make an estimate of the total size of the Marshallese community.
While the pilot survey was relatively limited in its scope, survey coordinators were able to estimate that as of late 2001, between 2,000 and 4,000 Marshallese had migrated to and taken residence in Arkansas.
With preliminary data on the Marshallese migrants in Arkansas now available, side-by-side comparative analysis can take place in order to determine how demographic characteristics might differ between Marshallese in the RMI and those who have migrated out, and secondly, how demographic characteristics might differ between migrants in the US island areas (Hawaii/Guam/CNMI) and those in the state of Arkansas.
All three surveys (Arkansas, Hawaii/Guam/CNMI and RMI) were funded by the OIA and utilized U.S. Census Bureau methods and standards. Data collection for all three surveys was done by Marshallese enumerators, supervisors, and office staff. With regards to methodology, however, the three surveys differ in significant ways from each other. The 1998 RMI survey was collected by enumerating 5 randomly selected households in each of 77 geographically-defined enumeration areas on Majuro Atoll, 100 random households on Ebeye, and 50 households on Jaluit. In 1997, for Hawaii and Guam, and 1998 for CNMI, attempts were made to enumerate all Marshallese. While inevitably some Marshallese will be missed using the "snowball" method, most of the Marshallese in these three areas were enumerated. The same approach was tried in Arkansas as a pilot project, but with limited funding and logistical challenges, the scope of the project was comparatively small; hence, the data presented here are only impressionistic.
Comparative analysis of the survey data reveal the following noteworthy findings:
Household size. RMI households tend to be more crowded than migrant households, in general. The average household in the 1998 RMI survey has almost 8 persons. These conditions were similar in Arkansas, where the average household has almost 7 members, while the Marshallese households in Hawaii, Guam, and CNMI had fewer than 5 persons, on average.
Building type. Marshallese in the RMI are much more likely to live in a single-family house separated from all other houses than those living in the receiving areas (Arkansas, Hawaii, Guam and CNMI). Almost 9 in every 10 of the households in the RMI lived in a single "detached" house, compared to 3 in 8 of those in Arkansas, and only 1 in 4 in the other three areas. The Marshallese migrants to Hawaii, Guam, and CNMI were the most likely to live in apartments, migrants to Arkansas were less likely to live in apartments, and few of the Marshallese in the RMI lived in apartments.
Tenure. Typically, Marshallese in the RMI do not rent their units- only about 3 percent of the housing units in the 1998 survey were reported as being rented. Renting was the norm, however, among the migrants, with more than two-thirds of the migrants’ units being rented; average rent in Arkansas was about $400 monthly, but data on rent weren’t available for the RMI or the other US areas. The US categories of type of ownership don’t apply well in the RMI since most land remains communal, and it is difficult to tell whether households are living in a unit "owned free and clear" rather than "occupied without cash rent". Of those with a mortgage, however, the average monthly payments in the RMI and in Hawaii, Guam and CNMI were about the same, at about $1000, compared to less than $600 in Arkansas. Since incomes were higher in Arkansas, mortgage payments make up a much smaller portion of the total expenses, somewhat of an incentive to live there.
Structure .The average size of housing units for migrants, at 4 rooms, was about one room more than the average for housing units in the RMI. Migrant housing units had an average of two bedrooms. All 78 of the housing units surveyed in Arkansas had complete plumbing – bathtub or shower, toilet, and hot and cold running water – compared to 83 percent of those in Hawaii, Guam, and CNMI, and only 27 percent in the RMI survey. Similarly, all of the Arkansas units had complete kitchens – stove, refrigerator, and sink – compared to 86 percent of those among the rest of the migrants.
Facilities. The presence of air conditioners, telephones, televisions, and automobiles are social indicators. About 70 percent of the housing units in the RMI had no air conditioning, compared to 82 percent in Guam, Hawaii, and CNMI, but only 1 unit in Arkansas. Also, the migrants were more likely to have telephones and television. More than 60 percent of the housing units in the RMI had no telephone compared to 42 percent in Hawaii, Guam, and CNMI, but only 23 percent of those in Arkansas. And, while 14 percent of the Arkansas units had no television, 22 percent of the rest of the migrants had no television, and 61 percent of the 1998 RMI households were in this category. About 8 in every 10 housing units in the RMI had no automobile available compared to about half of the units in Hawaii, Guam, and the CNMI, and less than 1 in every 10 units in Arkansas.
Demography. Because both the Arkansas and the 1998 RMI surveys were non-representative samples, their data must be used with caution. Even the censuses of Marshallese in Hawaii, Guam, and the CNMI were probably not complete. Nonetheless, the data show that while slightly more females than males lived in the RMI, and even a larger proportion of the Hawaii, Guam, and CNMI migrants were female, the Arkansas migrants tended to skew male.
The median age among the migrants (more than 20) tended to be about two years higher than among those living in the RMI (about 18). The median age is the age which cuts the population in half (half are older and half are younger than the median). Migrants tend to delay marriage, either because marriage makes migration more difficult, or because these individuals deliberately delay marriage for travel. About one-third of the adult RMI population were never married in 1998, compared to about half of the Hawaii, Guam, and CNMI, compared to almost 6 in 10 of those in Arkansas.
The average number of children born to women of reproductive age, showed, as expected, that the average woman between 15 and 49 years old in the RMI had about 2.8 children compared to 1.7 among the Arkansas migrants, and 1.6 among the rest of the migrants. For the group of women 40 to 49, the end of the reproductive period that gives an idea of completed fertility, women in the RMI had an average of 6.0 children, compared to 5.4 among Arkansas women of these ages, and 4.4 among other migrant women. In general, Marshallese women continued to have high fertility.
Migration. As would be expected, when migrants depart the RMI, when they do marry, they begin to have children born in the United States. Almost 97 percent of RMI population were born in the RMI, compared to 87 percent of those in Hawaii, Guam, and the CNMI, and only 79 percent of those in Arkansas. It is important to note that while some of the non-Marshallese born are non-Marshallese spouses, step-children, and other relatives, children born in the US are automatically US citizens. This fact, in itself, would be incentive to have children in the US. This detail is seen in the data on citizenship, where 11 percent of the Hawaii, Guam, and CNMI migrants were US citizens compared to more than 21 percent of those living in Arkansas – about twice the percentage.
Social characteristics.While religion was not collected in Hawaii, Guam, and CNMI, data from the other two areas show that Assembly of God is "over-represented" in Arkansas, meaning that people of this religion are more likely than others to migrate to Arkansas. On the other hand, Protestants and Catholics were under-represented in Arkansas compared to in the RMI. It is important not to read too much into these fragmentary data since both surveys were fairly small, and may not be representative of the whole population.
The Marshallese who moved to Arkansas were much more likely than those moving to the other areas to continue to speak Marshallese at home. In fact, the percentage of Marshallese speakers in the RMI and in Arkansas was about the same at around 98 percent. In Hawaii, Guam, and CNMI, about 1 in every 5 Marshallese migrants spoke English at home.
Education. Because many of the Arkansas migrants went there specifically to work in factories, the school age population were less likely to be in school than the other migrants or those continuing to live in the RMI. Only about 38 percent of the 1998 RMI survey population were high school graduates compared to 47 percent of the migrants to Hawaii, Guam, and CNMI, and 65 percent of those in Arkansas. Hence, the migrants present a potential pool of skilled labor for economic development if they were to return to the RMI. Unfortunately, few Marshallese in any of the areas were college graduates – only 1.8 percent in the RMI, 1.5 percent in Arkansas, and only 1.0 percent among the other migrants.
Labor force. Data from the migrant surveys showed that 77 percent of the Arkansas migrants were in the labor force compared to only 33 percent of the other migrants. Also, among those in the labor force, a much larger percentage of those in Arkansas were actually working compared to the other migrants. Only 7 percent of the Arkansas labor force were unemployed (using US standards for measuring unemployment), compared to more than 24 percent of the other migrants, and 31 percent of those in the RMI. Similarly, while 60 percent of the Arkansas migrants worked in the calendar year before the survey, this was true for only 36 percent of the Marshallese in the RMI, and 30 percent of the other migrants.
As would be expected, 94 percent of the Arkansas migrants were in manufacturing industries. The largest category, with more than one-third of all workers, for the other migrants and for the Marshallese in the RMI was "services" which included persons in education and health care. A similar percentage in Hawaii and the RMI were in what would be a combined category of wholesale and retail trade. About 1 in every 8 Marshallese in the RMI were in public administration, which, of course, is not found among the migrants.
About 3 in every 10 workers in the RMI worked for the government, compared to about 1 in 10 in Hawaii, Guam, and CNMI, and almost none in Arkansas.
Income. While the three groups of Marshallese were not enumerated at exactly the same time, so inflation could affect comparisons, the data still show that out-migration "benefits" the financial status of the household. The median income of households in the RMI in 1998 was about $18,000 – the median income is the halfway point at which half the households earned more than $18,000 and the other half earned less than that. This median was higher than what was seen among the Hawaii, Guam, and CNMI migrants, where the median was less than $17,000. However, the Arkansas migrant households had a median of more than $46,000, considerably more than double the median in the RMI and Hawaii, Guam, and CNMI. Similarly, the per capita income in the RMI was only $2,281 compared to $3,241 among non-Arkansas migrants, and $6,691 among the Marshallese in Arkansas. Even this latter value, while 3 times the value for the Marshallese in the RMI, is still significantly below the US average.
Poverty Status. Survey results indicate that while nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of Marshallese families in Hawaii, Guam and CNMI were living below the US poverty line in 1997 and 1998, only about one-third (34 percent) of Marshallese families in Arkansas lived below the poverty line in 2001.
December 6, 2001. MINISTER ZACKIOS TESTIFIES BEFORE THE U.S. SENATE
Washington, D.C. - The Minister of Foreign Affairs and the RMI’s chief negotiator for the Compact, Gerald M. Zackios, testified today before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. The hearing, chaired by Senator Daniel Akaka of Hawaii, initiated a three-way dialogue between the representatives of the Bush Administration and the negotiators of the RMI and the FSM involved in extending expiring provisions of the Compact, and Congress. Congress has an interest in monitoring the progress of Compact renegotiations and ensuring that a new agreement is in place before existing U.S. economic assistance terminates on September 30, 2003.
In addition to Senator Akaka, Senator Frank Murkowski, Ranking Member of the Committee attended. Representative Robert Underwood also addressed the Committee to discuss how economic assistance to the Freely Associated States (FAS) benefits the U.S. and its territories in the region, and the need to provide Compact impact funds to U.S. areas where FAS citizens have migrated to.
In his statement to the Congress, Minister Zackios reiterated the points to emerge from meetings between President Kessai H. Note and senior representatives of the U.S. Government during the President’s recent visit to Washington, D.C. Minister Zackios acknowledged that the Compact of Free Association is a success, a success that the RMI wants to continue to build upon. The success of the Compact is evident in the fact that the RMI has transitioned from dependence to a self-governing, independent nation that has "mature political and economic relations with the U.S. and the rest of the world." Minister Zackios also emphasized the RMI’s commitment to its strategic partnership with the United States and in supporting the U.S. with its efforts to thwart global terrorism.
In addition to discussing the expiring economic provisions in Title II of the Compact, Zackios informed Congress that it has asked the Bush "Administration to consider elements of our Changed Circumstances Petition and issues related to Title III and Kwajalein as part of our renegotiations." The RMI formally asked Congress to convene a hearing to consider and respond to the RMI’s Changed Circumstances Petition.
Minister Zackios also discussed the RMI’s proposal for economic assistance that the RMI submitted to the Bush Administration last week. The RMI and U.S. will meet in Hawaii next week for the third round of formal Compact negotiations that will include discussions of the specific components of the RMI’s economic proposal.
During the hearing, the RMI assured Congress that it is committed to improving accountability and fiscal management and that problems in these areas have been accurately identified by the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) and are manageable. Senator Murkowski echoed the need for measurable and enforceable accountability standards as well as finding ways to improve economic development and the performance of the health and education sectors.
Senator Akaka closed the hearing by saying that he looks forward to continued Congressional involvement in renegotiations, and reminded those assembled at the hearing that the U.S. Government has an obligation "to help the people of this region (Freely Associated States) and do the best we can for them."
Minister Zackios was accompanied by Robert Muller, Executive Director of CNC, Gregory Danz, CNC Legal Advisor and Christopher Lightfoot, CNC Economic Advisor. Mayor Eldon Note was also present in the hearing.
November 16, 2001. PRESIDENT NOTE LEADS A DELEGATION TO WASHINGTON, D.C.
Washington, D.C. - President Kessai H. Note visited Washington D.C. from November 11-17, 2001 to meet with representatives of the Bush Administration and Congress. The President, accompanied to his meetings by Foreign Affairs Minister Gerald M. Zackios and RMI Ambassador to Washington, D.C. Banny deBrum, had a full schedule from the moment his plane touched down in D.C. The President’s schedule included substantive discussions with Vice President Richard Cheney (who was in a secure, undisclosed location due to recent threats against the United States), National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice, Secretary of Interior Gale Norton, and senior level officials from the Pentagon, the departments of Interior, Defense, and State, and several meetings with key Members of Congress in the committees with jurisdiction for the Compact, changed circumstances and Compact renegotiations. Secretary Norton hosted a luncheon for the delegation, the first ever for a head of State from the Pacific.
President Note was extremely pleased by his reception in Washington, D.C. and noted that: "People were receptive to the RMI and to our message. We also received much praise from the United States for our commitment to good governance and fiscal reform." The President’s message to the United States was three-pronged; that the RMI stands by the United States in its war on global terrorism, that the Compact is a success that the RMI wants to continue to build upon, and that the RMI is prepared to extend its relationship with the United States for up to fifty years. Regarding the last topic, President Note and Vice President Cheney discussed the mutual benefits of a long-term relationship for both the United States and the RMI. "The economic and strategic benefits of our bilateral relationship are better served in the long-term. In this time of global unrest, the RMI is also pleased to contribute to the long-term strategic interests of the United States. We stand by the United States as a strategic partner, as a friend, and as an ally," commented the President.
In addition to the three major points discussed at each of the meetings, President Note also discussed the importance of the Changed Circumstances Petition with Members of Congress and senior level officials in the Bush Administration. "I told the United States Government that we are entitled to submit a petition to Congress and that our petition deserves an honest and fair review by the United States. Although Congress will ultimately take action on the RMI’s Changed Circumstances Petition, I also believe that the Bush Administration has a constructive and important role to play in the evaluation of our petition." Copies of the RMI’s Changed Circumstances Petition were delivered to every Congressional Member of six committees in the Senate and House, including the appropriations committees, the committees on foreign relations, and the committees directly responsible for the Compact, the energy and resources committees. The RMI delegation also delivered copies of the petition to senior Bush Administration officials.
In addition to his official meetings, President Note participated in an emotional wreath laying ceremony at Arlington Cemetery to pay his respects to the victims of the terrorist attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001. President Note expressed his grief and offered his sympathies in a book of condolences that he signed. President Note wrote:
During this time of unimaginable sorrow, the people and the Government of the Republic of the Marshall Islands stand by the United States in its efforts to fight global terrorism. To the United States we offer you our land, our airways, our seas, and our infrastructure to assist in any manner required. We are proud of our Marshallese citizens who serve in every branch of the U.S. Armed Forces and are intricately involved in U.S. efforts to promote world peace and stability. As friends who are deeply committed to a strategic partnership with the United States the hearts of all our people are with you; we join you in grief and we join you in our resolve and efforts to condemn terrorism in the strongest terms possible.
In tandem with the official meetings of President Note’s delegation, the RMI and U.S. Government held a meeting to discuss problems that exist in the current Compact of Free Association. The purpose of the bilateral meeting was to try to resolve problems in the existing Compact before moving into the next phase of the relationship currently under consideration in the Compact renegotiations. Secretary of Foreign Affairs Marie Maddison chaired the meeting for the RMI and was accompanied by Robert Muller and Mattlan Zackhras along with aides from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The topics discussed at the bilateral meeting included: Essential Air Services, U.S. Public Health Service, Peace Corps, changed circumstances, Employment Authorization Documentation, FDIC, H.R. 2462, the Runit Dome, and climate change. Progress was made in each area of discussion. During the meetings, it was determined that banks in the RMI are eligible to apply for FDIC coverage. This decision represents a change in policy by the U.S. Government that was well-received by the RMI delegation.
The RMI delegation also met with Colonel Al Short, the new U.S. negotiator for Compact renegotiations. The RMI delegation was extremely pleased by Colonel Short’s open and direct style of communication and by the clear path forward he has laid out to complete Compact renegotiations in the next two years.
Senator Ataji Balos, Christopher deBrum and other aids to the President also joined the delegation. First Lady Mary Note and Mrs. Joti Samuel had their own schedule of meetings that included discussions with organizations focusing on literacy and early childhood development.
October 17, 2001. US Social Security Addresses Procedural Problems In Issuing SS Numbers to RMI Citizens
Washington, D.C. - Through its joint work with the RMI Desk Officer at the Office of Insular Affairs (DOI), Mr. Joseph McDermott, the RMI Embassy in Washington, D.C. is pleased that a long-term problem with the U.S. Social Security Administration has been settled. Previously, the Social Security Administration offices in the areas where Marshallese citizens reside did not understand that the Compact enables RMI citizens in the U.S. to obtain unrestricted social security numbers. As a result, Marshallese citizens received social security cards that were stamped with wording that restricted or denied them employment in the United States.
Following discussions with SSA officials, an October 22 letter addressed to Ambassador Banny deBrum by Deputy Associate Commissioner for International Programs, Mr. Barry L. Powell, stated: "the SSA has decided to issue a reminder to all SSA field offices to the correct the procedures for issuing unrestricted Social Security numbers to citizens of the RMI who are in the United States." The new directives to the SSA field offices should ensure that no social security cards are improperly stamped for Marshallese citizens. Deputy Associate Commissioner Powell encourages any Marshallese who continue to have problems obtaining unrestricted social security numbers to show a copy of his letter to their local Social Security Administration offices. Marshallese in the United States who are experiencing difficulties with social security are encouraged to contact the RMI Embassy in Washington, D.C. to obtain a copy of Mr. Powell’s letter (telephone: 202 234-5414).
Ambassador Banny deBrum was extremely pleased by SSA’s response, and for Mr. Powell’s letter that strongly and clearly states the employment rights of Marshallese guaranteed in the Compact. Ambassador deBrum commented: "Marshallese living and working in the United States are making positive contributions to the U.S. economy by providing needed labor. I am pleased that our resolution of this problem will pave the way for Marshallese to get the unrestricted access to employment that they are legally entitled to in the Compact." Ambassador deBrum also expressed his appreciation to Mr. Joseph McDermott for his assistance.
June 13-14, 2001. RMI-DOE ANNUAL MEETING
Majuro, RMI - On June 13-14, 2001, the RMI Government and the US Department of Energy met in Honolulu, Hawaii to discuss current issues relating to DOE’s medical and environmental programs in the RMI. Minister Gerald M. Zackios led the RMI delegation. The RMI Government, along with the senators, mayors, and members from the local governments of the 4 atolls, the Senator from Ailuk (who represented other atolls with radiological issues), and the Nuclear Claims Tribunal met with Deputy Assistant Secretary Geoffrey J. Judge from DOE, and Mr. Joseph McDermott from the US Department of Interior.
Over the course of the two-day meeting, the RMI and DOE addressed problems and needs related to DOE’s current programs. At the end of the meeting, Minister Zackios, Deputy Assistant Secretary Judge, and Mr. McDermott signed a joint communiqué. The joint communiqué establishes a working group that will formulate a 5-year strategic plan for the DOE medical and environmental programs. Minister Zackios and Deputy Assistant Secretary Judge will co-chair the working group.
In addition to the working group that will create strategic plans, it was agreed that the Department of Interior will chair a working group to determine what agency in the US Government should monitor the Runit Dome. Currently, no US Government agency is responsible for monitoring the integrity of the Runit Dome, yet the resettled Enewetak community needs assurances that the dome is safely containing its materials.
Participants to the RMI-DOE meeting also agreed to jointly address several outstanding issues, such as the need to; provide radiological monitoring for the people of Utrik, restructure the health care program for Rongelap and Utrik, establish environmental monitoring programs for Bikini, and continue to locate and turn over documents and data to the RMI. The joint communiqué also reflects the need for environmental clean-up and remediation strategies to involve local communities and to use a clean-up standard determined by the RMI; the current clean-up standard employed by the RMI is the 15 mrem standard set by the Nuclear Claims Tribunal.
Minister Zackios was pleased by the outcomes of the meeting, and noted: "While our two-day meeting certainly did not resolve all of our problems relating to DOE’s medical and environmental program, I am extremely pleased that we established a mechanism for restructuring DOE’s programs. By being active participants in the creation of strategic plans, the RMI can ensure that DOE’s programs better meet the needs of communities in the future. I compliment the representatives from the 4 atolls for their contributions to the meeting and for their ability to discuss highly sensitive issues in a calm and clear manner. The positive attitude of the atolls as well as the open, straight-forward approach of Deputy Assistant Secretary Judge helped make our meeting productive. I look forward to co-chairing the working group with Deputy Assistant Secretary Judge, and to working with the atoll leadership."
March 16, 2001. Ambassador deBrum meets with Commander In Chief of Joint Space Command
Washington, D.C. - In his second official visit to a military facility organized by Lieutenant-General John Costello and his staff at the Space and Missile Defense Command (SMDC), Ambassador Banny deBrum met with high ranking officials of the U.S. Army and Air Force Joint Space Command Headquarters at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado. Ambassador deBrum was accompanied by Deputy Chief of Mission, Mattlan Zackhras, First Secretary, Ms. Kristina Stege, Deputy Chief Counsel for SMDC, Mr. Ronald Riggs and Foreign Affairs Specialist for SMDC, Ms. Jane Bocklage.
The Army Space Command (ARSPACE) tour included briefings and first-hand site visits to a complex array of military facilities and programs in the Colorado Springs area that support U.S. military objectives in space. A few highlights of the tour included a briefing on satellite imaging and mapping capabilities, a tour of the famous Cheyenne Mountain, and a visit to the Joint Test Facility. "It was quite impressive not only to see how detailed satellite images can be but the many ways that the data is used. I thought that the simulation of actual fly-through zones all over the world for pilots in training based on data gathered in space was extraordinary," commented Ambassador deBrum. A tour deep in the heart of Cheyenne Mountain proved equally extraordinary. Cheyenne Mountain is the warning center for any missile-based attach on the North America. Activities and objects in space are monitored round the clock from Cheyenne Mountain. Finally, a tour of the high-security Joint Test Facility provided insight on national missile defense capabilities. "The visit to Colorado Springs has helped me enormously in my own understanding of the U.S. presence in space, and the special role that Kwajalein plays in supporting the U.S space objectives."
The Ambassador also visited the United States Air Force Academy to tour the school and discuss the possibility of enrolling Marshallese men and women in the school. Lt. Gen. John R. Dallager, Superintendent of the Academy, and other Academy officials informed Ambassador deBrum that the Marshall Islands were recently added to the list of countries allowed to enroll their citizens in the academy. The Academy officials indicated their willingness to help spread the word through their liaison officers across the country to encourage Marshallese who are interested in joining their school. Applications along with the enrollment requirements were provided to the Ambassador and his delegation.
Ambassador deBrum was warmly received by the General Ralph E. Eberhart, Commander-in-Chief in charge of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), U.S. Space Command, Air Force Space Command and DOD Manager for Manned Space Flight Support Operations. At a luncheon in honor of the Ambasador, General Eberhart was very encouraged by the RMI’s continuing commitment to the mutual security objectives expressed in the Compact, and in particular its support for programs and facilities on Kwajalein. General Eberhart hopes to visits the RMI to learn more about U.S. military operations in the Marshall Islands. Ambassador deBrum also paid a courtesy call on long time friend Lt. General Edward Anderson III who is currently the Deputy CINC and Chief of Staff for the Joint Space Command.
As a follow up to the recent visit to Texas, Ambassador deBrum also took the opportunity to visit with the Marshallese in Denver. "There are about 35 Marshallese that live in the area and so we took advantage of our trip to conduct a town-hall meeting with them to discuss issues pertaining to passport, work permit (EAD), school/scholarship, health, education and military privileges under the Compact Agreements," mentioned the Ambassador. A brief visit to Regis University where Ambassador deBrum got his college degree ended a very successful visit to Colorado.
February 13, 2001. AMBASSADOR DEBRUM VISITS RMI TEXAS COMMUNITY
Cleburne, TX - At the request of President Kessai Note, Ambassador Banny deBrum and his staff from the Washington, D.C. Embassy and Consul General, Philip Anungar, visited the Marshallese community in Cleburne, Texas. The purpose of the visit was to provide a first-hand understanding of the successes and difficulties that Marshallese face when they take advantage of the provisions of the Compact that allow Marshallese to work, live, and go to school in the United States.
The Marshallese communities from Cleburne and Keene, Texas organized numerous events for the Ambassador and his delegation. Allen Lanki, the President of Koba Maron, the Marshallese club in Cleburne, arranged for the Ambassador and his delegation to meet with members of the Marshallese community. Ambassador deBrum held meetings with Marshallese students, couples, and the elderly to learn more about how Marshallese interact with the larger community. The Marshallese community also had a chance to ask the RMI Government delegation many questions about the future of the Compact, renewing passports, scholarships, and working permit requirements. The meetings were held at the Marshallese First Assembly church, a church that is owned and operated by the community. In addition to holding meetings, Ambassador deBrum also visited Marshallese in the hospital and paid his respects at a traditional ilo mij service.
After visiting with the community, Ambassador deBrum said: "I am thoroughly impressed by and proud of this Marshallese community. Virtually everyone in this community works. In most families, both the husband and wife work along with other household members who are of working age. I want the U.S. Government to know that the Compact has been a success for these Marshallese people. The Marshallese of Cleburne and Keene are hard working, and contributing economically and culturally to their communities."
In addition to the Marshallese community, Ambassador deBrum and his delegation met with representatives from the schools and places where the Marshallese are employed in the community. Both employers and principals praised the Marshallese in the area for their diligent work and for their interest in ensuring that their children do well in the schools. Ambassador deBrum was particularly pleased to hear from a supervisor at Rangaire, a factory where many Marshallese are employed to work both evening and day shifts, that Marshallese had really helped the company by taking jobs that had been difficult to fill.
At the end of his trip, Ambassador deBrum reflected: "We look at these communities as extensions of the Marshall Islands, much like our outer island communities in the Marshall Islands. Although they live in the United States, these are Marshallese citizens and our government has a responsibility to meet with them and see how they are doing. I am inspired by what I saw in Cleburne because the success of the community demonstrates that the immigration provisions in the Compact have been successful for the Marshallese. I look forward to visiting with other Marshallese communities throughout the United States as well."
February 1, 2001. REPUBLIC OF THE MARSHALL ISLANDS, USDA, AND HUD AGREE TO EXPEDITE HOUSING AND INFRASTRUCTURE PROGRAMS
Honolulu, HI - Republic of the Marshall Islands President Kessai H. Note today announced an understanding with the United States Department of Agriculture to expedite USDA sponsored housing and infrastructure programs in the Marshall Islands. The comprehensive program includes increasing single-family home ownership, increasing home loan availability, home improvement loans and grants, developing infrastructure to support the additional housing, and other such programs. Meetings between RMI officials and U.S. government representatives where held in Honolulu on January 29 and 30.
"This is a great stride forward on our road to improving the quality of life for the people of the Marshall Islands," said President Note. "Making housing available to our people and improving our infrastructure are important goals for our islands. Our collaboration with the US government is critical to provide funding and resources needed to make the dream of home ownership in the Marshall Islands a reality".
For the first time, the housing and infrastructure program will be extended beyond the capital of Majuro to other islands in the Republic. In particular, a special request was made by Senator Ataji Balos also present with the delegation to have the program available to the people of Ebeye. The programs will also benefit the community by including local businesses in their implementation. It is anticipated that the locally licensed banks in the Marshalls will participate by originating home loans, and local construction companies and subcontractors will build the new homes.
Infrastructure upgrades will be made possible through the USDA’s Rural Utilities Service, which offers loans and grants for water and waste disposal systems and for technical assistance and training to maintain those systems. Marshall Islands and USDA officials will meet again in Honolulu in February to further discuss infrastructure funding.
Marshall Islands’ government officials will provide loan information to interest citizens, and will begin preparations for a mid-April trip by US government official who will visit the Marshall Island to research community needs to develop an implementation plan. Part of their visit will include town hall-style meetings with the communities on Majuro and Ebeye.
Our work with the US government is substantially redirected toward building a relationship of mutual respect and professionalism," said John Silk, Minister of Resource and Development. "The significant progress both governments made in our meetings demonstrate that the people of the Marshall Islands benefit when we work together."
Joining President Note in the meetings were Minister for Resources and Development, John Silk, Senator Ataji Balos and Ruben Zackhras, RMI Ambassador to the US, Banny de Brum, Information and Public Relations Officer, Yolanda Lodge, and Philip Annungar, RMI Honolulu Consulate General.
Participants from the US Department of Agriculture included Director for Single Family Housing Program, Phao Khamoui, Zed Kedkheia, USDA Majuro Community Development Manager, Steve Chapman, Director for Business and Industrial Loan, and Fred Douglas of US HUD, Assistant Secretary for Single Family Housings joint the meetings by telephone conference.
October 31, 2000. Minister John Silk heads RMI delegation in discussions on Workforce Investment Act Program (WIA) and other Federal Programs affecting the Marshall Islands
Washington, D.C. - In his inaugural visit to Washington, D.C. as Minister of Resources and Development, the Hon. John Silk participated in various meetings including the Annual Meetings of the National Alliance of Business. He also met with representatives from the U.S. Department of Education, U.S. Department of Labor, and key congressional staffers with federal programs responsibilities in both the Senate and House of Representatives. Accompanying the Minister in these meetings were Mr. David Kabua, Chairman of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) Board, Mr. Lanny Kabua, Executive Director for WIA, Ambassador Banny deBrum and Deputy Chief of Mission Mattlan Zackhras.
Discussions with the Departments of Education, Labor and State focused on the provisions under Public Law 105-220-Aug. 7, 1998, which terminates the WIA program in September 30, 2001. U.S Government representatives confirmed that the Senate amendments to H.R. 2462 (Guam Land Return Act) that includes language to extend all federal programs, grant assistance and services of the United States to freely associated states citizens throughout the Compact renegotiation process and until Congressional consideration of a new bilateral agreement is in place. U.S federal agencies indicated that the new legislation extends RMI’s eligibility for the WIA program beyond 2001.
Minister Silk and his delegation also took the advantage of their presence in Washington, D.C. to brief Congressional staffers about the positive impact of the WIA program on the community. The discussions emphasized new initiatives by the RMI Government to help implement national skill and vocational training in the country, with particular focus on women, youth and outer islands populations. Senator Ted Kennedy’s office expressed interest in setting up potential partnership projects through some of the educational institutions or foundations in the Boston area specializing in aquaculture, water desalinization, renewable energy, and other economic development programs with the RMI. The Minister responded favorably to the proposal from Senator Kennedy’s office and suggested that an RMI fact finding mission to Boston might take place as early as next year. "I was very encouraged to hear that there will be a budget increase this fiscal year for most of the federal education programs in the RMI," said Minister Silk.
Congressman Underwood later met with Minister Silk and members of the delegation and confirmed the passage of H.R. 2462 by the House by a unanimous vote. The Guam bill is expected to be signed by President Clinton within the week. Congressman Underwood also mentioned that the bill will also restore the eligibility status of freely associated states citizens for federal housing benefits in Guam. "I hope the Guam bill will help facilitate in providing a better format for the Compact renegotiations," said Congressman Underwood.
The Minister and his delegation are scheduled to depart Washington tomorrow for Majuro.
September 18, 2000. First Presidential Trip to D.C. a Success
Washington, D.C. - The President of the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI), H.E. Kessai H. Note, concluded a successful round of meetings in Washington, D.C. on Friday, September 15, 2000 that focused attention on upcoming Compact renegotiations and the submission of the RMI’s changed circumstances petition.
The President’s week in D.C. kicked off with a well-attended reception held in his honor at the U.S. Capitol Building. Chairman Ben Gilman of the International Relations Committee and Representatives from the Pacific region – The Hon. Neil Abercrombie, The Hon. Eni Faleomavaega, The Hon. Patsy T. Mink, and The Hon. Robert A. Underwood – joined the RMI Embassy in hosting the reception for the President. In brief remarks, Representatives’ Underwood and Faleomavaega clearly reaffirmed the importance of close U.S. ties to the Pacific region, the Marshall Islands in particular. Congressman Faleomavaega, the Representative from American Samoa, further stressed the continuing U.S. obligation to adequately address the full range of damage and injury caused by the 67 U.S. nuclear weapons tests in the Marshall Islands.
President Note and members of his delegation spent the remainder of the week meeting with key members of both the U.S. Congress and Administration. In a warm welcome for President Note and his delegation, various Members of Congress expressed their support for the strategic partnership that defines the RMI-US relationship. House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt was particularly well versed on the uniquely close ties between the two nations. Many Members were also receptive to the changed circumstances petition presented by the President. In a joint letter from the House Committee on Resources, Chairman Don Young and Ranking Member George Miller formally recognized the submission of the petition. In their letter, the Congressmen stated: "The people of the Republic of the Marshall Islands underwent tremendous suffering and displacement as a result of the nuclear testing carried out by the United States in the Marshall Islands and we remain committed to righting that wrong. We recognize this commitment as a solemn commitment of the United States memorialized in the Compact of Free Association."
President Note also met with key leaders in the Senate, including Chairman Murkowski (Senate Energy Committee), Chairman Ted Stevens (Senate Appropriations Committee), and others. In an insightful comment, Senator Daniel Inouye said he had known since the first Compact went into effect that that the RMI would come back to Congress for assistance. Senator Ted Kennedy also offered his help and support, especially on health-related issues.
Meetings with Department of Energy Secretary Bill Richardson and Department of Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt rounded out President Note’s intense meeting schedule. Secretary Richardson announced the release of several hundred more declassified documents relating to the U.S. Nuclear Testing Program in the Marshalls. Thanking the Secretary, President Note presented the changed circumstances petition which is largely founded on declassified information from the DOE. A strong statement of support came from Secretary Babbitt who pledged to do everything he could to advance favorable review of the RMI Government’s changed circumstances petition.
On two solemn occasions, President Note and his delegation stopped to remember the service and sacrifice of others. President Note paid his respects at the Tomb of the Unknowns in a formal ceremony reserved for heads of state. While at Arlington National Cemetary, President Note and the First Lady also visited the graves of the late President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis where they left woven Marshallese flowers in their honor. At the invitation of the Holocaust Museum in Washington, the President and his delegation went on a tour that left a striking impression. In a moving speech, President Note expressed the affinity he felt for all those who suffered through the horrors of the Holocaust, stating, "Having come from a country with a first-hand understanding of devastation, I empathize with the sufferings of the Holocaust’s victims. Although the Marshall Islands did not experience genocide, the Marshallese people fully understand the pain and horror of standing by helplessly and witnessing appalling destruction." Mindful of the need to recognize and right past injustice, President Note committed himself to "working with you to put faces on our human tragedies and to hold parties responsible for their actions."
With his first trip to D.C. a success, President Note has set the stage for productive discussions next year on Compact and changed circumstances related issues.
Accompanying the President on his historic first visit to the United States Capitol was the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, The Hon. Alvin T. Jacklick, the Minister in Assistance, The Hon. Gerald Zackios, the Minister of Finance, The Hon. Michael Konelios, Secretary Marie Maddison, Ambassador Banny deBrum, RMI-USAKA Representative Botlang Loeak, and key staff from both the Office of the President and the RMI Embassy in Washington. First Lady Mary Note joined the President for all official ceremonies. The First Lady was attended by Mrs. Joti Zackios and Mrs. Honor deBrum.
President Note, First Lady Mary Note, and members of the delegation wish to thank their allies and friends in the U.S. for making their trip such a success.
May 30, 2000. Recent U.S. Government Actions to Assist Workers Exposed to Radiation at the Nuclear Weapons Test Sites on Bikini and Enewetak.
Washington, D.C. - The U.S. Government took two actions to improve U.S. Government compensation to workers exposed to radiation at the U.S. nuclear weapons test sites on Bikini and Enewetak.
The first action was a Department of Energy Employees Compensation Act enacted by Congress and signed by the President. The act was contained in the FY 2001 Defense
Authorization bill. This provision covers contract employers who become ill, disabled or who died from diseases associated with exposure to radiation, beryllium and silica. Workers who were employed by the DOE or DOE contractors and who were exposed to radiation, beryllium or silica at Bikini or Enewetak after 1958 are eligible for the DOE Employees Compensation Act. Workers or survivors can be eligible for a $150,000 lump sum, plus health insurance.
The RMI Embassy in Washington, D.C. worked with Members of Congress to ensure that workers in the RMI were included in the legislation. In a May 30, 2000 letter to Members of Congress working on the DOE Employees Compensation Act, Ambassador Banny deBrum encouraged representatives to include the RMI in the DOE Employee Compensation Act:
I understand that the Senate will consider addressing the workers’ compensation issue in an amendment to the FY 2001 Defense Authorization bill after the Memorial Day recess. I am writing to you to ask for your support in letting your Senate colleagues understand the importance of this issue for the Republic of the Marshall Islands. Throughout the United States and in the Marshall Islands, the workers who participated in the clean-up activities of Department of Energy nuclear sites were exposed to dangerous amounts of radiation and other toxic materials. Despite their exposures, Marshallese test site workers have no access to radiation related medical monitoring or health care services. Marshallese test site workers exhibit the same types of illnesses and problems as many of the communities downwind from the U.S. nuclear weapons tests in the Marshall Islands. Although the U.S. Government recognizes the exposure and health care needs of some downwind populations in the Marshall Islands, the U.S. Government has not acknowledged the exposure and health care needs of the Marshallese clean-up workers employed by DOE contractors when the Marshall Islands was part of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands.
In addition to the DOE Employees Compensation Act, President Clinton signed into law the "Radiation Exposure Compensation Act Amendments of 2000" ("RECA 2000"). The intent of RECA, that came into effect in 1990, is to provide payments to individuals who contracted certain specific cancers and other serious diseases as a result of their exposure to radiation released during above-ground nuclear weapons tests or as a result of their exposure to radiation during employment in underground uranium mines.
President Clinton recently amended RECA to include new claimant populations, additional compensable diseases, lower radiation exposure thresholds, modified medical documentation requirements, and removal of certain disease restrictions. One of the amendments provides a payment of $75,000 to individuals who participated on site in a test involving the atmospheric denotation of a nuclear device and who later developed a specified compensable disease. The claimant must have been present on site above or within the boundaries one of the testing areas, including Bikini and Enewetak, at any time during a period of atmospheric nuclear testing and must have "participated" as defined in the act) during that time in the atmospheric detonation of a nuclear device.
April 28, 2000. CLOSE UP WITH THE RMI EMBASSY
Washington, DC - Ambassador Banny deBrum and Mrs. Honor deBrum hosted a luncheon at the Embassy of the Marshall Islands for Marshallese teachers and students visiting Washington, D.C. as part of the Close Up Program. The Close Up group was made up of students and teachers representing many of the high schools throughout the Marshall Islands. The Embassy sponsors this event annually to give students an opportunity to meet with the Ambassador and his staff to ask questions concerning the Republic of the Marshall Islands’ (RMI) unique bilateral relationship with the United States.
During their visit, both students and teachers asked questions that covered a broad range of topics from the status of Compact renegotiations to changed circumstances. In addition, the students discussed their goals and objectives as participants of the Close Up Program. The interchange was very educational and a great success for all those who participated.
The Embassy was pleased to welcome Marshallese community members living in New Jersey, Virgina and the Washington, D.C. area to the luncheon. Close Up program administrators also participated in the event.
March 27, 2000. New RMI Government Inaugural Visit to Washington
Washington, D.C. - The Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, The Hon. Alvin Jacklick, headed an RMI Government delegation to Washington, D.C. during the week of March 20-24, 2000. Members of the delegation included Minister of Education, The Hon. Wilfred I. Kendall, Secretary Marie Maddison, Senator Maynard Alfred, Ambassador Banny deBrum and key staffers from both the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the RMI Embassy in Washington.
Ministers Jacklick and Kendall led the RMI delegation in completing a full week of meetings with members of the Clinton Administration and Congressional supporters with jurisdiction over RMI issues.
The delegation also convened meetings with Congressional leaders who are expected to play a critical role on the Congressional committees that will consider any agreement to extend the economic provisions of the Compact.
In a meeting with State Department officials, Deputy Assistant Secretary Ralph Boyce and EAP/PIA Director Emil Skodon, the RMI stressed the new government’s commitment to build on and strengthen the existing bilateral relationship. The Minister also stressed the fact that RMI is taking active steps to initiate reform and ensure improved accountability in the future. Some of the issues discussed included the upcoming Annual Economic Consultation Meetings, the Compact renegotiation process, and the new Employment Authorization Document (EAD). The new EADs for the Freely Associated States (FAS) will allow a two step solution to the lingering problems associated with obtaining work authorization cards for FAS citizens seeking employment in the US through the INS. The new process will allow FAS citizens to go through INS district offices, including Hawaii and Guam. A longer-term solution will allow FAS citizens to use a form I-766 that can be processed through respective US embassies even before citizens arrive in the US. INS will also look into extending the 1-year expiration period for this document.
The Minister of Education, Wilfred I. Kendall, convened meetings with members of both House and Senate, US Department of Education and Department of Interior to discuss a possible amendment to the recently passed House and Senate committee bills (H.R.2, S.2) that will terminate the FAS eligibility for Primary and Secondary education programs in September 30, 2000. "It was very reassuring to see so many RMI supporters on this critical issue considering this sudden turn of events that may affect our children. We would like to ensure that FAS citizens are eligible for these programs up to 2004 as in the Pell Grants," said Minister Kendall.
The Ministers also took part in the Advisory Committee Group meetings on the Changed Circumstances petition to be submitted to Congress. The committee met to discuss ways to expand on the draft petition and agree on a timeframe to present it to Congress. Members of the committee represented a wide spectrum including representatives of the national and local governments, nuclear claims tribunal, and scientific, legal and medical experts.
Minister Jacklick also led the RMI delegation in a follow up meeting to the RMI/DOE Annual Meeting in Hawaii October 1999 to further discuss the ‘gaps’ in the DOE health and environmental programs as agreed upon in a Joint Communiqué signed by the RMI, DOE, and DOI. The meeting was hosted by the Department of Interior and was attended by the US Government Administration, Congressional Staffers and local representatives from Bikini, Rongelap, Utrik, and Enewetak. Senator Maynard Alfred also sat in the meeting representing other affected atolls.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs met with US Acting Secretary of State, Ambassador Thomas Pickering. Ambassador Pickering holds the distinction of being the longest-serving career ambassador in the US Foreign Service. Minister Jacklick recognized Ambassador Pickering for his support during RMI’s petition for membership to the United Nations. During the discussions, Ambassador Pickering expressed his strong support in the Compact renegotiation process and their commitment to work in partnership to continue the unique relations between the two countries.
The delegation took the opportunity to visit the headquarters of the International Ship Registry in Reston, Virginia, who administers the ship registry in the Marshall Islands. The delegation met with Managing Directors, Mr. Clay Maitland and Mr. Florigio A. Guida, President, William Gallagher, and with each department heads in the organization. "I was very impressed with how the facility is structured to serve the interest of its clients, including the RMI Maritime Registry, who is now considered as the top performer among the ten (10) largest registries in the world." Minister Jacklick mentioned.
Later in the visit, Chairman of the House Resources Committee, Don Young, and Minority Leader, Congressman George Miller, co-hosted a reception with the RMI Embassy in honor of Ministers Alvin Jacklick and Wilfred Kendall and the RMI delegation to Washington D.C. Among those who attended include Senator Daniel Akaka, Cong. Benjamin Gilman, Cong. Gil Gutknecht, Cong. Robin Hayes, Cong. Walter Jones, Jr., Cong. Dale Kildee, Cong. Jack Kingston and Cong. Ralph Regula.
The RMI delegation is expected to arrive Majuro on March 30, 2000.
March 23, 2000. Filling In the "Gaps"
Washington, D.C. - At a meeting hosted by the U.S. Department of Interior (DOI), the Government of the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) made significant progress regarding nuclear-related issues in Washington, D.C. on March 23rd. The meeting brought together representatives from the U.S. Government Administration, Congressional staff and RMI national and local governments to further discuss "gaps" in the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) environmental and health programs in the RMI.
Foreign Affairs Minister Alvin Jacklick, who led the RMI delegation, asked that the discussion be based on the Joint Communiqué Regarding Immediate Program Needs signed by the RMI, DOE, and DOI in October 1999. The Joint Communiqué identifies specific "gaps" in current DOE programs in the RMI and the needs of the radiation affected communities. Reviewing each need listed in the Joint Communiqué, the representatives from the communities gave concrete examples of the people and places that have fallen through cracks in programs because the RMI does not have access to the following:
"…sufficient environmental monitoring data for tracers and toxic substances used in the testing and support activities;
…long-term stewardship programs for sites in the RMI with long-lived wastes, including monitoring of the Runit Dome to ensure its integrity;
…a radiation occupational safety program for workers;
…integrated and comprehensive medical care for the acutely and/or chronically exposed people of Rongelap and Utrik as well as medical coverage for such people traveling or residing outside the RMI;
…a program of medical surveillance and radiological monitoring of the test-site and clean-up workers, including agricultural workers, as well as those known to be chronically exposed to environmental sources of radiation."
In light of these needs, U.S. Congressional staff in dialogue with DOI, DOE and DOS officials suggested three specific initiatives to address certain concerns of the RMI Government.
First, Congressional staffers asked U.S. agency officials to take immediate steps to clarify who should be responsible within the federal government for the monitoring of Runit Dome. At present, no U.S. federal agency accepts the critical responsibility for monitoring the structural integrity of this twenty year-old nuclear waste site. Second, Congressional staff responded to the serious shortcomings in medical care for the affected communities described by both RMI and US federal government officials by suggesting a look at possible legislative solutions. As DOE Deputy Assistant Secretary Dr. Paul Seligman commented, the lack of adequate care for individuals affected by the testing is "unconscionable." In complete agreement, the RMI welcomed the opportunity to finally move beyond the extremely narrow scope of the current medical program mandated by Congress and introduce legislation that better reflects the actual health care needs of the communities. Third, U.S representatives on both sides voiced support for consideration of the establishment of a Utrik Atoll Trust Fund modeled in part on the trust funds that support self-determination and sustainability in the Bikini and Rongelap communities.
RMI Government officials commented that the atmosphere of cooperation and the articulation of real solutions that characterized the meeting made it one of the most successful bilateral meetings about radiation issues in memory. The RMI would like to see all future meetings on these issues conducted along the same format with the DOI hosting the meeting, broad-based involvement of other relevant federal agencies, and Congressional involvement.
The head of each delegation delivered the opening remarks for the meeting: Minister Jacklick, for the RMI; Deputy Assistant Director for the Office of Insular Affairs (OIA), Ms. Sandra King, for DOI; Deputy Assistant Secretary, Dr. Paul Seligman, for DOE; Ambassador Joan Plaisted, for Department of State. Other U.S. representatives included Mr. Joseph McDermott, RMI Desk Officer at the DOI/OIA, who coordinated the meeting, key staff from the DOE and DOS, and Congressional staffers from the offices of Senator Daniel Inouye, Congressman George Miller and Congressman Robert Underwood.
In addition to Minister Jacklick, other RMI delegates included Secretary Marie Maddison, Senators Hiroshi Yamamura, Abacca Anjain-Maddison, Henchi Balos, Ishmael John, Maynard Alfred, Mayors Joe Saul, Neptali Peter, council members from the Utrik, Rongelap, Bikini and Enewetak local governments, legal and scientific experts, Ambassador Banny deBrum and key staff members from both the RMI Embassy and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Minister Wilfred I. Kendall was unable to attend as he had other official commitments on Capitol Hill.