I think the easiiest way to answer this "ethics" question is to do a reading of the RMI Constitution regarding who is eligible for a Nitijela seat:
Section 4. Qualifications of Candidates.
(1) Every qualified voter who has attained the age of 21 years is qualified to be a
candidate for election as a member of the Nitijela.
(2) Any person who is qualified to be a candidate under paragraph (1) of this Section
shall have the right to be a candidate in any electoral district in which he is entitled to vote, or
unless otherwise provided by Act*, in any other electoral district:
Provided that no person may, at any election, be a candidate in more than one electoral
*There has been no Act saying that you have to run from the island where you have land rights, meaning that as long as you can vote, you can run from anywhere. I don't think this is a problem because the RMI is a democracy and people have the right to choose who they want as their representative. If people from an atoll don't want a candidate as their senator if he or she is from another island, they don't have to vote for this person.
The reason why this is a great law is that it provides people with a wider and stronger variety of candidates, which ultimately should make for a better governing body. The beauty of a democracy is that people get to choose, and the more choices available, the better it is for the RMI and its citizens.;)
I enjoyed the post by Anjin_Kajur, it is important that these issues get discussed in an intelligent manner. The problem I have with both Anjin_Kajur's post and the YokweOnline post is that it almost assumes that RMI voters aren't sure what they are doing when they vote for a candidate. I've been out here a long time, the people here really know how to vote and to select their candidates. I can't buy into the idea that voters are manipulated by savvy candidtes who are in turn manipulating traditional leaders--apart from the idea that that is exactly what candidates are supposed to do to get elected, i.e., manipulate people into believing they are the right choice, etc. I can prove this by the last election: if certain candidates are so adept at manipulating their traditional leaders, why did a traditional leader get overthrown in the last election?
I think the Constitution is relevant to this argument because it was designed to promote democracy, i.e., to provide us with as many candidates as possible.
I think there is even a bigger fairness issue here where it comes to elections:
How is that that the VOTERS, a year before an election, can in mass change their voter locations? For example: Suddenly, a very popular candidate from Ebeye, who knows he is going to win, has many of his supporters change their voting location to say, Jabot Island or Mili, etc.. This happens here all the time because many, many people in the RMI have land rights in many different locations in the Marshalls. It just seems a bit unfair is all. I think once you declare your voting juristiction, you should have to keep it until death do you part.
I have a suggestion: I think this thread--which is a very important one--should be about "fairness" in the elections for both voters and candidates as there are a lot of interesting issues to be discussed.
I must say that I stand corrected. After reading some of the posts above, I have to agree that not allowing voters to change their registration from place to place would be a big mistake.
I think the problem we are all talking about is the "six of one, half a dozen of another" syndrome where we see the same people every election, just running from different atolls.
My observation after listening and watching years of Nitijela sessions is that while the current administration has gone a long way towards making government agencies accountable, etc. [it has gone from something like 15 agencies to only 2 that aren't auditable in three years], there is still a lot of work to be done. The Marshalls now exist in a world where they must compete for donor nation dollars, which means being not just accountable, but VERY accountable. No country is going to dump a big chunk of money into a corrupted black void. Our act really needs further cleansing, and I am not seeing the horses needed to do this in our current government. The Nitjela needs fresh intelligent faces, people who have more than their own interests at heart, educated people that can carry the weight of the nation on their shoulders.
Problem is they are all in Costa Mesa, Springdale, Enid and Portland...
The development of politics in the RMI continues evolve.
Yokwe's question, "Is it ethically sound that a candidate runs for office of an atoll/island in which he/she has NOT had residence NOR recent involvement with the community?", should be revised a bit. Please read on:
Bikinijack's response provides the legal basis to the question, but as Yokwe stated, it doesn't answer it. Iâ€™d like to rephrase this question, but first present some information that will help explain the proposed revision.
We've gone from the campaign by food, to campaign by values. During the early days of the Post TT era, the Minister of Transportation who, then and now, controlled the field trips ships that linked voter in the outer islands to the Centers held the most important post. Campaigning with food was standard practice up.
More recently, the RRDP in defiance of Late Amata Kabua's party, established to introduce a "second party" system. RRDP in effect planted the seed that lead to the formation of the UDP.
These parties formally introduced â€œplatformsâ€ for candidates and parties alike to consider. The voter welcomed this new addition to the campaigning process.
Platforms developed further by UDP candidates. The UDP also planted a seed for a much greater issues facing RMIâ€™s political development, which brings us to TODAY. A fear by traditional leaders that there is a steady erosion of their traditional powers and along with that, mantin majol seems to exist among some traditional leaders.
The scenario presented by YOKWE is a direct result of the current state of the political growth in the RMI. With the 1999 election of an "educated" commoner to the Office of the President, President Kessai Note presents a dilemma for some while at the same time, a relief for the majority of the ri-majol. The manit which stipulates an hierarchy of traditional authority seems by some to be in jeopardy. While I think this is paranoiac , it does pose a challenge for ri-majol to consider. (I'LL GO INTO THIS ON ANOTHER FORUM FOR DEBATE, STAY TUNED TO YOKWE.NET)
The 1999 election of Kessai Note as President fueled resentment and concern among some traditional leaders especially with the ousting of former President Imata Kabua. This concern stems from the fact that the Office of the President was held by a traditional High Chief since the inception of the Government. Post election reactions by certain factions seem to suggest that the Office of the President should not be held by a "commoner". Among those candidates for President in 1999 were other traditional chiefs who were not successful in attaining the requisite number of votes for one reason or another.
More recently, the Kwajilein lease negotiations have seen a fair share of strain between tradition leaders and the government negotiator cause largely in part by KNC negotiators.
These factors, however brief, have caused political strategist advising traditional leaders in politics to consider placing Nitijela candidates in islands on which they wield some or all traditional authority. Some of these candidates are receiving these offers in exchange for service provided to the traditional leader, such as the KNC negotiators. This is equivalent a political favor for service and friendship, but, in exchange for his vote in the Nitijela.
I think the question Yokwe should posed is, "Can RMI voters truely exercise their Constitutional Right to freely vote (choose among candidates) when you have savvy candidates manipulating the powers of our traditional leaders for their personal gain?".
This revised question poses two negatives for RMI voters, which clearly are; 1) A Voters right to free choice is preempted by candidates manipulating traditional authority by instill fear and repression to vote otherwise; and, 2) Voters are then left to choice between a Sodom or Gomorrah.
Politicial tactics such as these tell you what kind of cowards these candidates really are.
While I suggested revisions to the Yokwe's question, I think that Yokwe raises an important issue regarding "relevancy" here.
I'd like to revisit a very important point made in bikinijack's posting above. HeShe stated that "apart from the idea that that is exactly what candidates are supposed to do to get elected, i.e., manipulate people into believing they are the right choice, etc.".
And while I don't dispute HisHer definition as a strategy, the point made is exactly what all free persons strive for and in the case of the unfortunate (repressed), yearn for.
And yes, political candidates use all forms of persuasion to entice constituents to vote for them. However, your definition canâ€™t be applied here when you have a (or several) candidate(s) who are manipulating traditional authority essentially preempting the rights for VOTERS free choice.
Itâ€™s impossible to achieve bikinijackâ€™s definition of a â€œfairâ€ political strategy when you preempt voter choice by manipulating traditional authority using fear and repression. Again, this tactic basically predetermines ones personal right to CHOOSE through the use of traditional authority.
As far as, â€œtill death do you partâ€, for voters to stay in one voting area and not change votes, I have to strongly disagree with this point. For example, I grew up on an outer island and at a young age, I was forced to move to the center to attain higher education. I miss my home and hope to return some day. When I became eligible to vote, I registered to vote in the Center where I currently reside. Some day, I may choose to change my vote to my home island should the need arise. With this choice currently provided under the protection of our Constitution, I hope and pray that it remains so, for I would rather have the right to make my own choice to vote from where I hold land rights rather than where I reside.
Regarding land rights, this candidate doesnâ€™t hold community ties or land rights in the atoll he is running for. Sure itâ€™s afforded under the Constitution, but, as Lajuur points out, what benefit does it serve the community if this candidateâ€™s primary goal is to re-enter the Nitijela. There is no relationship or relevancy and for that matter, benefit to the community for such candidates.
Even with experience, voters need to factor in the personal history and consistency of these candidates. They possess political track records that are littered with questionable ethics and values and in one case â€œdeliberate daylight robberyâ€ under the Administration of former President Imata Kabua. Why?, unfortunately nothing more then simply arrogance and greed. Suffice to say, they werenâ€™t reelected in 1999.
You have to wonder, if candidates like these under discussion were to come to your island after being discarded and they are so intelligent and seasoned, why did they not get reelected after serving 10 years in one island?
Voters beware of the excess baggage and dirty launder associated with this type of candidate.
Fairness? I Vote, YES!
Election is fairly new to our small nation. For generations we've had our own culture and beliefs, but we've also intregrated a new system "a Democratic Government." With this system comes elections and citizens selecting their representative to the Government, but as before we've had our traditional leaders by rights of birth.
Now back to the question in hand - "Is it ethically sound that a candidate runs for office of an atoll/island in which he/she has NOT had residence NOR recent involvement with the community?"
It is true we have our Constitution to abide by, but it is also true that we have our culture and beliefs dating back for generations which we to this day are still practicing. We were brought up to be respectful of our elders, most especially our traditional leaders. Usually when a candidates runs for a seat he/she has to be recognized by our traditional leaders and it would be them who will let their people know. In some cases this question applies, but in our case due to our lifestyle it has no bearing since the tradtional leaders are still the rightful owners.
But remember the choice is and will always be yours..........
There are many entanglements that will need to be overcome so that a clear way to deal with the situation can be found. I will not be able to name some of them but here goes with some ideas.
The most significant task will be to try and bridge the gap between the traditional style of leadership and a more constititionally based mechanism. With there being candidates with multiple land ownerships that could be spread across several atolls, trying to establish a form of residency status could prove to be difficult. In the states, and please correct me if I'm wrong, a candidate must establish residency 6 or 12 months before there is an election. I agree with a previous statement that a candidate should have a firm grasp on pertinent issues facing their potential constituents. We need leaders that possess a true heart for serving the needs of their people, not candidates merely seeking a form of income or position of power.
So with that in mind some thoughts on ways to sort this out:
1. Candidates may only run for atolls in which they have the most land rights to.
2. Candidates must establish residency in the atoll that they are going to run for.
The first way, though it has merits, may be too limiting since not everyone has land rights. If the people of the marshalls have elected an "educated commoner" as one writer put it, then maybe a system favoring the second point might be for realistic and inclusive of all those that have the talent, ambition, and humbleness to lead and serve.
But again, I think we come back to the awesome task of reconciling the needs of a nation rooted in its traditional sense of leadership with an emerging nation struggling to finds its own voice and realizing that even "commoners" have what it takes to lead and serve.
Interesting stuff to ponder.
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