News » LetterstoLeaders
The executive director of Women United Together Marshall Islands (WUTMI) wrote to the nation’s parliament this week expressing disappointment in the government's failure to pass bill #93, the Domestic Violence Prevention and Protection Act. "The Nitijela has sent a very clear message to the Marshallese people and the world: the Nitijela considers the prevention of domestic violence as simply a low-priority issue," said Daisy Alik-Momotaro.
In the last national election of 2003, around 2,500 overseas postal ballots were received for the Nitijela races in all 24 jurisdictions. Marshallese Consultant Ben Graham says 2007 postal ballot numbers should be even more significant considering there more Marshallese living outside of the Marshalls today.
Why was the postal ballot process made more difficult for this election, and why were so many ballots, for "postal" voters, sent from Majuro too late? These are just two of the questions which follow in this special Yokwe Online Virtual Town Hall:
A recent press release from the Republic of the Marshall Islands Embassy has initiated a request of our leaders for more information about the work of the RMI Mission in Washington DC. The article tells about the 13 Marshall Islands students and 3 chaperones who visited with Ambassador Banny deBrum during their participation in the Close-up Program.
"I and others would like to know more about these lines in the article -- roles and responsibilities that follow with working at the Mission...many challenges that Marshallese face when they come to the United States...how the Embassy is able to assist them..."
The budding tourism industry in the Republic of the Marshall Islands will get a major inplant with the beginning of Japan Airlines charter tours next month. Across the Marshalls, businesses and non-profit groups have led clean-up efforts and a community awareness campaign to prepare for the coming Japanese tourists - about 200 per flight.
Majuro is being readied for the influx of tourists, but is Marshallese society ready? One Majuro expatriate resident asks what can be done about the way some recent tourists have been mistreated, including his own mother. "If it strikes midnight and these problems are not resolved, the Marshall Islands’s tourism industry could turn into a pumpkin after two charter flights," said Richard Li.
In light of the recent suit by the Marshall Islands Social Security Administration (MISSA) against the government-controlled Air Marshall Islands (AIM) for more than 600,000 US dollars on unpaid SS payments, Ben Graham, a consultant in the Marshall Islands, believes that citizens and taxpayers should be concerned as to why some debts to the Airlines are not being paid.
"With this type of situation, it is no wonder that AMI continues to struggle," said Graham. >>more>>
"The Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) has an educational disaster taking place in K-12," stated the review of Ministry of Educations' performance for FY 2004 Compact Funding. Issues with civil service and management undermine MOE efficiency and effectiveness and result in poor education outcomes for the children of the RMI, indicates a recent mid-term ADB/RMI report.
The purpose of the report is to brief people on the state of education in the RMI and promote participation in the public consultations to be held in July and August in selected atolls. "We encourage and welcome any comments from Yokwe.net and its members," says Ben Chutaro, local consultant and co-author.
Yokwe Online has established this Virtual Town Hall to discuss these issues and options for educational reform in the Marshalls. Leaders and citizens are invited to participate by posting their comments in the Town Hall Forum which is now open for discussion.
Since last September, "Letters to Our Leaders," has been following the issue of a proposed Constitutional Convention for the Marshall Islands. Recently, Yokwe Online contacted the Chairman of the Judiciary and Governmental Relations Committee for documents outlining the proposed Constitutional Convention and the Nitijela's amendment proposals. Committee member Senator Abacca Anjain-Maddison provided Schedule I which includes the 33 amendments previously submitted and two new amendments, and is posted in this Virtual Town Hall. Also, Senator Alik Alik, J&GR Chairman, has requested the following update be posted in response to questions asked in our Con-Con Forums.
The Virtual Town Hall Meeting for Consideration of Marshall Islands Constitutional Convention (Con-Con) continues with an update from Senator Abacca Anjain-Maddison. The Senator said the committee decided at an executive meeting last week, after reviewing the "Jemen Ei" on timing, that the consideration of Bill #7 will be delayed. "It is slated for the bill to come up next session to be considered which commencing on the first Monday of January 2005 for a duration of usually not less than 25 days of sitting. It is not a rush thing anymore, " she said.
The Senator has provided the Bill for the Constitutional Convention Act, 2004, which was introduced to the Nitijela in its twenty-fifth regular session of 2004.
"The Marshall Islands Constitutional Convention"
Senator Abacca Anjain-Maddison, Rongelap Atoll, sent the following email to Yokwe Online today:
"As a member of the Judiciary and Governmental Relations Committee (J&GR) I am pleased to inform you that I am ready to answer any questions you or the public has with regard to the concon."
Yokwe Online readers are invited to submit CONCON questions for the Senator and join the discussion in the CON-CON FORUM.
"Consideration of the Call for a Marshall Islands Constitutional Convention"
"Letters to Our Leaders," has been an interactive feature since 2002, enabling Marshall Islands citizens and friends to ask government leadership about current issues. In the Marshalls, public meetings are being held to discuss the need for a new CON-CON. Now, those Marshall Islanders living off-island and abroad can participate by asking questions and expressing views here. This will be a on-going Town Hall subject, and Con-Con questions can be submitted at anytime. To kick-off the first session, Yokwe Online submitted the following questions to which Senator Alik Alik, Chairman Judiciary and Governmental Relations Committee, responded:
QUESTION: When and how was the need for a Constitutional Convention initiated and by whom?
SENATOR ALIK: As you understand that our Constitution requires for amending of the same at least once every ten years. It's now ten years since our last ConCon, and that's why just a bill was introduced to fulfill that Constitutional requirement. The Bill is with the Judiciary and Governmental Relations Committee which I am the Chairman as assigned to by the Speaker. We have held so far four public hearings to find out from the people whether they feel that a Constitutional Convention should be taking place for the purpose of amending the Constitution.
Yokwe Online has contacted the Office of the President for an official statement on the Jimmy Mote case. The case became public when Yokwe Online posted the story on August 1. In short, Jimmy Mote has been in immigration custody for seven months and faces an order of deportation. The following questions were sent to Marshall Islands President Kessai Note on August 17.
QUESTION: : In reference to the President's Nitijela statement that "Immigration provisions of the Compact have improved for Marshallese," does the President have any comment concerning the Jimmy Mote case?
RESPONSE from OFFICE of the PRESIDENT: The President is aware of Mote's case as he is being briefed by the Embassy and Minister Zackios from time to time. As we are all aware, the Embassy is currenlty working closely with the proper U.S. authorities to resolve Mote's case since it was first brought to their attention a few weeks back. There's no reservation in saying that the Embassy will do all it can in assisting Mr. Mote as it has always done in the past to other Marshallese citizens. more....
The Jimmy Mote Case: RMI Embassy Statements
In response to the many requests from Yokwe Online readers for more "official" information, the entire Embassy statements, which were sent to Yokwe Online and used as quotes in our articles, are provided here. Yokwe Online'scontacted the Embasy prior to breaking the story to the public, and used statements in Part II and III.
In part two of our Virtual Town Hall's "Letter to Our Leaders #9," Robert Muller, Executive Director of the Republic of the Marshall Islands' Compact Negotiation Office, continues his response to Yokwe Online's questions and comments regarding implications of the immigration provisions.
COMMENT: The press and certain commentators have indicated that new provisions might hinder Marshallese "free access" to the US. It was also reported that the "U.S. attorney general's office could set regulations specifying the time and conditions of admission to the country."
RESPONSE: The answer to the issues you raise is not an easy one given that it involves speculating about the intentions of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) with respect to issuing future regulations concerning Marshallese in the United States. Please note that DHS will now be in charge of issuing regulations and not the Attorney General as those functions were moved over to the new department as of March 1, 2003. Anyhow, I think I would respond to the issues raised in two ways.
Yokwe Online presented the following questions to Robert Muller, Executive Director of the Republic of the Marshall Islands Compact Negotiation Office. There are concerns that Section 141 (f) will significantly impact their stay in the US under the new Compact. "“any alien who has been admitted under the Compact, or the Compact, as amended, and who cannot show that he or she has sufficient means of support in the United States, is deportable."
QUESTION: What is the RMI's opinion on this?
ANSWER: The Sec. 141(f) you referred to is the “public charge” provision which applies to all non-immigrants to the U.S. (For what it is worth, it even applies to intending immigrants). A person must be capable of supporting oneself or have the means to do so such as an affidavit of support from a relative, outside income, etc. more....
Submitted by Mike Pettitt
The approval and implementation of the original Compact between the RMI and the US was completed via public referendum and vote. This historic vote set in place the original Compact Agreement, including the Kwajalein Use Agreement under which the Kwajalein Missile Range (USAKA) currently operates.Thus, the upcomng vote by the Nitijela on passage of "Compact II," which includes a new long-term agreement for Kwajalein Missile Range out to 2066 (or beyond, if extension is exercised) may be the most important vote to be considered by the Nitijela in its history.
1. As so many Marshallese now reside in the US and have access to computers and email, I believe it would very beneficial for the RMI Embassy site and/or Yokwe.net to post email addresses for all Senators.
2. Ideally, these would be individual addresses but alternately could be an address for the Clerk of the Nitijela (who could pass messages on to the the appropriate Senator).
3. If that is not possible, the RMI Embassy in the US could agree to receive and forward questions and comments from RMI citizens.
- RESPONSE : The Ministry has recently revised its strategic plan in light of the renewal of the Compact. I have outlined some of the key objectives under this plan and how we plan to meet them. This by no means covers all areas that need improvement, but they are some of the most glaring areas requiring attention.
- 1) Improved reading abilities for all students in English and Marshallese.
Reading, especially English, abilities are key to mastering other subjects such as history, science, technology, etc. as most of the textbooks for these subjects are written in English. The MOE has already purchased reading textbooks for all Elementary school students and conducted training sessions for their use by teachers. Other strategies to obtain this goal include improved teacher training, higher standards for teacher certification, retention of native-English speaking volunteer teachers, and increasing the number of classroom hours dedicated to language training.
VIRTUAL TOWN HALL Q & A
1. It has been reported that the NTA needs 1000 internet users to have a better service. How are we you going to have 1000 internet users when the service is expensive and very slow?
- submitted by Anthony Maika
"I can understand and accept when NTA blames logical factors for causing disturbances to its services and obligations to the customers, butwhat I really cannot comprehend is when NTA charges the customers for the time they were unable to obtain legitimate services. For instead, recently NTA blames a typhoon for causing such bad services for a considerable period of time. And as one of the unfortuante customers with NTA, I had to pay for such days I wasn't able to utilize to make my money worth. Perhaps, I am missing something here. Please advise."
1. It has been reported that the NTA needs 1000 internet users to have a better service. Big question is, How are we you going to have 1000 internet users when the service is expensive and very slow?
2. With the new Compact and all, did we have any kind of discussions with the US about Communication Services?
3. On one of the Nitijela seassons, one of the Senator brought up a question about replacing NTA to a new service provider. Did you come up with a solution?
4. Why would we have $15 monthly charges and $3 an hour charge asside from the monthly charge when we have a very slow network?
5. Can we have different providers to offer us with variety of services with competable prices?
--submitted by Crossley Elaisha
Regarding education, RMI and US stresses that it should be of high priorities in the new compact II era. I'm sure RMI has submitted for the compact negotiation some kind of a layout or strategic plan to help revitalized these much disintegrating sectors:
1. What are the plans, goals, and objective priorities?
2. It is with great concern that our government has decided to cancel the financial aid for private schools. Is this permanent or just temporary and will be implemented again once we enter into new phase of Compact II? If implemented, will the amount remain same, increase, or less?
3. Reports indicate more than or at least fifty percent of teachers or educators in the Marshall Islands have no college degrees or are not certified. Is this one of the high priorities, or does our education department have in planning measures to ensure that teachers or educators meet certain qualified criteria?
A Marshallese who is studying health policy/administration asks:
1) What's the annual total budget for health services including 177HP allocated in the next Compact?
2) How was the budget determined?
3) Will this budget provide a level of care comparable to U.S.?
Yokwe Online submitted the following questions to Mr. Robert Muller, Executive Director of the RMI’s Office of Compact Negotiations, following news that agreements are to be signed during formal talks in Majuro next week:
1. Could you elaborate or add to the report why the RMI decided to accept the offer and to lobby the US Congress to support their claims instead?
2. Could you please comment on any new changes in status of immigration under the new Compact?
submitted by Anthony Maika
Questions regarding employment status on Kwajalein include:
1. Last July, the MIJ mention that the Compact Negotiation Team along with the President to meet with the RMI workforce before they move on to the negotiation table. What ever happen to that?
2. If the new contractor wants to do the right for all its employees, did our negotiation team change the employee benefit package on the new Compact?
3. Mike said there are at lease 288 RMI grandfather employees on Kwaj. What will happen if all of the dies?
4. Why is that only grandfather gets aid time and half for overtime?
5. Did RMI asked for all RMI employees on kwaj the minimum pay for U.S? If not, why not? If I were to work in the United Sates, I get paid not less then the minimum wage.
>>>continue to read all questions and entire letter>>>
submitted by Mike Pettitt
In posting "Good News" today in the Current Events Forum, I had an idea I wish I had thought of long, long ago. It is a SHAME that all these job postings in the MI Journal are not forwarded by CMI, the MISSA, the PSC and others.
1. How many MI college students in the US, outside of Orange County, Arkansas, and Oahu, have easy access to the MI Journal?
2. How many of them have no idea what jobs are available to them in the RMI unless they are lucky enough to have family or friends in the RMI who send information?
3. More than that, how can they even hope to respond on time, since even if they get the Journal, the closing dates for the jobs are often EARLIER than the date of receipt of the newspaper (or even, as I note in my posting, earlier than the date of publication!).
4. Also, the PSC, MISSA, and other announcements state you must turn in an application form. How do you get an application if you are in the US -- visit the RMI Embassy in Washington? And, how do you turn in the application - the announcement does not even include a mailing address!
Since 1986, the RMI Scholarship Program (MISGLB) has relied almost entirely on Compact funds for its operation and awarding of scholarships. Funds for post-secondary education were earmarked in Title Two, Article One, Section 216 (a)(3) of the Compact ( which states that the US shall provide "$2.687 million annually for a scholarship fund or funds to support the post-secondary education of citizens of the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia attending United States accredited, post-secondary institutions in the United States, its territories and possessions, the Marshall Islands or the Federated States of Micronesia.") For the benefit of the hundreds of current and soon-to-be Marshallese post-secondary students, can anyone answer the following questions?
1. Will the RMI continue to receive Compact funding specifically earmarked for post-secondary education?
2. If so, what amount? Will it be more or less than the nearly $800,000 received annually through the Compact since 1986?
3. If not, how does the government plan to continue funding the scholarship program? Annual appropriations to be determined by Nitijela? If that's the likely scenario, what guarantees will there be that the program will receive sufficient funding from Nitijela?
Many students (and parents) are concerned about the continued availability of scholarship funds.