Nitijela’s recent passage of “Bill No. 6” ignited a barrage of criticism and complaint from many Marshallese resident outside the Marshall Islands, objections delivered mainly on social media — and generated a rare intervention from the Council of Iroij.
The bill, approved 13-12, eliminates postal absentee voting by offshore Marshallese.
Last week, Speaker Kenneth Kedi and Clerk Morean Watak signed into law 18 pieces of legislation adopted in the recently concluded session of Nitijela — but the Speaker put Bill No. 6 temporarily on hold following receipt of a letter expressing concern from the Council of Iroij. The Speaker pointed out to the Journal that though the letter of concern from the Council did not follow the Constitutionally prescribed format of a resolution, the fact that Council members issued a letter on Bill No. 6 required him to hear their concerns.
On Tuesday this week, following a lunch meeting hosted by Kedi with the Council of Iroij, Vice Speaker Jejwarick Anton, representatives from the Attorney General and Nitijela legislative counsel, the Speaker and the Clerk signed Bill No. 6 into law.
During the two-hour meeting Tuesday, Council of Iroij members asked if members of Nitijela can consider introducing another amendment in January to make it “possible for our Marshallese citizens to vote.” Kedi assured the iroij that during the first week of January the Council’s communication will be included on the Nitijela’s agenda and from there, any Nitijela member can sponsor the requested amendment.
“Our iroij have spoken and now Nitijela should consider their request to amend the law,” he said.
As a result of the new law, Marshall Islanders living outside RMI will not have the option of casting absentee votes by mail for the first time since the Election and Referenda Act was adopted in 1980 — unless it is amended next year.
Read more about this in the October 28, 2016 edition of the Marshall Islands Journal.