First nuclear legacy conference

Clockwise from left are Nuclear Legacy Conference speakers Tony ‘Ton-Ton’ deBrum Kattil, Dr. Neal Palafox, Tony deBrum, Bill Graham, Kenneth Kedi, Glenn Alcalay, Trudy Peterson, and Emlyn Hughes. Photos: Hilary Hosia.
Clockwise from left are Nuclear Legacy Conference speakers Tony ‘Ton-Ton’ deBrum Kattil, Dr. Neal Palafox, Tony deBrum, Bill Graham, Kenneth Kedi, Glenn Alcalay, Trudy Peterson, and Emlyn Hughes. Photos: Hilary Hosia.


Following the traditional annual program commemorating Nuclear Victims Remembrance Day at the Meto Court area in front of the capitol building Wednesday morning, the RMI’s first ever nuclear legacy conference opened in the afternoon at the International Conference Center. The theme for the conference was “Charting a Journey Toward Justice.”

After an invocation by the Reverend Enja Enos, Minister of Foreign Affairs John Silk gave welcoming remarks during which he explained that his involvement in dealing with the nuclear legacy began in the 1980s when he worked for Micronesian Legal Services Corporation assisting the people of Enewetak when they were moved back to their atoll from Ujelang.

He said that his experiences at that time taught him that the nuclear weapons testing program had “forever altered our culture.”

Minister Silk shared a personal perspective on the effects of the weapons testing that he has through his grandchildren. Five of them are descendants of the group of Bikinians originally removed from their atoll in 1946 and two are part Enewetakese. He described all of them as “children of the 21st century who are also orphans of the 20th century” and said the fact that they cannot return and live on all of the islands in their atolls “is testimony to the fact that the nuclear legacy is intergenerational for the Marshallese people.”

The conference included speeches by a wide range of experts and people with personal stories. A sample follows. To read the whole Nuclear Legacy Conference report, subscribe to the Journal by emailing us at marshallislandsjournal@gmail.com.

By HILARY HOSIA

Of all the dignitaries attending the first Nuclear Legacy Conference at the International Conference Center last week, including related activities held outside the ICC, the US Ambassador to the Marshall Islands Karen Stewart likely holds the record for attending all the conference events and for staying throughout the duration of each program.

Other notable people at the conference included the following:

Tony “Ton-Ton” deBrum Kattil

The youngest participant in the summit was 8-year old Tony “Ton-Ton” deBrum Kattil, who is related to both Tony deBrum and Charlie Domnick. The third grader brought laughter to the audience with this story: “When jimma (grandfather) Charlie was a small boy in Likep, he didn’t want to gather the leaves, as was the chore in those days. But when the bomb went off, jimma Charlie ran out of the house with no clothes on.”

Following young Tony’s speech, Charles Domnick added: “No one in the world has been exposed twice,” again the audience lit up in laughter as they pictured the scene.

Climate Change Ambassador Tony deBrum, Keynote Address

“We don’t dwell in the past. The Marshallese outrigger canoe does not have a rearview mirror. It’s like when you go fishing and you’re in the middle of the school and tuna is jumping. And you’re still trying to get your lines and your bait and your lures ready. They (tuna) will not wait for you to put your line together.

Things that had happened to us has happened already, and there can be no more waiting time. We need to create a solution at our own pace with the knowledge that we have.

We need to have our advisors, our scientists and our council inspect and advise the government to take a proper step forward.”