Nitijela openings other than Presidential elections and votes of no confidence tend to present little drama, accounting for the generally low turnout of members of the public, aside from those attending to sing and government representatives — as was the case at Tuesday’s opening.
But behind the scenes Tuesday, drama brewed as a backdrop to the start of the 2018 Nitijela session. Landowners had locked up Nitijela and the ICC overnight, forcing Speaker Kenneth Kedi to order the locks broken off so Nitijela could proceed with the opening Tuesday. The lease on these government facilities expired in December 2015.
The opening Tuesday moved along with the usual formalities until Speaker Kedi wrapped up by addressing the “lock up” of Nitijela and ICC doors. In his on-air remarks, Kedi spoke to the unnamed landowners that he was the one who had ordered the opening of the building because Nitijela has a Constitutional mandate to meet on the first Monday of January (Tuesday because of the New Year’s holiday). He said he and the government would work with landowners to resolve the issue.
The Nitijela/capital building and the ICC were again locked up by landowners overnight, preventing President Hilda Heine, government leaders and employees from entering either facility Wednesday morning.
The lock up delayed the opening of Wednesday’s Nitijela session — the first business day of the year — which saw roll call begin at 10:50am, instead of the usual 10am start. Shortly before Nitijela meeting time, after discussions between the Speaker and Alab Emlin Samuel, she okayed the opening of Nitijela, providing the key to open locks. Keys were not provided to open the ICC, so Public Works staff used bolt cutters to open the ICC Wednesday morning to allow elected leaders and workers to enter.
Wednesday’s session was short. When President Heine took to the microphone, she quickly called for a recess until Thursday to allow Cabinet to address the situation with the landowners. Kedi then called off the session until Thursday.
Read more about this in the January 5, 2018 edition of the Marshall Islands Journal.