A local man who transformed the nature of Marshallese political debate has died in Honolulu at the age of 56.
Arthur Kaylor Laukon became the key manager of the Marshall Islands Facebook page Kewan Jela, which was founded in September 2013 to stimulate debate on a variety of Marshall Islands issues. The site has become the go-to platform for debate on important issues of the day. By the time of Laukon’s death Monday this week from complications related to liver cancer, the number of Kewan Jela members had multiplied to 18,766.
“He wasn’t afraid of anyone,” said Kewan Jela founder Ted “Jeja” Kiluwe. “If he wanted to say it, he’d say it.” At least as important, “he knew the issues,” said Kiluwe, adding this combination allowed Laukon to handle the often controversial debate page.
Kiluwe explained that he set up Kewan Jela in 2013 when he was working at Nitijela to post bills and resolutions. But Kiluwe, who now works at the Shipping Corporation, quickly realized he needed someone to take the reins and manage it. “Arthur was the first guy I called to ask him if he’d do it,” he said. “He agreed.”
“KJ opened an avenue for people to present their points of view,” said Kiluwe. “It got them to think, ‘I can make a difference.’” Kiluwe believes that it has helped increase the turnout of candidates for this year’s national election.
The site’s motto at the top of the page states, pointedly: “If we elect the same corrupt politicians every time, that is a very clear message that we don’t want a change!”
Kiluwe said Laukon’s passing leaves a void at Kewan Kela, although a number of others have joined as “moderators” of the forum over time, including Julius Lejjena, Khama Preston, Carrie Heine, Hilary Hosia and others. “Most of us looked up to Arthur,” Kiluwe said.
Laukon would hang out at his place in Jenrok — which he called the “Jenrok Hotspot” — and pop out nuggets of information and opinion that started teeth gnashing and keyboards popping. “He was Kewan Jela,” Kiluwe said.
Read more about this in the February 15, 2019 edition of the Marshall Islands Journal.