“We’ve addressed all the concerns about DEZRA in the floor amendment that was passed (last Friday),” Speaker Kenneth Kedi told the Journal Tuesday this week.
Over the past several weeks, legislation to establish the Digital Economic Zone of Rongelap Atoll was criticized or questioned by US Ambassador Roxanne Cabral, the US-based Financial Volunteer Services Corps, First Hawaiian Bank and the Ministry of Finance.
Kedi said “ND1” — the amendment tabled and adopted last Friday — “is comprehensive, transparent legislation that addresses all the concerns. There is no more reason for anyone to oppose the plan.
The DEZRA Bill No. 44 itself was not acted on last Friday and still remains up for second reading. Speaker Kedi explained that it was the amendment that was discussed and voted on with a 15-13 vote in favor. The Nitijela session will have at least one more sitting day before the legislators recess until August, he said. The Speaker said he is looking at the end of May for Nitijela to return to consider the DEZRA legislation for second and third reading approval, as well as other legislation still on Nitijela’s agenda.
The amendment substantially revised the draft legislation.
Among other changes, it expands the membership of the DEZRA Oversight Board, which appoints a DEZRA Commissioner. The proposed change would establish a seven-person board that includes the Chief Secretary, Secretary of Finance, Attorney General, one appointee of the Rongelap Mayor, Banking Commissioner, Police Commissioner, and Auditor General. This Oversight Board has power to oversee all operations of DEZRA, including appointing the DEZRA Commissioner — the latter title taking the place of a “Deputy Commissioner of Banking” proposed in the original legislation.
“DEZRA shall not become fully operational until such time as there is full compliance with the regulatory requirements set forth in this Act, the laws of the Republic, and all applicable international regulatory standards,” states the amended language of the proposed Bill No. 44.
“After all the letters of concern, we’ve addressed these by the floor amendment,” the Speaker said. “It is dramatically changed.”
The concern about money laundering and other risks are all addressed by this revised language, he said. Commenting on the concerns raised by the US Ambassador, Kedi said: “It is in the best interests of the United States to work together with us on this legislation.” He commented on the ongoing partnership with the US and the goal of improving the economic situation in the country. “This will be a great boost for the economy of the Marshall Islands,” he said. “The US should be supportive. This (the DEZRA plan) is about helping people in need, people who are dying of cancer at a high rate, people who can’t provide food for their families. That’s the bottom line.”
Kedi added that Rongelap people not living on their own land are struggling.
He added that it was essential to pass the legislation as this would provide a foundation for developing all of the details needed to implement DEZRA. “We cannot get top quality people to work on it without having the legislation in place,” he said.