Emergencies to be declared

New Marshall Islands President Hilda Heine speaks following her swearing in ceremony at the Nitijela Chamber January 3. Photo: Hilary Hosia.

GIFF JOHNSON

The first order of business for President Hilda Heine’s new government is expected to be declaring not one, but two states of emergency: One for Kili Island, where “people are starving,” according to one Cabinet minister; the other order to put focus on Majuro’s power crisis.

These moves were in the discussion stage earlier this week prior to the swearing in of the new Cabinet Tuesday, with plans to formalize the state of emergencies for Kili and Majuro at the first Cabinet meetings of the new government later this week.

As a result of the previous local government administration bankrupting the Bikini Resettlement Trust Fund, there is no operations funding for the Kili-Bikini-Ejit Local Government. This means no funding for Kili Island, home of hundreds of displaced Bikinians, who rely on deliveries of food and fuel for the power plant for their daily needs. These regular deliveries, however, have dried up with no funds available to the KBE Local Government.

The Cabinet is going to declare a state of emergency so that it can free up funds that can be used to immediately dispatch food for the population and fuel so the power plant can resume operations, new Finance Minister David Paul told the Journal.

President Heine is expected to lead a delegation of Cabinet and other leaders — including Paul and new Minister of Culture and Internal Affairs, Jess Gasper, Jr., who represents the KBE community in Nitijela, among others — to Kili Friday to meet with the community and see the situation for herself. “We need to stabilize the community,” said Minister Paul of the situation at Kili Island.

One person familiar with the dire financial condition of the KBE Local Government told the Journal this week: “They don’t even have money to fix an air conditioner.” When a Journal reporter responded that this was similar to the situation on Nauru 20 years ago when Nauru’s large trust fund was bankrupted, leading to a headline in the Journal: “From riches to rags.” To emphasize KBE’s lack of resources, the person familiar with the situation responded: “We don’t even have rags.”

A national government second state of emergency declaration is also anticipated to focus on Majuro’s ongoing power crisis, which saw extended and repeated power outages last week and weekend.

“There will be no honeymoon period for the new government,” the Finance Minister said. “We will hit the ground running with two state of emergency declarations.”

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