Hilda lays out her plan

After the formal inauguration ceremony, President Hilda Heine (fourth from right) was joined by many of her family members, including First Gentleman Tommy Kijiner, Jr. (right) and daughter Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner (fifth from right). Photo: Wilmer Joel.

WILMER JOEL

President Hilda Heine and her cabinet were formally inaugurated on Monday January 22 inside the Nitijela Chamber.

Following the January 22 inauguration ceremonies, Nitijela Members Dennis Momotaro, Vice Speaker Isaac Zackhras, Member Daisy Alik-Momotaro, Minister Thomas Heine, and Members Hiroshi Yamamura and Wilbur Heine congregated for a friendly chat. Photo: Wilmer Joel.

Top dignitaries from the Pacific, Asia, and North America attended the inauguration.

In her first second-term address to the nation as president, Heine outlined the goals of her administration in steering the country towards prosperity and lifting its citizens out of the pit of poverty.

These are some of the president’s objectives.

  • A top priority to incorporate renewable energy sources to enhance and renew the nation’s electrical and energy capacity.
  • On education: reduce the number of students who drop out and don’t go to school. Provide adequate learning resources for students; evaluate educator standards; increase teacher salaries; and provide them with resources. Furthermore, revise scholarship priorities to align with government needs, augmenting financial support for special needs, bolstering support for private schools through private sector practicums, and expanding opportunities for vocational education.
  • On health: build a new hospital, establish a dialysis operation, raise health and medical practitioner salaries, enhance medical services, and fight non-communicable diseases, especially diabetes.
  • Bring in desalination equipment and push for 24-hour water flow to improve the water and sewer systems.
  • Increase the minimum wage.
  • Improve social services and equality in the workplace for women.
  • Expand the fishing sector to increase revenue and preserve the cleanliness of the ocean.
  • Establish a more accountable, ethical, and transparent government.

President Heine vowed to serve the country to the best of her ability. “I’ll try my very best, as I have this great responsibility to steer the canoe of the Marshallese people,” she said. “As a mother who looks after and takes care of her family, especially during these turbulent times around the world.”

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Chief Justice Carl Ingram administered the oath of office to the President and her cabinet. Nitijela Chaplain Lawson Matauto offered the opening and closing prayers.

A big lineup of VIPs attended Monday’s inauguration ceremony for President Heine.

Leading the representatives from the Pacific region were Palau President Surangel Whipps, Jr. and FSM President Wesley Simina. Numerous high-level representatives came from Japan,Taiwan, Australia, Nauru and the United States. And many donor and other agencies had their top people here for the inauguration.

Significantly, President Joe Biden dispatched the first-ever US presidential delegation to a presidential inauguration in the Marshall Islands, with a four-person delegation attending Monday’s event at Nitijela.

The US delegation was led by Ambassador Chantale Yokmin Wong, the United States Executive Director of the Asia Development Bank, and included Assistant Secretary of the Interior Carmen Cantor, White House Deputy Assistant to the President Erika Moritsugu, who is Asian American and Pacific Islander Senior Liaison, and US Embassy Chargé Henry Hand.

American Samoa Congresswoman Amata Radewagen attended in her capacities as Vice Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on the Indo-Pacific, and as a Member of the House Natural Resources Committee where she served as Chairman of the Indo-Pacific Task Force. She also is a Co-Chairman of the Congressional Pacific Islands Caucus.

“This was a long trip for a short stay,” said the Congresswoman, “but it was important to me because my family lived in the Marshall Islands for four years in the early 1960s, when my father served as the first Pacific Islander appointed as head of government of the Marshall Islands in that period of its association with the United States. Indeed, I am a relative of the President by the marriage of her first cousin Elma to my oldest brother. So, the blood of the Marshall Islands flows through the veins of my nieces and nephew and their children, and I was honored and blessed to attend.”

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