Hilda wins election

New President Hilda Heine was sworn in Wednesday January 3 at the Nitijela by Marshall Islands Supreme Court Chief Justice Daniel Cadra while her son, Ryan Jetnil, held the Bible. Photo: Hilary Hosia.

WILMER JOEL

The Marshall Islands Parliament elected Hilda Heine, the first and only woman to hold the office to date, to the presidency for the second time on Tuesday morning in Majuro.

With a slim majority of 17 to 16, Heine of Aur became president-elect, unseating outgoing President David Kabua from Wotho.

Brenson Wase, the 40-year veteran of the Nitijela who represents Majuro, mustered enough votes to defeat Bruce Bilimon of Maloelap, 18-15.

Aelonlaplap’s Isaac Zackhras, a new member of parliament, won the Vice Speaker position over Namo’s Tony Aiseia, 18-15.

Wase and Zackhras are succeeding Kenneth Kedi and Peterson Jibas, both of whom lost reelection.

The speaker-elect, vice speaker-elect, and the rest of the 31 newly elected members of parliament were sworn in by Supreme Court Chief Justice Daniel Cadra. Nitijela’s new chaplain, Lawson Matatuo, the president of UCC, blessed the occasion with prayers.

The speaker-elect told the Journal that he will use his 40 years of political experience to advance the Cabinet’s agenda in the Nitijela.

The vice speaker-elect said he intends to advance the work of his predecessors. “I want to follow in the footsteps of those before me to move our country forward to a better future,” he said. “I look forward to cooperating with the new speaker, Brenson Wase, to maintain order in the Nitijela, which belongs to the Marshallese people, and address issues important to them.”

Heine told the Journal minutes after being elected that becoming head of state presents challenges and opportunities. “Becoming president presents a lot of responsibilities that befall me,” she said.

She expressed gratitude to every citizen for participating in the national election and demonstrating the effectiveness of democracy. “Thank you for letting the world know that the Marshall Islands are free and able to make their own choices when it comes to leaders,” she said.

Heine acknowledged the outgoing administration. “I think they went through a period of challenge and they did the best they could,” she said. “They started a number of things, including the (new) Compact, and we (the new administration) are here to continue what they started.”

Heine said that the theme of her administration will be to improve services for the people.

As the government transitions to a new administration, outgoing President Kabua said he looks forward to collaborating with them. “We started something, and we will let her (President Heine) continue the work.”

In response to a question from the Journal regarding the next stage of life, outgoing speaker Kedi stated that everything is determined by God. “As I move on, I know the Lord has a plan for my life,” he said. “Of course it is not easy to move from a position I held for eight years but at least I am proud to say that I did well. I am ready to move on and let the new speaker take the helm and assist him for the duration of a few weeks.”

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