An administration of oath ceremony was held January 26 in the Cabinet conference room to formally swear in the three members of the Marshall Islands National Nuclear Commission. As provided in the law passed by the Nitijelã last year establishing the Commission, its primary duty is to develop a detailed strategy and plan of action for pursuing justice as concerns the nuclear weapons testing program and its effects in the Marshall Islands.
Before an audience that included President Hilda Heine, numerous high government officials, and family members of the Commissioners, Master of Ceremonies Secretary Bruce Kijiner called Rev. Jamurlok Kabua, Jr. to give an invocation. Foreign Minister John Silk then delivered brief opening remarks and introduced Commission Chairperson Rhea Moss-Christian and members Bill Graham and Alson Kelen.
RMI District Court Presiding Judge Milton Zackios read a detailed oath to each of the three Commissioners, all of whom responded affirmatively, and President Heine then delivered words of congratulations and encouragement to the three Commissioners, noting both the importance and the difficulty of their work.
Chairperson Rhea thanked the President and her Cabinet for the confidence they have placed in the Commissioners and commented that some may think they are an unlikely combination. She acknowledged that they have different experiences, knowledge, and skill sets but said that the diversity of their backgrounds has proven thus far to be an asset and they have been working together extremely well.
Rhea was born in Majuro and is the daughter of the late Sadako Makato Ysawa Moss (from Ailuk and Jaluit) and Dave Moss (from California). Raised mostly in California, Rhea graduated with honors from the University of California at Santa Cruz with a BA in Politics and holds a master’s degree in International Policy Studies from Stanford University. She also has a Post-Graduate Diploma in Diplomatic Studies from the University of Oxford.
She has held several positions in the RMI Government since 1996, including Deputy Secretary for the Ministry of Resources and Development and Undersecretary for Asia and Pacific Affairs in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. She is currently the Chairperson of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, serving in her fourth and final year. She resides primarily in Pohnpei with her husband and daughter.
Alson is widely recognized as a Master Navigator and has been the Director of the Waan Aelõñ in Majel (Canoes of the Marshall Islands) program since 1996. He is a Bikinian and spent several years of his youth as part of the group who resettled the atoll in the early 1970s. He served as a Councilman for the Bikini local government, was Mayor of the atoll from 2009 to 2011, and has been President of the Marshall Islands Council of NGOS since 2005.
Bill came to the Marshall Islands as a Peace Corps Volunteer in 1969 and worked for 16 years in education. He was the Public Advocate at the Nuclear Claims Tribunal for the 21 years of its full operation, from 1988 to 2009, and served as a part-time adviser on nuclear issues to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Office of the President from March 2012 through September 2017.
Friday’s ceremony took place as the Commission was concluding its fourth session since it was officially constituted, following appointment of the members by the Cabinet in June 2017. Two-day sessions in July and August focused on organizational matters, including development of a draft work plan for fiscal year 2018.
A longer session took place in November during which the Commission held introductory meetings with representatives of the four atolls and of nuclear non-government organizations, met with the Public Service Commission Chairman and Secretary to initiate staff recruitment efforts, and had discussions with Minister Silk and Foreign Affairs staff regarding various support activities. A lengthy meeting was also held with the RMI National Liaison Officer to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the General Manager of EPA, and the resident representative of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environmental Program (SPREP).
The Commission has also organized meetings with and for the Department of Energy’s chief environmental scientist and a professor from Columbia University who reported to the four atolls and the Cabinet in December 2017 on the preliminary results of radiation measurements made in May and June on food products from the four atolls. They have also met with a visiting consultant from the IAEA and with a number of journalists reporting on various aspects of the RMI’s nuclear legacy.
Read more about this in the February 2, 2018 edition of the Marshall Islands Journal.