The Nitijela adopted a resolution in support of the Rongelap Atoll Special Administrative Region (RASAR) late in the evening March 20, the night it wrapped up the first session of 2020.
The resolution declares that “Nitijela views with favor the idea of creating a special administrative region on Rongelap Atoll in order to promote investment and establish a viable economy.”
The controversial resolution passed with only a voice vote affirming it since many Nitijela members, including most opposition members, had departed the chamber by its passage shortly before 11pm when 18 members were present. Members of Parliament John Silk and Dennis Momotaro voiced objections to the resolution. It was endorsed by the government party and adopted.
The resolution directs the Cabinet in consultation with Rongelap Atoll Local Government to “promulgate and submit to Nitijela for consideration any and all legislation necessary to create” the RASAR.
The brief five paragraph resolution states twice that the “legislation shall comply with the Constitution” and notes that if any portion of future legislation is found to violate the constitution, “it shall be null and void.”
Legislation drafted by RASAR proponents in 2018, but never submitted to Nitijela, was declared to be unconstitutional by the RMI Attorney General’s office at that time.
“Nitijela hereby approves the concept of the establishment of a special administrative region on Rongelap Atoll in order to encourage development,” the resolution said.
Former President Hilda Heine in a tweet after passage of the resolution described the proposed special administrative region (SAR) as “a Chinese concept about ‘one country two systems.’”
She said the SAR plan, “disguised as economic development for many, it’s really about green paper for the few and foot in the door for the Chinese. Sad.”
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