Nitijela covers wide ranging issues

A ceremonial opening session on January 3 launched Nitijela’s first session for 2022. Photo: Eve Burns.

Late last week and early this week, Nitijela covered a wide range of territory in the daily sessions.
Among topics addressed:
• President David Kabua is concerned about heavy out-migration to the US by Marshallese. In comments to Nitijela last Thursday, the President pointed out the latest census shows that every populated island in the RMI has seen a reduction in the number of people living there, according to the most recent census. “We need to look at ways to improve service,” he said, adding it was essential the government identify ways to meet needs on outer islands. This could be done “little by little” to improve development opportunities for different islands, he said.
• Mejit Nitijela Member Dennis Momotaro asked for an update on the theft of $900,000 in RMI Ports Authority funds. Foreign Minister Casten Nemra responded that the matter has been handed off to the Attorney General and Auditor General locally, as well as the US Federal Aviation Authority and the FBI for investigation.
He added that five separate wire transfers were made by Ports Authority that were supposed to be for a new airport fire truck and the re-design of the air tarmac area to allow more than one plane to off-load simultaneously. The funds went into US bank accounts, so the US government has jurisdiction, Nemra said.
• There has been a shakeup at the Pacific Islands Development Bank, with the board now preparing to hire a new CEO. Speaker Kenneth Kedi and Finance Minister Brenson Wase each spoke on this matter Tuesday. The Speaker said there was a Zoom meeting scheduled later this week for the PIDB board to make a decision on hiring a new president/CEO.
• Kwajalein Nitijela Member David Paul called on Cabinet to conduct a study on the new census findings that reported massive out-migration from RMI. Paul recommended a study so Nitijela can “see what government and private sector need to do to incentivize people to stay.” He also briefly spoke about the increasing cost of living in RMI and suggested that Nitijela set up a special committee to look into this.
• In response to earlier discussion about Covid quarantine periods for Marshallese fishermen working on various locally-registered fishing vessels, Minister John Silk said MIMRA can tell that vessels are having no contact with other vessels while at sea. The “vessel monitoring system,” which is required for use by every licensed vessel, feeds positioning and activity information on a 24/7 basis to MIMRA. Silk said there is a special room at MIMRA that is used to monitor and track fishing vessels in the region.
• Lib Island Nitijela Member Joe Bejang raised concern about implementation of Covid protocols at the US Army Garrison-Kwajalein Atoll airport. Bejang said he was approached by airport cargo workers who expressed concern for their safety working at the airport for flights with incoming RMI and USAG-KA repatriation groups from outside the RMI. Bejang explained to Nitijela that the group of men he is talking about are in charge of off-loading cargo from the aircrafts. “According to them, they enter the cargo area to off-load while wearing only gloves and masks,” he said. “After off-loading the cargo onto a designated area, they are then sprayed by another (decontamination) team. Meanwhile, another repat personnel wears a hazmat suit (full personal protection equipment) to guide out the passengers within the plane.” The Lib Nitijela Member said, “This clearly indicates a hole in the protocol and utter neglect of these fellow citizens. They should be considered as a front-liners.”
• Namdrik Nitijela Member Wisely Zackhras said 100 home solar units arrived in Majuro this past week that are for Namdrik residents. He thanked the US government and others who supported the solar plan.

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