For nearly 30 years the Marshallese people and government have commemorated March 1 as Nuclear Victims Remembrance Day, an event to remember the horrors, memories, and injustice as a result of 67 nuclear testing by the United States.
“Let today not be a time of shaming one another,” said Nitijela Speaker Kenneth Kedi from the podium Tuesday at the Delap Park ceremony, speaking directly to US Ambassador Roxanne Cabral who was seated nearby. “Friends don’t believe in shaming. But let today be a reminder to both you and I that there are outstanding issues that need resolution.”
He added: “For us money moves things, money resolves lots of health issues. But at the end of the day it is about a dignified solution. It is high time for us to address nuclear justice today.”
President David Kabua delivered his address by stating “it is very hard for us to forget, we are sad and sorrowful. However we have affirmed a relationship with the country that destroyed us. We don’t hate them, we don’t hate anyone. But we just ask them to do their part with honesty and integrity.”
He added, “As we are going through the phase of negotiating with the US government on the Compact of Free Association we will make sure that they listen carefully to do their part to pay the price for the harm they have caused for our country.”
After his address Ailuk Nitijela Member Maynard Alfred said, “I am sad that I have been reminded of the loved ones who have lost their lives from cancer and other radiation illnesses. All we ask from the people and government of the United States is to honor its commitment and live up to its promise, so that together the Marshallese and the Americans we can bring closure to the legacy of nuclear testing.”
Speaking on behalf of the US government, Ambassador Cabral told leaders and people of the RMI in Marshallese that America and the world owes a huge debt to the Marshallese people and that the relationship the both countries have is significant.
After all the speeches the event was enhanced with a beautiful poetry recital as well as a solo singing performance by CMI students Pijja Matauto and Oronia Kinono alongside an emotional rendition of the Bikini National Anthem by the Kili Bikini Ejit Community.
In other March 1 news:
A joint US House and Senate resolution introduced March 1 calls on the United States to prioritize nuclear justice in its negotiations with the Marshall Islands for an extended Compact of Free Association. In recognizing the legacy of the US nuclear weapons testing in the Marshall Islands, it also includes an apology to the Marshall Islands that the introducers of the resolution said is “long overdue.”
It is a joint initiative of California Congresswoman Katie Porter along with Senators Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Ed Markey (D-MA). Others in both the House and Senate, including American Samoa Congresswoman Amata Radewagen, are supporting the measure.
The resolution reaffirms the relationships between the United States, the Republics of the Marshall Islands and Palau, and the Federated States of Micronesia, with whom the United States is currently negotiating to extend key international agreements that allow the US to control land, air, and maritime access in the Indo-Pacific region, said a statement released by Porter’s office.
“Orange County is fortunate to be enriched by one of the oldest Marshallese American communities, but the reason the Marshallese came to the United States remains one of the darkest chapters in our history,” said Congresswoman Porter who chairs the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. “Our government used the Marshallese as guinea pigs to study the effects of radiation and turned ancestral islands into dumping grounds for nuclear waste. By finally taking responsibility for the harm we caused, the United States can send a powerful signal in the region and around the world that we honor our responsibilities and are committed to the Indo-Pacific region.”
The United States conducted 67 atmospheric nuclear weapons tests in the Marshall Islands from 1946 to 1958 while the US was responsible for the welfare of the Marshallese people, said Porter’s statement. “The damage and displacement from these tests in part drove Marshallese migration to the United States, including to Orange County,” she said.
Congresswoman Porter has fought for the appointment of a presidential envoy to lead talks to extend the Compacts of Free Association, which have been bogged down for more than a year, in part due to the legacy of US nuclear testing.
“The United States’ nuclear testing program in the Pacific led to long-lasting harms to the people of the Marshall Islands,” said Senator Hirono, who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy. “This apology calls attention to what we did to the Marshallese and raises awareness about the need to do more to undo this harm.”
“A formal apology is long overdue to the Republic of the Marshall Islands for the harmful legacy of US nuclear testing,” said Senator Markey, who chairs the East Asia and Pacific Subcommittee. “The United States used the Marshall Islands as a proving ground to test highly lethal nuclear weapon designs equivalent to the explosive power of 1.6 Hiroshimas every day for 12 years — exposing Marshallese and US.veterans to harmful radiation. This resolution calls on the United States to prioritize nuclear justice in its negotiations with the Marshall Islands on an extended Compact of Free Association and to help Marshallese battle the existential threat of the climate crisis.”
The resolution is co-sponsored in the House by Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA), who chairs the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus; Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, Central Asia, and Nonproliferation and an expert on the US Cold War nuclear weapons testing program; and Rep. Amata Radewagen (R-AS), a member of the House Natural Resources Committee and the most senior Republican elected federal office holder of Asian Pacific heritage.