Remembering the Bravo test

National Nuclear Commission Chairman Alson Kelen, seated right, was joined by three of the Miss Marshall Islands pageant team — Miss Utrok Berlida deBrum, first runner up Miss Likiep Carnie Reimers and Miss Ebon Ellen Chong Gum — and organizers of the Nuclear Survivors Remembrance Day commemoration ceremony last Wednesday at the ICC.
Photo: Wilmer Joel.

WILMER JOEL

One of the darkest chapters in our nation’s history was observed nationwide during the 35th Nuclear Victim Remembrance Day and 69th anniversary of the Bravo hydrogen bomb test last Wednesday — March 1 — focused on the theme “kūrtiplọk” or perseverance.

This annual event commemorates the devastating repercussions and injustices experienced by victims of the nuclear testing program conducted by the US Government.

A formal ceremony organized by the National Nuclear Commission was held at the International Conference Center attended by RMI’s top government officials, diplomatic partners, clergymen, traditional leaders, and the survivors and their descendants from many atolls.

Steering the program’s course was Master of Ceremony Antari Elbon, Assistant Secretary for the Ministry of Cultural and Internal Affairs. Marshalls Christian High School Pastor Josen Teico blessed the event. Every resident of the US-acknowledged four nuclear test affected atolls presented one or two songs about their islands.

“The Marshallese people have done a lot for the peace and prosperity of the world,” said US Ambassador Roxanne Cabral in a prerecorded statement on her last day in the RMI as US ambassador. “The relationship between America and Marshall is special just as both of our Presidents Reagan and Amata Kabua have mentioned ‘we are one family.’”

Cabral added the US will continue to assist the Marshallese people in its stand on climate change, health, education, infrastructure, and many more.

She added that we can’t change what happened in the past but we can look ahead to the future. “I am joyful and optimistic about the new (Compact) agreement that will strengthen our relationship and unite us as a family.”

Among the speakers was a notable address by Utrok Nitijela Member Hiroshi Yamamura who spoke out bluntly concerning US nuclear injustices. He started by criticizing former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s comment about people in the Marshall Islands and Micronesia when he was quoted as saying, “There are only 90,000 people out there. Who gives a damn?”

“Do President Biden and the US government (have) at least a moral and legal obligation to solve our endless nuclear legacy?” asked Yamamura. “The nuclear legacy is so pervasive in all aspects of life. We all know that the result of the radioactive fallout brings sorrow to almost every member of our family who has died at a young or old age from cancer, thyroid, bone marrow (problems), leukemia, and other radiogenic illnesses attributed to the radioactive fallout.”

He added, “we will strive to the fullest and flex our muscles even though we are weak from the most powerful nation in the world. Fight for justice until we succeed. I kindly urged the United States to do its moral and social obligations to close the chapter of our quest for nuclear justice, then we can live peacefully and in harmony.”

After his address, the Utrok representative went off script and asked the multitude to hold hands and sing an impromptu version of the anthem of the civil rights movement formerly led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. — “We Shall Overcome.”

President David Kabua told the nation to remember the lives and stories of those who have passed on. “Ever since the detonation of the earliest nuclear bombs in our islands, our fate was set in motion,” he said. He added that all Marshallese are survivors.

President Kabua pledged that the government will push for a dignified negotiation concerning the nuclear legacy in the Compact until it satisfies all Marshallese.

After the program came to a close, spectators watched a feature film called “Land of Eb” directed by Andrew Williamson. The film is about a Marshallese family attempting to build a new life for themselves away from society, set in a derelict region of the Hawaiian Islands.

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