COMMENTARY: Nuclear Waste Disposal In The Marshall Islands (Dial J. Keju)

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COMMENTARY

Testimony by Dial J. Keju before the Policy Committee of the Honolulu City Council on Tuesday, July 22, 1997 concerning the subject of storing nuclear waste in the Republic of the Marshall Islands.

Following the hearing, the Committee passed a resolution opposing the proposed Marshall Islands project. The matter now will be considered by the full, nine-member Council on August 6, 1997.

My name is Dial Keju. I am a citizen of the Marshall Islands. I was born and raised on Kwajalein and currently am a student at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

I am grateful not only to be here but for the opportunity to voice my own and other Marshallese citizens' great concern toward issues affecting the Republic of the Marshall Islands today.

And I am grateful, also, for the opportunity to speak on a topic close to my heart. My father died from breast cancer stemming from nuclear exposure. My sister died from breast cancer stemming from nuclear exposure. My mother has undergone treatment several times as a result of nuclear exposure. Any time a Marshallese speaks out about nuclear facilities or activities -- we know what we are talking about. Oh, we might not know all the scientific language; but we know what we are talking about. And the world owes it to us to listen.

Therefore, I am here to be part of the hearing on Resolution 97-197 which opposes the storage of Nuclear Waste in the Republic of the Marshall Islands. However, before I proceed, I would like to commend Council member Andy Mirikitani for his enthusiasm and the effort he has spent to submit this resolution to the Honolulu City Council which aims to raise awareness on Nuclear Waste issues which could result in environmental catastrophe among not only the Marshall Islanders but the entire population of our Pacific.

We all know that the Republic of the Marshall Islands is a tiny nation located approximately 2,200 hundred miles southwest of the Hawaiian Islands. I assume that all of us here are aware of its history and the strategic interests it has with the United States. I also assume that we are all aware of this young Republic's own economic shortcomings, resulting in social dilemmas ranging from drastic demographic changes to unemployment, insufficient health care, the lack of educational advancement and others. To me, the history of my country and its people is heartbreaking.

Over the past few centuries, the Marshall Islanders have learned to adapt to changes imposed upon them by the colonial rulers. To date, the Marshall Islands has depended heavily on the cash flow resulting from the Compact of Free Association it has with the United States. Over the years, Marshallese leaders have worked tirelessly to overcome many economic shortcomings and have striven to achieve self reliance. Therefore, I commend President Imata Kabua of the Republic of the Marshall Islands for his current leadership attempt to resolve many social and economic issues in order to achieve self reliance and determination. I also commend Foreign Minister Philip Muller for his experience in advising the President on many issues affecting the nation's current relationship with theUnited States.

Unfortunately, the current Marshall Islands leaders are considering the feasibility of commercial storage of low-level Nuclear Waste on the remote islands. I strongly believe that the Marshall Islands should re-evaluate its options and consider other alternatives for economic development than Nuclear Waste Dumping -- for the many reasons you already know.

However, while I ardently oppose storage of Nuclear Waste in the Marshall Islands -- or any other Pacific Island country -- and strongly support Resolution 97-197, I would like to encourage the Honolulu City Council to not only oppose but to propose. Propose a solution. Make a contribution to the economic development of your Pacific Island neighbors.

While the City of Honolulu is in no way responsible for Micronesia's problems, there is no denying that the problems of Micronesia become the problems of Honolulu. The citizens of Micronesia, along with those of American Samoa, have free and open access to the United States of America.

Each day, the Honolulu International Airport acts as an open door not only to immigrants and travelers, but also to the distress common in the small, underdeveloped countries of Oceania: turbuculosis, Hansen's disease, economic problems, and social woes all find their way to the streets of Honolulu. It therefore behooves the Council to encourage, support, and even adopt as "Sister Islands," the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, and American Samoa.

I would challenge the Honolulu City Council to, along with this resolution of opposition, to adopt a resolution of support. The population of Honolulu is greater than the population of the Pacific Island countries the US is affiliated with.

I propose that if the City Council would support trade and increased market interaction with its neighboring Pacific countries, it would be a win-win story for Honolulu's businesses. Who knows, maybe the next ASEAN is right here. Maybe we could be the "EC" of the Pacific. And maybe, in its attempt to stimulate economic growth, Hawaii is overlooking the most obvious answer.

Thank you for your time.

Dial J. Keju can be contacted by e-mail at: keju@hawaii.edu

 

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