MARSHALL ISLANDS' PRESIDENT KABUA FACES NO

CONFIDENCE MOTION

MAJURO, Marshall Islands (September 4, 1998 - Marshall Islands Journal)--- Less than two weeks after shaking up his cabinet by bringing in two former opposition senators, Marshall Islands President Imata Kabua is facing a vote of no confidence.

Despite an effort by Kwajalein Senator Ataji Balos Wednesday to delay and possibly hold off a motion of no-confidence against President Imata Kabua, six senators introduced the motion Wednesday afternoon, the first session of the Nitijela (parliament) since the new cabinet lineup was announced last Monday.

Wotje Senator Litokwa Tomeing, who was dropped from cabinet in the shakeup, introduced the motion shortly after the Nitijela had reconvened after several extended recesses requested by Balos in an effort to forestall the motion.

It marks the first time in the Marshalls' nearly 20 years of Constitutional government that a motion of no confidence has been made against the government. Even President Kabua, who called the motion "democracy in process," remarked that "it's history."

Speaker Kessai Note said the vote will be held Monday (September 7), as the Constitution requires a five day wait after the motion is presented.

Five other senators -- Jaluit Senator Rien Morris, Mili Senator Tadashi Lometo, Maloelap Senator Lomes McKay, who like Tomeing was dropped last week from cabinet, Arno Senator Nidel Lorak and Majuro Senator Witten Philippo -- joined Tomeing in supporting the motion, which required a minimum of four senators to introduce it.

The opposition thinks it can muster the 17 vote majority needed to topple Kabua's government. "We have 19 votes," said Lometo on Tuesday afternoon.

Prior to Tomeing's action, there was a good deal of speculation as to whether or not the motion would actually make it to the floor of the Nitijela, despite planning that began for this action early last week while President Kabua was in Pohnpei for the South Pacific Forum.

The Marshall Islands hasn't seen a week so full of political maneuvering, negotiation and intrigue since the hey-day of the Marshall Islands-U.S. Compact talks 20 years ago. Every day last week, a large group of senators, ousted ministers and even a few cabinet ministers gathered at the Nitijela to discuss their next course of action. Unhappy with the composition of the cabinet and other developments within government, the discussion quickly moved to the idea of calling a vote of no confidence to change the government.

Then as last weekend and President Kabua's return from Pohnpei approached, the move of some senators apparently shifted to an ultimatum to the President that he drop certain members from his cabinet, as well as his legal advisor David Lowe. That apparently was done Tuesday but without result, prompting the no confidence motion Wednesday.

But before that could happen during Wednesday morning's session, Balos asked for a recess. He then took the unprecedented action of asking all of the 20 or so members of the public sitting in the gallery to leave the chamber so the Nitijela could hold a closed door meeting. The Nitijela spent the next hour and 15 minutes in a combination of debates and small group meetings among the members. Several members said that Balos spoke to the members in an effort to reconcile the two groups and forestall the motion of no confidence. Senators and ministers moved in an out of the meetings, as rumors swirled outside of the chamber about what was taking place inside. But, despite the apparent confusion of the situation, Tomeing told reporters during this extended break that it was "too late" to bring the two sides back together. Finally, the session was called back to order just before noon, only to have Balos call for another recess until 2:00 p.m. The two hour break didn't change the resolve of the President's opponents. As soon as the session was called to order at 2:15 p.m., Tomeing introduced the history-making motion.

MARSHALL ISLANDS JOURNAL Box 14, Majuro, Marshall Islands 96960 E-mail: journal@ntamar.com Fax: 692-625-3136 Tel. 692-625-8143 Subscriptions (weekly): 1 year: US $87.00; International $227.00 (air mail)

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