NEW MARSHALL ISLANDS CABINET PROMISES REFORMS

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MAJURO, Marshall Islands (January 14, 2000 – The Marshall Islands Journal)---The new Cabinet appointed by Marshall Islands President Kessai Note demonstrates the government’s commitment to reform, said a key Cabinet minister in an interview after the portfolios were announced.

Eight of the ten new Cabinet posts are held by senators who have never been in Cabinet before, including three who are just starting their first term in the Nitijela.

The remaining two, Majuro Senator Wilfred Kendall who takes the Education portfolio, and former Internal Affairs Minister Brenson Wase who goes to Transportation and Communications, were both cabinet ministers in previous administrations.

"The Cabinet selection is an effort by the government to bring about our campaign promise of a strong, clean and honest government," said new Justice Minister Wilten Philippo, a former chief justice of the High Court.

There are some surprises in the new lineup: long-time Ailinglaplap representatives and former Cabinet ministers Ruben Zackhras and Christopher Locak are not in the Cabinet.

Philippo indicated that the reason the new line-up wasn’t announced until Friday evening was that the President wanted to meet each of the United Democratic Party members individually to discuss the portfolio assignments. The final line-up is the result of personal sacrifice and the UDP members working together, he added.

Note’s selection of Jaluit Senator Alvin Jacklick to be the new Minister of Foreign Affairs is expected to have a number of results.

It will lay the nuclear waste disposal question to rest as Jacklick is an avowed foe of nuclear storage – an issue that has dogged Marshalls leadership for years, drawing criticism from the U.S. government and others since the country first solicited Asian nuclear reactor wasted in the 1980s.

More significantly, his appointment is expected to be a signal to the leadership of Kwajalein Atoll of the Note administration’s willingness to work with them for the upcoming negotiations on the Compact with the U.S.

New Kwajalein Senator Sato Maie, on behalf of former President Imata Kabua said Senator Atoji Balos, has been saying that that Kwajalein landowners want the level of U.S. rental payments for Kwajalein jacked up significantly and have hinted that if the Americans do not deliver they will lead protests at the base – despite the fact that the U.S. has a lease that runs through 2016.

Jacklick is a prominent Kwajalein landowner (he was the mayor of Ebeye in the 1980s and, for one term, a senator from Kwajalein), even though he now represents Jaluit, and is a cousin of the former president.

Strengthening the Attorney General’s office to prosecute criminal activity and a review of Marshalls-Taiwan relations are high on the new government’s priority lists, Philippo said.

Philippo indicated that the Justice Ministry will be empowered to investigate and prosecute wrongdoing as never before.

He said his goal is to restructure and strengthen the Attorney General’s office, giving it the "moral support to be courageous in prosecuting criminal activity." He promised to keep politics out of prosecutions. "No government ministers should be involved in prosecutions," he said. "The process should be apolitical."

On Taiwan relations, which were established 14 moths ago, Jacklick has been noncommittal, promising that any review of policy will be thorough and open. Phillipo indicated that a number of UDP members "take the view that Taiwan has more to offer than the People’s Republic of China." But, he added, the new government is going to take a hard look at its China policy, particularly at allegations that the Taiwan government and its nations injected huge sums of money into the election coffers of the ousted former government prior to last November’s election.

The new government has decided to re-establish Public Works in an effort to separate the maintenance aspect from development, so that the Ministry of R&D can focus on economic development initiatives, leaving works activity to the other Ministry.

Other portfolios in the new government include freshman Senator from Maloelap, and former finance secretary, Mike Konelios in Finance, former Attorney General Gerald Zackios Minister in Assistance to the President, Tadashi Lometo is Health, freshman Senator from Ebon John Silk in Resources and Development, Jaluit’s Rien Morris in a newly recreated Public Works Ministry and Amo’s Nidel Lorak in Internal Affairs.

The Marshall Islands Journal, Box 14, Majuro, Marshall Islands 96960 E-mail: journal@ntamar.com  Subscriptions (weekly): 1 year US $87.00; international $213.00 (air mail).

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