KWAJALEIN OWNERS WANT SAY IN U.S. COMPACT

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EBEYE, Marshall Islands (February 16, 2001 – Marshall Islands Journal)---Iroij Mike Kabua took the opportunity of the Kwajalein Memorial Day celebrations last week to make a strong appeal for inclusion of Kwajalein landowners in the renegotiating process of the Compact of Free Association.

"We do not see our inclusion in the Compact talks as a violation of the treaty," he said.

"Instead, we view our exclusion as a direct violation of our rights as landowners."

Kabua said that keeping them out of the talks was inconsistent with the "long-standing cordial relationship" which exists between the Kwajalein people and the U.S.

The first 15 years of the Compact was a "learning experience" for the RMI. "I think it would be a grave mistake if (we) were to just let things be in the name of status quo, knowing full well that changes for the better could and ought to be made," he said.

He quoted a Defense Department spokesman who told Congress last year how important the Kwajalein missile range is to the U.S.

"While the leadership of Kwajalein fully… welcomes continued U.S. defense interests in Kwajalein, we are equally obligated to the people and the landowners of Kwajalein to come up with a formula that is fair," Kabua said.

If there isn’t any change in the current lease agreement, it will lead to "stagnation, depression and despair."

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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