DEBRUM: IS U.S.-MARSHALL ISLANDS COMPACT II A RETURN TO TRUST TERRITORY DAYS?

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MAJURO, Marshall Islands (August 1, 2001 – Marshall Islands Journal)---Is the U.S. government’s new policy on accountability and money use for the new Compact funding agreements taking the Marshall Islands back to Trust Territory days?

That question highlighted an off-the-cuff debate that developed between Tony deBrum and U.S. Compact negotiator Al Stayman at a Chamber of Commerce meeting last month.

In July, Stayman spoke to the Chamber about the new U.S. approach on accountability during the current negotiations. "There will be a linkage between funding and specific development objectives," he said, adding that this was not the case in the first 15 years.

Stayman also said that there was "considerable criticism" in Washington about the RMI’s use of U.S. funding.

DeBrum, a long-time Nitijela member, a Minister of Finance in the last government and a chief negotiator of the original Compact, asked Stayman how the U.S. demand for more spending controls, with Department of Interior oversight, matched with the independent status of the RMI.

"All other recipients of U.S. funding (except Israel and Egypt) have to sign an agreement stating for what the money will be used," Stayman said in response. He added that the U.S. was not asking the RMI to do anything that it wouldn’t agree to in advance.

The U.S. "has a right to see that money goes to the intended purposes," he said. The U.S. is not saying what the RMI should spend money on, "but if you want U.S. funding, then tell us up front what it is going to be used for" and follow the plan.

DeBrum said this was affecting the "fine balance" of the Compact that is a special relationship between two independent nations. It’s not a territorial relationship, he emphasized. Since "our rights are being changed, can we change yours?" he said.

It is impossible to take away parts of the sum of the overall Compact and maintain the integrity of the agreement, he indicated.

He said it was "difficult to imagine" the good relationship between the two nations was being "dismantled" over the question of economic deficiencies.

DeBrum pointed out that virtually all of the RMI’s investments and business ventures during the Compact period "were done with the encouragement and support of the U.S. government." Some were even direct joint ventures with U.S. government agencies, as in fisheries, he said.

It is unfair "to blame the Marshall Islands for all the failures," deBrum said.

"Don’t lay down changes based on the fault only of the Marshall Islands," he said to Stayman. "Don’t turn us into a territory."

Stayman said the U.S. isn’t saying it wants to make the Marshalls into a territory. "We’re saying, fix the problems with discipline and control the money spending."

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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