Yokwe Online

MAJURO, Marshall Islands (Jan. 6) – While tsunamis and global warming are being discussed at conferences attended by Marshall Islands President Kessai Note, there are disasters in the making being ignored at home.

President Note is on the road again. He left today for a three-week trip, which includes meetings in Africa, Japan, and Palau. This makes more than nine trips in nine months.

Some would applaud Note's presence on the international stage and his efforts in capacity-building, but trips abroad by President Note have accumulated far too much air miles and disaster on the domestic front.

The Marshall's only newspaper, the Journal, called it "lack of engagement."

Delays in action on projects are symptoms of a "greater malaise" in the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI), says an Asian Development Bank (ADB) official.

A RMI citizen says Marshalls leaders are "lethargic."

The Western Association of Schools and Colleges criticized the government for not "understanding the magnitude of the deficiencies and their respective roles" and not making payments to the faltering college. President Note told WASC he was "unaware of the problem."

No wonder.

From May through September, the President was out of the Marshalls for an average of two weeks each month.

And it’s not just the President.

On trips to Korea, Taiwan, Washington, D.C., New York, California, Hawaii, Yap and Palau, he has been accompanied by Foreign Affairs Minister Gerald Zackios, First Lady Mary Note, and Mrs. Joti Zackios.

In December, President Note, along with the same entourage, made his second trip in one year to Taiwan, and was gone from the 8th to the 23rd.

While problems literally "pile up" in Majuro, tuberculosis and health issues reach emergency levels, the nation's own college faces closure, increasing crime and illegal immigration overwhelms the justice system, outer islanders don't get timely help, and many citizens still live on less than a $1 a day, the President and Foreign Affairs Minister are jetting around the world.

What good is chasing the money if it does not result in adequate and functioning resources for the country and its citizens? What better use of the travel money could have been made?

In September, while the Nitijela, the nation's parliament delayed its traditional August opening session, President Note was glad-handing with business representatives at a Los Angeles conference. Attendees were by majority business owners and US department heads. The fact that Note was the highest ranking official at the conference and no other head of state was present, speaks for itself.

Not to be lost in the mix, or ignored by constituents, is that President Note and Minister Zackios, while national leaders, also hold dual roles as Nitijela Senators representing Jabot Island and Arno Atoll.

The President's on-hands leadership is desperately needed to improve a government system riddled with nepotism, incompetence in financial accounting, and public service laxness.

And now, Note is going to Japan to "lead" the Pacific delegation to the World Conference on Disaster Reduction, January 18 - 22, meaning he is the highest Pacific official taking time to attend.

While Note is discussing tsunamis and global warming issues, there are disasters in the making.

It looks like this year will be like the last: too much travel, too much diplomatic wining and dining, and not enough attention and action on the home-front.

We call that a "road to disaster."

January 10, 2005

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