NEW KWAJELEIN SENATOR SWORN-IN

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By Aenet Rowa

MAJURO, Marshall Islands (Yokwe, March 28) – The new Senator for Kwajalein Atoll, Tony deBrum, who was sworn-in on Tuesday, March 27, says he has a rather "ambitious agenda" to work on with his fellow Kwajalein senators. A seasoned four-term legislator and Cabinet member in the previous Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) administration, Senator deBrum returned to the Nitijela, the nation's parliament, with a strong show of support from Kwajalein constituents. He fills a seat opened by the untimely passing of Senator Justin deBrum.

The day before his swearing-in, Senator deBrum responded, in an email interview, to questions from Yokwe Online, about his new position.

"I think the first thing would be to revisit the idea of declaring Ebeye a disaster area and release emergency funds for power, water, and sewage," he said.

The Senator detailed some of the immediate problems facing the over 12,000 Marshallese who live on the crowded 80-acre Ebeye islet. About 1,500 workers from Ebeye commute the three miles by boat to the U.S. Army at Kwajalein Atoll (USAKA), the site of a premier U.S. missile defense facility.

The Senator said, "As I write this to you, there is not fire truck for Ebeye. Raw sewage backs up right outside the Elementary school. Typhoid has been diagnosed and the RMI still refuses to acknowledge that a humanitarian emergency exists. Last week a few atolls reported shortages of drinking water and an emergency has been declared for them. RMI says Ebeye does not require an emergency declaration. The Airline of the Marshalls has no access now either to Kwajalein or the declared drought areas of Kabinmeto because the Army will not allow our planes to fuel at the base. Mobil has pulled out of Ebeye leaving a dilapidated tank farm that is highly contaminated but RMI will not release funds for that emergency even though the federal appropriations of Environmental Protection Agency funds have specifically earmarked them for Ebeye."

The list goes on, said deBrum, who often is the spokesman for the current opposition party in the Marshalls.

"I realize it is a full plate but we have to start somewhere," he said.

Earlier in the week, the Senator commented on the U.S. Director of Missile Defense's statement about the safety of Kwajalein radar which the U.S. is proposing to transfer to the Czech Republic. The x-band radar has been "operating in the Marshall Islands for years and that there are people who have been living and working with that" with no health issues, said Air Force Lt. General Henry A. Obering.

RMI Senator deBrum responded, "Just because people have been living in the hazard areas in Kwajalein does not mean there is no hazard."

Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg's words about the harmlessness of radar rays pointed to schools in the Marshalls are "even more remarkable," said deBrum.

"Because radar dishes are pointed at ‘an elementary and secondary school’ does not mean that it is safe," said the Senator.

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