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Opposition shifting support to President Tomeing

By Giff Johnson, For Variety

MAJURO, Marshall Islands (Marianas Variety, April 3, 2009) — The Marshall Islands government is facing its second vote of no-confidence in six months. But unlike the first, this one is from government-aligned senators.

The no-confidence move follows the sacking by President Litokwa Tomeing of outspoken Foreign Minister Tony deBrum in late February. DeBrum is one of seven senators bringing the motion.

But Tomeing on Wednesday named opposition Sen. John Silk as his new foreign minister, demonstrating the shift in coalition government alignment now in progress, with the opposition United Democratic Party throwing its support behind Tomeing.

Tomeing has, since January, headed the country’s first coalition government. He jumped from the UDP days before the 2007 national election, as did other UDP members, joining with the then-opposition Aelon Kein Ad party and independents to establish a new government.

But deBrum believes his government party backbenchers can unseat the 15-month old government he was part of from January to late February.

"We have the numbers," deBrum said Thursday of motion of no-confidence.

The motion was submitted to the Clerk of parliament Joe Riklon and is now waiting for a meeting of the Nitijela, or parliament, to be officially introduced. Once it is introduced, the Constitution’s five-to-10-day "clock" for a no-confidence vote begins ticking, according to Nitijela officials.

"The moment Nitijela comes back to session, we will put the motion on the agenda," deBrum said. "We definitely have the numbers (for the motion to pass)."

But Speaker Jurelang Zedkaia, after unexpectedly canceling an announced meeting of parliament last Thursday, has not indicated when Nitijela will meet again to consider the no confidence motion.

Zedkaia’s legal advisor, Divine Waiti, issued an opinion Tuesday that the Nitijela needs to reconvene as quickly as possible to act on the motion of no confidence.

Until the motion is resolved, no other business of Nitijela can be conducted, Waiti added.

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