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Jacklick on the ball as parliament opens in Majuro

By Giff Johnson MAJURO, Marshall Islands (Marianas Variety, Jan. 4, 2010) – The Marshall Islands parliament opens its first session of 2010 on Monday with new Speaker Alvin Jacklick promising reforms aimed to cut spending, improve the quality of legislation and demonstrate that members of parliament are earning their salaries.

He has also announced that he is shuffling seats of MPs, but that is just a hint of bigger restructuring plans on Jacklick’s agenda for the Marshall Islands’ parliament.

"There is no question in my mind that the Nitijela (parliament) must reform," Jacklick said Thursday.

He said he wants to refocus the members on their primary Constitutional duty of enacting legislation, and for parliament staff, he aims to elevate their professionalism, capacity and provision of services to the members.

The guiding goal: improve legislation and service to the public.

Jacklick was elected in late October following a vote of no confidence that toppled then-President Litokwa Tomeing and vaulted then-Speaker Jurelang Zedkaia into the presidency. Before his election to parliament in 1991, Jacklick was a two-term mayor at Kwajalein Atoll, which hosts the United States Army’s Reagan Test Site for missile defense experiments, and was known as an activist administrator.

Before Christmas, he put the cabinet on notice of his intent to introduce draft legislation in the first two weeks of January to avoid wasting parliament’s time waiting for bills to arrive. "My aim is to wrap up the first session by mid-February to conserve funds," he said. The parliament meets in two sessions annually — January and August — for a total of 50 sitting days.

He’s preparing a plan for parliament staff to be provided training to expand their work capacities, while he aims to hire a second attorney to assist the existing legislative counsel, to improve the flow of bill drafting, and possibly hire additional staff for specific needs.

"I want to build a library that includes magazines and newspapers so senators can see what is going on in other parts of the world," and Internet-connected computers for members, "to get information for their needs," he said.

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