27 Jun 2007

Marshall Islands landowners seek legal advice over Kwajalein land agreement

1:52 pm on 27 June 2007

Legal advice is being sought in the Marshall Islands over whether the government has breached an agreement for Kwajalein which the United States uses for a missile testing base.

Senator Tony deBrum says Kwajalein landowners, who were shifted to Ebeye, are living in terrible conditions because the government is not providing basic essential services.

He says the reason for this is that pressure is being brought to bear because the landowners have refused to accept an offer from Washington of 15 million U.S. dollars for the annual rental of Kwajalein and are demanding 19 million dollars.

The U.S. does not negotiate directly with the landowners but with the Marshall Islands government.

Mr deBrum claims that the U.S. and the Marshall Islands government have agreed to pressure the people of Kwajalein into accepting a new agreement by depriving them of even the basic necessities of life such as power, water and sanitation services.

"We are seeking legal remedy to that and are consulting with legal counsel to see what we can do to at least get a declaration as to the status of the lease because it's quite possible that the court might agree with us and find that the actions of our own government have, in fact, breached the current land use agreement."

Senator Tony deBrum.

The U.S. ambassador, Clyde Bishop, says there has been no pressure from the U.S. on the landowners and it's an internal matter for the Marshall Islands government.