9 Mar 2009

Shakeup in Marshall Islands government predicted

6:41 am on 9 March 2009

A shakeup in the Marshall Islands government is anticipated this week as the crisis in the ruling coalition over the President's sacking of his foreign minister deepened over the weekend.

President Litokwa Tomeing is expected to name a new Cabinet early this week after receiving a demand letter signed by nearly his entire Cabinet to reinstate former foreign minister Tony deBrum.

The letter said removing Mr deBrum from Cabinet would weaken the Marshall Islands in relations with the US, the nation's key ally that provides about 60 percent of its annual national budget.

The political battle caused parliament to suspend its scheduled session last week as the wheels of government ground to a halt.

The Speaker, Jurelang Zedkaia, called off the parliament session indefinitely, saying he needed to have direct communication from the President concerning changes in Cabinet.

Mr DeBrum publicly criticized the President in a speech in parliament that was nationally broadcast in early February.

Three weeks later, President Tomeing dismissed him from Cabinet.