The Marshalls struggle over US displacement funding
Bikini Islanders in the Marshalls seek a change in US rules on how they can spend resettlement funds.
There's disagreement with how to deal with a displaced community in the Marshall Islands.
Bikini Islanders were relocated by US nuclear testing 70 years ago but are now looking at moving again because of increased flooding on Kili Island.
The US Assistant Secretary for Insular Areas has submitted a proposal to allow the people of Bikini to use resettlement and relocation funds outside of the Marshall Islands.
Current law restricts funds within the Marshalls.
The Bikini Liaison Jack Niedenthal told Koro Vaka'uta it's not the resolution they're looking for.
JACK NIEDENTHAL: The last four years on Kili people have been basically knee-deep in water. This year, twice it's happened so we are facing a fairly serious situation. The way we look at it is that the United States put the people of Bikini on Kili in 1948 and therefore it's up to the United States to move us off of there. What we did is we sent one resolution saying, what are you going to do to us? This is up to you. You have to spend your money to get us out of there but in the meantime here's another resolution, Plan B, that says please change our Trust Fund legislation to allow us to spend money outside of the Marshall Islands if we have to. What she is responding to is basically what we view as a Plan B. We believe that the United States has a moral obligation to take care of the people of Bikini on Kili. The idea that they want us to spend our own money is not really what we are looking for?
KORO VAKA'UTA: What else can be done, or should be done apart from this small step that's been announced?
JN: We'd like to hear from the United States what their five year plan is for the people of Bikini or what they intend to do for us as this becomes a more and more serious issue. We've had zero response to our initial resolution asking what are you going to do? All they have said is we're going to try and pass this legislation that would allow you to spend your own money outside of the Marshall Islands. We've still got a ways to go. We still have to do some more lobbying and some more talking to people in Washington to make them understand that what's being proposed by the Assistant Secretary is what we view as a Plan B, it's not ultimately what we want.
KV: There was talk of Bikini even being cleaned up on a major scale, is that even an option?
JN: We're about to go through some elections now so we're going to have some new political leaders come January and I think for us we are just going to have to sit down and decide exactly how we want to approach everything. You do have the radiation issue there and you do need a couple of hundred million dollars to clean it up, which we don't have. Part of the resolution is if you can't clean up Bikini then you have to take us and put us somewhere else. We want the US to accept responsibility. What they told our elders in 1946 was, people of Bikini, no matter where you go, whether it be adrift on a raft at sea or on a sandbar America is going to take care of you like you're our children. These elders repeat that over and over. They don't care about Compact of Free Associations and legal documents and everything else. They hold that promise and they expect the United States morally to live up to it because we certainly did give up a lot for them in terms of giving up our land so they could test these weapons.
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