Tomeing administration flip-flops out of control: Foreign Minister Tony deBrum gives misleading and less than truthful explanation of administration failure to support nuclear claims compensation law (S. 1756) in U.S. Congress.

  • Misleading explanation of RMI national policy on floor of parliament exposes inability of President and Cabinet to control deBrum’s reckless actions and words on behalf of RMI.  
  • Can RMI afford to have a ceremonial figurehead President, whose strings are pulled by a Foreign Minister who serves Kwajalein first, instead of being Foreign Minister for all the people and the nation as a whole?

 

The Tomeing Administration drifts aimlessly – lost at sea

 

One-by-one the reasons Tony deBrum and his political party gave voters to put them into power are being exposed as false promises, as deBrum and the Tomeing administration back away from each failed policy experiment they have attempted.  

 

Even those who disagree with his extremist ideology and question his good character expected Tony deBrum to do a much smarter and better job of political management.   But he is running a ship of state that is not seaworthy, adrift in an ocean of confusion, and making more trouble for the RMI, like a naughty little boy who needs adult supervision.  

 

As each of the high priorities of the Tomeing-deBrum agenda collapses in failure, it is becoming clear that the agenda of the last administration was actually a more realistic and honest agenda for the people of the entire nation as a whole – not just the special interests of one atoll and its wealthy ruling class.  

 

First the Tomeing policy on Kwajalein payments collapsed, but only after deBrum caused U.S. and international friction and loss of good will, and U.S. good will is something the RMI certainly could use in dealing with the energy emergency and economic crisis.   His “pay more or get out” bluff was seen in Washington, Tokyo (even Taipei and Beijing) as a juvenile tactic by a diplomatic amateur.  It made the RMI look like a nation lost at sea without a moral compass, instead of a reliable ally of the USA.  

 

This has caused other nations to wonder if the RMI could ever be a trusted partner, especially after Tomeing and Imata Kabua talked too much and revealed secret Kwajalein ruling class plan to dump Taiwan for PRC, or any nation that was “the highest bidder.”   That is why Tony deBrum has Tomeing and Kabua on a short leash now, posing in aloha shirts with big smiles on cheap Chinese bicycles, showing the world how much time they have on their hands, while Tony and Christopher run the RMI government as a lobbying agency for the feudal lords of Kwajalein.

 

Foreign Minister deBrum tries to limit the damage of U.S. rejection of his ultimatum on Kwajalein,  pretending that he is now “demanding” OTEC for Kwajalein from the USA.   He seems to think both the U.S. and the people of the RMI are not smart enough to see through his misleading propaganda tricks.

 

What the OTEC project really means is that the U.S. Army is being requested to agree that it will purchase power from an OTEC operation if one is ever built to provide a source of energy at Kwajalein Atoll.    If agreeing to that is all the U.S. needs to do to get an LUA, the U.S. will probably be very happy to buy cheaper energy at a set price if the RMI can get an OTEC project funded and built any time in the future, but probably not for many years, if ever.

 

The real question is whether the RMI or private investors will be able to build and operate an OTEC plant in the RMI.   At this time, no one knows, it may or may not ever happen.   But if the feudal lords of Kwajalein dedicate the $20 million now in the Kwajalein escrow account to an OTEC project, that would increase the chances it might really happen.  

 

We call on “King Kabua” to show if he is really an Iroij who follows Marshallese custom and takes care of his people.   Instead of giving them electric fans, refrigerators, boom boxes or getting cheap Chinese bicycles, while he keeps so many untold millions for himself, he should help the poor people of Ebeye and give the people OTEC, using the $20 million in the escrow account.   If you want people to take your traditional leader role seriously and not laugh at you, show that you are a true Iroij under custom and tradition and take care of your people!

 

Until you do that we have to face the truth that what deBrum has brought us – in his capacity as the mastermind of the Tomeing government – mostly has been unrealistic high expectations, created by clever and shrewd words to build political support among people, even if what deBrum promised was never really possible.  Tony deBrum doesn’t hesitate to create false hopes if it means power for him, and he doesn’t mind if the people’s hopes are then dashed by political and economic reality, because he then blames his failures on the USA or others in the RMI.  

 

He pretends to be a “good faith” diplomat dealing with USA, but we all know he personally loathes the USA with contempt and disdain, and Tony would like to see the USA out of Kwajalein, even if his political bosses just want more money instead of evicting the USA.   Ask yourselves, have deBrum’s actions been more like what you would expect from someone really trying to get more money from the USA for Imata, or like you would expect from someone trying to end U.S. presence at Kwajalein, and even end free association between U.S. and RMI?

 

President Kesai Note and the leadership of his administration were not perfect, but they generally did not seek to create false hopes, make empty threats, try to bluff instead of being honest, damage RMI relations with other important nations, and they usually did not make promises that they knew they would never keep.   There is a gap between promises and performance in the Tomeing-deBrum government that reflects the troubled character and warped mentality of Tony deBrum, and it has created a “credibility gap” between RMI government policy and the political as well as economic realties that face the RMI people as a nation.

 

RMI flip-flops on S. 1756 – U.S. Senate bill  for RMI nuclear testing compensation

 

On the floor of the parliament this week RMI Foreign Minister Tony deBrum announced that the Tomeing administration is now flip-flopping on its position regarding U.S. Senate Bill 1756.    If that is true, it is better late than never, but supporting S.1756 now in August does not reverse or correct the damage that has been done by the Tomeing administration’s failure to support S.1756 immediately when they took power many months ago in January.  

 

The leaders of the U.S. Senate were ready to move forward on S. 1756, but before they made the effort they wanted to be sure the new RMI leaders would support the bill.   This was not a complicated issue, it was clear to everyone in Congress and everyone in the RMI who understood the issue that the new RMI government should immediately provide a clear written statement of its support for S. 1756.   The 4 atolls formally asked the new Tomeing/deBrum administration to simply say yes to the U.S. Senate.   Too much work for too many years was at stake.

 

It did not require study, research, consultation.  It was not a transitional issue.  It was an issue that clearly required continuity and consistency between the Note administration and the new leadership in the RMI.   Everyone knew the RMI would be acting in a illogical and self-defeating way if it failed to support S. 1756, and no one could believe it when the Tomeing administration refused to provide the Senate leaders with a simple written confirmation that it supported S. 1756, back when there was time to try to get it through Congress this year.

 

Contrary to the lies DeBrum told Parliament and the people on the floor of Parliament last week, in this matter inaction was a statement of policy, silence was an answer.   But the truth is that the RMI lobbyists told Congress S. 1756 was not a priority.   By denying that deBrum betrayed his oath to tell the truth.

 

The RMI could have stated that the compensation provided was welcome but would not be adequate.  The RMI could have stated that it was going to work with Senate and the House to seek additional compensation, including payment of all Nuclear Claims Tribunal awards, as Bikini lawyer Weisgall proposed.   All it needed to do was include a simple statement that it supported S. 1756 as a contribution to fulfillment of U.S. obligations for nuclear claims compensation.  

 

Many people tried to explain to Tomeing that the importance of S. 1756 is not really just about the level of compensation it provides, because it does not close the door to further compensation.   The importance of S. 1756 is that it confirms that the door is still open to additional compensation based on the record the RMI has worked so hard to create in Congress.  S. 1756 is most important as a precedent to future compensation if Congress determines to make further contributions based on the record.  

 

Knowing this, the Senate leaders who support S. 1756, and even those in Congress and the U.S. government who are not sure further compensation should be paid, were shocked and could not believe the new RMI government failed to  support S. 1756.   Tomeing just did not seem to understand the issue, making some wonder if it was just to complex for him to see the clear choice and make a decision as a leader. 

 

When asked a simple question by U.S. Senators who were willing to make the effort to get it passed, even though voters in the U.S. would not care or vote for them because they helped the RMI, the Tomeing response, through Tony, was “No” – instead of a “yes” like everyone trying to get the bill passed expected.   For Tony deBrum to suggest the RMI was neutral or needed time to decide is a lie.   The truth is he was making Kwajalein a priority over everything else, and he did not want a success story on S. 1756 to distract from his warped, delusional, grandiose “show-down” stunt over more money for the feudal lords of Kwajalein.  

 

Tony deBrum put the Kwajalein ruling class that gave him his seat in Parliament before his nation.

 

The real story on S. 1756

 

What Tony deBrum did not explain to parliament last week is that S. 1756 is legislation that was introduced by the Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee that controls authorization of all funding and policy for the RMI.   Because the Democratic Party controls the U.S. Congress, the committee chairman is a Democrat, but S. 1756 is also co-sponsored by the Republican Party leader on the committee, so it is a bipartisan bill that has a better chance of being accepted by the Department of Interior and OMB so it can be approved and become law. 

 

It was introduced at the request of President Note after his personal meetings with the Senate committee leaders.   That was after the RMI embassy in Washington had been successful working with Congress staff to hold hearings on the RMI Changed Circumstances Petition.   Those hearings created a record that was strong enough to give the committee leaders a political reason to introduce S. 1756, which is real progress because RMI citizens do not vote in elections for members of Congress, and that makes it hard to get Congress to pay attention to RMI issues.

 

So S.1756 was not just a part of the Note administration agenda, it had become part of the U.S. Senate agenda.   That is hard to accomplish.   It was based on years of RMI work with the Department of the Interior and the Congress to create a record to support additional compensation for nuclear claims.  

 

After the meetings President Note had with the Senate committee leaders, the co-sponsors of S. 1756 even agreed to support amendments to the bill to increase the number of atolls recognized as eligible for compensation form 4 to 10.   The U.S. has resisted expanding eligibility beyond 4 atolls for 30 years, and including 10 atolls based on the National Cancer Institute study and other evidence developed by the RMI in the CCP was in some ways more important than any other provision of S. 1756. 

 

The committee leaders also agreed to support an increase of health care funding for the eligible atolls from $2 million annually to $4 million annually, for 15 years.   With inflation adjustment that is more than $50 million of additional health care funding to take pressure off the RMI health care budget, but the Tomeing administration failed to support it, even as a first step in seeking additional compensation.  

 

No one in Washington or Majuro familiar with the history of U.S. policy on RMI nuclear compensation could believe the new RMI leaders would be so reckless and stick their head in the sand, hiding behind the excuse that the government was new and had to study the issue more.

 

Tony deBrum’s tricks are exposed

 

But that is not all the new RMI government did.   At the same time it refused to support S. 1756, the Tomeing administration actively engaged with the leader of a U.S. Congress House of Representatives subcommittee to promote a different approach and policy on nuclear test compensation.   The interest of that subcommittee chairman was welcome, but other than making emotional speeches about the need for further compensation, that subcommittee chairman admitted that his subcommittee did not have the influence or authority to provide additional compensation.  

 

Indeed, his subcommittee is under a House of Representatives committee that since 1946 has never provided one dollar of economic assistance or funding of any kind to the Marshall Islands.   The committee on which Mr. Faleomavaega serves does not have jurisdiction to authorize funding for the RMI.   

 

So let’s get this straight.  The Tomeing administration is trying to tell us and get us to believe they did not need time to study or consult or take time as part of its transition to make the decision to coordinate RMI nuclear policy with a House of Representatives subcommittee that has no power over funding for RMI.   Right?

 

But the Tomeing administration did not have time because of the transition to work with the U.S. Senate full committee that had held hearings, established a record, and was ready to move forward with a bill providing potentially as much a $100 million to RMI over the next 15 years.   That is what deBrum is telling us now.   Does anyone believe him?

 

Let’s face reality.   The  visit of Mr. Faleomavaega to RMI to hold hearings was really for the purpose of having staged political events to make deBrum look like a real leader.   It was a propaganda program, not a serious formal U.S. Congress procedure.  

 

This was not a new tactic for Tony.   Last year Tony deBrum appointed discredited lawyer Cooper Brown to work with Faleomavaega’s staff on a staged hearing during the election campaign of 2007, and Cooper promised the 4 atolls Faleomavaega was going to introduce a $350 million nuclear compensation bill, but that was just as a way to trick the 4 atolls into spending their money sending delegations to be part of the hearing.  

 

Tony and Cooper were just using the 4 atolls to make the hearing seem real, like stage props, for the election year propaganda show, and the 4 atolls spent their money needed for the people to be part of that staged stunt.    

 

Now deBrum is the RMI Foreign Minster because of a leadership struggle in the party that actually won the elections, and Cooper Brown is Tony’s OTEC lobbyist.    Where is the $350 million Cooper promised the 4 atolls?   Where is a real OTEC project?

 

What becomes painfully obvious is that even if he sponsors a $350 million bill, Faleomavaega at least had enough sense of responsibility to tell the RMI during his one-man “field hearings” that he did not have the power as a subcommittee chairman to get funding for the RMI.   He must have looked into the faces of our people and for at least that one moment he had something Tony deBrum does not, which is enough of a conscience to realize it is cruel to create false hopes and expectations in the hearts of the people just for short term political advantage.  

 

The truth is that Faleomavaega was used by Tony deBrum to stage political events to create a political illusion that the Tomeing administration was going to do something about nuclear claims compensation.   However, it was only for show because Tony deBrum knew Faleomavaega does not have the power of the purse strings to authorize funds for the RMI.   That is why the Kesai Note administration and the professional diplomats in the Foreign Ministry under Gerald Zackios had worked for years with the U.S. Senate committee that actually has funding authority.

 

But, again, Tony did not want the first success story of the Tomeing administration to be progress on nuclear claims funding for 10 atolls, because that did not include Kwajalein.   Tony was afraid “King Kabua” would get angry if the first success was not Kwajalein, and although Tony has used Imata Kabua to gain power by promising him more money, Tony is afraid of Imata’s outbursts of anger and irrational impulses.   Tony blamed Imata’s outburst about China on Imata’s stroke, but Tony knows his job depends on Imata.   So Tony betrayed the nuclear claimants by killing RMI support for S. 1756, and making Kwajalein payments and more money for Imata the RMI top priority.

 

S. 1756 was not introduced to influence RMI election politics, it was years in the making.  It was not a propaganda stunt, it came about as a result of years of hard work.   The U.S. Senate leaders who supported it were prepared to bring it before the committee, make amendments to increase the compensation, and pass the bill in the committee.   Then it would go to the Senate floor, and if passed with strong leadership support it would go to the House of Representatives.  

 

We would not know if passage by the House of Representatives would be possible this year until we got it through the U.S. Senate first.   Only by taking the first steps in a timely way when the door was open would we find out how many steps we could take, how far we could go.   But even if the farthest we went this year was approval by the full Senate, which was a realistic goal, that would have created a much stronger record for action in the new Congress after the U.S. elections.

 

So now we will never know if we could have gone all the way to make S. 1756 law this year.   If the RMI flip-flop is for real it may mean progress in the Senate committee in the last days of this session before the U.S. elections, but passage by the Senate this year was probably killed for sure by deBrum’s deceptive tactics, and passage by the House is virtually impossible.

 

Where are Bennett and Hunter Johnston now, where is Cooper Brown?   Can they get anything done now that they finally have realized they were wrong?   Trying to get more money for Imata Kabua helps Imata more than the real landowners, and it does nothing for the rest of the nation.   Trying to get a U.S. promise to buy power from an OTEC project that may never become a reality may someday help Kwajalein, and we hope it does.  But pretending that is something new, that they got from the U.S. because it is what they demand to make the “King” of Kwajalein sign the LUA, is a propaganda lie.

 

Let’s be real.  Imata will sign the LUA because he wants the money that the RMI and U.S. agreed to in 2003, and he now knows his office boy Tony deBrum failed to get him more money.   OTEC has nothing to do with it.  If OTEC is important to Imata, he will take the $20 million in the escrow account and use it as the start up capital for OTEC.

 

We hope that no bank was willing to loan money to Imata based on the escrow account funding.   Then again, that is the kind of crazy credit risk taking that has crippled the U.S. economy right now, so maybe Imata has already spent the $20 million.   But if the banks knew Imata as well as we do, they would not take that level of risk, and if that money is not spent before it falls into the hands of Imata and his cronies, it should go to OTEC or other programs for the people. 

 

All of it, not just a few million.  All of it.  That is what a real Iroij would do.

 

The people of the RMI must take back their government to serve the nation as a whole

 

In the meantime we need to face the reality that the U.S. Congress adjourns every two years for elections and starts over again the next year.   It is too late for the RMI to support for S. 1756 now, when Congress has only a few weeks in session before adjournment.   Even if a few steps are taken now we will never know if the legislation could have made it through the Senate and House this year.

 

The RMI was successful getting a record created early in the current two year session of Congress.   It is always best to try to get Congress to act on the record during the session the record was created, because each new Congress comes back after new elections with new priorities and starting over again on old business can be difficult.  

 

In 2009 there will not only be a new Congress, but a new President in the White House.   With all the problems the U.S. is facing right now, it is clear this last year of the current Congress in 2008 was the best time to make a real effort to move S. 1756 as far forward as possible.  

 

We had U.S. Senate leaders ready, willing and able to help us, but Tony deBrum put the Kwajalein ruling class before his country.   The damage done can not be undone now.  But deBrum and his partners on the Cabinet, like Jack adding, finally realized that ministers who know and care about the real nuclear issues are smart enough to know the difference between Faleomavaega’s staged political events and the formal legitimate process in the U.S. Senate that produced S. 1756.

 

Tony deBrum figured his ministers and the people are not smart enough to figure out the game he has played for Imata  and the ruling elite that put him back in power.   But Minister Amenta Matthews and some others heard from the people at the grassroots level that they have figured out that deBrum killed a bill that meant a lot to their people.

 

Tony and Imata thought the people were not smart enough to figure it out, but they did.   Tony pretends to respect the Iroij, and he uses the respect the people want to have to influence them and trick them into giving Tony their support.   So Tony pretends to support Imata and the traditional leaders in demanding respect from the people, but they have no true respect for the people.  Instead they look down on the people and think they are not smart enough to see what is being done to them.

 

That is how feudalism works, how customary respect and traditional rights can be abused to keep the common people down, to keep them poor.   That is why feudalism is a dead political system all over the world where it was replaced by democracy.

 

Even though world events may make it hard for the USA to waste any more time playing games with Tony deBrum, those who care about RMI issues can try to develop an agenda with the Obama or McCain administration to sustain the success of free association.  But even if the new leaders at Interior, State, Defense and Energy are sympathetic once they learn the issues, RMI issue will not be a priority and it is still the Congress that must act on nuclear compensation legislation like S. 1756.    

 

Also, we need to realize the Republican leader on the Senate committee who supported S. 1756 is retiring, and even if the new highest ranking Republican supports a new bill next year, the opportunity lost this year will delay progress on health care and other human needs for the 10 atolls.  

 

Now that the U.S. has told the RMI it must comply with its treaty obligations on Kwajalein base rights or face the consequences, Imata just wants to take his money and run.   He is not wearing 2016 t-shirts and boasting about the PRC being the highest bidder any more.   Maybe now Imata will want to help all the people in the RMI now, but we doubt it.

 

Instead of being honest about the reasons for his ministry’s failure to support this legislation to provide additional compensation to RMI nuclear testing claimants, Tony deBrum lied to the parliament and the people of the RMI.  His attempt to suggest there was some requirement for a unanimous vote or some other technical procedural reason why the RMI did not think the bill would pass was a pathetic lie.  It was his failure to support he bill that killed it.

 

His statements were not just an explanation that put the Tomeing administration’s flip-flop in the best possible light, it was not just a fair debating effort.   His version of what happened on S. 1756 was dishonest propaganda that raises a real question of whether Tony deBrum knows the difference between what is true and what is not.

 

Does he really believe what he says, or does he know he is not telling the truth?   In other words, is he just assuming the people are not as smart as he is so they can be tricked, or is he a pathological liar?

 

Whatever the answer to those questions may be, what we all know is that Tony deBrum is in a political sense an indentured servant of Imata Kabua, the so-called “King of Kwajalein” under the archaic and anachronistic feudal customs of the RMI.  Custom and tradition in the RMI could be revived and revitalized in a form that is true to the spirit of communal use of wealth from the land to benefit the people and their leaders.  But deBrum has sold out his great intelligence and talents to become an instrument for the abuse of customary rights by Imata Kabua.

 

So the people are not bound by custom to tolerate abuse.  That is why they have a democratic constitutional government to protect their human rights.

 

Tony deBrum wanted back into power, Imata wanted more money.   That is what their political partnership is all about.  That is why they used Litokwa Tomeing, who was respected , as well as people we once admired like Jack Ading, to form a government and get into power.

 

They demanded that we sit in judgment and condemn the administration of President Kesai Note, but now they will be judged.    Now we have seen what they can do, and we see that Kesai was not perfect, but he and the government he led had an agenda that was truly national in scope.

 

We think Kesai and the rest of us learned from the mistakes of the past, but Tony and Imata are making the same mistakes they made in the past when they were in power before, all over again.   The RMI cannot afford that damage they are doing to the RMI standing in the U.S. and the world.

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