Pirates at the helm of the RMI ship of state

The predictions this website has made concerning the consequences of failed RMI government policies are coming true one-by-one. The list of bad choices made by the current ruling junta of the RMI government gets longer every day. The people will pay for these bad choices long after the current ruling regime is gone. The RMI government is broken and needs to be fixed.

Because the RMI is a small country that is poor despite large U.S. grants, there will always be hardships and challenges typical of the developing world. But the RMI’s problems are made worse by a government that has been hijacked to serve the feudal lords of Kwajalein, rather than the people of the nation as a whole.

The current ruling party is not a national party, it is the Kwajalein feudalism party. So it can not provide national leadership to advance the cause of the nation, it only provides leadership for the cause of Kwajalein ruling elite. That gives rise to a comparison between the RMI ruling party and a mafia sting operation, in which organized corruption infiltrates legitimate institutions.

The mafia takes over and appears to be doing business as usual, but instead they are really just raiding the treasury for their own enrichment. Once they suck out as much money as they can, they will be gone. That is, unless they are stopped before they can get away with it.

On internal domestic issues as well as bilateral and multilateral issues, the RMI government is, as we predicted months ago, a ship of state captured by pirates and now lost at sea. Let’s look at the trail of folly left in their wake.

RMI Broadcast Dispute

The current edition of the Marshall Islands Journal reports that the Board of Directors of the RMI National Telecommunications Authority (NTA) has rejected a directive by the RMI President and Cabinet to cease development of wireless television broadcasting in the RMI. Since the national government provides many services in the RMI that are provided by the private sector in more developed nations, the Cabinet order to terminate NTA development of broadcasting capabilities was so clearly selective and arbitrary that the NTA refused to comply.

Now it is reported that Tony deBrum and others acting as his surrogates want the NTA to refrain from providing certain broadcast services, so that the “Marshalls Broadcast Company” (MBC) will have a monopoly over wireless television services in the RMI. Yet, it is also reported that Tony deBrum may have a conflict of interest due to a personal financial interest in MBC. In addition, it is not known if MBC has the capability of providing the service, meeting demand, or developing the private sector market for the services to be provided by NTA.

Also, giving a monopoly for the next generation of wireless television in the RMI to a company that deBrum may be able to control raises other concerns that the NTA may want to consider in carrying out its regulatory function to protect democracy and public interest in the use of public broadcasting in the RMI. Using control of the political and legal process to get control of private sector business, and vice versa, is the model Larry Hillbloom was following to become the richest most powerful man in the Northern Mariana Islands, and he reportedly had plans well underway to duplicate that model throughout the Pacific.

Tony deBrum reportedly was Hillbloom’s understudy, and his business as well as political partner in UMDA, through which deBrum now seeks to control MBC.  We also recently learned that deBrum may have been working with Hillbloom in connection with deBrum’s plan to establish an RMI embassy in Vietnam, and have deBrum or maybe even Hillbloom serve there as the RMI ambassador. Given Hillbloom’s controversial political, legal, business and personal lifestyle history, before he was lost at sea in Saipan, and possibly eaten by sharks, it makes one wonder what lessons Tony deBrum learned from Hillbloom that he is now putting into practice in the RMI.

Maybe private sector wireless television broadcasting has promise and should be developed, but instead of establishing an RMI national policy on privatization of this and other government services, the Cabinet has been like puppets, with their strings pulled by the de facto head of state – you guessed it – Tony deBrum. Instead of a fair and impartial policy opening the market to competition in those sectors ready for conversion to private ownership, the Cabinet targeted NTA under pressure from deBrum.

There is concern that many RMI laws and policies adopted while Tony is pulling the strings are all about Tony. As we reported recently, Tony or his surrogates reportedly may have land rights adjacent to certain public landfill projects that may result in government payments that could benefit Tony, and his demands as Foreign Minister for increased U.S. payments for Kwajalein directly benefit Tony by enriching his political godfather Imata Kabua.

Nuclear Claims Compensation

The elected leaders of Bikini, Rongelap and Utirik testified in what they were told were “field hearings” of the U.S. Congress chaired by Congressman Eni Faleomavaega when he visited the RMI at the invitation of Tony deBrum early in 2008. In that testimony the leaders of those atolls urged the RMI ruling party and the U.S. Congress to support passage of S. 1756. Neither Faleomavaega nor deBrum and the RMI ruling party he controls did anything anyone knows about to support S. 1756.

Now RMI Foreign Minister deBrum is trying to blame his ministry’s failure to support S. 1756, the nuclear claims compensation project of the U.S. Senate, on the nuclear test victims. He even singled out Rongelap and Bikini for not signing a letter that the leaders of those atolls thought was not an accurate or smart way to address the S. 1756 problem Tony created by not giving the proposed legislation timely support.

Since the public in the RMI knows that the RMI’s flip-flop support for S. 1756 is too little too late, Tony deBrum is looking around for someone to blame instead of him. He also is using his well-known tactic of confusing the issues and the public so he does not have to answer for his mistakes and bad choices on behalf of the people.

Unfortunately, the Marshall Islands Journal has become the public relations arm of the Foreign Ministry under DeBrum, and so the MIJ just gets Tony’s spin on events and lets the confusion and misinformation erode public understanding. Thus, the MIJ quotes Tony as saying he was “surprised” that the Rongelap Senator wanted the bill and the Senate committee report on it to make it clear the Senate was not committed to further funding beyond S. 1756 in response to the RMI Changed Circumstances Petition.

According to deBrum this would “close the door” to further compensation for nuclear testing claims. That shows how lame and weak deBrum is as a Foreign Minister, and how empty his excuses for failing to lead have become.

The truth is that Bikini and Enewetak requested that language to strengthen their appeal in the federal courts, and RMI should have helped the atolls with NCT award legal cases, because if they win their appeal that would have opened the doors to negotiations for further compensation based on awards of the Nuclear Claims Tribunal. Because the Senate did not move S. 1756 and its committee report forward, any benefit from the committee report statement that Congress has no commitment to further response to the CCP was lost, and the chances of Bikini and Enewetak wining have been reduced.

In addition, if the RMI had sat down with 4 atolls early this year to develop a sound policy and strategy on S. 1756, a statement on the approach by Congress to the CCP could easily have been proposed to limit the scope of such a statement of Congressional intent to the scope of the NCT land awards for Bikini, Enewetak, Utirik and Rongelap. Instead of giving up without a fight like the Tomeign administration has done under Tony’s control, the RMI should have worked with the four atolls to support Bikini and Enewetak.

While such a statement is not binding as a matter of law or policy, it might have helped the four atolls in federal court and it would not have closed the door on anything. Just like Tony’s dishonest claim that the RMI did not support the bill because one Senator opposed in, his claim that the committee report language requested by Bikini and Enewetak and supported by the Rongelap Senator would “close the door” on future compensation is simply dishonest.

Any additional U.S. assistance or compensation under the CCP is ex gratia and discretionary, not a legal obligation, in the view of the U.S. Congress, so unless and until Bikini and Enewetak win their cases, there was nothing to lose by supporting S. 1756. For Tony to make his dishonest excuses shows that he uses misinformation and confusion to mislead and lie to the people, and he must think that the issues are too complicated for the people to know he is lying to them. This reveals that while he pretends to be a man of the people he really views himself as superior, and sees the people as not smart enough to realize that he is tricking them to keep himself in power and make Imata Kabua even more rich and greedy.

Also, it is ironic that the deBrum controlled RMI government refused to work with the four atolls and the additional six atolls that could benefit under S. 1756, because the Kabua-deBrum-Tomeing AKA political party platform promised to empower the local governments in the RMI. That promise has been broken by the RMI ruling party’s refusal to support S. 1756, which would improve the quality of life for 10 atolls.

RMI Land Use Law Issues

As we recently reported, in addition to the RMI ruling party’s failed effort to blackmail the U.S. on Kwajalein land use, we recently disclosed reported expressions of concern from sources within the RMI government about a new land use law that reportedly will require the U.S. and RMI to use public funds for the equivalent of impact “lease” payments to landowners adjacent to public land fill projects. The concern of some familiar with this issue is that Tony deBrum reportedly pushed modifications to the laws through that will benefit him as the owner of adjacent land next to public land fill projects, including the Majuro airport improvement project.

Not only does that need to be investigated by the U.S. and RMI, apparently the FAA and Department of the Interior are already aware of this possible problem. If the land use law deBrum reportedly proposed is another scheme to use RMI land law to force costly long-term leases on the U.S. and RMI, that could be a rip off public funding which might better go to education and health care. Clearly, the entire practice of leasing land in the RMI for public projects may need to be re-examined.

Just as the current RMI ruling party tried to blackmail the U.S. into paying more lease fees to Kwajalien’s feudal lords, the attempt by deBrum’s political party bosses to raid the Rongelap Atoll Resettlement Trust Fund, by demanding lease payments for projects requested by the community, is another example of the abuse of feudal powers over land in the RMI. It also demonstrates how the Kabua-deBrum-Tomeing junta is trying to get rich quick before their corrupt regime collapses.

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