RMI's Vote of No Confidence

 Tony Debrum (Minister in Assistance to the President,  pictured left ) with President Christopher Loeak.

Tony Debrum (Minister in Assistance to the President, pictured left) with President Christopher Loeak.

By: Hilary Hosia and Yu Suenaga

One of the longest and most disjointed sessions of Nitijela in many years wrapped up Thursday by defeating a motion of no confidence against the Loeak Administration. The marathon session Thursday concluded shortly after the 20-9 vote laid to rest the issue of majority control in Nitijela following four hours and 30 minutes of speeches by different factions.

President Loeak called for an end to the session after the vote, and Nitijela recessed until January.

This was the sixth time a motion of no confidence has been filed, but the first time where both sides provided written allegations and responses, the President’s Office noted.

Despite the negative outcome for the opposition, KEA Party Chairman Senator Alvin Jacklick remained feisty, saying, “KEA members are stronger than ever to take back the government before the current administration ruins it.”

A few days after the vote, President Loeak observed: “After a very successful Pacific Islands Forum and other things we’ve done in a short time — despite what we do, it doesn’t matter how good it is. Some people never consider it. They just want to take over.”

A large crowd of students and curious citizens filled the chamber. People had to sit on the floor because the chamber was already in full capacity. People carrying posters promoting the vote were stationed at the entrance of the chamber for leaders to see, with signs saying, among other things, “we need honest leaders.”

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Tensions between senators supporting the motion and Cabinet members was already at a boiling point inside the Nitijela chamber before the session kicked off at 10am with a live radio V7AB broadcast.

Majuro Senators Jurelang Zedkaia and Brenson Wase questioned the Cabinet’s call for recess following the introduction of the motion the previous week, stating the decision was unconstitutional. After Speaker Donald Capelle ruled the floor discussion be led by three representatives from the two sides, Rongelap Senator Kenneth Kedi demanded the floor open for all members to discuss with no time limitation. Although numerous Senators liked the idea of an open discussion, the Speaker confirmed the plan for only three speakers from each side.

The Speaker’s decision led to an eruption of political chaos in the form of a loud debate. During the pandemonium, Jaluit Senator and Minister of Transportation and Communications Rien Morris roared out, “Let’s get this over with and vote.”

Senators John Silk, Litokwa Tomeing and Alvin Jacklick brought forth the no confidence motion justifications and delivered allegations of malfeasance against the Cabinet. Ministers Phillip Muller and Hilda Heine and President Christopher Loeak responded with documents to undermine the allegations.

Tomeing to President: The vote of no confidence brought against me during my term was personal. You guys did it out of personal hatred.

Jacklick to Cabinet: “Your leadership lacks transparency. We all know our duties for our people. Those who don’t know their role should resign.”

President to opponents: “These allegations brought before me are personal and hurtful, like two sharp spears.”

President to RMI: “I want the Marshallese people to know that the VONC motion took its roots from the time I took the office in 2012.”

Muller called the allegations “baseless.”

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Silk demanded a vote by secret ballot. The motion was voted on and rejected by the majority, so the vote was conducted by roll call. Before Nitijela voted, Senators Mattlan Zackhras and Jack Adding left the session.

Reasons Presented For Vote of No Confidence:

1.     The undiplomatic treatment and subjection to public humiliation of the Republic of China (Taiwan) Ambassador to the Marshall Islands by removing him from the hallway to the International Conference Center during the meeting of the Post Forum Dialogue Partners of the 44th Pacific Island Forum, and the change in venue of the Taiwan/Republic of China Forum Countries Dialogue on 6 September 2013 from the International Conference Center (ICC) to the Marshall Islands Resort Melele room. This last minute change in venue was at the direction of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs despite written assurances from the Minister of Foreign Affairs to the contrary.

2.     The Republic of the Marshall Islands deteriorating relationship with the Government of the United States and failure to pursue measure to strengthen the Compact Trust Fund.

3.     The unconstitutional and illegal actions of the Cabinet to the meet the requirements of the Constitution (Article VIII, Section 1) in the establishment of an account with the Bank of Guam (account no. XXXX-XXXXXX), and the failure to follow the provisions of the Financial Management Act (11 MIRC Chapter 1), and the Procurement Code (44 MIRC Chapter 1) in the disbursement of funds from the account.

4.     The unauthorized and illegal action of the Cabinet through the President and the Minister of Finance who on June 3, 2013, directed the Bank of Guam to transfer $2,000.000 from the MIMRA account to the RMI General Fund (see attached letter and MIMRA Board minute.) Such transfer was illegal in that it was done without MIMRA Board resolution and was a violation of Section 124 of the Marshall Islands Marine Resources Act 1997 which does not allow transfer of this nature.

5.     The purchase of Ann’s Palace for $1.5 Million Dollars despite negative reports from Public Works on the condition of the building and the advisability of its use as an office complex.

6.     Insensitivity and continuing refusal of the Cabinet to answer questions on the floor of the Nitijela with regard to the then proposed purchase of the Dornier airplane from Nairobi, Kenya and the un-authorized execution of the sale agreement by Ambassador Bien for the Dornier airplane without a resolution of the AMI Board.

7.     The illegal use of lapse funds in violation of Article VIII, Section 10 of the Constitution. {See C. M. 163 (2013) attached.}

8.     The Cabinet’s continuing refusal and without explanation, to [respond] to Nitijela Resolution No. 13 requesting a cost benefit analysis of the RMI membership in the Micronesian Shipping Commission.

9.     Lack of accountability, transparency, and good governance to the detriment of the health and welfare of the Marshallese people and the abuse of power.

10. Such other grounds that will be raised during discussion and debate on the motion.