January 30, 2015
News Update
Raised awareness on human trafficking in the Marshalls
January 2015 is observed in the United States as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month and January 22nd is the Federated States of Micronesia's Anti-Human Trafficking Day, established in 2012. Last week on this day, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), WUTMI, the RMI Attorney General's Office, Marshall Island Police Department and Micronesian Legal Services Corporation raised awareness on human trafficking in the Marshall Islands in observation of both these dates through radio messages and public presentations in Majuro. Human trafficking is a critical global issue.
Read more about this in the February 6, 2015
edition of the Marshall Islands Journal.
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Finance critical of Forum $$
Marshall Islands government handling of bank accounts for the Pacific Islands Forum and outer islands drought relief were criticized by the Ministry of Finance and questioned by Deloitte auditors. The RMI Auditor General’s latest report to Nitijela for fiscal year 2013 includes several audit “findings” (problems) involving management of the Forum and drought accounts. Finance expressed its concern over Cabinet’s decision to circumvent normal government accountability procedures, blaming this decision for problems auditors found. “The Cabinet-level decision to not coordinate the receipt of donor revenues for the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) through the Ministry of Finance but rather through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs resulted in these receipts and transfers to the PIF bank account being poorly documented and independent internal verification by Ministry of Finance difficult,” Finance said in response to one of the audit’s findings. Auditors were able to find evidence of receipt of foreign donations of over $800,000 to the RMI general fund bank account. But they said, “we were unable to trace the subsequent transfers of such between two bank accounts due to lack of associated transfer documents.” Auditors added: “Solicitation letters and grant documents, if any, were not available for examination.” Because of this, auditors were unable to see if the donors had put any restrictions on use of the funding and “whether all solicited funds were received and recorded.”
Mayors from the Marshall Islands Mayors Association (MIMA) were outraged and literally in tears because no solution developed before the conclusion of a Committee of the Whole (COW) session brought before the Nitijela Tuesday, despite MIMA President Rongelap Mayor James Matayoshi’s opening request to have Nitijela concentrate its dialogue on the issue at hand. The session, according to Rongelap Senator Kenneth Kedi, was “history in the making,” adding that petitions have been filed against the national government in previous years, but for the first time the petitioners are called in to Nitijela. The COW session was a four-hour emotional discussion where one side tried to outsmart the other, like two school-aged kids competing at who can cite the Bible better, often deviating from the issue at hand. Cabinet Ministers viewed MIMA’s “we come in peace” approach as wolves dressed in sheep’s skin, saying that despite the mayors’ peaceful intention, the signed petition, which was repeatedly regarded as offensive and personal, indicated otherwise. Minister Rien Morris of Jaluit and Minister Hiroshi Yamamura of Utrik, backed by Finance Minister Jack Ading of Enewetak, argued decisions were made by the Cabinet in accordance with procedures that have been in place since the beginning of the government. Both Morris and Yamamura were targeted in the mayors’ association petition for gaining Cabinet endorsement to divert money intended for local government use. “Can you say it to my face, tell me which money I stole?” Yamamura demanded of the mayors. “The vehicle I purchased, amongst other things, will help the women of Utrik transport handicrafts. Tell me that’s not development! In reality, it is you (MIMA) Cabinet should condemn!” Yamamura used Utrik’s local government as an example: “Utrik receives $40,000 a year, for the past few years, I’ve only signed one development project. Where is the other $280,000?” As the meeting progressed, some members of the Cabinet, including President Christopher Loeak, excused themselves from the chamber. Before excusing himself, Loeak puts his two-cents in on the issue, saying his younger brother Ailinglaplap Mayor Juaer Loeak signed the petition without understanding the content. “The voice of Jaluit is not with its two senators,” Jaluit Mayor Billa Jacklick told Nitijela. “I am the voice of Jaluit.” Foreign Affairs Minister Tony deBrum acknowledged MIMA’s right to petition government, adding that a more subtle approach through Cabinet would’ve resolved the two atoll’s issues. “We’ve given ourselves another black eye, one that not
only we see but the eyes of the world see,” deBrum said. “Donors will question the way we appropriate their donations,” to which Senator Kedi replied by saying RMI already got a black eye from “El Sayed.” Feeling betrayed by the petition, Ading reminded MIMA “who” was behind their salary raise and “who” is the reason MIMA’s quarterly pay changed to bi-weekly. A point of order was interjected by Senator Ruben Zackhras, who said: “The people raised your pay.” Before concluding the session, MIMA President Matayoshi expressed disappointment. “We still missed the point, we have failed to identify a solution.”
Bruno's lion attacks lady – There will be seven circus shows during the five days that Circus Bruno is in Majuro, beginning next week. During one of the cirus acts on Pohnpei last week, a trainer was shooing various lions and tigers back ... See more
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