Bikinian Delegation meets with U.S. Assistant Sec. of Interior, Tony Babauta, in Majuro
Mayor Alson Kelen and a delegation of Bikini Atoll Local Government Councilmen met with Assistant Secretary of Interior for Insular Affairs Tony Babauta today, May 6, 2010.
Accompanying Mr. Babauta on his trip to the Marshall Islands were senior policy advisers Kristen Oleyte and Rebecca Zepeda. Also present at the meeting for the U.S. government was U.S. Ambassador Martha Campbell. Present at the meeting for the Bikinians were, along with the Mayor, Councilmen Banjo Joel, Wilson Note, Fred Johnson, Biten Leer, Roger Joel, Mathew Joash, Preacher Balos , Typhoon Jamore, Hinton Johnson, and Uraki Jibas. Also present was Asst. Treasurer Marsh Note, Asst. Clerk Simon Jamore , and Bikini Trust Liaison Jack Niedenthal. RMI Ambassador to the US, Banny Debrum, also attended the early morning meeting held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Bikinian Senator Tomaki Juda was off-island.
Numerous issues of concern for the people of Bikini were discussed, including:
*Inadequate USDA food allocations for the Bikinian community. The Bikinian delegation was concerned because the current USDA food allotment is being based on numbers that are many years old and that the community has grown to 4,400 people. The amount of food the community receives is based on a little over 1000 people. The delegation expressed the concern that because of the recent budget cuts they were no longer able to supplement this allocation of USDA food from their fiscal year budget, and that this has caused extraordinary hardship on Kili Island.
*Inadequate fiscal year funding from the Resettlement Trust Fund because of the world wide economic downturn. The drastic reduction in the Bikinian’s fiscal year budgets over the last 2 years has caused the elimination of the Bikinians’s scholarship program, a reduction of hours of electricity on Kili, the loss of power subsidies for the Bikinian people living on Ejit Island and Majuro, and numerous other problems. The Council urged Mr. Babauta to be mindful of these hardships when approving the FY 2011 budget for the people of Bikini that will probably be submitted by the end of the summer.
*Also discussed was the long-range concern of the people of Bikini regarding the rising sea levels that may one day consume the Marshall Islands.
Mr. Babauta expressed sympathy for all of these issues and said that it was his hope that for the upcoming fiscal year some compromises might be able to be worked out for the Council’s budget. He cautioned that there has to be both long and short-term goals for the trust fund because Congress may not be forthcoming with funds if the trust fund gets depleted. He also pledged to look into the USDA food situation so that he can know more about the issue.