Wednesday, June 26, 2019
Hawai'i Free Press

Current Articles | Archives

Wednesday, February 07, 2018
'Money Begins Disappearing' from Bikini Atoll Trust Fund
By Selected News Articles @ 2:27 PM :: 3135 Views :: National News, Ethics

Pacific Islanders Displaced by US Nuclear Tests Decry New Imperialism

by Britain Eakin, Court House News, February 6, 2018 

WASHINGTON (CN) – Members of Congress grappled Tuesday with the fate of a trust set up for Pacific Islanders who were displaced by dozens of Cold War nuclear tests conducted by the United States in the Bikini Atoll.

Residents of the tiny atoll in the Marshall Islands were scattered among other islands, including Ejit and Kili, when radioactive fallout from the nuclear blasts conducted between 1946 and 1958 during the height of the nuclear arms race rendered Bikini uninhabitable.

One of those tests, known as Bravo, constituted the largest thermonuclear bomb the U.S. ever detonated.

U.S. officials promised the people of Bikini that they could someday return home, but contaminated soil and water have largely prevented that from happening. In 1982 the U.S. established the Bikini Resettlement Trust Fund to help care for the displaced Pacific islanders.

Though there is about $57 million left in it today, the fund held about $129 million at its peak. Typically, the local government draws about $5 million to $10 million annually from the fund to fund rehabilitation and resettlement projects.

The U.S. Department of Interior held a veto power for more than three decades over how much the people of Bikini could withdraw each year, but the agency abruptly announced that it was relinquishing that power in November 2017.

Anderson Jibas, the mayor of Kili-Bikini-Ejit, testified on Feb. 6, 2018, before Congress.

After the Congressional Budget Office determined the money in the fund was not federal money but belonged to the people of Bikini, the mayor of Kili-Bikini-Ejit passed a resolution in conjunction with the local government council to take control of all spending decisions related to the fund.

U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski, who introduced a bill that would limit expenditures from the fund to $2 million a year, voiced concern at a hearing  Tuesday about the fund’s continued viability.

Seeking to restore some oversight of expenditures, Murkowski voiced alarm that the resolution passed by Mayor Anderson Jibas led to the immediate withdrawal of $11 million from the fund.

“We’ve heard reports of large sums being spent on things such as an airplane, two landing craft, an elaborate function in Hawaii, and cash payments to households on Ejit and Kili in the name of disaster relief, but without any damage assessment being conducted,” said Murkowski, an Alaska Republican.

Testifying this morning before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, Mayor Jibas soundly rejected the $2 million cap as “grossly inadequate.”

“Now, in retaliation against the Department of the Interior’s recognition that the department has no legal mandate to control the KBE Resettlement Trust Fund, this committee has introduced this legislation which frankly takes us back to a colonialist and paternalistic system that says the bureaucrats in a federal agency know what is best for the people of Bikini,” Jibas said, abbreviating Kili-Bikini-Ejit.

Researchers from Columbia University determined in 2016 that Bikini and other atolls in the Marshall Islands were still too contaminated for human habitation. Noting the $361 million price tag attached to a rehabilitation plan, which includes money in the trust fund in addition to $251 million awarded by the Nuclear Claims Tribunal, Jibas said Congress has failed to follow through on funding the award.

“Be assured we cannot move back with our families until the islands are cleaned up,” Jibas said.

After Murkowski warned Jibas that he had exceeded his time limit to give testimony, the mayor noted he had three more pages to read to the committee after traveling 8,000 miles to Washington.

“When the U.S. told my ancestors that they would take care of us until we returned to our safe and clean land, Bikini Atoll, our ancestors actually believed the United States and allowed the United States to bomb our islands!” the written testimony by Jibas says. “Do we really think the U.S. Congress is going to fund the clean up and restoration of Bikini? No, we don’t.

“We stopped believing in the U.S. Congress,” Jibas added.

Jibas said that he and the local government council voted to take control of spending decisions to allow them to fund projects that will generate future income for the islands. He said Bikini Atoll has world-class scuba diving, but stopped drawing visitors 15 years ago due to unreliable air transportation.

“We plan to fix that,” he said.

Compounding all of this are issues posed by climate change. Jibas said some of the recent $11 million withdrawal from the fund was spent on renovating and building new houses damaged by high tides.

But Jack Niedenthal, a U.S. citizen who received honorary Marshall Islands citizenship in 2000 and has worked to help preserve the trust, painted a darker picture Tuesday of how control over the fund shifted.

Not understanding why the change was made, Niedenthal said he tried to ask a Department of Interior official directly during a town hall in Majuro, the capital of the Marshall Islands, with assistant secretary of insular affairs Doug Domenech and other U.S. officials.

“A stairwell full of police refused to let me – or any other Bikinian with questions, including elected members of the council – up the stairs of the town hall even just to listen,” Niedenthal testified.

All prior meetings with U.S. officials had been open to the public, he said.

“I can tell you that the trust fund that I worked for for over 30 years, and which has provided over $220 million to help the people of Bikini – is in danger of disappearing,” Niedenthal added.

Domenech with the Department of Interior testified alongside Jibas and Niedenthal Tuesday. He said the department does not support Murkowski’s bill, known as the Bikini Resettlement and Relocation Act.

“It is the department’s position that the people of Bikini, through their elected leaders, have the right to amend the agreement in order to restore their local control over the funds provided to them as restitution for the U.S. Government’s nuclear testing on Bikini Atoll,” Domenech said. “Further the Department believes that it does not have the right to veto the use of non-Federal funds that are not under our purview or jurisdiction.”

Domenech apologized to Murkowski, who said she and her staff learned about the department’s policy change through a Nov. 28 press release.

Links

TEXT "follow HawaiiFreePress" to 40404

Register to Vote

2aHawaii

808 Silent Majority

808 State Update AM940

ABCDEFG Blog

ACA Signups Hawaii

ACCE

Affordable Hawaii Coalition

ALEC

Alliance Defending Freedom

Aloha Conservative Alliance

Aloha Life Advocates

Aloha Pregnancy Care Center

American Council of Trustees and Alumni

American Mothers of Hawaii

AMVETS-Hawaii

AntiPlanner

Antonio Gramsci Reading List

A Place for Women in Waipio

Audit The Rail

Ballotpedia Hawaii

Better Hawaii 

Blaisdell Memorial Project

Broken Trust

CAFR Hawaii

Castaway Conservative

Children's Alliance Hawaii

Children's Rights Institute

Christian Homeschoolers of Hawaii

Citizens for Recall

Cliff Slater's Second Opinion

Coffee Break

Conservative Forum for Hawaii

CSIS Pacific Forum

DAR Hawaii

DeedySupport.com

DVids Hawaii

E Hana Kakou Kelii Akina

E Māua Ola i Moku o Keawe

Farmers For Choice Hawaii

FIRE

Fix Oahu!

Follow the Money Hawaii

Frank in Hawaii

Front Page Magazine

Frontline: The Fixers

Genetic Literacy Project

Get Off Your Butts!

God, Freedom, America

Grassroot Institute

Habele.org

Hawaii Aganst Assisted Suicide

Hawaii Aquarium Fish Report

Hawaii Aviation Preservation Society

Hawaii Catholic TV

Hawaii Christian Coalition

Hawaii Cigar Association

Hawaii Coalition Against Legalized Gambling

Hawaii ConCon Info

Hawaii Credit Union Watch

Hawaii Crime Victims' Rights

Hawaii Crop Improvement Association

Hawaii Debt Clock

Hawaii Defending Marriage

Hawaii Defense Foundation

Hawaii Families for Educational Choice

Hawaii Family Advocates

Hawaii Family Forum

Hawaii Farmers and Ranchers United

Hawaii Farmer's Daughter

Hawaii Federalist Society

Hawaii Federation of Republican Women

Hawaii Firearm Community

Hawaii Fishermen's Alliance

Hawaii Future Project

Hawaii Gathering of Eagles

Hawaii History Blog

Hawaii Homeschool Association

Hawaii Jihadi Trial

Hawaii March for Life

Hawaii Meth Project

Hawaii's Partnership for Appropriate & Compassionate Care

Hawaii Public Charter School Network

Hawaii Rifle Association

Hawaii Right to Life -- Big Island

Hawaii Right to Life -- Oahu

Hawaii Shield Law Coalition

Hawaii Shippers Council

Hawaii Smokers Alliance

Hawaii State Data Lab

Hawaii Together

Heritage Foundation

HI Coalition Against Legalized Gambling

HIEC.Coop 

HiFiCo

Hiram Fong Papers

Homeschool Legal Defense Hawaii

Honolulu Homeless Crisis

Honolulu Navy League

Honolulu Traffic

Horns of Jericho Blog

House Minority Blog

House Republican Caucus YouTube

HPACC

Hump Day Report

I Vote Hawaii

If Hawaii News

Inouye-Kwock, NYT 1992

Inside the Nature Conservancy

Inverse Condemnation

Investigative Project on Terrorism

Iowa Meets Maui

Jackson v Abercrombie

Jihad Watch

Judgepedia Hawaii

July 4 in Hawaii

Kahle v New Hope

Kakaako Cares

Kau TEA Party

Kauai Co GOP

Keep Hawaii's Heroes

KeyWiki

Land and Power in Hawaii

Legislative Committee Analysis Tool

Lessons in Firearm Education

Lingle Years

Malulani Foundation

Managed Care Matters -- Hawaii

Malama Pregnancy Center of Maui

Mauna Kea Recreational Users Group

MentalIllnessPolicy.org

Middle East Forum--The Legal Project

Mililani Conservatives for Change

Military Home Educators' Network Oahu

Missile Defense Advocacy

MIS Veterans Hawaii

Muslim Brotherhood in America

NAMI Hawaii

NARTH

Natatorium.org

National Christian Foundation Hawaii

National Parents Org Hawaii

National Wind Watch

New Zeal

NFIB Hawaii News

No GMO Means No Aloha

Northwest Economic Policy Seminar

Not Dead Yet, Hawaii

Now What I Really Think

NRA-ILA Hawaii

Oahu Alternative Transport

ObamaCare Abortion Hawaii

Obookiah

OHA Lies

Opt Out Today

OurFutureHawaii.com

Pacific Aviation Museum

Patients Rights Council Hawaii

PEACE Hawaii

People vs Machine

Pritchett Cartoons 

Pro-GMO Hawaii

P.U.E.O.

RailRipoff.com

Rental by Owner Awareness Assn

Republican Party -- Hawaii State

Research Institute for Hawaii USA

Rick Hamada Show

RJ Rummel

Robotics Organizing Committee

Salvage The Rail

Save the Plastic Bag

School Choice in Hawaii

SenatorFong.com

SIFE Remington

SIFE W. Oahu 

Sink the Jones Act

Smart About Marijuana--Hawaii

St Marianne Cope

State Budget Solutions Hawaii

State Policy Network

Statehood for Guam

Tax Foundation of Hawaii

The Harriet Tubman Agenda

The Long War Journal

The Real Hanabusa

Time Out Honolulu

Truth About Trade & Technology - Hawaii

UCC Truths

Union Members Know Your Rights

US Tax Foundation Hawaii Info

Valor in the Pacific

VAREP Honolulu

Waagey.org

West Maui Taxpayers Association

What Natalie Thinks

Whole Life Hawaii

Yes2TMT