Sun. Dec 15th, 2019

President Heine urges Marshallese to stay the course and re-elect government

MAJURO, 18 NOVEMBER 2019 (MARSHALL ISLANDS GOVT) — The President of the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) Hilda Heine says the nation has surged ahead over the last four years and has called on the Marshallese people to ensure this economic prosperity continues by re-electing her government.

The President says advances such as the rise in minimum wage and copra prices, increased international investment, better infrastructure like the sea walls project, increased transportation for the outer islands, progress on climate change initiatives, and a focus on nuclear justice could stop if her government wasn’t given the opportunity to finish the job.

“When I came to office four years ago the Marshall Islands was in a holding pattern, and politicians were more concerned about being re-elected than governing for the people.

“Yet, and I say this with the greatest of humility, with a great team around me, I believe my government has put corruption and cronyism behind us, worked hard to bring hundreds of millions of dollars in investment for the people and started the process of rebuilding the Marshalls.

“We have brought integrity, honesty and transparency back to government, and everywhere I go the people recognise this.”

However she warned that a change of leadership could send the nation spiralling backwards.

“Not all politicians share this government’s vision and passion, and what we don’t need at this moment is a change of direction.

“We need to stay the course and finish the job because it takes more than four years to bring the stability, prosperity, growth and development that we need.”

The President said every island has seen investment and infrastructure progress, but issues like climate change and nuclear justice are just beginning.

“When people go to the polls I ask them to help us stay the course because together, with unity and commitment, we can make the Marshall Islands the greatest nation in the world.”

Heine says the court’s recent decision on postal voting by overseas citizens will protect the integrity of the voting system, and has accused candidates who are criticizing the government of supporting corruption and vote stacking.

Meanwhile, President Heine said the government wants to find a way for overseas residents to vote securely and that the newly elected government will work on the issues, but “there is no way the system can change for this election”.

“The Supreme Court has clearly found that there is no constitutional right to a postal ballot or any other specific measure of voting for citizens residing overseas,” she explained.

While the President acknowledges that the decision has been met with mixed reaction from residents and Marshallese living overseas, she said the top priority for the Government was to take a stand against corruption, revealing that in previous elections, some overseas voters took advantage of the lack of security and control around voting to engage in unlawful activities like vote staking and multiple voting.

“We know that some people would gather ballot forms and vote for others, and we know other illegal acts have taken place, all because to this point the integrity of the system of overseas ballots could not be guaranteed.

“My Government has worked for this entire parliamentary term to stamp out corruption in various forms that has sadly occurred in the past, and we must continue to ensure that there is no rigging of votes in this election.

“This is what this decision is about, and I call on all Marshallese who believe in honesty and integrity to support this.”

She said the Government had not only been steadfast in fighting corruption, but wants to ensure that the rights of every citizen are protected.

“I suggest that those politicians who criticise this move and want to bring back postal votes with no structure or accountability are those who would only be elected by vote rigging,” she said.

“My Government is not going to be influenced or threatened by people who want to stack votes.”

The President confirmed that following the election she will work on a more suitable way of handling the outside voting system, one where there is structure and accountability.

“I am not against the principle of overseas voting, but the process must be protected for the honest citizens of RMI,” She said

Voting every-four-year national election takes place from 7am to 7pm Monday local time. (PACNEWS)