This speech was delivered at the 2012 World Conference against A- and H- Bombs.
Good morning. My name is Jelton Anjain. I bring warm lakwe (greetings) on behalf of the people of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Rongelap Atoll local government and especially the displaced people of Rongelap. I have the great honor and privilege to be here joining you throughout this week to commemorate all the victims of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki A-Bombs. This conference is significant in that they bring us together from different parts of the world where we become one in friendship to fight for peace and justice and try to convince the world to eradicate the use of nuclear weapons.
I would like to take this opportunity to give special thanks to the Organizing Committee for inviting me to join you this week. Last time I joined these rallies was when I escorted my uncle John Anjain back in 2004. Now my father Jeton Anjain and all my uncles who fought this nuclear injustice have passed away and we, the younger generations, still carry on their legacy. We are a small group of people, but we will never stop in our fight against this nuclear injustice that was brought upon us.
I’d like to tell you a hypothetical story. We all know the importance of making a living from our natural resources.
“If the islands were not used for testing of nuclear bombs and our islands remained clean today, and if I was a farmer, I would easily go into my field of crops and harvest, and afterwards, I’d take my spear gun and go spear fishing. For a day’s work, a normal farmer/fisherman would easily make over $500 if he takes his crops and fish to sell at any market. Now, since the islands are contaminated and we were forced to get sicknesses and to leave our homeland, those normal farmers/fishermen who are not fortunate enough to get educated and cannot find a decent job, they are forced to live on $75 for their quarterly compensations from the US government.”
That has always been the situation of the Rongelapese over the years and that is the situation of the Rongelapese today.
Just in 2010, the US Congress sent a letter to the US Department of Interiors’ office of Insular Affairs urging them to have the people of Rongelap move from Mejatto Island in the Kwajalein Atoll back to Rongelap. Despite the fact that the islands are not ready and still contaminated, US Congress is urging our people to move back. US government is telling our people that those who choose not to move to Rongelap will no longer receive compensation. We were given until October of 2011 to move back but are people are still uneasy about going back as we know the islands are still not clean. The US calls this relocation a necessity due to budgetary difficulties. Since the scientists have certified these islands as ready for resettlement, it is a legal and economic necessity. Now if the scientists are saying that these islands are safe to go back to, why are they urging our people to “consume 30% local diet from the land and 70% imported food.” This statement alone clearly indicates that the islands are still contaminated.
Now they say it’s a “legal and economic necessity.” Our lives are worth more than their money, our lives are worth more than their legal system. We have a right to live a full and healthy life as human beings. Mejatto Island is only 60 miles away from the urban city of Ebeye. And Ebeye is the closest place our people on Mejatto get their imported food from, but transportation to and from Ebeye is hard to come by, especially when the weather and seas are not good. If we move back to our islands and are not allowed to eat from the land, how can our people get imported food from Ebeye when it is close to 200 miles away from Rongelap? And transportation is always a problem. People would have to rely on tri-annual ships that would come and bring them food, and if the ships don’t make their scheduled runs, they would be forced to eat off the land which is poisonous.
The RMI national government does not support this relocation by the US government for the Rongelap people to move back even though the Rongelap local government and the US government are pushing for it. The Alap association of Rongelap, which I represent, does not support this resettlement at the moment, for we all know the islands are still not livable. We do not want to risk going back and have our people get sick again just like we did when the US told our people back in 1957 that the islands were safe to return to after three years of exile. We surely don’t want to take that risk again. The community is uncertain as to whether to go back home or not because our local leadership does not conduct public hearings to report on current status of the radiation, funds and reports on guaranteed better and safe life. People do not trust the Department of Energy (DoE), they are not truthful about the cleanup and safety of the islands and guaranteed health insurance for the people, especially the descendants of our hibakusha. Like you, we go through the same social, economic and health injustices caused by what the US did to our islands, for the so-called “good of mankind.” I tell you, slavery still exists today: we are slaves to the social and cultural instability. We are slaves to the limited educational skills we bear. We are slaves to the health problems our children and elders encounter every day. We are slaves for we lack the economic stability to prevent these causes of slavery in our lives.
So I am here today, my friends, as their voice. I come to ask you to be our extended voice to the world. Let the world know of what we go through every day we wake up to greet the sun. I ask that we stand together to fight this injustice. Only then will we be able to overcome all of this.