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The Untimely Death Of A Marshall Islands Visionary via Civil Beat

By Jon Letman

After a short, sudden illness that ended with cardiac arrest in a Taipei Hospital, the Republic of the Marshall Islands’ second highest ranking official, Minister in Assistance Mattlan Zackhras, died on Aug. 8 at the age of 47.


I know this is a complicated question, but are nuclear issues resolved?

To us it will never be resolved until the U.S. discloses everything because most of what we don’t know is still classified. And just recently they were declassified because we worked with the Clinton administration when he was in office and he allowed some of it to be declassified and we found some information like Project 4.1 where we weren’t aware of it when we negotiated the first Compact. You cannot just wash your hands off of an issue that is still impacting the Marshallese people until today. You have a big dome on Enewetak (atoll) that’s leaking and you’re just not doing anything about it.

Runit dome? Is it leaking?

Runit dome — yeah.

Has there been an adequate response by the U.S.?

Well, they’re saying it’s not contaminated. After the testing they just brought in all of the materials and shielded it with a large cement dome over it and just say, “okay, problem solved.”

What do you think Americans today should understand about these nuclear issues?

I think that’s the very unfortunate part of our story, is that we don’t have access to the major networks like CNN. We can be captured a little here and there whenever there’s an article about climate and we link up the nuclear issue with that just to raise the profile again and remind people. But if it was the U.S. and it was the sheer thought of the extent and strength of a nuclear device being tested in their soil that would have been a major issue.

Take Nevada, for example, and try to compare. I think the only difference is that it was done in a different country. And for those who probably don’t really understand, I think it’s on us today, a lot of the youngsters today need to keep the momentum going because most of our leaders that were living back then are dying or they’ve already gone, but they were brave. I live until the day that we will see the full disclosure of all the documents.

Is that central to disclosure?

There’s no closure until there’s full disclosure to this nuclear (issue). I’m glad that it’s being discussed now at the World Humanitarian Summit, the issue of loss and damage. Well, it has to do with the climate change but again, looking at it from humanity’s side. That’s something that we really need to revisit and keep telling the story to anyone and everyone that wants to open their ears and understand.


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  1. The Untimely Death Of A Marshall Islands Visionary via Civil Beat linked to this post on 2021/04/11

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