Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Forum

The Republic of the Marshall Islands hosted the 44th annual Pacific Forum  on Sept 3-6th.  There were 15 Pacific Nations that are members as well as other observing nations.  Most of the countries were  represented by  their Prime Ministers and other VIPs.  Participating countries included: Australia, New Zealand, Samoa, Tonga, Kiribati, Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, The Cook Islands, Niue, Narau, The Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Tuvalu, Papua New Guinea, and of course The Marshall Islands.  French Polynesia and New Caledonia are considered associate members and Fiji was removed from the Forum after the military coup in 2009.  Observing nations included the USA, represented by Sally Jewel, Secretary of the Interior, Japan, ROC (Taiwan), Russia, European Union, and probably more. 
This is one of the decorations that someone put up on their land in Ajeltake for the forum
The Forum is probably the biggest event that has ever taken place in the Marshall Islands.  There were around 500 representatives and delegates attending the forum and Majuro really got prepared.  The little man wiias and stores, hotels, and restaurants all painted and put new signs up.  People cleaned their yards and picked up trash,  The falling down buildings were removed.  One of the government buildings was scraped and painted.  Even the old falling down gym was painted over so it looked better.  There were people painting containers along the side of the road and many people decorated their yards and trees.  The bridge was painted and new lines and reflectors were put on all the roads.  A new 4 story apartment building was built in record time so that some of the delegates could stay there.  The government put up little white fences around the median strips in Delap.  Each inhabited atoll built a little grass hut and decorated it and had some of their handicrafts displayed and for sale. 

A yard in Ajeltake
They put shells, glass balls, plants, and other decorations on the front of their yards

They hung drink cans and CDs and artificial flowers from the trees and painted rocks
A yard in Ajeltake

Everyone got involved and it was really good

People cleaned up their yards and took old torn down stuff down  This is an old abandoned gas station that Sister Woods and I used to run to.  It looks totally different here because it has been cleaned up and the part that was hanging has been removed and the bushes around it have been cleared

New apartment building by my apartment was finished enough to put delegates in
More yard decorations

The blessing of the apartment building

The Forum began with an opening ceremony held at Delap Park and the Courtyard of the  Capital Building.  There were little grass huts built by people from each of the inhabited atolls in the park and down the middle was a huge woven mat for the VIPs to walk on leading to the capital courtyard.  Originally the Prime Ministers and other VIPs were to arrive on Marshallese Canoes.  That had to be cancelled at the last minute due to a storm and change of wind that came up earlier in the day.  Plan B was for the dignitaries to arrive in autos with a Police Escort and then to walk from the Lagoon to the capital on the woven matt.  Each Prime Minister was introduced and escorted to the courtyard.  Along the path, there were school children waving flags from every country.  It was really impressive.  Ruby and I went and they passed out flags for everyone who was close by.  I got to wave a flag from the Cook Islands

By the AUR atoll hut

Each atoll represented sold handicrafts made on their atoll

Allingalaplap Hut

Woven walkway and arch where the dignitaries walked through during the opening ceremony

Topics for discussion at the forum included climate change which the atoll nations of the RMIs, Kiribati, and Tuvalu feel strongly about.  They feel that due to climate change, the ocean waters are rising which will cause their atolls to eventually be covered with water.  Kiribati has actually purchased land in Fiji for what they feel will be a necessary move in the years to come.  Others topics of concern were fishing, education, etc.

Malealap  Atoll Hut

Jobat Atoll Hut

Each hut was different and unique

Hut from Maloelap Atoll

Marshallese Traditional dancers who will perform the stick dance at the forum  Ancient dancing can only be done in the presence of the Iroj Alep or the high chief
Hut from Aur Atoll

Jaluit Atoll Hut

Authentic Marshallese costumes

The people from each atoll built their huts

Hut from Likiep Atoll
Likiep Hut

Majuro Hut

handicrafts from each atoll

Kwajelin Atoll Hut

looking towards the lagoon

Bikini Atoll Hut

Pictures of the atomic bomb testing
Ruby by the Majuro Atoll  Hut

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