We recently wrote about the impact and consequences of conflict in the United States territories throughout their history. Now the Wall Street Journal has covered the impacts of nuclear testing at Bikini Atoll, part of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, a country in a compact of free association with the US.
For the people of Bikini Atoll, the several hundred dollars they got each year as compensation for U.S. nuclear tests that ravaged their tiny South Pacific islands was indispensable.
There were funerals, birthdays, medical costs and fuel costs that many of the approximately 7,000 Bikinians and their descendants said they struggled to cover in their adopted homes scattered across neighboring island communities and the U.S.
In February, for the first time since the quarterly payments began in 1987, checks didn’t arrive. The local government, which is part of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, stopped issuing them after a trust fund established to cover its operating expenses sunk to $100,000, from $59 million in 2017. Costly purchases made by Bikini leaders, including a plane sitting idle at a Taiwan airport and land in Hawaii that hasn’t been developed, drained the fund virtually dry.
“They depleted the fund that many Bikinians depend on,” said Benetick Kabua Maddison, a Bikinian who heads a nonprofit serving the sizable Marshallese population in Springdale, Ark. “We don’t know what the future will be.”
Power is being rationed and government employees are no longer being paid on the island of Kili, where some 600 Bikinians now live and workers can make as little as $3 an hour, according to people whose relatives reside there.
The situation is another complex aftermath of colonialism in the Pacific.