By Mar-Vic Cagurangan
Hilda Heine has been sworn in as the new president of the Marshall Islands after being elected by the parliament during Tuesday’s session.
Playing a political game of musical chairs, Heine succeeded David Kabua, who took the helm in 2020 following the end of her term.
Heine served as the Marshall Islands’ president from 2016 to 2020. After her presidential stint, she served as Aur Atoll senator and was reelected in the Nov. 20 national elections.
Heine narrowly survived a vote of no confidence in 2018. She attributed the ouster attempt to her rejection of the parliament’s proposal to set up a tax haven on Rongelap Atoll in a scheme orchestrated by a Chinese couple, who were later convicted of bribery and money laundering in a U.S. court.
While serving as a senator in 2022, Heine sought a local investigation to identify the Marshall Islands politicians who connived with Cary Yan and his assistant Gina Zhou on an elaborate plan to establish an autonomous region called Rongelap Atoll Special Administrative Region, or RASAR.
The 2023 vote led to a political shakedown, with old-timers having lost their reelection bids.
In Washington, D.C., Rep. Uifa’atali Amata Radewagen, American Samoa’s delegate to the U.S. Congress, congratulated Heine on her reelection amid “these important times throughout the Pacific region.”
Heine assumed the presidency as the Marshall Islands awaited the U.S. Congress' action on new agreements under the Compact of Free Association.