The local Majuro Atoll government argues that a portion of the Marshall Islands Marine Resources Act 1997 is unconstitutional insofar as it relates to constitutional provisions of Article IX.
The Act includes the Majuro Atoll Lagoon and provides exclusive powers and functions over these fishery waters to the Authority.
Article IX s1(3) Constitution provides ‘the whole of the land and sea areas to which any system of local government extends shall lie within the jurisdiction of a local government…’
The Act s119(1) provides ‘unless otherwise provided in this Title, the Authority shall have the exclusive powers and functions to: conserve, manage and sustainably develop all resources in the Fishery Waters…’
The Act s 102(31) defines ‘fishery waters’ as the exclusive economic zone, the territorial sea and internal waters, including lagoons, as described in the Marine Zones (Declaration) Act 1984, and any other waters within the jurisdiction of the Republic of the Marshall Islands.’
The plaintiff argued that Article IX s1(3) gives authority to the local government to exercise broad powers over the Majuro lagoon and consequently the Authority may not exercise exclusive power over the lagoon. Further ‘no Act should be allowed to encroach upon that constitutionally reserved jurisdiction.’
During the debate about the definition of jurisdiction the Court held that context is helpful in determining meaning and when considering the words of the Article the Court held that the language did not imply the grant of power and authority to be exercised by the local government. The language was said to merely describe the territorial aspect of the local government’s jurisdiction.
Furthermore Article XI s2(1) states that ‘ a local government may make ordinances for the area in respect of which it has jurisdiction, provided that such ordinances are not inconsistent with any Act…’
Therefore the local government is granted a broad power through the sections and the Constitution deals with not only the territorial jurisdiction of a local government but also the limits of its political authority. Local governments were held to be subject to the authority of the national government.
Decision: The court denies the plaintiff’s motion, it was held that the constitutional provisions relied upon do not limit the legislature’s authority to adopt this legislation.
(Summary provided by Eva Sheppard from the Queensland University of Technology)