24 Nov 2010

Marshalls Paramount Chief played important role in country's independence

9:03 pm on 24 November 2010

Flags are being flown at half-mast for an important traditional leader in the Marshall Islands, with thousands having honouring the paramount chief in one of the islands largest state funerals.

They were remembering Chief Atama Zedkaia, the paramount chief for Majuro Atoll and mother of the country's President Jurelang Zedkaia.

She died at 79 on Friday and was accorded a state funeral earlier in the week, with funeral services continuing until the end of the week with her burial on Saturday.

Our correspondent in Marshall Islands, Giff Johnson, says the late chief Atama Zedkaia also played an important role in the Marshall Islands movement to break away from the rest of Micronesia and establish itself as an independent country.

"From a traditional leader point of view, she was very active in the background in supporting the move that was being led by the political leadership here that ultimately was successful in rejecting a micro-nesia wide constitution and then developing the Marshall Islands constitution in 1979 which is the foundation for government here ever since."

Giff Johnson.