5 senators refutes Obichang’s claim

  20 Mar 2018

The five senators refuted the claim of Minister of Public Infrastructure, Industries and Commerce (MPIIC) Charles Obichang that he has complied with the Open Government Act (OGA) by providing the lawmakers copies of requested documents involving the airport expansion project.

In a reply to respondent-defendant’s 27-page opposition to petitioner’s plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment filed yesterday through their counsel Masami Elbelau, Sens. Regis Akitaya, Camsek Chin, Rukebai Inabo, J. Uduch Senior and Mason Whipps asked the court to declare a section of the Open Government Act unconstitutional and compel Obichang to “promptly provide petitioners-plaintiffs the documents requested.” [restrict]

The plaintiffs said Obichang should be made accountable for his violation of the law and should be ordered to directly provide the plaintiffs that requested airport expansion documents.

In the motion, the plaintiffs said Obichang continued to ignore the issue, to produce the requested documents and that he violated the law when he did not provide the documents within the 10-day period as prescribed by the OGA statute.

Obichang in his motion for summary judgment argued that the documents have already been provided when he submitted it to the Olbiil Era Kelulau (OEK) on January 28, 2018.

The documents were requested  on January 8, 2018, according to the plaintiffs.

The plaintiffs however said, the production of documents to the Senate and not to the individuals who requested for it , is a clear violation of the law.

“Respondent-defendant production of documents to the OEK on January 25, 2018 does not satisfy the requirements of the Open Government Act (OGA) as this was ten-day period has elapsed and the document was produced to a body that did not make the request,” the motion stated.

The plaintiffs also said Obichang’s reliance to Section 8(a)(2) of the OGA in his refusal to produce the documents is “ineffective” as he was unable to justify why the questioned documents contain information “properly classified as secret in the interest of national defense and foreign policy.”

Obichang earlier stressed that under Section 8(a)(2) of the OGA, there are negotiations that cannot be made public.

“This honorable court should grant summary judgment in petitioners-plaintiffs favor on the issue of respondent-defendant’s violation of the Open Government Act and order respondent-defendant to produce directly to the plaintiffs-petitioners all of the documents requested in their letter of January 8, 2018,” the motion stated.

The plaintiffs further stated that Obichang’s refusal to provide the documents is an infringement to a fundamental right –the right of a citizen to examine a government document as enshrined in the Palau Constitution.

Sen. Senior, one of the plaintiffs in an interview said that” there is no factual dispute in this case, the question is the law.”

She said Obichang violated the law and that “there is no dispute that he did not give us the documents.” (Bernadette H. Carreon) [/restrict]