Mon. Sep 16th, 2019

Letter to the editor: Are we satisfied with democracy in Melekeok State? Or are we trapped in history?

“To each his own” is what I say about the government of Melekeok State. The government of Melekeok seems to like different things and is free to like anything without regard to its people. Culture and democracy are intertwined, but at the end, Palau’s Constitution is the supreme law of the land. The Constitution of Palau was adopted and with that adoption, Palau’s sixteen states were able to formulate own constitutional government, a democratic government. Therefore, Melekeok State formulated and established a Representative Democracy type of government in which all eligible citizens vote on representatives to pass laws for them. As of now, the people of Melekeok State are confused and bewildered by the powers that be in the government, and the people of Melekeok want the traditional chiefs out of policy making. The unicameral government is not productive as it should be for the people, its majority are for personal gain.

The Melekeok Constitution  Article IX, Section 1 states “All legislative powers and duties of the Government of the State of Melekeok shall be vested in the Legislature of the State of Melekeok which shall be unicameral assembly composed of sixteen (16) members whose membership shall be as follows: (a) Four (4) corners of the Ngara-Bai Melekeong, namely: Reklai, Rechebong, Ruluked, and Ngirkungiil; (b) The six (6) Rubekul Telngal, namely: Ngetibuchel of Ngeburch, Orukei of Ngeruliang, Secharruleong of Ngermelech, Renguul of Ukaeb, Yobech of Ngerang and Ngiraingas of Ngerubesang; (c) Five (5) elected at large from the State of Melekeok who shall have four (4) year terms pursuant to law; (d) And one (1) Governor.” So who are the majority in the policy making process? It is the traditional chiefs. The traditional chiefs of Melekeok are not elected or appointed by the voting citizens of Melekeok. Instead, they are appointed by clan members to represent in the legislature. Some appointed members of Rubekul Telngal were improperly placed through non-traditional and odious selection process by the highest chief of Melekeok. Steven Sebalt, George Rechucher, Aloysius Tellei, is the few examples of selected individuals favored by the High Chief that have taken seat without following the normal traditional system. I thought we were a maternal society and the Ourot are the backbone of our society. Elected members of the legislature to include the governor are considered minorities, and powers vested in them are limited to none because of the strength in numbers of traditional chiefs. Is this fair for the citizens of Melekeok? Democratic or Traditional, which one should we pursue?

The roles of traditional chiefs are reflected and reminded during customs, especially the distribution of pig sections. All chiefs ranked one are entitle to the head of the pig. It is a constant reminder that the chief is the brain and should think about the people and the land, the ears to listen to sadness and happiness, the eyes to see poverty and benefits, the tongue to speak on people’s behalf and guide, and the nose to smell conflict and sense trouble. Those roles have since disappeared.  At this point in time, the chiefs are respected by title only, not the person. The traditional chiefs act on behalf of their clans not the majority of the citizens. Most times decisions are based on own personal gains rather than the need of the citizens. Democracy has played a part into it, and has been the motivation behind all decisions in the legislative process. The single and only the biggest influence in the democratic system in Melekeok State is “money”.

Throughout these years, there is no single evidence of a law or traditional law passed by the traditional chiefs that benefits all citizens of Melekeok. As a citizen and a proud servant of Melekeok, I will name a few disappointments and as well as questionable motives of traditional chiefs.

  • In all events and functions in Melekeok State, we, the people, seldom see the traditional chiefs participate in town hall meetings, support local programs, help displaced citizens, provide cushion for families in need, or participate in parent teacher association meetings, and other occasions.
  • A vast majority of the chiefs live outside Melekeok State and do not know current situations locally, and those residing in Melekeok live on land not their own and then are opposing the housing program that is very much needed for many citizens of the state, especially the displaced citizens in Koror.
  • The chiefs receive biweekly salaries and are never seen in or around Melekeok State most of the time unless it is time to pick up their pay check.
  • Most sessions are held at restaurants in Koror, and alcohol consumption is common. So how are decisions made to benefit citizens of Melekeok under the influence of alcohol?
  • Introduction of bills by elected officials are differed or at times voted against by the majority, and that goes for bills introduced by the governor as well. Have they ever introduced any bills that became law?
  • Selected majority members have expenses of fuel, vehicle, travel, and more that exceed the budget appropriation and the budget for elected officials, but produce less results in terms of governance and legislation.
  • Off island trips are expensive and the cost is overwhelmingly huge. Certain individuals attended conferences and trainings on Melekeok’s expense with no results. Only pictures and videos of their night outs were documented. Sometimes they would not attend paid sessions instead recovering from the previous night.
  • Hold chairmanship of most committees with very little knowledge and lack the educational background.
  • The lowest clan in Melekeok holds chairmanship of Ways and Means Committee, meaning how does one control the budget of the entire state when he is using government vehicle to consume alcohol, have relatives drive the government vehicle, and use government resources to play “bakuchi” in Meyuns.

In a recent newspaper article, it exaggerates the work Ngaramecherocher led by Aloisius Tellei. Rubekul Telngal in the article acknowledged the Melekeok’s oldest men’s club of their impressive work helping the communities in and outside of Melekeok and presented a generous $2,000 to Mr. Tellei and Ngaramecherocher. Ngarachosichii Men’s Club an affiliated club in Ngerubesang was also recognized. Unfortunately, it was not mentioned in the article. Rubekul Telngal failed to see that Ngaramecherocher has only provided assistance for funerals only, just like the article mentioned and nothing else. Ngarachosichii an established organization has outshined Ngaramecherocher for their impressive work in building houses for families in need, restore bai, donate food and drinks, contribute in cash for school graduates and honorees, assist private and public schools in renovations,  donated equipment for schools, presentations to various institutions about culture in Festival of Pacific Arts, and many more. Currently, Ngarachosichii is assisting in the renovation of Ngerubesang Bai. Isn’t that impressive and worth bragging about? Disappointing it seems, but it is what it is when the blind leads the blind. I would like to know from Aloisius Tellei where is all the money you have collected on behalf of Ngaramecherocher? And did Ngarachosichii an affiliate get any of the $2,000, since they are also in the organization? This is just one example of a disappointment from citizens like me. Rubekul Telngal needs to put more effort in favor of people’s lives in Melekeok. Hearsay is a virus that will never go away, just take a closer look and see what is really happening in Melekeok.

This incriminating evidence goes to show that decisions are not based on the people’s needs but rather their own self interest. My question is for the elected leaders (Jefferey Erungel, Frusoto Tellei, Hidencio Kintaro, Toribiong Mekreos, Silverius Tellei, Henaro Polloi) we voted for, is this acceptable form of government in Melekeok? The evidence brought fourth is displeasing and clearly identifies division between government run by traditional chiefs and is reflected by the decline of democratic and traditional satisfaction by the citizens, lack of public confidence in the capacity of government, and lack of trust in policy makers.

To be proud of our democratic achievement of a stable government, a constitutional reform should take place. Traditional chiefs should respectfully consider separation from democratic government, and act as traditional advisors to deliver social and economic well-being for all its citizens. We understand the history and culture, and now we are shifting from belonging to one another to a democratic culture. Nonetheless, our democracy is for the people and by the people of Melekeok State. Melekeok Constitution,  Article VI Section 1 states “The government of the State of Melekeok shall take care of, has the responsibility for and has the highest authority to handle matters related to keeping peace; moral behavior; medical care; to maintain and take care of the property of the State of Melekeok; create economic opportunities; to preserve, improve and beautify the State of Melekeok for the good everyone; support education; and everything else including work that needs to be done to make life better for all people of Melekeok.”  This message is for our leaders: Have we met Article VI Section 1 of our Constitution?

–  By Citizen 1 Hundred