Court grants motion of PCOC, BTA to weigh in on airport lawsuit
Palau Supreme Court Associate Justice Kathleen Salii on March 23 granted the Palau Chamber of Commerce (PCOC) and the Belau Tourism Association (BTA) motion to file an amicus brief in support of the earlier lawsuit involving the airport expansion project.
“Finding that such a brief may provide insights relevant to a just disposition of the case of the case, the court hereby grants this request,” the two-page order stated. [restrict]
PCOC and BTA said that their organizations “have been aggrieved” by the failure of the Ministry of Public Infrastructure, Industries and Commerce (MPIIC) to provide documents under the Open Government Act regarding the Airport Expansion Project.
PCOC and BTA, in a March 9 letter, has requested the Palau Supreme Court for leave to file pro se amicus brief in support of the lawsuit previously filed by five senators regarding the airport expansion project and the failure of MPIIC Minister Charles Obichang to provide requested documents on government transactions.
In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs argued that under the Open Government Act and the Constitution, citizens have the right to access and review government documents.
“Both organizations have been aggrieved, in a similar fashion to that of the plaintiffs, by the failure of the defendant to provide documents under the Open Government Act regarding the airport expansion project,” the letter stated.
The organizations have until April 6 to file a single joint amicus curiae brief.
Meanwhile, the plaintiffs, in their motion filed yesterday, said that the court should deny Minister Charles Obichang’s motion to dismiss.
Obichang argued that he has provided the requested documents to the Senate for the senators to see, rendering the lawsuit moot.
However, plantiffs argued that under the Open Government Act, the documents requested should have been produced within the 10-day period.
“Respondent-defendant failed to produce any documents to petitioner-plaintiffs within the 10-day statutory period under the Open Government Act,” the motion stated.
It further added that although Obichang claimed that he has provided the documents to the Senate, it was not provided to the plaintiffs who have requested for the documents.
The motion also said the airport expansion project does not fit the exceptions under the Open Government Act.
Obichang earlier claimed that documents pertaining to the airport project, which is a joint venture with two Japanese firms, Jatco and Sojitz can’t be made public, as they fall within the exceptions of “information related negotiations with another foreign country or another foreign entity that has its principle place of business in another country.”
The plaintiffs said Obichang has failed to classify whether the project is a “secret” in the interest of national defense.
Another motion filed yesterday by the plaintiffs asked the court to deny Obichang’s motion for a summary judgment.
The plaintiffs argued that Section 8 of the Open Government Act is unconstitutional.
Section 8 of the Open Government Act, “on its face violates the clear constitutional guarantee of the Right to Information” enshrined in Palau’s Constitution.
Senator J. Uduch Senior, a court decision is likely to out by the end of April. (Bernadette H. Carreon) [/restrict]