Johnson Toribiong, who had served as the eight President of Palau and happens to be one of the 38 framers of the constitution, will be giving a keynote address on the occasion of 39th Constitution Day which falls on July 9 every year.
Out of the 38 framers of the Palauan constitution, 28 have passed away and there are 10 people alive right now.
With a sense of nostalgia, Toribiong said that it has been about 40 years to the Constitution and most people who are in their 40s now were babies back then.
As a Civil Libertarian some of the parts of constitution he admires are individual and fundamental human rights prescribed in the constitution. In specific he appreciated Freedom of Expression and Speech, Freedom of Religion, the right to the due process of law and freedom from inhumane and degrading treatment.
He also emphasized on the right to vote and the articles prescribing responsibility of free education and protection of environment.
”If you add people who were born during the time of the making of Palauan constitution and those who are less than 18 years of age now, it makes 90% Palauans who didn’t participate in any way,” Toribiong said.
He said that Palauan constitution is a good and has stood the test of time with few amendments.
Toribiong added, “It is not about the provisions of constitution; it is about the execution of the constitution. There is a scope for improvements especially in terms of governmental accountability, transparency and responsibility.”
He also expressed disappointment in the handling of application and execution in Palau’s customary laws and role of the traditional chiefs.
“I guess we have gone into some kind of state of confusion and we have lost it. My idea is to somehow restore the dignity and responsibilities of our traditional leaders in a way that preserves the Palauan values.”
He explained the values of traditional leadership as the ones that include caring for the people, playing the role of advisors to President on matters of customs, to make sure that things like funerals do not pre-occupy Palauan life.
“I just feel like we have lost the proper roles of our traditional leaders. I feel like we need to regain that part of our identity and I’m afraid we are losing it,” Toribiong said.
Talking about the land disputes at the court, he added that Palau needs a pool of wise Palauan elders who will decide what the Palauan customary principles or rules are instead of lawyers.
He also said that Palau needs to go beyond power struggles within the clan systems.
Toribiong said, “Palauan values can be consistent with modern democratic system if it is done properly. The under-laying idea of Palauan customs is to promote welfare of the people.” (Eshan Kalyanikar)