Vice President Raynold Oilouch’s introductory statement:
I decided to run today (October 28, 2019) because today is a new moon. As a Palauan, I still believe in our customs and our traditions. And so under our tradition, New Moon is a very important day because that’s the start of the moon getting bigger and bigger. So the old men and women, they say that if you want to start something big then it is always that you do your (inaudible). So that’s why I saved my declaration for the New Moon, to do it.
Q. I guess it’s too early to talk about platforms, but what’s the process you have to [undergo to become official candidate]? Through signature campaign?
Oh yes. Under our laws, if you want to become an official candidate for any position in the government then you have to get certain number of signatures. For the Congress, it’s a little fewer but for the president, I think the number, if I am not mistaken, it’s about 100. Once you get your candidacy form filled then they [inaudible] at least that number of signatures then it will be submitted to the Election Commission and then of course they will do the verification and once that is done then they can approve you as an official candidate. But that process, Bernadette, that’s still further down the line. Maybe around May, June. Maybe around that time. But of course, you can start doing what you used to do.
Q. You mentioned in your article that you want to keep the current administration’s efforts and improve from that. What are these particularly?
We have a lot of things going on. There are a lot of good things that are currently going on in this government right now. For example, the housing projects, those are on-going. And we had a cabinet meeting this morning and according to Minister Temengil (Community and Cultural Affairs Minister), there are going to be awarding eight more housing projects very soon. I hear…in a very short time. So those are the kind of things I am talking about.
There are some good policies and good projects that are currently on-going that we need to continue and we need to also improve upon because housing projects are one of the biggest priority projects so that’s a good thing to do and we’re glad that the president was able to ask support from Taiwan and they came back with a $15-M loan to support housing projects in Palau and that is why the housing projects are currently on-going. And I’d like to continue those. Those are the good things that are happening.
But at the same time, I want to do more, I don’t want to stop there. In fact, I have new ideas which are a little different than what are currently being done as far as the housing projects are concerned.
I have some ideas which I believe will further improve the situation right now. We live in a small town together so we know the concerns, the complaints, everything moves slowly. People have been complaining about how slow it is…for this housing projects to go through.
I believe I have some other ideas as to how to expedite the projects and also how to take care of the situation much quicker because my idea, I believe that there should be a place in Babeldaob, one big public land. Why not use a big part of the money to buy a huge…what do you call that? Build structures, units…
Yeah. Once you build that and you provide all the necessities there, then surely everybody would definitely want to go…move in. There should not be a problem in looking for tenants for people to live on those places. To me that is another quicker way of doing it. I mean, I am not complaining about what’s going on because already, we’re seeing that houses are being built. But to me it’s a little slow. My idea, I believe, would be much quicker and would take care of many, many people who are in need of homes or places to live in.
Those are the kind of things that I am talking about. We need to continue what we have already started which are good things.
Also the marine sanctuary, we have not yet seen the final result. We’re still in the process of implementing everything, in fact, next year, if I am not mistaken, will be the total closure of the 80% of our waters. So we need to see those continue.
Q. Did you consult the president? Can you talk about whether he will endorse you, that you will get his support?
Well, let me put it this way. The president and I had been working well together. I believe, we worked well together. He can trust me. He can put his trust on me during the almost three years together as president and Vice President. I see that going on. We’ve worked well together and I understand my position as the Vice President of Palau. I understand his position that he is the one elected to run the whole country so I worked as his minister. While at times I may have some opinions, I respect that he is the overall (inaudible.)
I think we have come to trust each other. He can delegate duties to me in fact, he has been doing that many times.
This compact review consultation – this is something that is very big and important but he has delegated that authority to me chair that committee, to do that and so many other things.
I’m hoping that I will get his endorsement but I can say that he definitely knows and is aware of me running for being candidate for president.
Q. As a candidate for president, there are also some regional issues that you have to face like the China versus Taiwan –
Yes. You know, I think that’s one of my advantages as a candidate because I am in the government right now and I am very much aware of these regional issues, international issues that are affecting Palau and so, that’s why I feel comfortable putting my name in the hat as a candidate because I feel that I’m well apprised of these issues surrounding Palau and the entire Pacific region and in the entire world as well.
Q. It is common for new administration to switch ties to China from Taiwan, so what is your stance on that?
You have to understand Palau because Palau is very slow to make up its mind on many things but once it makes up its mind it’s always firm, it’s very loyal, and it’s hard to change.
That’s what I see of Palau but having said that, I am not going to the office on my own, if I get lucky, it’s the people to put me into the position so I have to listen to the people.
If the people think that this the route that we have to take, then that’s the route that we have to take.
At the same time, my personal opinion, I think you guys all know me. I am very friendly. I want to be friends with everybody and that’s how I feel about Palau too. I want Palau to be friends with everybody. Palau should have no enemy. Palau should be friends with Mainland China and with all the countries of the world and if I am lucky enough to get the position, I want to do my utmost best to improve the relations with Mainland China because I know, and acknowledge that China in the second largest power in the world in terms of economy. The way I see it, Palau needs to be a good friend of China as well and that’s how we can mutually benefit from each other.
Q. When did you decide that you’re gonna run? Was it when you became Vice President, you were already thinking about that?
I was very fortunate and grateful to all the Palauan people when they elected me to be the Vice President.
I had no intentions of running for president but it is only after I became the Vice President and the Minister of Justice, after I worked for some time, then people from the community started to come and talk to me and encourage me to run for this office but at the time, I kind of put it aside because my priority was to do the best I can as a Vice President and as the Minister of Justice. My priority was to improve the security and safety of the entire Republic of Palau. Having been given the Ministry of Justice…But of course, over the time, many people from different aspects of life, they approached me – old men, chiefs, women, young people – they approached me and asked me to run for this office in the next election so that was something I had to think about for a while and then finally, beginning of this year, that’s when I sat down with my wife and the we talked about it, that’s when the decision for running was made.
Q. Your first career as a politician was when you were a Senator or did you have some experience prior to that?
If you call being member of the constitutional convention a political position, I served in the Ngchesar State Constitutional Convention way back in the 1990s and I became a member of the Senate Concon for the Republic of Palau in 2004 or 2005.
Before that, I was appointed to become one of the members of the political education committee to propose amendments.
I was first a lawyer for Micronesian Legal Service for a little bit over five years and then I decided to become a private practitioner. So I was a private lawyer…for over 10 years.
Q. And you were at the time, Senator?
Q. That was eighth and ninth (OEK)?
Yes. Eighth and ninth Senate.
Q. As Vice President, what do you consider your biggest achievement?
I would say having reduced the crime rate for Palau. When we got in, there was so much…I would say, the crime rate in Palau was much higher and so my priority – of course the Ministry of Justice is quite a large area of responsibility but when you say Ministry of Justice, the first thing that would come to mind is the security and safety of the populace.
As we sit here now, what I’m happy about is that the crime rate has been dropping and dropping every year until now. And I hope that this year again we will also will see further drop in the crime rate. What does that mean? It means that Palau is a lot safer place to live than with a higher crime rate.
I am not saying that I am happy so it’s a job well done and that’s it. No. I continue to demand that the officers work harder to further reduce the crime rate in Palau. After all, we want a safe place to live. Everybody wants to live in safe place.
We can talk about better education. We can talk about good health. We can talk about power not going out in the midnight or some other times, but what good are they of we do not have a security in where we live. So I think the most important is the security, the safety of our people. Once we have that in place then we can enjoy the rest of our…
Q. When you were a Senator, what was the important legislation that you helped push? I know that in this administration, you were instrumental in pushing for higher penalty for drugs –
Penalty for drugs and I am very happy for that. Some of what I really pushed for, of course we got together, a lot of us senators at that time got to work together and push for increase of minimum wage. So that as a work of a lot of senators, not just one senator. We got together and worked together. That’s how it became law.
But I want to talk about some of the things that I proposed but nobody really understood but now, we’re seeing the effects of it. One of which is the legislation to address the housing for people living on the leased land which are being returned to original owners.
As a lawyer, I practiced all areas of law including the land law in Palau. So I was very familiar with the processes of returning the lands and in fact, it was very intense at that time when I entered the Congress and so I proposed a legislation to address the landowners as well as the leases of these lands because I know that in the future it is going to be a big problem. But nobody really understood. Nobody really listened so it didn’t materialize. And it is a huge problem right now. Now, our problem is the housing problem. If we had taken care of it back then, I think we had a law in place that we just have to rely upon to deal with these situations. That’s one.
Also, I did the bill for the establishment of a cultural center, central market. I pushed for that then, also people said that it was a very interesting idea but it did materialize. Now, the president is doing that right now. He gathered the people and said we need to do this. Some of the very important pieces of bills back then, I wish we were able to get them through.
Q. You seemed to have the same temperament with the president, very diplomatic.
One thing I’ve learned is that in Palau, you have to be always respectful of everybody. You cannot think you’re the smartest person and you can push everything you want you always have to know how to pay respect to each and every one.
But once you established that respect for each other, then I think you can also establish a good working relationship with the people and that is something I want to continue doing.
Always respect the people in the congress – each and every one of them – and of course we have a very strong custom which I also hold a small title in my community so I am very respectful of our customs also.
This interview is brought to you by Pacific Note and Island Times.