9 legislators, Koror state voter challenge constitutionality ‘Rules of Procedures’
The 11th Koror State Legislature and its Speaker Alan Marbou in his official capacity as a Speaker have been sued by nine of its current members and one Koror State voter, challenging the constitutionality of the 11th KSG Legislature’s Rules of Procedures.
The suit filed by the Plaintiffs Legislators Felix Francisco, Vann Isaac, Ignacio Rengulbai, Jennifer Sugiyama, Eledui Omelau, Leorry Ngiramowai, Devon Andreas, Polycarp Marcil and Wilson Ngirausui and Koror State voter Kerai Ngirchorachel claims that Rule 1 (C)(7), Rule 10(G) and Rule 14 within the KSG Legislature Rules of Procedure are in violation of Koror State Constitution and asks the court to declare the rules “null and void”.
On April 16th of this year, the Plaintiffs’ third attempt to change the leadership of Koror State Legislature by suspending the Rules and placing a resolution on calendar was not approved by the Speaker. The Plaintiffs also did not have the 2/3 numbers required to override the Speaker.
Koror State Legislature Rules of Procedure adopted on January 31, 2018 by majority of Koror State Legislators including some who are Plaintiffs in this suit, requires 2/3 of the legislature to remove an officer of Legislature, Rule 1(C)) (7).
Amending the Rules of Procedures (Rule 14) requires simple majority of members except for removal of officers of legislature, which requires 2/3 of the members or 11 out of the 17 members to vote out an officer or officers of the legislature.
Rule 10(G) provides that “The Speaker shall decide all questions of order whether or not specified in these rules, subject to an appeal to the Legislature, which decision shall be considered overruled if at least 2/3 of members vote not to sustain the ruling..”. In other words, Speaker shall make decision on questions of order and his/her decision can be overturned by 2/3 of members.
Plaintiffs contend in their suit that these rules are contrary to Koror State Constitution which states under its Article VIII, Section 7 that “The Legislature shall elect a Speaker of the Legislature and its other officers by a majority of vote of the membership.” The constitution however does not define what that majority of vote means.
The Plaintiffs expressed that the rules requiring 2/3 votes to remove an officer, to amend the Rules of Procedure and to override the speaker’s decision during legislative session is “holding the majority of the legislature hostage to the whims of the minority without any avenue to exercise its constitutionally mandated power.”
“Koror State Legislature and Speaker have been sued and challenged before. This is not the first time. We will continue as legislators to work representing our people and we will let the judicial system takes its course,” expressed Speaker Marbou when he was reached for comments on the law suit.
When asked why the 2/3 requirement, Speaker Marbou expressed that it is in part to maintain the integrity of the legislature. “When the leadership can be changed by simple majority, the system can be changed at the whim of one person. One person may not like you today than leadership changes. That means staffing changes, organization and lot of things. But if a good majority feel that the leadership is not doing a good job or not being fair, then they get together and change leadership. It is not just one person’s whim or feelings.”
Fourteen out of 17 members of Koror State Legislature voted to adopt this Rules of Procedure on January 31. Legislators that didn’t vote due to excused absence at the time were Legislator Wilson Ngirausui, Legislator Vann Isaac and Legislator Polycarp Marcil.
Plaintiffs have asked the court to declare Rule 10 (G), Rule 14 and Rule 1 (C) (7) unconstitutional, null and void and prohibit 11th Koror State Legislature from applying these 3 rules. (L.N. Reklai)