Minister of Public Infrastructure, Industries, and Commerce (MPIIC) Charles Obichang has extended an olive branch to the five senators in the hope of resolving the airport expansion project issue.
Obichang, in an April 3 letter to Senators Camsek Chin, Regis Akitaya, Mason Whipps, J. Uduch Senior and Rukebai Inabo, asked for an opportunity to meet and work on an amicable solution to resolve the ongoing issue over the airport expansion project documents.
“I humbly request that we personally meet to discuss those issues related to the Airport Expansion Project. I sincerely hope that we can reach a common ground and move forward with the best intentions to see a successful project,” Obichang stated.
He said that his letter is a follow up from the discussions during the national leadership meeting last week, where Paramount Chief Yutaka “Ibedul” Gibbons urged both parties to address the feud without going to the court.
Ibedul encouraged the senators to consider withdrawing the lawsuit to avoid a negative image for Palau.
Obichang is named defendant in the lawsuit filed by the five senators in January on the minister’s alleged violation of the Open Government Act for refusal to hand over requested documents involving the airport expansion project.
Obichang did provide copies of the requested documents, but he sent it to the Senate – not to the senators who made the request.
The senators also claimed that under the Open Government Act, the documents requested should have been produced within the 10-day period.
The government meanwhile also raised concerns that making the documents public while under negotiations will infringe on the duties of the government to protect sensitive information.
The senators said that the information should be made public because it involves government activities and that the citizens have the right to information.
The government also said the “negative stories” as a result of the lawsuit is scaring off Palau’s partners in the multimillion airport expansion project.
The project is in partnership with Sojitz Corporation and Japan Airport Terminal Co., Ltd.
Sen. Senior said that they have received and is now reviewing Obichang’s April 3 letter. (Bernadette H. Carreon/Contributor)