Senator Phillip Reklai letter to the Senate

  25 Jul 2017

July 24, 2017
The Honorable Hokkons Baules
President of the Senate
Tenth Olbiil Era Kelulau
Koror, Palau 96940

Dear President Baules:

It is with deepest regrets and heavy heart that I am forced into the position where I must write this letter to you in which I vacate my chairmanship and vice chairmanship and resign from Committee on Foreign Affairs and State Matters. [restrict]

Effective this date, July 24, 2017, I formally vacate the chairmanship of the Tourism Development Committee and the vice chairmanship of the Youth Affairs, Social Welfare, and Culture Committee.

Effective this date, July 24, 2017, I also formally resign my membership on the following standing committee: the Committee on Foreign Affairs and State Matters.

The above actions are not taken lightly nor without reflection on my part. I have thought long and hard about these actions and have prayed with family and friends about them. As you well know, I am deeply committed to public service and to serving the people of Palau. However, there comes a point where every man must reevaluate his role in life. Based on a series of events that have occurred in the Tenth Olbiil Era Kelulau, I simply have no other choice.

First, my well publicized removal as Floor Leader based on allegations of impropriety towards a member of the Senate staff. The Attorney General investigated the allegations – an investigation which I welcomed and fully cooperated with – and chose not to bring any charges or proceed any further. Though I am grateful to have been cleared by the judicial system, I still feel I was unfairly treated and removed from my Leadership position based on allegations alone, without any investigation into the incident by the Senate.

Second, the announcement of my “removal” as the Chairman of the Committee on Tourism Development and as a member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs and State Matter. In a petty attempt to punish me for exercising my rights and duty as a duly elected Senator to ask questions, engage in an honest debate on the issues, and represent the best interests of the people, you first said I was removed, then backtracked and said it was merely an announcement. There has been no vote to remove me as Chairman of Tourism nor has there been any formal communication that I have been removed as a member of Foreign Affairs. This bizarre limbo has been unprofessional and unfair, so I am saving you and the Senate the trouble and removing myself on my terms.

Third, the reasons for my removal as Chairman and as a member of the Foreign Affairs and State Matters Committee are arbitrary and capricious in the extreme. To punish a Senator for asking questions and bringing important issues before the Senate is an affront to democracy and to the traditions of the Senate. My duty is to the people of Palau; my vote on any bill or resolution is accountable to the people of Palau, not to the President of the Senate or any one person.

Fourth, as another long serving and well respected Senator has noted, you use committee funds as means of control and punishment. On several occasions over the last few months, I have requested to expend committee funds as Chairman of Tourism Development and been denied. These expenditures were for legitimate and routine expenses well within the purview of the Committee. Not only were these expenses denied, but you threatened to fire my staffer if she kept bringing the forms to you for you to sign, which is your job. It is one thing to seek to punish me for daring to disagree with you; it is another to terrorize my staffer for doing her job.
Fifth, concerns about the Rules of the Senate. As I tried to get access to the budget for my committee funds and pushed to bring certain needed administrative issues of the Senate, I reviewed the Rules of Procedure of the Senate. Under the Rules of the Tenth OEK, the Executive Committee was comprised of the Leadership of the Senate (the President, the Vice President, the Floor Leader, and the Chairmen of the standing Committees). The Rules apparently were changed to remove the Chairman from the Executive Committee without being adopted by the majority of the Senate. By shutting out the Chairmen of the standing committees, there is less transparency and accountability on administrative matters.

Sixth, the vote on Senate Resolution 10-11, urging Palau to enter into a trade agreement with the People’s Republic of China. Though I touched on it earlier, this issue bears mentioning again. I will not be bullied or threatened into voting against what I believe is best for the people of Palau. I stand by my vote against the resolution on the People’s Republic of China and in support of Palau’s long standing and close relationship with the Republic of China (Taiwan).

Seventh, the tone of your “leadership”. I understand that everyone has different styles of leadership and temperaments, but within a democratic body like the Senate and in the culture of Palau, threats and intimidation are neither needed nor helpful. The staff is afraid of you; this fear hurts morale and hampers their work. There are reports of staffers being urged to report minor infractions or anything that might be “disloyalty” to your rule. This is not how the Senate of Palau should be run.

Eighth, the referral of bills is erratic. Though it is certainly within your discretion to review bills as you see fit, the Committees have specific and defined jurisdictions which should guide your discretion. For instance, a recent bill on prohibiting the taking of female mangrove crabs was referred to the Tourism Committee, when it should have been referred to the Resources Committee. The High End Tourism bill is another example – the Senate version (S.B. No. 10-2) was referred to the Tourism Committee but the House version (H.B. No. 10-15-1) was later referred to the Resources Committee; this split creates confusion and duplication of effort. I also feel that the decision to refer to the Resources Committee was a direct insult to me and my committee.

Ninth, sessions being called without giving the public twenty-four hours notice. The Open Government Act is clear on this point – the OEK must give the public at least twenty-four hours notice before holding session. To not provide this most basic information not only denies the people of Palau the opportunity to view their government in action, it also exposes each Senator who participates in such sessions to personal liability under Open Government Act. I urge you to continue the very recent trend of giving adequate notice of sessions of at least twenty-four hours.

Finally, the decorum as the President of the Senate. As the President of the Senate, you are the presiding officer charged with maintaining good order to allow for rigorous but courteous debate in the Senate Chamber. To use your position to lecture and threaten other Senators is unprofessional and beneath the dignity of the Senate. Though you are a Senator too with the right to debate and have your opinion, your role as the presiding officer of the Senate must be considered when using the power of the President to batter down any opposition or debate.

Again, I regret that I have to take these actions, but I feel compelled by my duty to the Senate and my desire to serve the people of Palau to the best of my abilities.
Sincerely,
/s/ Senator Phillip P. Reklai
Tenth Olbiil Era Kelulau [/restrict]