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  • Republic of Palau
  • Donald R Shuster (bio)

Major issues and events for July 2005–June 2006 included the con­clusion of the second Constitutional Convention for the Republic of Palau (ROP), work of the executive and National Congress (Olbiil Era Kelulau, or OEK), various megaprojects, and relations with countries that provide needed assistance and labor to Palau.

In November 2004, President Remengesau had outmaneuvered the National Congress by using popular initiative to place five amendments on the general election ballot. The voters approved four of the president's amendments: dual citizenship, a three-term limit for OEK members, a requirement that candidates for president and vice president run jointly as a team ticket, and a requirement that congressmen be paid via a uniform fee structure for each day of official session. An initiative calling for a one-house congress failed. Also on the November 2004 ballot, voters were asked if they desired a second constitutional convention (Con-Con), the first one having been held in 1979. A second convention would be a way for the National Congress to respond to Remengesau's initiatives.

A second Con-Con was approved by the Palauan voters in the 2004 election and the twenty-five-member convention was in session from 17 May to 15 July 2005. Of the convention's 251 proposals, the delegates approved 22 for presentation to the people for ratification in the 2008 national elections. Regarding some of the key proposals: first, the joint-ticket amendment (for the offices of ROP president and vice president) was reversed by the Con-Con, thus affirming the separate-ticket arrangement established by Palau's original constitution. Second, the term-limit amendment for congressmen could be repealed by the voters at the 2008 election but, oddly, will be in place for the 2008 election. Third, Remenge­sau's dual-citizenship initiative was clarified by the Con-Con thusly: "A person born of parents, one or both of whom are citizens of Palau or are of recognized Palauan ancestry, is a citizen of Palau. Citizenship of other foreign nations shall not affect a person's Palauan citizenship." Ironically, the Con-Con then changed the eligibility for running for the offices of president, vice president, and national congressman to exclude dual citizenship. Also proposed: after 31 December 2009, trial by jury would be ­available for cases involving a criminal [End Page 194] offense that is punishable by a sentence of imprisonment of twelve years or more.

Other important Con-Con pro­posals to be voted on in 2008 include a guarantee of academic freedom in Palau's postsecondary institutions; the opportunity to petition for Palauan citizenship by a person born of non-Palauan citizens but adopted by Palauan citizens before the age of three years; the extension from 50 to 99 years for land leased by a citizen of Palau to a noncitizen or corporation wholly owned by noncitizens; a prohibition of same-sex marriages; free and compulsory education from grades one to twelve; and a mandate that the "national government shall provide free preventive health care for every citizen as prescribed by law." To provide greater support for Palauan traditions, the Con-Con also proposed: "The national government shall take affirmative action to assist traditional leaders in the preservation, protection, and promotion of Palauan heritage, culture, languages, customs and traditions."

Despite the reversals of several of Mr Remengesau's initiatives by the Con-Con, four of the five amendments approved by the voters in 2004 are currently in place, and rules and regulations have been written to bring them into effect. Of course, come 2008, some things may be reversed. Finally, the Con-Con chose eight of ­itsmembers to serve on the Post Convention Committee, which is respon­sible for educating the general public about the twenty-two amendments in time for the November 2008 national referendum.

While Con-Con 2 was completing its work, President Remengesau began a very busy year of traveling, attending meetings, and engaging the National Congress. There was the normal push and pull regarding certain bills, the selection of new ambassadors to the Philippines and Japan, and the appointment of members to the...


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