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  • Republic of Palau
  • Donald R. Shuster (bio)

President Johnson Toribiong's third year in office was very busy. One of the most important issues was the finalization of negotiations of the Amended Compact of Free Association with the United States. This was done in early September when Toribiong and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs Frankie Reed signed a six-page, ten-part agreement with funding support totaling $229 million for fiscal years 2011-2024. It included an additional estimated $36 million in US federal programs and services, but without a cap on the total amount of federal dollars available. Initially there was hope that the US Congress would pass the agreement before the end of 2010, but Mr Toribiong was not able to testify before Congress until June 2011. While his testimony was respectful and comprehensive, he made a case for special consideration by mentioning Palauans serving and making the ultimate sacrifice in the United States' conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, Palau's nearly unanimous support for the United States in United Nations voting, and overtures made to Palau by the People's Republic of China. He said, "We all want greater economic interaction with China, but it should be without compromising the close alliance between Palau and the United States." In his testimony before the US Senate, he strongly urged support from the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources and from Congress as a whole. At the time of this review, Congress had not acted on the amended compact agreement.

President Toribiong hosted two important regional meetings in 2010: one with the Micronesian presidents in July and one with the Micronesian chief executives in December. A communiqué was issued for the first meeting and a 225-page proceedings document for the second. Three key issues addressed at both meetings were the high rates of non-communicable diseases, the depletion of Micronesia's fisheries resources, and adaptation to climate change in the islands.

It is generally acknowledged that the pillars of good governance include a public auditor, a special prosecutor, [End Page 163] a free and independent press, and a competent, independent judiciary. By mid-year, Palau had no public auditor (although it has had an acting auditor for over ten years) and no special prosecutor. Furthermore, the president had fired the special counsel hired to prosecute those responsible for the collapse of the Pacific Savings Bank (the so-called People's Bank) in 2006. In February 2011 the president appointed Assistant Attorney General Lucketta McMahon as the new independent counsel. However, McMahon is new to Palau and very new to the savings bank collapse.

President Toribiong is a superb speaker and appeared before the UN General Assembly. Mentioning Palau's peacekeeping efforts in Darfur, Timor Leste, and Solomon Islands, he also reported on his nation's efforts to maintain the viability of Pacific fish stocks by limiting purse seine activity as well as on the work being done by the Pacific Small Island Developing States to persuade the world that climate change is not merely a development issue but also a security issue. Toribiong called on the UN Security Council to include Japan in its ranks and requested that the world body also include Taiwan in select UN activities. In response to the president's appeal to the world's conscience, Germany volunteered to assist in the removal of explosives left over from World War II battles on Palau's southern islands of Peleliu and Angaur. In January 2011, the president delivered special remarks to the World League for Freedom and Democracy in Taipei, Republic of China. In those remarks he stressed how his nation has demonstrated its dedication to the principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Finally, Toribiong addressed the graduates of Palau Community College in late May, delivering a very personal message that emphasized goals and passion as necessary for success in any endeavor. It was a grand speech that mixed Palauan proverbs with personal experiences.

In April, the president presented his third progress report, known as the State of the Republic Address. It was comprehensive and laudatory of his ministries. The president announced that the compact...


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