PELELIU LAWMAKERS SEEK TO IMPEACH MAYOR

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By Bernadette H. Carreon

KOROR (Palau Horizon, March 27) — The Peleliu legislature has adopted a resolution to impeach Gov. Jackson Ngiraingas for "treason," illegal spending of state funds and for claiming to act on behalf of the Peleliu people when he accused President Tommy Remengesau, his wife and two government ministers of irregularities.

[PIR editor’s note: Peleliu, an island in Palau, is one of the country’s 16 states and is located to the southwest of the capital, Koror.]

The resolution was passed by a two-thirds vote and gave Ngiraingas until April 1 to provide a written response to the allegations against him.

Ngiraingas told Horizon that the impeachment was the "work" of Remengesau and Minister of State Temmy Shmull.

"The president, Shmull and others who are working with him are using this to try to shift the issue from them to me," Ngiraingas said.

He said he is not going to stop revealing more allegations against the president, adding that the people are waiting for an investigation into the chief executive’s "irregularities."

"They can penetrate the legislature but that resolution is not strong enough to remove me from office," the governor said.

Joe Giramur, a member of the legislature, said that neither the president nor Shmull approached him.

He said that he voted for the resolution on behalf of the people of Peleliu.

Ngiraingas said the grounds for his impeachment were "weak" because the state constitution mandates that an official can only be removed from office if he has committed serious crimes, bribery or treason.

According to the resolution, if Ngiraingas would not be able to secure a majority vote in his favor by April 8, he would be removed from office and his position declared vacant.

The seven-page resolution stated that if the legislature is satisfied with Ngiraingas’ response, the impeachment could be revoked by the members’ majority vote.

But Ngiraingas said he will not respond to the resolution but will instead prepare a lawsuit "stopping this from going forward."

He said the charge of "treason" cannot be a ground to impeach him because he has not done anything to try to overthrow the state government nor was he convicted of any serious crime.

The resolution stated that the impeachment of Ngiraingas stemmed from a circulated petition from Peleliu residents calling for the governor’s removal.

"Whereas the people of the State of Peleliu, represented in the 8th Peleliu State Legislature, desire to act upon the petition and upon their own accord and to act to preserve the integrity of the laws and constitutions of Peleliu and the Republic of Palau," the resolution stated.

It added that there are enough grounds for Ngiraingas’ impeachment due to "continued violations of the laws and constitution."

The legislature based the impeachment against Ngiraingas on an earlier court ruling that the he is liable to the Peleliu state treasury for almost $2 million as a result of his illegal and unconstitutional spending of Peleliu public funds.

The resolution also accused Ngiraingas of fiscal irregularities.

According to the resolution, on March 1, Ngiraingas accused the president of several improprieties.

The resolution stated that the accusations were "false and unsubstantiated" based on Remengesau’s response to the governor.

In Ngiraingas’ March 23 letter, he urged the leaders of the Olbiil Era Kelulau, the national legislature, to take proper action to the allegations against the president and some of his ministers.

He said the OEK is the proper branch of government to initiate a probe.

Sen. Yukiwo Dengokl said the request for a Senate inquiry will still be reviewed by the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Governmental Affairs, which he chairs.

Asked what action they will take, Dengokl said they have asked the Senate legal counsel to give an opinion on the matter.

"We’re asking the opinion of our legal counsel whether the Senate should conduct an independent investigation," Dengokl said.

He added that he would also study further the governor’s allegations "to be able to decide what course of action to take."

"When the committee sits down to review the letters, we will come up with (a statement)," Dengokl said.

In his earlier letter, Ngiraingas asked the Senate to conduct an investigation on the reported irregularities committed by the president, the first lady, two ministers, and the special prosecutor.

Remengesau and Special Prosecutor Everett Walton have denied the allegations.

In his letter to the OEK on March 23, Ngiraingas made new allegations against the president whom he asked to produce documents regarding two Toyota Hilux Vans and a 23-foot Yamaha boat with two 140HP Yamaha engines.

Ngiraingas also demanded documents or records regarding the $42,000 contributions from Australia to the Micro Games between 1998 to 1999, and the president’s campaign expenditures in 2000.

He also accused Remengesau of using the Bureau of Public Works to renovate and extend his private home in Medalaii.

March 27, 2006

Marianas Variety: www.mvariety.com

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