PALAU GOVERNMENT SETTLES INTO $23 MILLION CAPITOL

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By Agnes M. Abrau

KOROR, Palau (Palau Horizon, Oct. 18) – Officials and individuals offered good wishes to members of the Olbiil Era Kelulau—Palau’s bicameral legislature—as lawmakers opened the first day of the eighth regular session at the new Legislative Building in Melekeok State’s Capitol Complex.

[PIR editor’s note: Melkeok State is located on the east coast of central Babeldaob, Palau’s largest island.]

In an interview, Ngatpang State Acting Governor Shallum Etpison, Dr. Minoru Ueki and State Minister Temmy Shmull said they hope that lawmakers would make a fresh start at their new official home.

[PIR editor’s note: According to PIR files, the transfer of the seat of power from the commercial center of Koror State [Palau’s former official capitol] to the small and sleepy State of Melekeok coincided with the 12th Independence Day Anniversary on October 1. (See Story)]

Members of the Senate and the House of Delegates held their first day of legislative session Tuesday with no less than President Remengesau, High Chief Reklai Raphael Ngirmang and other top officials as spectators.

"I hope they improve their relationship with each other and the Executive Branch now that they’re neighbors," Etpison said.

Belau Tourism Association president Dr. Minoru Ueki said the new Capitol promises a positive development and springs new hope for everyone.

"I hope that the lawmakers would put their acts together and put their differences aside for the common good of the people of Palau," Ueki told Horizon.

Min. Shmull echoed the excitement of everyone as he hopes that with the three branches of government physically very close to each other, the relationship would improve and with the proximity, delivery of government services would be faster.

"It seems both houses of Congress are excited with this new building. It appears that there’s a sense for new beginning and cooperation," Shmull said.

Senate president thanks leaders, Melekeok

Senate President Johnny Reklai, in his address before his colleagues and guests at the opening of the 8th regular session, expressed optimism about the new building as he thanked the leaders, then and now, "who have toiled to establish a Capitol that expresses and symbolizes the principles of democracy that we enjoy."

Reklai also thanked High Chief Reklai and the people of Melekeok for their generosity in providing the prime spot for the Capitol.

"Many important decisions will be made in this site to move Palau forward. I join hand with all the Senators and express our support to the Speaker and members of the House of Delegates, to President Remengesau and Cabinet members and to the Chief Justice and the Justices of the Supreme Court," he said.

Palau Community College President Patrick Tellei said the relocation is interesting.

"This has been a dream come true for many people of Melekeok and Babeldaob," Tellei said.

Tellei welcomes development in Melekeok but thinks that it should fit into the environment and fits the needs of the people of Melekeok.

Some employees of the Senate are adjusting well to the relocation to the new Capitol. Despite the distance, most of them are saying driving all the way to Melekeok from Koror is a refreshing experience.

Farley Etpison, a videographer of the Senate, said he drives to the capitol with his own car everyday, shelling a US$5 allowance on gas each day. The only adjustment he is doing is to wake up earlier than his usual time to get to work on time.

"But it’s no problem. I also enjoy driving, the scenery is very calm," Etpison said.

Four other employees, however, have to car pool when working to save on gas. Anne Pedro, Lisa Rdiall, Wiseman Kumaichi and Obichang Ongklungel go to work together, taking turns on driving and bringing their own vehicles.

Rdiall said every two days, one person takes his or her own car and pick up the three others to and from work. Whoever is assigned to bring his/her own car is also the driver and takes care of the gas. They said the arrangement is working well for the four of them.

"This way we can save on gas as well as the wear and tear of the car," Rdiall said.

Pedro added that they would do this kind of arrangement everyday because it is convenient.

They also said that it also promotes networking as they discuss work while on their way to work.

Another employee said she drives all the way to the Capitol, adding that she’s is lucky her vehicle does not consume too much gas. She spends US$10 for almost two days.

Other employees, however, opt to stay in Melekeok during the workweek to avoid the inconvenience of driving long distance everyday and go home to Koror on weekends.

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