Palau Senate Calls On Interim Special Prosecutor To Resign

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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Simms under fire for charging Vice President, then dropping case

KOROR, Palau (Island Times, March 4, 2016) – The Palau Senate yesterday passed a joint resolution calling for immediate resignation of Interim Special Prosecutor Melissa Simms, after conducting an oversight hearing with her on Wednesday, March 2, 2016.

The resolution cites that ISP Simms had filed criminal charges against Vice President Bells alleging that he "did illegal acts under the color of office" and that the court had issued order of provisional dismissal on several grounds including "failure to notice intended defendant" to the specific illegal acts underlying the charge.

"The provision of notice to a defendant of what crime he or she is alleged to have committed is a fundamental requirement of any modern conception of justice…" the resolution reads.

The resolution also states that despite her belief that Vice President Bells had committed a crime, ISP filed a motion to dismiss the case on the grounds that the dismissal was in the best interest of the Republic of Palau.

It further reads that OEK believes the prosecution of Vice President Bells was unfounded and wrongful and that the actions of ISP Simms have failed to uphold the integrity and independence of the Office of Interim Special Prosecutor and therefore ISP Simms must resign.

During the oversight hearing, Senators probed ISP Simms about her motives and grounds for filing a suit against Vice President Tony Bells and her reasoning for dropping the suit.

ISP Simms refused to disclose her reasons, stating that insinuation that she had vendetta against Vice President was false. "I’ve been here only about six months, and I don’t think I can have a reason to have a vendetta, not that I have vendettas against anyone," asserted Simms.

Simms refused to divulge information stating that the Office of ISP is an independent office tasked with responsibility of investigating public officials and that anything she says may compromise future cases.

In her written response to OEK, ISP Simms stated that "I will not be able to discuss individual cases, as doing so may violate the integrity and independence of the Office of the Special Prosecutor as well as raise issues such as separation of powers, protection of work product, issues of confidentiality, and possibly affect future legal issues."

Senators pressed Simms to explain to them the merits of the case and why she filed to dismiss the case. Visible frustrations were expressed by some of Senators at Simms refusal to reveal her reasoning.

One senator protested, "By doing so, by refusing to explain to us your reasons for suing Vice President Bells and then dropping the suit with no clear explanation shows that you are using the power of your office to harass public officials."

ISP Simms continued to stand her ground stating that she cannot compromise the integrity of the Office of Interim Special Prosecutor.

"The Palauan people feel that you have taken them for a wild ride. If Vice President Bells truly committed a crime, then it is in the interest of the Republic that you prosecute him to the fullest extent of the law…this is what is expected of the Office of SP and ISP…..Your actions against Vice President Bells have tarnished the image of these very important offices of the land," stated Senator Oilouch in his statements.

Asked of his reaction to the oversight hearing on ISP Simms, President Remengesau replied, "The Office of Special Prosecutor is an independent office with responsibility to investigate and prosecute any public official from the President all the way down. The best solution to this issue is for the Senate to approve the appointment to the Office of the Special Prosecutor. The law enabling the Interim Special Prosecutor came about because Senate refused my appointees. I will be appointing a new candidate for the Office of the Special Prosecutor by the end of this March so that OEK can entertain the appointment in their April regular session."

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