The fight for speakership position within 12th Aimeliik State Legislature since it took office on December 10th, has pulled the national government into its vortex.
A letter by Legislator Kyle Ongesii to Minister of Justice Raynold Oilouch questioned the application of the Bureau of Public Safety’s own regulations to its officers that hold political offices, specifically questioning Legislator Jefferson Eriich’s position within the Aimeliik State Legislature while being a police officer. The controversy is spilling to other State legislatures where some of their members also hold law enforcement positions.
Legislator Kyle Ongesii is a member of the minority group within Aimeliik State Legislature that is endorsing Legislator Leilani Senior to be the Speaker. Other two members include Legislator Wridan Ngiralmau and Legislator Larry Mamis.
At the Judiciary, Acting Chief Justice John Rechucher has not appointed a judge to administer oaths of office to the three appointed Aimeliik State Legislature officials since the majority’s submitted a request on December 26th.
Majority members include Legislators Jefferson Eriich, Alvin Samsel, Jason Timulch, Kolas Eriich, and Scott WeersErungel.
Without a duly established legislature, the 12th Aimeliik State Government is one-sided, with just an executive branch in operation. Whilst Ngeremlengui State and Melekeok State, which had elections after Aimeliik State, have marked the new year inaugurating their new governments, Aimeliik State is waiting to have a fully functioning legislature. Without a legislature, the State does not have a budget to fund an inauguration of its 12th government and will not be able to enact laws or fulfill other responsibilities mandated by Aimeliik State constitution.
Minister of Justice Oilouch, on a phone interview yesterday regarding the letter from the Aimeliik legislator said he just read about the letter in the Tia Belau Newspaper and had called the author to provide him with a copy.
To explain MOJ’s current position, a copy of a MOJ memorandum issued on December 28, 2017 to Bureau of Public Safety Aloysius Alonz, was provided this paper. In the memo, Minister Oilouch stated, “From hereon forward, no police officer will be permitted to be a candidate for public office. If a police officer wishes to become a candidate, he or she must resign from the police force.” Furthermore, he added, “This directive shall not apply to the police officers who duly received permission to run for office from the previous Ministers of Justice and are currently members of their respective legislature.”
Minister Oilouch explained that the BPS Rules & Regulations uses certain phrases where it would prohibit certain actions by saying “officer shall not” and in other areas it would say “officer may not”. “Former ministers based their approval on this language.Many of these officers are senior police officers who have served more than 15 years,” added Oilouch. Number of officers including the late BPS Director Omtei Ringang were some of those approved by previous Ministers of Justice to run for public office.
On December 26, 2019,5 out of 9 members of Aimeliik State Legislature held a session and elected Legislator Jefferson Eriich as their Speaker, Legislator Alvin Samsel as Vice Speaker and Legislator Jason Timulch as Floor Leader, following Aimeliik State Constitution Article IV, Section 7 that states that majority of legislators convening can conduct official business of the legislature. They submitted a letter of request to the office of Acting Chief Justice for oath of office to be administered.
Following day, another letter was delivered to Acting Chief Justice countering the request from the majority saying that they did not follow the temporary rules and procedures adopted by the legislature during its installation session which states the youngest members shall be the acting speaker, tasked with maintaining order of the legislature.
At the installation session on December 10th, acting speaker Kyle Ongesii, adjourned the session in the middle of the agenda without the legislature appointing its permanent officers. Sixteen days after, majority of the legislators called a session and elected their permanent officers.
Legislator Timulch believes that current attempt to remove Legislator Jefferson Eriich is an effort to break up the majority and swing the votes to the minority in order to achieve the coveted speakership. (L.N. Reklai)