By: Eoghan Olkeriil Ngirudelsang
President Whipps disagrees with Senate President Hokkons Baules on bill to change the Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP). During the senate’s 1st regular session last Tuesday, Senate bill 11-2 was introduced by Senator Hokkons Baules to repeal Chapter 5 of Title 2 of the Palau National Code known as the Special Prosecutors Act. This bill which passed the first reading, will authorize the President of the Republic of Palau to appoint a temporary special prosecutor to investigate and prosecute allegations of misconduct only on a case-by-case basis.
During the senate session, Senator Jonathan Isechal voiced out his support of this bill saying that “this is not mandated by the constitution”. “I think 95% of appointed special prosecutors never finished their contract and left”, and adding that “it’s time we make it on this sort of as needed basis.”
President Whipps told the media during his first press conference last Wednesday that he believes in the current system. “The current system, I believe in” and “if it’s not broken, I don’t see why we have to change it”. Whipps said that his position on the matter has been consistent dating back to when he was still a senator. He thinks there should be an independent body who is not afraid to investigate and prosecute any public official. He emphasized that as public servants, no one should be above the law.
“I would not want to be in a position where people doubt that we are trying to do this to get away from people having the power to investigate us,” asserted President Whipps.
In a separate interview, Vice-President Senior also said that she supports the president’s position. She added that the bill does not present all the specifics of who is responsible; and what are the cases that will prompt the president to appoint a temporary special prosecutor given this arrangement of case-by-case basis.
This significant bill which will possibly have a great impact on the Office of Special Prosecutor was assigned to Senate’s Committee of Judicial and Governmental Affairs chaired by Senator Isechal.
“At the end of the day, what do we want? We want transparency, we want accountability,” expressed Whipps on the need for an independent Special Prosecutor.
OSP currently is an independent body mainly focusing on corruption and other forms of government related misconduct. It is headed by SP April Dawn Cripps who is reportedly off island on medical referral at the moment. Cripps has been Palau’s SP since August 2018.