By: L.N. Reklai

October 19, 2016 (Koror) The last presidential debate held before the general election between incumbent President Tommy Remengesau Jr. and Senator Surangel Whipps Jr. brought a huge crowd to the Chamayong Cultural Center Wednesday night.

Hosted by Palau Chamber of Commerce and Palau Bar Association, the event sought to wring out of the candidates their policies on the economy and their plans moving forward.


Questions covered broad range of topics such as infrastructure, responsible tourism, tax reforms, health care, labor and others.

Both candidates adeptly answered the questions. Their answers were not too different from each other, only the perspective of delivery differentiated their answers.

Surangel Whipps Jr. addressed the questions from the perspective that the system is broken and needs to be fixed.  On the foreign labor issue he said that Division of Labor is not helping local laborers but is there to assist foreign workers.  He said that it must be brought to the level of Ministry in order to prioritize the needs of Palauan laborers.

Tommy Remengesau Jr. addresses the same issue from the perspective of what has been done and what needs to be improved. “We passed a law enabling PCC to provide technical training to Palauans, especially in those areas filled by foreign workers.  The law provides incentives for employers to hire local workers at higher pay.” On the Labor Division, Remengesau stated the existing law mandates the Labor Division to deal with foreign workers. “If a law is passed by OEK to me tomorrow to make the Bureau a Ministry, I’ll sign it.”

The last question was more personal, leading the candidates to more personal responses.

The following up closing statements not only became more personal but more emotional for the candidates.

Married to President Remengesau’s sister, Surangel in his closing remarks stated that this was not personal nor is it a family matter but a commitment to public service based on people’s choice.

Stating that he did not have the benefit of being raised by a Palauan mother and he appealed to the women in the crowd to be his mother and work with him for the benefit of all Palauans.

Remengesau stated that he differed with Surangel  on the statement that this was not personal or family matter.  Family is the core of Palauan politics said Remengesau.  Palauan culture dictates that your family is your primary support when you are in public service. He said that he was greatly affected by the rift in their family caused by having his brother-in-law running against him in this presidential bid and wished that it did not have to be this way.

Remengesau in closing stated that he had been in the same team with Surangel for many years and many of the successes they’ve achieved, he credited to Surangel. Only this year, because Surangel is running for same office, he is no longer supporting him. [/restrict]