Minister of Public Infrastructure, Industries and Commerce (MPIIC) Charles Obichang handed on the day the Open Government lawsuit was filed against him, the requested documents to the Senate leadership, but the five senators who originally requested for it are yet to see copies.
Obichang, in a letter to Johnson Toribiong, counsel of Senators Regis Akitaya, Camsek Chin, Rukebai Inabo, J. Uduch Senior and Mason Whipps said that “due to your clients’ insistence that they still have not seen the finalized agreements, I have sent fresh copies of the final and signed agreements delivered to the OEK last week, including a copy handed to the president of the Senate.”
In Obichang’s letter to Toribiong which was dated January 29, he agreed that the senators are permitted to have access to the documents in “their official capacities” but reiterated that it’s not for public dissemination under the Open Government Act.
However, the senators said Baules has not provided them a copy of the documents.
Five senators, through a letter, asked Baules to provide the airport expansion signed and finalized agreements provided by Obichang.
In a Feb. 1 letter, the senators requested Baules to produce the documents.
In their letter, the senators reminded Baules that under the Open Government Act, lawmakers are entitled to see the documents. Senators stated that it also appears that Obichang sent the documents to the Senate because of their insistence.
On January 29, members of the Senate minority bloc sued the Ministry of Public MPIIC and Minister Obichang for alleged violation of the Open Government Act and the Constitution for failure to disclose government documents requested by the lawmakers involving Palau’s joint venture agreement with a Japanese firm to expand the airport.
Through their counsel, Johnson Toribiong, the senators, in their lawsuit cited Obichang’s failure to provide the lawmakers government documents pertaining to the airport expansion project despite repeated requests.
As of press time, Senate President Baules has not provided the requested documents nor have responded to the letter.
The letter of the senators however gave Baules until Feb.11 to furnish them copies of the documents.
“Mr. President, those finalized and signed agreements that were handed directly to you as of yet, have not been made available to all of the Senators for inspection. Moreover, the Senate held sessions on January 30th and 31st, 2018, and you omitted mention of these documents, let alone make them available for the Senators’ review, inspection, or comment,” the senator said, adding that during their last session, Senator Mason N. Whipps specifically inquired about the airport documents to which the Senate Vice President Mark U. Rudimch confirmed possession of such documents and stated that he had transmitted the same to the office of the Senate Legal Counsel.
The senators said the Senate held sessions on January 30 and 31 and Baules could have used that time to provide them copies of the documents. (Bernadette H. Carreon) [/restrict]