Objection to the first meeting of the traditional chiefs in Palau was lodged yesterday with Chief Ibedul and Chief Reklai by three of the four highest-ranking chiefs of Ngeremlengui State. 

The highest-ranking chief of Ngeremlengui, Ngirturong John Sugiyama, did not sign the objection letter with the other three chiefs.  He is a signatory to the Council of Chiefs’ letter calling for the first Council of Chiefs Forum.

The second, third, and fourth-ranking chiefs of Ngeremlengui State, Ngiraklang John Skebong, Ngirutelechii Emiwo Mad, and Ngirasibong Lakius Malsol said they would not be joining the Council of Chiefs Forum.

Objecting to the agenda of the two-day meeting, Ngeremlengui chiefs said the role of the Council of Chiefs is to advise the President on traditional matters and not to discuss government policies.

In the letter, they cited a statement attributed to a former chief Uong er Etei of Ngarchelong who allegedly said at a meeting with congress, “Kid a Rubekul Belau, a diua rdechel a bngaol, el di ruebt e ngarngii a ulukunged, eng di diak desal louedikl, le ke de mol muukel, le ke de dechor era ilachetomel.” (We the Council of Chiefs of Palau are just like a fruit of a mangrove tree, we drop down already wearing our hats, but we should not move too much or we will fall over because we are standing in the mangrove.) The metaphor implies that the Council of Chiefs, naturally inherit their titles but they should not shake things around too much because like a mangrove tree, they stand on soft uncertain ground.

The topics on the first day of the Forum are  “Nurturing Resilient Communities”, “Protecting a Resilient Environment”, and Building a More Resilient Economy”, according to a press release issued yesterday.   On the second day, they will cover “Role of the Council of Chiefs in building a Resilient Palau”, and the outcome of the discussions will result in a report to be distributed to traditional leaders and the government.

The Council of Chiefs mentions the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Palauan society as one of the catalysts for the forum.  “The coronavirus pandemic that has lasted over two years – the impact of which have affected Palauan society in extraordinary ways in such short span of time.”

The event is by invitation only and only the traditional chiefs are invited.  The venue is not open to the general public but the event is televised.

The chiefs of Ngatpang State, the Ngaimis are also reportedly not joining the forum. High chief of Ngatpang, Rekemesik Surangel Whipps Sr. did not sign the Council of Chiefs’ announcement of the Forum.

The Mechesil Belau has conducted similar meetings for 27 years but this will be the first year the Council of Chiefs holds its forum.

The forum is organized by the Palau Council of Chiefs, the grouping of the highest-ranking chiefs from each of the 12 states, mandated by the Constitution to advise the President of Palau on matters concerning traditional laws, customs and their relationship to this Constitution and the laws of Palau.” Art. VIII Section 6. Palau Constitution)

A copy of the letter from the three chiefs of Imeong was provided to the media. 

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