The Office of the Special Prosecutor celebrated its 37th year anniversary with public information and awareness campaigns leading up to yesterday’s formal celebration.
Passed into law without President Alfonso Oiterong’s signature on August 25, 1985, the RPPL 2-7 creating the Office of the Special Prosecutor started amidst political push-back.
Rekemesik Surangel Whipps Sr., who was the Speaker of the House of Delegates at the time, said that due to internal politics in congress (Olbiil Era Kelulau), President Oiterong let the bill become law without signing it. By Constitution, if a president receives a bill from congress and does not take action to sign it, veto it or send it back, the bill will become law within fifteen (15) days without the President’s signature. This is what happened with RPPL 2-7.
The OSP act has not changed much over time. It still has the power to receive complaints, investigate and prosecute on behalf of the people, government, state governments, or a combination of any thereof. The law gives the Special Prosecutor “greatest degree of independence” and prohibits the President from interfering or overriding SP’s decision or actions.
“Palau wanted a clean government, an accountable government, I think that was the vision,” said President Surangel Whipps Jr. of the reason for enacting the Special Prosecutor’s Act.
The law was enacted but the office was not funded until after the Compact of Free Association took effect on October 1, 1994. The Office of the Special Prosecutor and the Office of the Public Auditor were two offices required by the United States Government under the Subsidiary Agreements of the Compact of Free Association to be established and funded.
Despite the strong language of the law and the requirement under the Compact, the attempts to remove, reduce and/or defund the Office of Special Prosecutor have been tried many times. President Whipps recalled that during his tenure as a Senator that the issue was raised several times.
President Surangel Whipps jr. expressed gratitude for the good work being carried out by the Office of the Special Prosecutor, recognizing Special Prosecutor April Dawn Cripps, Assistant Prosecutor Mith Bells, and the investigators and staff of the OSP for the good work they are doing.