Former President Thomas Remengesau, Sr.

Palau’s former president Thomas Remengesau Sr. will be laid to rest on August 23 in his home state, Ngaraard, where he used to serve as high chief under the traditional title, Maderngebuked.

A series of events for the funeral will commence with a mass at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Koror at 7 am and followed by a State Funeral at the Olbiil Era Kelulau (OEK) rotunda at 9:30 am.

A memorial service will then be held at Bai Era Ngebuked, a community Bai or traditional meeting house in a hamlet in Ngaraard State before he will finally be laid to rest.

Through delegated authority, Vice President Raynold Oilouch issued a presidential proclamation on August 12 to honor the passing of the former president and ordered that all flags in Palau and its embassies and consulates around the globe should be flown at half-mast for 15 days starting August 13.

Former President Remengesau, Sr passed away at his home in Medalaii, Koror at the age of 89 on August 3 – a news met with mourning not only in Palau but as well as the nearby island nations.

A look back

Remengesau Sr’s journey in public service began at a young age when he worked as a Junior Clerk of the Trust Territory government even prior to completion of his education. He eventually studied Public Administration in Western Samoa through a scholarship obtained from the United Nations Fellowship Program. After the fellowship, Remengesau returned to his homeland to continue his service with the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands (TTPI) government and served as an interpreter, administrative advisor, economic and political advisor, the Acting Administrative Officer, an Economic and Political Program Assistant, and the Assistant District Administrator of the Palau District Administration for the TTPI Island Affairs Administration.

While serving in the TTPI, he was also a member of the Koror Municipal Council, Economic and Political Advisor for the Palau District Administrator, and President of the Ngaraard Young Men Association.

It was on February 8, 1970 when Remengesau, Sr. was promoted as the District Administrator of Palau by the TTPI administration. He was the only Palauan who ever held the position.

“As District Administrator, Thomas O. Remengesau, Sr. served as the voice of the people as they debated Palau’s political future, seeking to transition from a trust territory to a republic,” presidential proclamation 19-266.

He was then appointed as Minister of Justice in 1981 by then late Haruo Remeliik, Palau’s first president, when Palau became an autonomous Republic.

Through special election, Remengesau, Sr. was elected as Vice President in 1985 under the administration of former president Lazarus E. Salii and continued to serve as the Minister of Justice.

After the death of President Salii, Remengesau, Sr. was then sworn in as Palau’s fourth president on August 20, 1988.

“Remengesau, Sr. was instrumental in the construction of the original Koror-Babeldaob Bridge, and the establishment of the first credit union in the Republic,” the presidential proclamation stated.

After working as public servant for over 30 years, Remengesau Sr. then retired from government service in 1989 and was then bestowed the highest traditional chief title in Ngaraard – the Maderngebuked.

Though away from the government spotlight during his retirement days, Remengesau, Sr. continued to serve the public as High Chief Maderngebuked and as active member of the Rubekul Belau (Council of Chiefs).

“The late Thomas O. Remengesau, Sr. will be forever remembered as being a true inspiration and example not only by his nine children…but by all Palauans and those throughout the larger Pacific Islands family,” the proclamation read. (By Rhealyn C. Pojas)