A petition has been filed with Palau Election Commission to remove Ngardmau Legislator Tarita Holms, a young woman who has been a member of Ngardmau Legislature (Kelulul Ngardmau) for little less than 6 months. The petition was signed by over 70 citizens of Ngardmau State .
In a letter to Speaker Bradley Kumangai, the petitioners claim that Legislator Tarita Holms overstepped her position as a legislator when she addressed chiefs’ positions and clan related matters during the leadership meeting held with Governor, legislature and the Council of Chiefs. The letter asserts that Legislator Holms does not know her role as a Legislator and is overstepping into issues of the chiefs and clans.
Legislator Holms speaking with Island Times said that she was very proud of her State’s reputation for having most recalls because it showed her people’s understanding of their government but she believes that the current recall is based on misinformation and deception.
“If the people truly believe that I am no longer serving their interest and want to recall me, I gladly accept that but this recall petition has been done with misinformation and deception. People that have signed the petition have called and visited me to express their regret, that they were under the impression they were signing different matter and not a recall petition. Those people want to have their names removed,” stated Legislator Tarita Holms.
Legislator Holms said that the issue at heart of the dispute is that of a clan title. Her mother, who is the ranking female of her clan, is disputing the appointment of one of the chiefs representing her clan. Despite her objection, the government continue to pay salary of the disputed title. She said her mother told her to relay her message to chiefs during this joint leadership meeting.
“I specifically explained myself before I spoke that I will take off my legislator hat and will be speaking under a different hat and that I will be relaying messages from my mother,” expressed Holms.
In a letter to Speaker Kumangai, Legislator Holms said that the statements made in the petition letter calling her disrespectful and out of line with custom are false and “defamatory”.
“The petition mistakenly implies that I am not following “siukang” and goes even further to state that I am disrespectful of Ngardmau people, families, clans and entire leadership. This is defamatory, malicious and simply not true. I have utmost respect for the people, families, clans and leaders of Ngardmau and my actions are very much in line with Palauan “suikang”. As the only daughter of my mother here in Palau, I am required to relay messages on her behalf and at her requests,” added Holms.
“I further clarified at the leadership meetings that as individuals, we all wear many hats and while I am a legislator of Ngardmau, I am also still a part of my family and have responsibilities to my family and clan. I do not believe that members of the legislature are expected to forfeit our roles and responsibilities to our family or clan once we are elected to into office,” stated Holms in her letter to Speaker Kumangai.
Legislator Holms believes that the matter was a traditional governance issue and had nothing to do with the Legislature. She added that she was heartbroken that the issue was tearing her close-knit community apart.
Ngardmau State Constitution states that members of Ngardmau State Legislature may be removed by 25% of the people who voted in the last election. Ngardmau State Law NSL No. 8-17 provide procedures for recalling the members of the Kelulul Ngardmau.
The requirements include printed names, signatures and dates on the petition. It also requires that a separate document be signed by the petitioner under oath. The petition is sent to the Speaker of the Legislature who will submit to Palau Election Commission. PEC will verify the petition and each signature and provide a decision within 10 days whether or not the petition met all the requirements and whether to go forward with Special Election. If it rules to proceed with Special Election, it will take place 45 days from the date of its decision.
Of the 70 plus names on the petition, over 20 want to remove their signatures according to Legislator Holms. If this is the case, there will not be enough names to meet the recall requirement. With total votes cast of 271 at the last election, about 69 signatures are needed in order to proceed to Special Election.