A proposal to resolve traditional title conflicts using a process whereby a title is treated as property and claimants to the title have to file a claim for it is vehemently opposed by Bilung Gloria Salii and Ebilreklai Gracia Yalap, two top matriarchs of Koror and Melekeok and heads of the Mechesil Belau organization.

Senate bill 11-42 proposes a process to settle traditional title disputes claiming that the lengthy and costly lawsuits create “lingering conflicts”, diminish respect for Palauan tradition and degrade the “solidarity and harmony of Palauan society.”

A bill proposes a simplified process where a “Petition to Settle Title Dispute” is publicized and served to involved parties, and any party can file a claim for the title.  A “Mandatory Mediation Panel” created by law, will hear the dispute and vote their decision.  Any of the claiming parties that don’t accept the panel decision will be allowed to have their claims heard by the court.  The court will then render its decision within 60 days.

Anyone who continues to claim title publicly after judgment is rendered will be fined by the court payable to the party who is affirmed to hold the title.

The two high-ranking women listed 24 reasons they opposed the bill and requested the leadership of both houses of congress (OEK) to stop Senate bill 11-42 saying that it conflicts with enduring tradition (Uldelid e Ulekdubs el suikang).

“This bill talks about the clan. Clans are related through clans not by blood. The titles don’t belong to clans, it belongs to families. Only the ranking women within the families determine the titles, not the clan because the title belongs to blood relatives,” stated the letter asserting that the bill conflicts with tradition.

“Clans help each other but they do not select the title bearer because they are not blood relations.  If this was the case, we will have people all over, from Kayangel to Southwest getting involved in title disputes causing endless conflicts,” the letter states.

Furthermore, the letter claims that the proposed bill violates the Palau National Constitution, particularly Article 5 Section 1 and 2 which states that the government will not take away or reduce the responsibility and authority of traditional chiefs.

It said that by giving the courts the final decision on traditional title disputes, the bill if becomes law, will violate the traditional law and tradition by removing that decision from the rightful persons.

“Palau Constitution Article 5 Section 2 talks about traditional rights and its “Underlying Principle” which means that the high ranking clans (meteet) can decide on and/or change customs and pay fines.  They are the ones to fine not court.  The court should not impose traditional fines.” Stated the letter.

“Let this bill go.  You obtained your positions through democracy, not tradition.  Let the people who have the responsibility decide to make decisions.  Don’t come in to interfere with tradition,” added the letter from Bilung Gloria Salii and Ebilreklai Gracia Yalap.

The bill sets violations and penalties for such violations such as fining a person who continues to violate court judgment on disputed title $1,000 plus on toluk (turtle shell money) for the first offense and $5,000 plus two Palauan money beads (kluk and kldait).  The money paid as fines will go to the winning party of the title dispute.

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