Senator Umiich Sengebau, Chairman of Senate Tourism, Environment & Maritime Development

Senator Umiich Sengebau, Chairman of Senate Committee on Tourism, Environment & Maritime Development (TEM) sought clarification from President Surangel Whipps Jr. the basis of his decision to terminate three (3) of the Board members of the Palau Public Land Authority, in a letter sent to President Whipps on November 5th.

“While the Senate acknowledges the necessity of your authority, after our review of the letters addressed August 10, 2021… that you wrote dismissing the members of PPLA Board, we have questions about your authority under the statute to discharge the members of the Board unilaterally”, stated Senator Sengebau.

The letter cited 35 PNC, sections 204 and 205, which stated that members of the PPLA Board may be removed by a supermajority of the members of the board.  “Because the statute does not expressly grant you the authority to dismiss Board members, we hoped you would be willing to elaborate on whether you dismissed the Board under the statute.”

President Whipps in his letter of removal to the PPLA Board members cited the “inherent and inextricable” removal power of the presidential authority to appoint Executive Officers under the Palau Constitution.

Sengebau said they believe that OEK has the authority under the Constitution to protect members from the “at-will” removal by setting certain conditions in which members may be removed and that the reasons President Whipps gave for removing the members of PPLA did not comply with the law or provide causes for which the members were removed.

Previously, Senate’s legal counsel’s opinion on the issue stated that congress has authority to put restrictions to the removal authority of the President but the PPLA law may have put too many restrictions thereby taking out the President’s ability to remove his executive officers.

The PPLA law states also that a Board member can be removed by supermajority for a cause and Senator Sengebau said in his letter that even if President’s power to remove did exist, the conditions set by law are valid and Whipps should explain the causes for their dismissal, which he added were not provided by Whipps letter of dismissal to the PPLA members.

Meanwhile, Senate has already approved the appointments of the 3 new appointees of President Whipps to replace the 3 members he had dismissed. 

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