By: L.N. Reklai
July 31, 2017 (Koror, Palau) A Senate press release issued to the press on Friday July 28, 2017 is drawing ire from some Senators. Senators say it makes misleading statements and is contrary to what a press release should be.
The Senate press release states that 10th OEK Senate is comprised of majority and minority factions but after “intense debate” over bills, everyone including the minority takes credit for the final outcome even when they “chose to be idle during work on the bill”.
Press release added that Senate current leadership “offers each Senator opportunity to participate dictating his or her position within the activities of every Committee and Senate as a whole”.
Furthermore it states that any senator choosing to relieve himself or herself of chairmanship or membership of committee does so at his or her own discretion and that expecting more participation as member of opposition or by resigning from committee does not make sense.
Senator Rukebai Inabo vehemently rejected the statements made by the press release stating that they are not true.
“These are not true! They intentionally exclude us from participating and prohibiting any information from reaching us until we come to session and it’s presented to us under Second Reading. And then they would get mad at us for asking questions about the presented reports and bills,” asserted Senator Inabo.
“During the 9th OEK, there were 12 Committees. This 10th OEK, they were cut to 8 Committees and I am a member of only one committee, Committee on Tourism Development,” she added. “We are not informed of committee meetings. How can we participate if we are not informed?”
Senator Inabo strongly denies that “intense debate” takes place in the Senate. Ten bills have become law since the 10th OEK came into office in January and only about 3 public hearings or public meetings have been held since then.
Some of the bills that have become law that are expected to have significant impacts include the recent law moving NCD funds from NCD Coordinating Mechanism to State block grants. The law has just begun to be implemented and then was changed significantly without public hearings with stakeholders. The recent bill to improve and expand airport is another. “Meetings and discussions took place that we were not aware of but only found out after we read the Committee Report and the Committee Report only posed more questions. How can we vote on something we are not fully informed about?”
Senator Uduch Sengebau-Senior stated that this current press release was one such example. “This press release sounds like a letter addressed to me by Senate President about my recent decision to resign from YAWS Committee but instead of being sent to me but it was sent to the press. I just read about it in the news,” added Senator Uduch Sengebau-Senior.
“It is very misleading. The fact is if you are not member of committee you don’t get invited to meetings or hearings unless it is announced publicly. Even as member of committee, you sometimes get notices of meetings couple hours before the said meetings will take place. This doesn’t give a Senator enough time to prepare for meetings or give the public opportunity to observe such meetings in compliance with Open Government Act,” she said.
Senator Senior added that even as chairman of a committee, the first public meeting she tried to conduct was stopped by Senate President Baules. “That’s when I learned that I cannot really support this leadership because we can’t do the work we are expected to do.”
In addition Senior stated that there are many important bills sitting in Committees that are not being brought out for discussion. No committee meetings or public hearings are being called to address them. “Some bills are not reported to the floor because Senate leadership refused to have them out such as the Bankruptcy bill.”
“This press release is also unclear. Press releases from the Senate should inform the public about bills or resolutions Senate have issued and bills being discussed. It should also inform when public meetings or hearings will be conducted. This press release is confusing because it does none of these,” stated Senator Uduch Sengebau-Senior.
The Senate press release further states that it “assures the public that amidst recent political showboating by minority of its membership” it will continue to serve from “appropriate arena of its debates and deliberations” at the Palau National Congress. [/restrict]