Debate on re-opening of public land claims continues…

 By: L.N. Reklai

The continuing argument over re-opening of private claims to public lands is not easing up anytime soon.

A copy of an application of Koror State Public Land Authority for ownership of any public land “anywhere” in Koror filed by Delegate Alexander Merep when he was Director of KSPLA, shows that he filed a timely claim for public lands on behalf of KSPLA on December 6, 1988, before the deadline imposed by law of January 1, 1989.


“This shows that current Delegate of Koror State and Rechucher-ra-Techekii Alexander Merep filed a timely claim on behalf of Koror State Public Land Authority for all lands in Koror including the rock islands but did not file a claim on behalf of Koror Traditional Leaders (Rubekul Oreor),” stated Senator Uduch Sengebau-Senior.

Koror State Government and Koror State Public Land Authority in various communications express belief that this is an attempt by Koror traditional chiefs to try to take back the rocks islands from Koror State.

Koror State House of Traditional Leaders and many citizens of Koror are pushing the lawmakers to re-open claims for public lands that were by law, closed on January 1, 1989.

The bill introduced in the House of Delegates by Koror Delegate Alexander Merep with other delegates argue that the Palau Constitution did not put a deadline on claiming of private lands that were taken from citizens unfairly and such effort should continue until such time people get their lands back.

Majority of Senators concerned with the potential impact of such act, are seeking to address the issue separately rather than have it attached as an amendment to a bill to extend the life of Land Court.

The controversy continues to affect the proposed bill to reinstate the ability of Palau’s Land Court to conduct hearings on land cases and determine ownership.

The Land Court continues to operate in limbo while waiting to see the outcome of the debate.

Senate in the last special session adopted the version of HB 9-209,25S,HD1,SD1 striking out the proposal to re-open claims to public land.

House rejected the Senate version and both houses will be going to Conference Committee to address this major difference in the bill.  At stake in this controversy is the continuation of Land Court’s ability to hear cases and issue determination of land ownerships in Palau. [/restriction]