First Airai Gubernatorial Q&A Forum with 4 candidates at Ked, Airai. Candidates from left to right: Collins Takeo, Dave Orrukem, Norman Ngiratecheboet and Clarence Kitalong. (photo credit: Ongerung Kambes Kesolei)

Four Airai State governor hopefuls faced a crowd of Airai citizens to answer questions posed to gauge their priorities and take on issues of substantial concern to the people of Airai on Wednesday night at Airai Center in Ked, Airai.

Questions addressed issues with land leases, economic recovery, and government services.  One audience participant said that the questions were good but she was hoping for tougher questions for the candidates. Another said it was good to hear from all of them at once.

The candidates revealed their thoughts and proposals on how to run the state if the pandemic crisis forces the reduction of national grants to the states. 

Candidate Collins Takeo said he will work with local revenue generated by the State–especially lease rentals–but he will also look into the previous commissioned study to charge for noise impact from the airport out of the Green Fee, and also the previous proposal to charge water fee.

Candidate Dave Orrukem’s response to working with less grant revenue is to “enhance and strengthen tourism programs in Airai, but at the same time look to cut government expenses without affecting programs provided by the State”.

Candidate Norman Ngiratecheboet said he will strengthen state agriculture programs, build partnerships with big businesses in the state, and create an inclusive government where everyone is involved.

Candidate Clarence Kitalong believed in Airai’s team spirit, saying that together, citizens can take care of Airai’s “treasured cultural assets” and leverage them to bring revenue to the states. He said he had extensive experience in seeking grants and will work to obtain grants from various partners and agencies to help the state.

The candid discussions revealed each candidate’s background, experience, and expertise much more than just the answers they gave to questions.

Although most of the crowd came with their chosen candidates already in mind, the event provided an opportunity for candidates to sway the minds of those who may still be sitting on the fence. 

The event was watched live on TMC YouTube with over 1,000 viewers that night from all over the island, as well as overseas. Airai has 1,484 registered voters with an estimated half residing overseas.

The gubernatorial primary is slated for next week January 11, where the top two vote-getters will go on the ballot at the 9th General Election of Airai State, to be held in March of this year.

The Airai gubernatorial Q&A program was organized and filmed by TMC Palau.  

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