In a surprising move, President Surangel Whipps Jr. re-assigned Vice President J. Uduch Sengebau-Senior from the Ministry of State to the Ministry of Justice on Wednesday. Vice President Senior has only been in office as Minister of State for 6 months, which is also the length of time this administration has been in office.
The significant event was not revealed during the press conference held at noon on Wednesday even though letter of reappointment was issued in the morning
When reached for comment, Vice President Senior confirmed that she had received the notice after the cabinet meeting on Wednesday morning and that she had no idea beforehand of the President’s decision. She added that this was a constitutional power given to the President under Article VIII, Sect. 2.
The letter reappointing Vice President Senior to the Ministry of Justice cites Vice President’s legal experience as an attorney, her educational background as best suited to oversee the Ministry of Justice.
The appointment letter also relocates Vice President’s Office out of Ngerulmud Executive Building to Koror, and the appointment was effective on the same day.
The decision comes a week after the exchange of memo and letter between President Whipps and Vice President Senior. In Whipps memo earlier, he expressed disappointment with the performance of the Ministry of State which he said was not providing him with adequate information and necessary preparation for regional and international exchanges. In response, Vice President Senior refuted Whipps laying the blame on the presidential staff with acronym OOPS (Office of President Staff) for not properly relaying information and interfering with the work of MOS staff.
Responding to the question posed at this week’s press conference whether the President and herself have resolved their differences stemming from the exchange of memos between the two, Vice President Senior said, “we are a team and we have talked and resolved our differences and we are ready to move on to serve the Palauan people.”
In his appointment 6 months ago, President Whipps said of Vice President Senior, “She has been an attorney, a lawmaker, a judge and in her role as Vice President, she can strengthen our relationships with other countries. At the same time, the Ministry of State not only handle relationship with outside countries, it also deals with States and local communities through Domestic Affairs. Based on her experience as a Senator, i believe she can do a lot for Palau through this work.”
This is not the first time for a vice president to be re-appointed to another Ministry in Palau’s history. After further research, Island Times found that during Etpison’s administration, Vice President Kuniwo Nakamura was appointed as Minister of Justice. After Yoich Singeo declined appointment to Ministry of Administration, Vice President Nakamura was reappointed to the Ministry of Administration.