Koror, Palau — The vice-presidency is typically misconstrued as just a standby position, a medical complication away from the presidency.
Not in Palau though, where the second in command is historically appointed to a key cabinet position. Nothing unusual if not for the drama that made this office a staple of headlines in recent years.
When Vice President Raynold “Arnold” Oilouch was named head of the Ministry of Justice, some said he just walked into a minefield.
Oilouch has inherited the baggage of Ministry of Justice, which was in the midst of controversies as former Vice President Vice President Antonio Bells, who also served as the minister of justice, figured in a
bitter squabble with then Attorney General John Bradley and other officials.
Oilouch assumed the post when public confidence in the justice and law enforcement systems was at their lowest level. The drug problem is high; the jail is chaotic.
Oilouch is indeed taking over a very challenging post and he is aware of the negative perception that the public has on the ministry, especially with the policemen. How he will turn this around is a big part of the
challenge and expectations. “We will bring respect back for the law enforcement and restore good relationship between the community and the law enforcement,” Oilouch said, addressing members of the law
enforcement at the Formation and Inspection ceremony on March 21.
Bells, Oilouch’s predecessor, has created a rift between Ministry of Justice and Attorney General Office and then the Interim Special Prosecutor’s Office. In December 2015,
Bells suspended Bradley for 10 working days without pay on grounds of insubordination. A subsequent
lawsuit filed by the former vice president/justice minister, involving unrelated issues, exacerbated the conflict within the system.
A lawyer by trade, Oilouch said he is the best person to take over the helm of the Ministry of Justice. Oilouch was a two-term senator when he ran for the vice-presidency last year. Running against two other popular
candidates, he won by a big margin.
Describing himself as a “simple man,” Oilouch said he is prepared to keep the ministry running and gain the community’s respect.
Prior to being a lawmaker, Oilouch was a practicing lawyer, a childhood dream, he had achieved from hard work and perseverance.
Oilouch is also a role model for the young and the brightest of Palau. Having studied in Australia, he chose to return here and contribute to his nation.
While most lawyers ultimately set their eyes on the Supreme Court, Oilouch said he decided that he wanted to contribute to the community and run for office. “I decided to run for Congress, I want to pay back and I had a scholarship to get a law degree. Let me run for an office and contribute,” Oilouch said.
For the next four years, Oilouch said he would work very hard for the ministry and make sure he will be on the same page with the president and help him push for policies for the betterment of the Palauan people.
For now his biggest challenge is to ensure that the ministry gains the trust of the community. “The community will respect us if we show them respect – “Omengull” – and I expect you to be disciplined and professional police officers” said in his speech addressing law enforcement officers during the Inspection ceremony.
He also vows to improve the morale of the law enforcement officers by pushing for salary increases based on years of service in all divisions in the ministry.
“The responsibility to protect, to serve, to provide safety and peace for the Republic, is a very heavy task,” Oilouch told the officers. “I assure you, I am your biggest, strongest defender in the Republic and I will be
the one to explain ourselves to President of the Republic, Speaker of the House and President of the Senate.”