Palau president rebukes senators over airport project lawsuit
Koror- Palau President Tommy Remengesau Jr. on Thursday rebuked five members of the Senate who earlier initiated a lawsuit questioning a provision of the Open Government Act pertaining to the government’s transaction with Japanese firms regarding the planned airport expansion project.
In a letter to Sens. Regis Akitaya, Camsek Chin, Rukebai Inabo, J. Uduch Senior and Mason Whipps, Remengesau blasted the senators for backpedaling on their support of the airport expansion project by filing a lawsuit.
“I know that each of you supports this project because you have each voted to approve it on multiple occasions. What’s more Senators Chin and Inabo, in their positions as presidents and Vice President of the Senate during the 9th OEK were key initiators of this project,” Remengesau said in his March 22 letter.
The airport expansion project is the first Public, Private Partnership venture among the Palau government, Japan Airport Terminal and Sojitz Corporation.Under the joint venture, renovation work of the Palau International will begin around May to expand the existing airport. The total cost of the project is estimated at around USD$31 million.
The agreement stated that the Japanese firms are entrusted with airport operations for a 20-year period.In Remengesau’s letter to the senators, he said that the lawmakers are jeopardizing the project by the “ceaseless publication of negative stories about this project."
The senators’ lawsuit alleged that Minister of Public Infrastructure, Industries, and Commerce (MPIIC) Charles Obichang violated the Open Government Act for failure to provide copies of the airport documents to them when requested.
The senators also asked the court to nullify a clause in the Open Government Act, which states that some documents cannot be made public.
Remenegsau said the senators move against the project are “hurting both the project and Palau.”
Remengesau said the senators' lawsuit is scaring-off not only the Japan partners in the project but potential foreign investors as well.“Our allies do not see this as a fight about the Open Government Act; they see this as an attack on the project,” Remengesau said.
The president said the senators are not prohibited from getting copies of the airport expansion documents. He, however, cautioned them from making the documents public.“I ask that you take your roles seriously, as senior members of our National leadership.
"Palau agrees to keep these documents confidential, as is standard practice for a project of this scale, in any industry,” Remengesau stated.
The president also implied that the senators have no grounds to sue anymore because documents are within their reach.
He also defended Minister Obichang, who he said has complied with the Open Government Act by making available the documents for them to see.