Let’s not return to the old

By Kambes Kesolei

On the surface, the 8th OEK have not received much reprieve from the endless stream of criticisms – and deservedly so – aimed at the direction they have taken of prioritizing bills with dubious benefits to the people. But, to be fair, to say that every OEK member deserve each criticism would be remiss. Of the 29 lawmakers, we know of several members who are sincere in taking their constitutional duties and responsibilities of serving the people seriously. Noticeably, they demonstrate poise and depth on the floor, and provide the necessary counter-weight with high-degree of professionalism in the legislative body. And for that we count our blessings.

But, quick to take advantage of the public’s sentiment are ex-congressmen who are sensing an opening, akin to a making of a good story on political comeback. Lurking in the periphery they plot their moves and have set their sights in the 2012 campaign.

Details are out that several members of the previous congress – 7th OEK – are said to be pretty much working on comeback trail to win back their seats in the 2012 congressional elections. And time appears to be the only factor preventing them from filing their nominating papers. Yet, questions remain of how much and what kind of a presence – if any – will they be making from now until election day 2012, is still a mystery. In reality, and hopefully sooner than later, they will realize that the public mood today is totally different from when they left office.

As the ex-congressmen begin to draw attention to only the best part of their records, but lest we forget, their term in office was marked with worst level of in-house bickering and cross-aisle fighting. It became so bad that the entire leadership of the Republic turned into a circus, that long had lost its punch, with the people forced to endure it until the end. The previous congress became a breeding ground for irresponsible politicians who resorted to personal antics and politics of destruction.

To be more precise, the 7th OEK, in particular, those constitutionally limited to serve another term did not exactly go out with flying colors. It was on their watch that the greatest financial debacle of the history of Palau occurred – the collapse of the Pacific Savings Bank. Today, $18 million dollars of the depositors’ money are likely lost forever. In the Senate, a leadership carousel that saw three changes to the leadership, including a “coup de etat” that was ruled unconstitutional by the supreme court.

Theirs was a time the majority of the members each agreed to settle with Special Prosecutor to pay restitutions in thousands of dollars on public money they converted to their own use.  Anyone remembering their last days in office doesn’t miss the kind of behavior exhibited by the ex-congressman. The public knows full well that their last days in office were a reckless abandonment of professionalism bordering on a national disaster.

To cite only the tip of the iceberg, the last days of the 7th OEK turned into sheer madness trying to ram through four major pieces of legislations; the gambling bill, corporate registry, purse seining bill, and a proposal to increase the salary for President and his ministers all lumped into one bill. That is their legacy. And in case they have forgotten, they insanely put themselves in the same pay grade as the president of Palau. They lost their sanity.

As a reminder, the criticisms heaped on this current term OEK should not be construed as an indication that people are longing to bring back the old, but a pointer for the seating members to avoid the mistakes of the past.

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