Mla Otirii A Sils (Caught Up With the Sun)

Note: published 8/28/2003

Alii S,

Try and translate that into English and see it makes any sense. But with a Palauan thinking you do not have to explain the feelings attached to it either. If I write or speak English, would that make me an American? No. Now that Palau has democracy does it mean that I have to trash (“chemoit”) Palauan traditions? Definitely never. Democracy is a concept (“uldasu”) that can be adopted by any country and has to be molded (“ng mo mechedroder”) to fit the culture of that country.

Roman Catholicism has been blamed for having too many traditions probably because it is the first organized Christian church. However, Vatican II gave a go signal to change some of these traditions in 1962. The central point of this message to Catholics around the world was enculturation (“ke de mesiou e oldanges ra Rubak el olab a ikel teletael ma ulekdubs ra ikel beluu el dechad e re ngii”) because Christianity has to consider cultures of different countries. Few years ago I thought Fr. Felix was just having problems with his injured foot so he sat throughout the services, especially during gospel reading when everybody has to stand up to receive the Holy Words of God. He later told me that Romans stand up during ovations to give praise (“odanges”) but it is quite improper (“metengchokl”) even disrespectful for a Palauan to be standing (“temat”) in any gathering of people. One reminder that Fr. Felix persistently (“ng di mle blechoel”) put in his teachings was that one has to be good person (“ungil a klechad er ngii a ngara ngii di el beluu”) and good Palauan (“ke meruul a ikel kirir a rechad er Belau el meruul el uldimukl ra ulekdubs er Belau”), before becoming good Christian.

In view of the recent exercise of law to punish a paramount chief of Palau, never in my life have I come to question my beliefs in the rule of law versus traditions of Palau that I use to identify my existence as different to other peoples of the world. After reading much of western civilization literatures, I have come to find that the common truth in rule of law is designed to maintain order and peace in any given society. Traditions are more fundamental and captivating (“kmal dmolech e odak a rokui”) the true nature of humanity than all statutory laws combined.  Traditions give not only meaning but also a deeper sense of direction to life as we live it daily in all the different countries of the world. In fact, I have never thought of myself and things that I do everyday in terms of the laws of Palau.  Why I attend “Ocheraol” is not because of laws. I am a Palauan because of traditions that I believe and practice in order to behave and think like a Palauan. It should make sense then that I am a Palauan first based on my God given traditions before I embrace (“mo otirakl”) any governmental principles or statutory laws. Therefore it is clear that laws of any given country should not contradict its traditions.

And this view is not too far from what the framers wrote in Palau Constitution Preamble: “Aki ultuil er a di mla ngar ngii el cherrungel el klisicham…e lmuut el smisichii a di mla ngar ngii er a rechuodel el mei el diak a ngar uchei er ngii el klisicham er a derderel a ikal iungs er a Belau, el blumam er a cheroll. Ma ki lmuut el mo melisiich a di mla ngar ngii el uldesuam el mo mecheliu e omekroul a dekesam er a rechuodel el mei, ma kle Belau er kemam…” It is evident (“kmal bleketakl”) in these words that we hold ourselves above all things including the concept of democracy as people with unique traditions from our ancestral origin and that we allow all aspects of our life today and forward to be govern (“ederdall”) by these traditions.

I find it ironic (“kmal klebelung el tekoi”) for me to back off from my traditions today because of what we purport to be true sign of being civilized people: rule of law. USA passed a law to bomb Iraq. And the killing was indiscriminate (“ng di mle ta kodelir”) because innocent old people and children having nothing to do with evil doing of Saddam Hussein died. Unlike during warfare of Palau in the olden days, the attackers understood to take only the head of a “blebaol” from the village they attacked. So is killing old people and children under passage of some law in this new millennium civilized? Even Americans could not stand the idea of putting the leader of their country behind bars for one minute so President Ford not only pardoned Nixon but also forgave any future implication that could put him in jail. So justice was indeed carried out in Palau to find the paramount chief guilty but our President only commuted jail time and allowed the chief to meet his other obligations as set forth in the sentencing.

I can proudly say to the whole world that we are not only civilized but also honorable people as our ancestors have lived their lives as Palauans. Our traditions must prevail at all times as they existed way before any statutes and we must not be convinced to turn our backs on them. Palau Constitution Art.V Section 2 says: statutes and traditional laws shall be equally authoritative (“ng di osisiu a klisichel”). In case of conflict between a statute and traditional law, the statute shall prevail ONLY to the extent it is NOT in conflict with the underlying principles of the traditional law.

Reading this English version of the Constitution makes it clear to me that Palauan traditions shall be upheld at all times and shall ultimately prevail. I invite all Palauans to read our Constitution more and to stand by our traditions forever.

***this was written in defense of Ibedul when he beat up a foreigner for disrespect***

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