Meringel A Rengul A Beluu

By Santy Asanuma —-

What a wasted land? This is the closest interpretation of this Palauan statement. When someone says something to this effect, it implies that one values communal care (cherrungel el uldekial a ulekerruir a rechad ra beluu) and the intent for preservation of what are considered important in a society. So what are important in Palauan society?

At one time in our history people of Palau were very excited for the new way of government (democracy) because it held so much promise of what was to come. As a result, our constitution is bold in making these acclamations and testaments in its preamble (Uchelel a Bakes). Reading it is enough to make Palauan men and women to be proud of our traditional heritage, national identity, and to uphold peace, freedom, and justice in our island nation. So let’s put them into a check.

Our constitution mandates that lands that were taken unjustly during the previous occupying powers (Spain, Germany, Japan, and America) should be returned to the original owners or heirs of any land which became part of public lands. Now there are many laws like time limit for claims (which is unconstitutional because it is adding a condition that is not in the constitution) and complex government regulations directly blocking landowners from their traditional lands. Besides, the government process is too slow so claimants and witnesses who know these lands have long passed away. And Public Land Authorities (both for national and state) have turned into claimants; or in some cases, they ended up being declared by the court as the land owners. They are no better than the previous occupying powers. Where are peace, freedom, and justice for the people who have been denied their traditional heritage-land?

Another wild development for our government is the national and state legislatures. In the state level, many of the state legislatures have become the arena for traditional chiefly title disputes which become their only issue for many years. Or the traditional chiefs have become the target of attack and removal from the state governments. Governance (omerreder) in most of these states has been lost in these endless struggles of state laws and court cases between rubaks or state against rubaks. Some state legislatures are good as not being existent because they basically just collect their pay checks and do nothing.

In the national congress, the two houses of senators and delegates of Olbiil Er a Kelulau are openly parting ways. Of course, they should discuss and debate issues all they want but in the end should come up with one agreed idea for law that will be good for the people. Now they are not only acting as two separate branches but have introduced an idea to make salaries for senators and delegates different. WOW. This is definitely a first in our history. A classic example of a house divided against itself cannot be better than this in real life.

In closing, I cannot resist making a connection of this social discord. In a Palauan funeral, one of the sacred rituals is taking the chiefly title from the deceased and giving it to his female counterpart. This has turned into some kind of entertainment. They no longer say to the deceased, “ngmai a klengit el merael el mo chemoit ra Olimtemut” (bring all curses and evil and deposit them in Olimtemut). One keen observer of traditions said, “this is why our beluu (society) is abound with curses and evil nowadays.”


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