Preventing Crime and Violence

Tia Belau Editorial, August 8, 2013 —-

A “Public Forum on Communities Against Crime and Violence” is being held today at Ngarachamayong Cultural Center.

The purpose of this symposium will be to hear from the elected and appointed leaders of our community and to identify real solutions to the alarming incidences of crime within our communities.

In his statement released earlier, President Remengesau said “This trend is both troubling and unacceptable. I believe that as elected and appointed leaders of our nation, we must come together to address this issue that has infected our small community. We cannot stand by and hope that these problems will take care of themselves; we must take action.

We agree 100 percent with the purpose of the symposium.

Here are some ideas that also take into consideration policy initiatives that have been proposed by this OEK or have been a long running issue that needs to be addressed.

  1. Pass the proposed legislation introduced in the Olbiil Era Kelulau to update Palau’s criminal code, to reflect the current realities – definition of various crime categories and upgrade the level of punishments.
  2. Office of the Attorney General is understaffed when it comes to prosecuting attorneys. This has been a long running problem, so let’s give them additional budget to speed up prosecution, removing criminals from the neighborhood before they end up committing more crimes before their trial even begins.
  3. Have AG’s office and law enforcement officials to work with state officials or traditional chiefs to devise place-based anti-crime strategies in hamlets or locations – hot spots – with the greatest need for solutions, so as to ensure enforcement resources are directed at the most persistent crime problems and the most dangerous locations.
  4. Huge numbers of Palauan citizens, including hardcore criminals are being deported from U.S and its territories back to Palau. The Bem Ermii employee who was hacked in Airai is an alleged victim of a recent Palauan deportee from the U.S. Should we be concern of the sudden increase of convicted violent offenders on the streets?
  5. On the preventive side, besides sports which is highly participated year-round by all ages, through agencies like the Bureau of Arts and Culture and Belau National Museum, and other organizations could spearhead cultural and historical shows with performances year-round. This requires commitment from the leadership in investing budgetary support for such activities. Such activities works to empower individuals and communities in order to reduce or eliminate the forces, influences, catalysts, and causes that feed criminal behavior.
  6. Over the long-haul, strategies will include research and solutions to be research based to effectively address the complex social issues leading to crime and violence in our communities.
  7. There should be an actual rehabilitation program – giving second chance for young people to straighten themselves to be more productive members of the community. This also requires commitment from the top leadership of the country. Commitment means funding to support for programs which offer employment assistance, substance abuse treatment, mentoring, victims support, and other services that reduces the chance of the person to commit acts of crime and violence.
  8. Solutions to crime and violence will vary and require approach to be flexible, creative, and adaptable.

3 Responses to “Preventing Crime and Violence”

  1. There are many contributing factors to the rise and frequency of our national crime activities.

    I support the idea behind a strong family structure with values such as high moral standard, patience, courage, respect, perseverance, ethics and so on and so forth.

    We can’t depend on public system for good parenting..

    Some things such as good values u can’t learn at public school. However all vises u can learn from every corner.

    More to comment later.

  2. A response to Belau’s community forum on crime and violence

    I read this editorial. And yesterday, I sat down and listened to all of the audio recordings of the community forum on crime and violence. It seemed to have been a very good forum and I congratulate Belau for initiating such an important forum on such a vital issue of the day – that of acknowledging the ever increasing instances of crime and violence throughout the community and exploring ways to prevent them.

    This is wonderful. While it is unfortunate that so much acts of violence threaten the peace and stability of Belau, we are heartened to learn that the government and the community are coming together to address these issues of violence. In graduate school, I studied peace studies and nonviolence and completed a MA degree in the political science discipline but it was actually a Specialized MA degree Option on peace studies and conflict resolution. My doctoral training shifted to Comparative Politics and while that provided me with the opportunity to study and then compare various political systems, it also gave me the chance to explore and compare different ways of conflict management and peace building initiatives from around the world. Most of my recent learning about peace building and nonviolence emerged from my involvements in actual peace building initiatives in Hawaii and in different places around the world.

    I was very happy to learn that so many people, community groups, church leaders, government leaders, law enforcement officials, even public health professionals and folks from the community met to try to get a grasp of the problem of violence and how to prevent violence. Congratulations to Belau and to everyone who participated in that forum!

    All the ideas presented were great. There was a sense of urgency and participants seemed to want to ensure that short-term solutions be identified and carried out immediately with everyone knowing what the longer-term solutions are and how to support them…

    The president spoke of the creation of a Working Group which would meet to discuss the merits of the many ideas presented and how to implement them. This is wonderful. We should support everything that this Working Group hopes to do in the future and provide good ideas to encourage them and everyone else working to reduce violence in Belau.

    I was especially struck by constant allusions to Belau’s traditional practice of instituting Bul as a way to control chaos and anarchy in old Belau and was happy to hear Bilung and Ibedul speak about Bul. I sensed that they were anxious about the relevance, perhaps even the appropriateness, of Bul in today’s Belau. But I quickly surmised that perhaps they were concerned only about having our modern government support a traditional practice of imposing order that they represent and advocate on behalf of. I support using Belau’s traditional practices of violence cessation and peace-building in today’s Belau.

    For us as a society, Belau stands at a crossroad. Modernity offers us so much in terms of the benefits of intellectual development, technological advancements, and the democratic sensibilities that left behind authoritarian tendencies in favor of equality. In spite of our difficult history with successive colonialisms, we inherited much that is positive from the United States of America whose democratic legacy inspired the formation of our modern political culture. But the transition from our traditions to our modern political sensibilities has not been without complications. Certainly, the youth of today who are perpetrating much of the violence are the products of our difficulties as we’ve struggled both privately and publicly to adjust to the transition. I want to say “our difficulties” rather than “broken families” because our families have experienced and are experiencing painful, difficult changes. They have not “broken down” necessarily. They’ve just changed dramatically instead and are struggling to deal with very different challenges. Qualitatively different political, social, and economic changes alter the social and economic landscape whereupon Belau individuals and families must negotiate life’s challenges. Our transition to Modernity is just a bit more difficult for us.

    * This reminds me of a related concept of the Belau meaning of “peace” that I learned from an older Belau man who lived in Honolulu for a long time. He passed away several years ago, but he told me when he was younger that he once worked for a while with the Jesuit priest, Father McManus, on a Palauan-English dictionary in the 1950s. He learned of the many meanings of the Palauan word “Budech” (Peace). “Budech” can mean the nasty partly-digested food stuff that you vomit out of your mouth when you are sick or drunk! But the other relevant meaning is when you take dry coconut fronds (leaves) and put them together as though you were going to burn them but instead tie them up at the end of a long stick to light up at night and to carry the lighted stick as though it were a torch. That’s what a “budech” is. That is, “budech” is a noun signifying the lighted torch created by burning dry coconut fronds fastened at the end of a long stick. Belau villagers of old would carry around burning “budech” torches at night immediately after the immediate cessation (termination) of mass violence and war between villages. Because villagers would carry these lighted torches at night to signify end of war and nonviolence, the name of the torch (“budech”) came to mean “peace” or to signify that peace was at hand.

    Interesting that something Belau villagers of old would carry around at night to light the way and bring light to darkness (something they did) actually came to mean the concept “peace.” I cannot vouch for the true meaning of this concept because I only heard it from that man. But let’s imagine that there is merit to this notion of the Belau meaning of peace. If peace or “budech” in old Belau signifies that it was something we had to do to show light in darkness, to expand our range of visibility at night, then would it not be reasonable to suggest that we must do the same, that is, identify a range of activities and initiatives that “light” the way for us in a time of darkness, activities or steps to do this and then to actually do it?

    Peace building initiatives such as gathering the youth together and teaching them the way of peace, teaching them the skills of nonviolence, and educating them to see creative conflict management and nonviolence as better alternatives to committing violence. These are things our society can do or support as we explore ways to effectively teach everyone the skills of managing and resolving conflict and preventing violence.

    This suggests also that we should only target the youth. No, the skills of peacebuilding and nonviolence are useful skills that everyone, even older folks should learn. We have a community college in Belau (PCC). They should take a lead in developing some curriculum on peace and nonviolence. PCC and our government should move ahead with developing a peace education program that focuses on teaching nonviolence as an alternative to violence. Much of the community seemed focused too much on identifying Violence as the main culprit to attack with as much force and violence we can muster to make it go away! That’s understandable since the community is feeling powerless and overwhelmed and we long for peace to prevail in Belau. Theorists of peace, however, define peace as NOT only as the absence of violence but also the presence of justice. This definition is attributed to Martin Luther King, Jr. I think we are not too far off course to suggest that the Belau youth who commit so much violence feel left out of the processes of nation-building. To be left out is to be isolated. Isolation breeds distrust and breaks down any sense of allegiance to the greater goal of building our society.

    In addition to the short- and long-term solutions identified at the crime and violence forum, I hope and encourage all Belau leaders to embrace the youth more. Put fewer emphases on arresting them only when they do wrong and imprisoning them, but explore ways to embrace them fully. Be proactive. Encourage well-off Palauans to donate moneys that you can use to sponsor pizza nights for the youth, confidence-building initiatives like mentoring, nature education group trips around Belau, and more interactions between them and older Palauans for talk-story and educational sharing, etc, etc. Be patient with them. Show them as much love as you can as you teach them the right way.


    richard salvador


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