By Gaafar J. Uherbelau —-
Sometimes I wonder what life was like in pre-colonial Palau when traditional laws and social structures were unadulterated and life was supposedly less stressful. I wonder how each klobak effectively addressed problems and issues within their respective communities.
I know there was no constitution or national and state laws to guide and protect society in writing, but traditional law was common knowledge and expected to be known and abided by all members of each clan. There was no specific group of villagers tasked as “law enforcers” to protect and serve because the entire beluu was expected to uphold these laws and traditions. So how have things changed since then and have they changed for better or worse?
We recently witnessed history in the making with this year’s successful Mechesil Belau conference, a forum widely considered to be the longest running of its kind in Palau. We also see the efforts of Rubekul Belau in their resolutions and endeavors to address today’s social challenges. To me it seems that despite the numerous title and land disputes, most of our traditional leaders still hold true to their roles and responsibilities in seeking the best for Palau and its citizens.
But what about our “new” democratic system and modern laws? How are they effectively steering us into the future? Although there may be a lack of data that we could use as a baseline to gauge our progress as a new world nation, we constantly hear and read in the local media about laws being broken and incompetence existing throughout different branches of the government. We also hear a lot of workers (specifically public servants) saying things like, “Meral diak el sebeched e mo ungil” and “Tiang di mo rael a keskelel?” What do these types of comments tell us? Is this new system we’ve designed for ourselves actually addressing our needs and promoting our interests as a nation?
In a previous article I wrote about the need for us to follow a single national plan, one that doesn’t change with each new administration and progresses in phases. Maybe we should also be looking at the system itself to see what needs to be improved. We should also look at our laws to see which ones are effective and enforceable and revise or repeal those that are not. We should also start making decisions based on evidence and priorities rather than on our “feelings”, and look at our efforts to see if they fit in and actually contribute to the bigger picture or not.
With each issue of the newspapers we see headlines citing launchings, introductions, creations, establishments, etc., but I’ve yet to see the word “reform”. And maybe for us what we need now more than anything is reform – in education, health, economy and politics.
So, in quoting our current and previous presidents, I think in order for us to be successful in “moving forward”, we need to look at how we can “preserve the best and improve the rest”.