Archive for ‘Stevenson Kuartei, MD’

November 9, 2013

“Crabology”- The Study of Crab

Words from Orakidorm

By Stevenson Kuartei

 Going fishing a few days ago I had a hard time finding bags of ice at the stores and so I asked the attendant at Meyuns Causeway Shell, “why you no more ice”? He told me, “Ser, I am not sure but boss not bring di ice. Ser, becoz de water system is no more.” And then I realize the reason why there is shortage of ice in Koror. It was because of the OBF and the Wahoo Derby. But the intermittent water hours greatly contributed to the shortage of ice and that’s what my friend was telling me. I recall an article that I recently read about “Integrated Water Resources Management” which was authored by a couple of Palauans and a consultant from SOPAC. The Palauan authors were Ms. Metiek Ngirchechol and Ms. Lynna Thomas from the Palau EQPB. The article was titled, “Integrated Water Resources Management- Developing Integrated Water Resource Management in the Republic of Palau.” The article of course can speak for itself but what was more impressive to me are the “References” at end of the article. Several of the cited articles stand out because they are authored by Palauans such as, A. Eledui, I.U. Olkeriil, Y. Golbuu and D.O. Otobed. In particular are a couple of sources about “Water Security and Safety” the very issue that we need to pursue as the ultimate goal for our national water policies. 

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November 1, 2013

Silence, the biggest killer in the Pacific!

Words from Orakidorm

By Stevenson Kuartei

Two days ago (Oct. 19) here in American Samoa, the LBJ Tropical Medical Center, their only hospital, and the Department of Health held a medical symposium, the first one ever between the two entities. The morning topic was on the burden of Diabetes in the Territory and in the afternoon was series of topics on human resource development in health. The data shared in the morning by the local presenters was overwhelming. For example, the rate of Diabetes in the Territory is 47% and youngest person was 12 years old. The cost of taking care of it is skyrocketing and the rates of off-island referral and hemodialysis are increasing every year. As I thought about this, I could not help but feel this sadness because the very same thing is happening in Palau.

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October 18, 2013

“Not in OrderS”

 

Words from Orakidorm

By Stevenson Kuartei 

Traveling to American Samoa to assist the Director of Health, I have had to stay in hotels. One day I went to the restroom and there was a sign in the toilet, which said, “Not in Orders”. Of course, I am not a primary an English speaker and so I am not in a position to criticize. But normally the sign for non-functioning toilet is usually written, “Not in Order”. Just a change of one letter and my impression changed. “Not in Orders” with an “s” seems to allude to not one, but many “not in order” in the future.

While I am contemplating on this issue of “Not in Orders”, the news about United States Government shutdown and hitting the Fiscal Cliff is constantly being discussed on news outlets and the impact this will have on the world economy. Even the American Samoan Government has designed a 3-month roll out plan on releasing government workers in case their budget doesn’t come in on time. It is painful to sit with the Director of Health and have him explain who are the people in the Department of Health that will be released. Even if there is an agreement between the US President and Congress, it will be a short-term band-aid solution. Now, the United States is the most sophisticated country in the world in terms of governance structure and the world’s leading economy. If they were to close the government for long and if they were to default on their loan, the affect on the world economy will be devastating according to the leading world economists.

In Palau, the recent budget is probably the highest budget we have seen in our brief history as a nation. We know that at best our local revenue is worth less than $40M US and so we are increasing taxes to make up the difference. But these taxes are levied against an overall economy that is supported by financial aid from overseas. So how’s that work? Are the overseas financial aids that we receive independent of this “Not in Orders” that we see taking place in the most sophisticated countries in the world including the United States? My unsophisticated mind is now really confused. I am confused when austerity measures are hitting various governments of the world (EU), Jasmine Revolution is hitting others (Arab League) due to inequality of access to benefits of governance and “Not in Orders” hitting 1st World Countries most of whom give us the foreign aids, yet we are increasing our annual budget. Really? How does that work?

Perhaps the “Not in Orders” was just a typo. You think so? I think it was deliberate by the hotel housekeeping staff because they were instructed by their manager who had been ordered to do so by the Corporate Office in the Mainland, US. You see this is just a toilet economics. If you do not use the toilet, you save money from the water used for flushing, you save money from the soap used for washing, save money from the paper towel used for drying your hands and from the floor mopping for the “off target” stuff. I think I like this “Not in Orders” typo. In light of what is happening globally and in our donor countries, may be “Not in Orders” in our budget process could end up being a live saver. Let’s just pretend it was typo. What do you think? I say we put a big sign up, “NOT IN ORDERS”.

October 15, 2013

The modern Era of Nomadic Palauans- “Delidai Era”

Words from Orakidorm

By Stevenson Kuartei 

Palauan history includes two distinct eras; Uab Era, which depicts the formation of the island itself and Milad Era that tells of the formation of the Palauan society and its social structures (Aimeliik, Koror, Ngaremlengui and Melekeok). The oral history as it is told is consistent with the scientific explanations of volcano eruptions, formation of coral reefs, growing of vegetation, migration of people and formation of social structures. So from the barren sea arose Palau and around 4,000 years ago Palauans began to arrive at least according to Jared Diamond in his book titled,  Guns, Germs and Steels. Through out this time we have come to understand certain things about our world; For example, people from southern Palau (Lukes) inhabited Koror, Aimeliik and Ngarenglui or mostly south and west coast of Babeldaob. On the contrary, those who migrated from north (Ngeurangel) ended up in the east coast, Melekeok and along the east coast including Ngcheschang in Airai. We also understand that these migrations were result of the trade winds that are mostly easterly and westerly. They also followed the current around Palau that is clockwise in its direction. This is the reason why it rains in Aimeliik most of the time. It is because the science of rain formation follows these factor of water condensation and not only because Aimeliik represents the private ‘you know what’ of Uab.

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October 14, 2013

Killing “mom and pop” store by design

Words from Orakidorm

By Stevenson Kuartei

Recently I have had the opportunity to talk with various members of the community and in particular those who struggle from day to day trying to manage their small “mom and pop” type retail stores. Their concern revolves around the recent legislation on minimum wage and other taxation schemes. But their main concern revolves around minimum wage and how that will impact not only on their bottom line but actually their survivability. For them it means “death” to their aspirations to hopefully one day “make it”. They are even acknowledging that their chance of surviving is less than many of the front businesses along the strip that are operated by Chinese, Bangladeshi and Filipino nationals. There is no “assistance offered” to assist them in realizing their dreams which in many cases include the future of their children. Instead, there are just “road blocks” being created.

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September 27, 2013

Palauan Money and its Bali-w

Words from Orakidorm

By Stevenson Kuartei

In recent months the discussion around Palauan money has inundated forums all over the land including the crevices of gossips, coffee brothels, huts of generosities, whispers of bulkolks and Internet latrines. And the discussions have revolved around who shall serve as the Czar of Palauan Money Treasury who will decide what are “real” Palauan monies and what are not or “Bali” and what is the value assigned to them. And who will or shall appoint this Czar. 

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September 22, 2013

Standing at the corridor- “Mededechor era ilasngesungel”

 

Words from Orakidorm

By Stevenson Kuartei

I am on my way to the hospital. Why are you asking? No, I need to go and get my medicine to shut you up because you are getting very loud and annoying. Because of you are talking to me all the time, I find myself standing by Topside Bangladeshi Store, by Franco’s or by Yano’s Market and sometimes by the Penthouse Hotel listening and talking to you. Sometimes I sit by Topside Minimart or NECO Plaza and sometimes just wondering around Ben Franklin. And then I wonder if these ‘normal’ people notice me being there. I am sure they do because some of them are quite mean in what they say. What? Hey! Be quiet and stop talking to me because I am trying figure out what to say to my Unco. I am trying to tell my story. I know! I know I have a million dollar in the United States treasury, which President Reagan gave me. I just need to convince these ‘normal’ people to send me there so that I can talk to the head of FBI regarding my money.

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September 16, 2013

Public Policy- Regulating Individual Choices

Words from Orakidorm

By Stevenson Kuartei

 Radio Australia couple days ago reported that a South African man was facing deportation from New Zealand for being too fat. His name is ‘Too Fat’ Chef Albert Buitenhuis. He was given a 23-month reprieve to stay in New Zealand but he was told that he “will have to meet any health costs himself” if he gets ill. During the same news broadcast by Radio Australia, the Governor of Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea has put out a decree to outlaw chewing of betelnut in the whole city except for a few identified places.  When the Ministry of Health was declared a “chew free zone”, there was a public outcry when in reality there was already an existing law that prohibits chewing of betelnut and smoking in government offices. A well-educated gentleman once made the following statement, “people should be left alone to make individual choices without the government regulating things such as tobacco use”.

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September 12, 2013

The Journey to Me, Myself and I- What about Yous?

Words from Orakidorm

By Dr. Stevenson Kuartei, MD —-

The foundation of Palauan society was created based on the sense of “pluralism” which means whatever was better for the community, or for the clan or for the family outweighed what was good for individual members. Thus there were no individual land ownership, our governance was by consensus and even marriages were arranged regardless of individual feelings. According to an article by Father Hezel titled, “The Cult of the Individual”, even “personal responsibility and strong individual positions were de-emphasized in traditional island societies that depended so much on harmonious community interactions.” However, through out the years, what was seen as passiveness or charming island spirit, or warm hospitality was exploited by foreigners who mistook this “communal spirit” as lack of individual initiatives. Sadly, this is still happening today.

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August 7, 2013

Youth Violence – Palau in a Social Crisis

Words from Orakidorm —- 

Palau has seen a dramatic increase in youth violence recently promoting a community outcry, including the Traditional Leaders and the President of the Republic to call for a public symposium to figure out why this is happening and what to do with it. The sad thing is that the development of this phenomenon has been discussed at length, ad nauseum but only few have paid attention to it. As a matter of fact, we have dismantled some of the structures that had been created in an attempt to deal with it as a “whole of society” crisis issue.

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July 11, 2013

Chief hood – how is life in the hood?

From the “Words from Orakidorm” —- 

Some years ago, a vocal and a well-known politician made a statement that “traditional leaders should go and stay in the museum where they belong”, which caused an uproar in the hood, the Chiefhood. In an article titled, “Where Do Traditional Leaders Fit in Today’s Society?”, Father Hezel discusses some of the fundamental issues surrounding the co-existence of traditional and modern democratic leadership in Micronesia.

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June 26, 2013

Morikawa-san: a savior or a myth?

Words from Orakidorm —-  

Growing up in the village, I often heard stories about Mr. Morikawa, a Japanese soldier who was spying for the United States during the WWII. According to these stories, if it wasn’t for Morikawa-san, the war in Palau would not have ended and all the Palauans would have died in some electronically wired cave somewhere in Ngatpang. Perhaps, the tragedy of war, the horror stories of the process of “in-doctorinating” Palauans to Emperorolism, the “brainwashing” toward Japanalism led to the story of Morikawa, as Palauans were looking for a “savior” out of the tragedies of WWII.

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June 17, 2013

Shuffling for influence in the Pacific- colonialism, a matter of perspective

Words from Orakidorm —-  

The shuffling for influence in the Pacific whether it would be political, economics, military or social influence is actively taking place. The main players are obviously the United States and China dictating the dynamics of East Asia and the western bayou of the Pacific. The stresses along the corridors of this region including North and South Korea, the Taiwan Strait, ownership disputes between Japan and China, between the Philippines and China are all intertwined in this mesh of shuffling for influence.

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June 9, 2013

Singing Waves and Chanting Fishes

From the “Words from Orakidorm” —- 

It was 4:13 am on May 26, 2013 when we converged at the dock excited about joining the Fishing Derby. “We need is only one day, after all who needs 2 days of Fishing Derby?” As we got on the boat, we could hear the various murmurings from different folks getting on their boats as they discussed what would take place that day. After picking up our flag at the Drop Off and after my fishing buddy burnt his hand on hot morning coffee we headed west with a plan to start fishing once we reached Ngaremlengui Channel. We passed Desomel outlet (just beyond PPR), Ngerchebal (small rock island between Koror and Aimeliik) and Bkulrengel outlet (west of Aimeliik) toward Ngaremlengui. The sea was calm and the sun was peaking over Ngeruach (rock shaped like a heel in Ngaremlengui) with golden rays fanning the eastern skies. And to the west, a full moon was setting circumscribed by purple haze and pinkish rays rising to meet the golden sunrays emanating from the east. This was going to be a special day as the sun and the moon seemed to be in constant conversation. I could almost hear the waves singing and as matter of fact, they did.

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April 11, 2007

Channeling each other

**Administrator’s note: As a regular reader of the Tia Belau Op/Ed page (a newspaper I consider to have the best op/ed page of any local paper by the way) I couldn’t help but marveled at the remarkable similarity of the two articles published in the same issue by Dr. Kuartei and Senator Asanuma. Prior to posting both articles here, I asked them if they had planned to write about the same topic, but they were just as surprised as me in the simultaneous occurrence that connected together in a meaningful way the ideas in their articles. As you will find below…

Both articles below were originally published in the issue of Tia Belau, April 6 – 12.

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April 2, 2007

Youth and Nation Building

(**Note: This article was first published in Tia Belau Newspaper and later appeared in the Bridge_List on November 24, 2002. It has since been re-posted again to the Bridge_List a few days ago, and it is worthy of reprint here as well.- Administrator)


Father Francis X. Hezel in his book titled, “The New Shape of Old Island Cultures”, discusses many social issues that are subtle but serves as markers for the gradual fading away of our values and culture. In this book Father Hezel misses one of the most critical markers of a fading culture, which is the empowerment of youths as a cultural and an economic strategy in nation building. As he writes about “family, land, gender roles, birth, marriage, death, sexuality, political authority, population and migration”, it becomes clear that the initiation of the Palauan youths toward a true ownership of the future of this country should not be a passing thought for our leadership. It must be a true commitment in harnessing active engagement and tangible investment in terms of mobilizing our youth toward such ownership, the true ownership of our future.

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January 28, 2007

My little place

I recently loaned a book to friend of mine which I have owned for many years and from time to time I would read the book to anchor myself to the basics of “my little place.” The title of the book is, “A small Place” by Jamaica Kincaid of Antigua, an island much like Palau in the Caribbean. It is a book that all Palauans must read as it provides some internal perspective on how we cannot “smell our own breath”. 

Ms. Jamaica talks about a public library much like our own which was destroyed by an earthquake that rocked Antigua in 1974. In the marketplace in Antigua there is a sign that says, “THIS BUILDING WAS DAMAGED IN EARTHQUAKE OF 1974. REPAIRS ARE PENDING.” This was published in 1989, some fifteen years after the earthquake.  

Palau, my little place presents few of these oxymoron perspectives and many have been left to be “repaired in the future.” Like the library in Antigua, many are critical issues in the development of the social capital in my little place. 

Recently, in the very corner of Palau, including the coffee shops and the taxi stands everyone deliberated on the national budget and the closure of the government. In the aftermath, “it was not anyone’s fault” was the conclusion at least from both committees of OEK, a strike contrast of the conclusion from the streets of my little place. As a student of government in my little place, I presume that the reasons there is a contrasting conclusion the governed and the governors is because there are intrinsic issues that are left to be repaired. 

The first issue is, Democracy as a government of the majority. In the past few years, the Olbiil Era Kelulau has deliberated as two distinctive branches of government. How can nine senators and nine delegates are over ruled by the “minority block of the HOD?” Where is the government of the majority? Is the overall voice of OEK based on majority opinions or not? If not, why not? If this is not prudently corrected, than in my little place, the separation of powers will continue to be violated by the politics of exploitation. 

The second issue is, The passing of retroactive legislations. I suspect that there is a constitutional issue with retroactive legislations. Laws cannot have past memories as they are to be prospective. For instance, retroactive budget laws while good for the short term; it does take away the power from the voting constituents to demand expediency from their leaders. It is a systematic bribe to the demand of the owners of the government. If this is not corrected, a door has been opened for laws to have past memories and systematic bribery.

The third issue is, The substitution of politics and policies. Several occasions during this deliberation, politics dominated the policies. For instance, the budget bill for my little place became a rider on other bills. Policy? No, politics. Politics is the game that is played but policies are what provide the framework for the governance of my little place. While politics is a game for politicians, policies is life for the constituents. 

The fourth issue is, People cannot smell their own breath. So who watches the government and how it deliberates? Transparent governance can only be a conclusion of an independent evaluation and I suspect that my little place needs such institution. The voting and service user constituents must be empowered to evaluate how their government is meeting their needs and expectations. That is the basis of the statement, “government by and for the people.” The ability to evaluate their government by their votes must not be removed from them. 

My little place, Palau is much like the “small place” of Antigua where if we do not start repairing the damages of the past, we are doomed to repeat them. As Mr. Issigonis (1988) once said, “a camel is a horse designed by a committee” and truly we cannot smell our own breath in my little place. (This article also appeared in Tia Belau, January 12- 18, 2007)

By Stevenson Kuartei, MD

January 9, 2007

Societal and political explosion from adverse cultural and political forces

The theory of relativity was formulated by the Nobel Price Winner, Albert Einstein. The theory of relativity became the foundation for the energy formula (E=mc2). Through the process of nuclear fusion, energy is produced and this lead to the invention of nuclear bombs including those tested in the Pacific and those dropped in Nagasaki and Hiroshima. The application of the theory of relativity to cultural and political forces has been taken on by many sociologist and political scientists as they predict societies. 

The recent conflicts between the Executive Branch and Olbiil Era Kelulau while part of the democratic process, the expression of the conflicts are examples of adverse political forces. The Ngatpang constitutional issue, Ngiwal’s speakership and Ngchesar political fragmented factions have created schisms in these small communities and not because of philosophical difference but that of alliance. Even within Olbiil Era Kelulau, the political factions which used to be the leverage for political debate has now become a platform for personal debate. The contradicting roles of traditional leaders in the modern governance and the debate about equal representation have slowly fueled the underlying conflicting forces within the Palauan society that carries with them potential energy when collide. 

Our culture and traditions are going through trying times as there are those who would argue to completely get rid of it and there are those who live by it. There are conflicts between clan Ourot, the title holders and even among the Ulechell and Ochell in many clans in Palau. The modern justice system is full of cases on traditional power struggle that includes title and land ownership. There is a constant application of modern jurisprudence in dispensing traditional conflicts which continues to fractionalize and at times disengages members of the Palauan society. The conflict that Palauans deeply feel between modernity and traditions rots the very core of our essence as people. It portrays symptomatically as depression, alcoholism and explodes as suicidal ideations and actions. 

 In some of our churches, there is tradition of gossiping among the members, narcissism among congregation and pulpits, self proclaimed sanctimony which at times creates conflicts within the church. These conflicts within the church are gradually leading to spiritual abuse and in some cases spiritual suicide and sometimes go unrecognized by the churches themselves. 

These conflicting forces according to the theory of relativity would one day collide and as they do, a societal, a political and even a religious would take place. Palauan history has not been spared from such events. The furlough, the bombings, the assassinations and shootings of the eighties were expressions of such political explosions. The emerging of Modekngei in the 1914 was a religious expression of such explosion. The neo-creation and expression of the role of traditional leaders in our constitution creates governing conflicts that exists today, where they are sometimes ridiculed openly. 

The discussion around town, among the commoners, fathers and the likes, the fishermen, the farmers, the merchants, the taxi drivers expresses such frustrations is drawing nigh. Such expression of the quiet inner anger must be taken seriously by the leadership because, in bountiful time it is calm, but in times of famine, it is expressed. 

The political, societal and spiritual conflicts can lead to the demise of he very fabric of why WE are Palauan society. The solution lies in what separates politicians from statesmen, reactionaries from visionaries and technocrats from true leaders. 

This critical juncture in Palauan history must be marked by leaders who will rise beyond political rhetoric and move us toward a harmonious relativity. Anything short will only mean turmoil just beyond the horizon. (This article also appeared in the issue of Tia Belau, January 5 – 12)  

By Dr. Stevenson Kuartei