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November 21, 2011 @ 8:04 pm

Beyond the Fence Episode 90

Episode 90: “Celebrating Palau’s Independence, Rethinking Free Association with the United States” (hosted by Dr. Vivian Dames) airs 10/21/11.

On October 8, 2011 the Palauan Community Association of Guam (PCAG) came together to celebrate the final dismantling of the United Nations Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands in 1994 and the 17th year of Palau Independence.  The day of festivities was held at the Paseo de Susana park in the capital of Hagatna, nestled between the baseball stadium and the site of a small replica of the Statue of Liberty.  This event also marks the 17th year of Palau’s controversial freely associated status with the United States.  The Compact of Free Association is a negotiated agreement which provides US funding to Palau in exchange for US full authority and responsibility for security and defense matters.  A renewal of the Compact is now awaiting approval in the US Congress which will provide $250 million dollars to Palau over 15 years. Where is Palau today on its ‘road to independence’? What do Palauans in Guam think about the political status of free association? What happened to the conditional nuclear free provision in the Palau Constitution?  What are the lessons to be learned for the peoples of Guam as we pursue political decolonization?

In the first segment of this episode, we feature highlights from the morning program of the Palau Independence celebration.  We begin with a welcome chant Chesols performed by Jovanni Tudong followed by excerpts of the welcoming remarks by Ted Iyechad, PCAG President; a summary of Palau’s history entitled “Road to Independence” by Davis Tewid, PCAG Vice President; a Moment of Silence in Honor of Fallen Palauan/American Soldiers (Jaycee Melwat, Meresebang Ngiraked, Philton Ueki, Jasper Obakrairur, Sonny J. Moses, John Flores & Adam Q. Emul); and excerpts from the keynote address of Honorable Johnson Toribiong, President of the Republic of Palau. This segment concludes with the National Anthem of Palau.

[The PCAG program also included a proclamation signing and remarks from Lt. Governor Ray Tenorio and presentation of a legislative resolution by Vice Speaker Benjamin ‘BJ’ Cruz and Senator Vicente  ‘Ben’ Pangelinan, 31st Guam Legislature.  The bountiful lunch showcasing the delicacies and displays of different states was accompanied in the afternoon by cultural performances, decoration contests and the 2011 PCAG Outstanding Citizen Awards.]

Following these program highlights is my interview with Mr. David Tewid, PCAG Vice-President who is a long-time Guam resident and Palauan-US citizen who holds a B.A. Economics from the University of Hawaii. In anticipation of the military buildup projected for 2014, Mr. Tewid retired several years ago from a program coordinator position at the Department of Public Health & Social Services to pursue real estate full-time.

I also interview Dr. Donald R. Shuster whose publications provide the primary source for Mr. Tewid’s presentation. Dr. Shuster is a professor at the Micronesian Area Research Center, University of Guam.  Although interested in the entire Micronesian region, he specializes in the Republic of Palau. He has published a number of journal articles and books about elections, the compact,  Roman Tmetuchl, baseball, and Father Felix Yaoch, S.J., and is currently working on a biography of Thomas Remengesau, Sr.  One of Shuster’s publications cited in this  interview is “Palau’s Compact: Controversy, Conflict, & Compromise” ISLA:  A Journal of Micronesian Studies, Vol. 2, No. 2/Dry Season 1994.

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