BEBULIS (Policing Palau Is a Problem)
By Santy Asanuma
Ngarker Olbechel, Tia Belau
September 22, 2015
Ke ko ra Bebulis (you are like a police) is a Palauan expression that is rarely heard or used by the speakers of the language today. Funny that it is associated with the idea of police but in a negative way. I cannot find the explanation how it became to be an expression as such. However, it is clearly used for a person whose movements are noted to be uncoordinated (ng diak el ultebechel); therefore, appear to be like a drunken person who is not only moving without any purpose but also cannot stop. Palau law enforcement is not ready to handle the influx of foreign social issues that are being brought in by our visitors, visitors turned employees, and/or foreign investors; and these problems are not getting fewer or going to stop soon either.
The other day I watched a policeman for reasons unknown to the bystanders including myself let a Chinese national who obviously did not know how to drive go. The people watching the Chinese go were confused of the whole scene as the policeman watched the Chinese awkwardly maneuvered his car almost hitting the other parked cars. I was told that he almost hit another on the main road in the first place. It was apparent that he did not know how to drive a car well by just looking at him trying to get out of the parking lot onto the main road. He had a Singapore driver’s license but who is to know the authenticity of the license; then he was allowed on the spot to use it for thirty days while in Palau. We watched in disbelief as the policeman let him go without checking his passport how long he has been in Palau. Besides, we hoped he would not cause traffic accidents or fatalities.
Now there are many foreigners especially Chinese nationals, who have recently found the loopholes in our laws and also realized the lax or lack of law enforcement, gladly use this opportunity to stay in Palau and do various work like tour guide, bus driver, boat operator, cook, masseuse, and many other odds and ends work including private driver/errand runner that tourists from their home country want while in Palau. These are not only job opportunities lost for our Palauan young people but create sizable leak in the economy where money from Palau will be taken out without taxes or fees to our government or us ever knowing what is going on. It seems they already have their own untouchable system within Palau.
Though the idea that high public officials are involved has some truth to it as we have seen in past cases, it can no longer continue to be the only reason because not all high public officials are corrupted. What I believe now is at the core of this issue is due to increasing number of corrupted government underlings (ngariou el chad) doing their thing for their own greed and crooked ways. But Palauan people still want to believe that the Attorney General, Special Prosecutor, Public Auditor, and above all our court system are not corrupted and that we can rely on the system which was envisioned by the framers of our constitution to protect both the country and people of Palau against these evil men and women in the system.
There was an outcry against front businesses in Palau and a taskforce was created to look into the Bangla Stores which we all know are illegal. As such, it was also one of the topics for Mechesil Belau Conference in September 2015. Due to reasons unknown to the public, the taskforce is quiet now and result of its work are not known to the public for several months already. Meanwhile this problem is still growing in more ways than we can handle. Now there are few Chinese citizens who have entered into the retail store front businesses. The negative consequences of front businesses are wide and detrimental to our economy that had been explained to us numerous times by experts. And yet they continue to exist. This is purely enforcement issue so all eyes are on law enforcement officers because this is on your hands.