Weekend Report Dec. 28, 2012

Huang pleads for his life following Police raid

Nearly a week after Palau’s police officers raided two establishments over suspicions of a prostitution ring, dosage the Taiwan national connected to both establishments is now pleading “for his life” in a letter posted online. Feng Jui Huang also known as Richard is connected to DW Hotel and Shangri-La massage and spa, two establishments that were raided last week following a complaint from six Shangri-La employees. Huang in his letter posted on Thursday, December 27th, stated that he has been wrongfully accused of forcing women into prostitution and engaging in money laundering in Palau. Although he has not been charged with any offenses, he said he faces a risk of being killed by any inmates if jailed, and that he has “a slim chance of survival” reports Taipei Times. Huang who claims to be an investor of DW Motel and the Shangri-La parlor, is in fact a foreign worker, confirms the labor office. Information indicates that Huang is employed by Lucky Malsol, the President’s brother and works as a manager of DW Motel. A police raid was initiated last week following complaints from six Shangri-La employees of being forced to sell sex services, During the raid police officers seized documentation belonging to Huang more than $10,000 in cash and his vehicles. Huang has since requested assistance from the Embassy of the Republic of China-Taiwan in obtaining an attorney, sources say he is still without one. The Attorney General’s office confirmed that an investigation is ongoing in conjunction with the Bureau of Public Safety.
Lt. Governor to succeed Inouye as Hawaii US Senator
Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie has appointed Hawaii’s Lieutenant Governor to fill in the vacant US Senate seat left by the passing of Senator Daniel Inouye. According to Governor Abercrombie, Lt. Governor Brian Schatz has demonstrated all the qualities Hawaii could ask for in a Senator. Further saying Schatz demonstrates strong characters, respect for traditions, and strong sense of values. Under Hawaii Law, the Governor appoints a replacement when there’s a Senate vacancy, but must appoint one from a list provided by the state party. The process to appoint a new Hawaii Senator after Inouye’s passing was regard as confusing and chaotic as the vacancy attracted a diverse range of people including two pilots and a handyman’s apprentice. Since becoming a state in 1959, Hawaii has had 5 senators. Late Senator Inouye, who in his lifetime helped shape Hawaii to what it is today, served all but four years. Schatz, who is entirely unknown in the US national scene, became Hawaii’s 11th Lt. Governor in 2010 following his eight-year position as CEO of Helping Hands Hawaii. 
Ngemaes wins election case, new delegate of Aimeliik State
On December 21, more than month after Palau’s national election, the Court ruled that Marino Ngemaes did satisfy the constitutional requirements for a candidate of the Olbiil Era Kelulau. Ngemaes ran against Kalistus Ngirturong, outgoing Aimeliik State delegate, where he won the seat by a large margin. However, Ngirturong and Paul Reklai lodged a complaint with the Palau Election Commission alleging that Ngemaes did not meet the one-year residency requirement for a candidate. In her ruling, Associate Justice Lourdes Materne highlighted Ngemaes’ relationship to Aimeliik including the various visits as well as properties owned by his family in the State. Further the Court ruled that it was convinced that Ngemaes spent enough time in the State to meet the residency requirement. Ngemaes will now join the rest of his colleagues and assume his position for the 9th Olbiil Era Kelulau in January. 
Palau’s WIA offers temporary jobs to Bopha affected farmers
The office of Palau’s Workforce Investment Act (WIA) is offering temporary jobs to farmers whose taro patches and crops were devastated by Typhoon Bopha.  Every year the WIA office receives federal funds to fund temporary employment of youth, adults, and dislocated workers.  For 2013, the office has decided to use all funds available to employ “dislocated workers” which are “individuals who are self-employed as a result of general economic conditions in the community because of natural disaster.” Farmers whose crops were wiped out by Bopha qualify under this definition. The office of the states of Peleliu, Angaur, Ngaraard, Ngiwal, and Melekeok will each submit a list of 10 farmers per state while Koror will submit five. If the farmers fall under WIA’s definition of dislocated workers, they will be employed at the rate of $3/hour for a period of 6 months working forty hours a week in projects related to Bopha’s destruction in their respective states.  According to the WIA office, jobs  will mostly involve clean up and construction in each respective state. With matching funds from the Bopha Relief Committee, a total of 55 dislocated workers will be provided with temporary jobs.
43 homes approved for reconstruction, 19 commenced
Rebuilding efforts after Typhoon Bopha also continues in Palau with 43 homes approved for reconstruction, however only 19 construction contracts have been issued by the Committee. 10 of the homes are located in the state of Ngiwal, which has requested to take over construction of all 10, and as such has received the funds to do so by the Committee. All 10 will be built on Ngiwal state’s property, which are now leased to the new homeowners. Construction has not begun on these 10 homes. As for the other 14 homes that have been approved, 2 in Melekeok and 6 in Angaur are facing issues with land use rights, as the homes were located on land owned by families or clans. Despite approval for funding by the committee, without permission from the entire family or clan owning such lands, construction can’t begin on these homes in Melekeok and Angaur. In addition, public land leases are not yet available for these two states. Five homes in Koror and one in Angaur with approval for reconstruction is facing another issue as the committee is still seeking contractors. Sources say costs may be an issue in this case, with $28,000 for a standard 2-bedroom home and $20,000 for a one bedroom. Despite some challenges in seeking a contractor and land for reconstruction in some states, 19 homes in Ngaraard, Ngchesar and Peleliu have commenced  construction and should be completed in 2013.
Guam police captain jailed over prison security breach
A Guam Police Captain is in hot waters after allegedly helping three other police officers visit an inmate involved in the Blue House brothel case. Captain Mark Charfauros was arrested as a result of an investigation into a suspected security breach at Guam’s Department of Corrections. Arrested for suspicion of official misconduct, Charfauros who was later released is now on a 20-day administrative leave pending investigation. Details about the allegations has not been confirmed, however reports from Guam’s Pacific Daily News indicates that Charfauros helped the officers visit an inmate, a police officer, who is facing several criminal charges including rape, in relation to the Blue House case. Some believe the entire investigation into Charfauros is politically motivated including F. Randall Cunliffe, a Guam defense Attorney, who says Charfauros is a “lightning rod” for political controversy. Three police officers including the officer that was visited in jail are awaiting trial for their involvement in the Blue House case where nine women were forced into prostitution. The owner of the establishment is currently serving a life sentence in federal prison. An internal investigation into the allegations is ongoing including a separate internal investigation into the Blue House case at Guam’s police department.
Samoa villagers claims no cyclone warning
Several residents have expressed disappointment with the Samoan government and the Meteorologist Office for not properly warning villagers of Cyclone Evan’s approach. Villagers in the most severely damaged part of Samoa said they “knew nothing about this cyclone.” They were ill prepared and didn’t receive proper warnings ahead of time to protect their property. Some residents recall strong wind warning, but not a cyclone warning. Nearly two weeks after Cyclone Evan devastated Samoa, villagers in Salamumu and Upolu area are still struggling as majority of homes, properties and crops were heavily destroyed. Some villagers also revealed that no one from the government or the disaster management have visited or assessed the damages in their villages. Additionally, they have not received any aid as they continue to seek shelter elsewhere with most infrastructures damaged or destroyed during the cyclone. The Meteorologist Office has repeatedly denied claims of insufficient warnings. According to reports, the Samoan government continues to conduct assessments and aid is being organized to assist the victims of Cyclone Evan. 
Office and website established for Palau’s new honorary
Julian Padilla, Palau’s new Honorary Consul out of San Diego, California has wasted no time in establishing a network to attract tourists and investors to the island nation. A website has been established displaying the history of Palau including the various natural attractions the country has to offer. Padilla, who recently visited Palau, expressed his eagerness to bring more tourists and investors to the country including plans to include a booth about Palau at the upcoming Pacific Islander Festival in San Diego. An office has also been established in Carlsbud, California  where Padilla resides for any inquries. Padilla is a board member of ISB Management Ltd., which handles Palau’s ship registry. He was appointed as Palau’s Honorary Consul by President Toribiong earlier this year and was confirmed by the U.S Department of State in May. 
Pell Grant cuts may help motivate students to finish degrees faster
Those going to college here in Micronesia will be affected by significant cuts in the Pell Grant Program.  President Obama signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act 2012 on December 2011.  This new federal law states the amount of Federal Pell Grant funds a student may receive over his or her LIFETIME will be reduced from 18 to 12 semesters.  Community colleges here in Micronesia traditionally offer associates degrees, which traditionally take no more than 6 semesters. College administrators are finding however that some students are taking longer.  To make sure students still have enough funding to pursue bachelor’s degrees, administrators are heavily advising students to pass all their classes, as they no longer have the extra 6 semesters to do so. Palau Community College’s Student Affairs office comments the cut in Pell Grants “forces students to become more accountable for their education…There are processes in place [to help students pass within the required time] and at the end of the day it is up to the students to meet these requirements…[Now the Pell Grant money cuts] is really to [help] students finish their degree programs.” These changes became effective starting July of this year 2012.
The Sound of Crickets At Night to head to Los Angeles
The Sound of Crickets At Night’, a Marshallese film that earlier won a Grand Jury Award at Guam’s International Film Festival has been invited for a screening at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Festival next year. Since its first screening, “The Sound of Crickets At Night” has received  great reviews including exposure for its 10-year old star, Salome Fakatou, who has also been praised time and time again for her role in the film. In addition to participating in the Guam Festival, the film has also been screened at the Hawaii International Film Festival in October of this year. The film is one of many feature films written, produced and directed by Jack Niedenthal and Suzanne Chutaro in the Marshall Islands. 
70-year old canoe model returns to Yap
A model canoe that was gifted to a Navy sailor who helped eliminate yaws in Yap seven decades ago has been returned back to the country. A local Yapese carved the model canoe that is believed to be the oldest outer island style canoe model as a gift to Francis Wilson, a US Navy Sailor after he helped wipeout yaws, a tropical infection that broke out in Ulithi during World War II. When Wilson passed away this year, his son found the model with his personal effects and collaborated with the Habele organization to have it donated to Yap. The model was donated through Waa’gey, a local group that aims to preserve and revive traditional skills including canoe building. Interestingly, James Hapdei, the son of the model carver is a member of Waa’gey. He and other members of the local group repaired the model where it is now on display. In the past, model canoes were used in traditional rituals as well as toys for young boys.  
Annual Operation Christmas Drop wraps
The 61st annual Operation Christmas Drop, the longest-running US military humanitarian mission ended on December 18th after dropping dozens of aid to the Pacific. Over the course of seven days, more than 30,000 pounds of aid such as toys, clothing, food items and equipments were dropped in various islands of Chuuk, Yap, Palau and CNMI. The annual event brought together military families, University of Guam  students and the Guam community to donate time and items towards the mission. “It’s amazing, watching everyone come together to make this humanitarian effort happen”, said Air Force Captain Mitchell Foy of the Operation Christmas Drop Committee. The Operation began in 1952 after an aircrew based in Guam noticed islanders from Micronesia waving as they fly overhead. The crew immediately gathered items within the aircraft and airdropped them. Since then, the mission has continued, becoming not only the longest-running military humanitarian mission, but also a tradition.