An oversight hearing with the Board of Trustees of the Social Security Administration has revealed that the agency has yet to make any major decisions in response to last month’s boating tragedy.
The two-hour long hearing by the House of Delegates Ways and Means Committee was organized to discuss ways in which the Palau Congress can assist the agency and not about pointing fingers expressed Committee Chair and Delegate Jonathan Isechal.
Questions were raised and concerns were expressed during the hearing on July 15, 2014. Among those expressed were concerns regarding liability – whether the government is liable for those injured and the family who lost their loved one because of this tragic incident.
It was disclosed by SS Board Chair Florencia Rirou that the subject of liability has not been brought up since their legal counsel Yukiwo Dengchokl inquired about it two weeks ago.
According to Rirou and SS Board Vice Chair Lily Uludong, thumb following the incident on June 29th, the Board immediately met Dengchokl for legal advise, a staff meeting was also organized by Administrator Ulai Teltull and counseling was arranged with Public Health for all staff, family members and guests who were victimized by the incident.
Religious support and counseling for late Jonas Markub’s family were also arranged, and the agency came together to support Markub’s family during his funeral. However, no other action has been taken.
Uludong further disclosed that pressure or tension could be felt within the agency’s office, a matter that the Board expressed may be solved through a staff meeting with Administrator Teltull. However, the Committee felt that the issue should be separated – indicating that the Board should step in and speak to the staff, which would allow them to freely express their concerns.
The Committee also further questioned why a public statement or apology was not made following this incident to ease any speculations or concerns that the public may have regarding the incident and the agency.
The incident that happened on June 29, 2014 during an official Social Security function not only resulted in the loss of life and injury, but also caused damages to government property. When questioned about plans for repair of damages to government boats, the Board disclosed that they have yet to discuss this matter.
The Committee suggested that plans for repair should be made immediately to allow other government agencies access to these assets when needed.
According to Rirou, the boats used for transporting passengers on that day belong to the Ministry of Education and Palau Community College.
She further disclosed that government funds were also used to cover expenses during this function, but was unable to provide the exact amount of funds used.
Other than counseling, hospital visits, and support provided through traditional means, there hasn’t been any real decisions made to address concerns, and other issues relating to the incident.
On Sunday June 29, 2014, a Social Security function that was winding down at the Soft Coral Arch in Palau’s Rock Islands turned into a tragedy when a speedboat driven by Brien Simer, Administrator Teltull’s husband suddenly rammed into the back of a government boat.
The speedboat reportedly crawled up onto engines of the government boat injuring at least one person. It then slipped back into the water and hit the government boat a second time throwing those inside to the floor and into the water.
According to eyewitness accounts, the boat made several wild turns in the lagoon while victims swam for help. Following the second hit, the boat then headed straight for the port side of the government boat where 9-year-old Jonas Markub attempted to climb up from the water. Unfortunately Markub was crushed between the two boats when the speedboat turned sideways resulting in a side impact.
The SS function was organized with staff, family members and guests to celebrate the agency’s 46th anniversary.
CRIMINAL CHARGES FILED IN COURT
Brien Simer now faces nine criminal charges stemming from the incident.
Charges include murder in the second degree, involuntary manslaughter, aggravated assault, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, and drunken disorderly conduct.
Charges against Simer were filed in the Supreme Court of Palau on July 11, 2014 exactly 12 days after the tragic incident.
Murder in the second degree carries a jail term of no less than 30 months and no more than 30 years.
According to the Clerk of Courts, Simer has not been served as of this news report.
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