KOROR and MELEKEOK Palau — Palau’s new $50-million Capitol building opened in Melekeok on Oct. 1.

Prior to the ceremonies a flag relay with participants from Palau’s 16 states ran the Palau flag along the Compact Road from Meyuns in Koror to its new home.

About 5 000 people including 200 visiting dignitaries attended the late afternoon and evening ceremonies at the new Capitol at Ngeramund in Melekeok. The program included traditional chants composition of a time capsule a ribbon cutting a buffet dinner state dances a slide show and two fireworks displays by Express Electronics.

In 1981 the Palau Constitution mandated the move of the capital from Koror to the island of Babeldaob. Reklai Raphael B. Ngirmang in his opening remarks told the crowd at the ceremonies “We can say that Article 13 Section 2 has been implemented.”

President Tommy E. Remengesau Jr. said in his speech that more than half a century ago circumstances had forced many Palauans to relocate to Koror but the new capital would encourage a population return to the island of Babeldaob. He also referred to development that will occur in Melekeok and its surroundings. “This island is big enough for all our dreams.”  The former capital would continue to play an important role he said. “Koror will continue to thrive as our national center of business and the economy.”

Remengesau said the chosen design bore an obvious likeness to the U.S. Capitol building. “This is no accident. We wanted our capital to be a strong symbol of democracy. By building this dome we celebrate our close relationship with the United States. However ” Remengesau said “a close look at this building reveals the details that make it our own.” The complex features traditional Palauan symbols in its decoration and Palauan artwork. Again referring to the relationship with the U.S. he said “The Compact of Free Association provided Palau with the assistance to stand on our own.”

Remengesau also thanked the Republic of China — Taiwan and Japan for their contributions to the development of Palau referring to funds that had aided the development of the Palau International Airport a new highway system a national museum and a cultural center. “Your generosity reminds us that independence does not mean isolation ” he said.

A variety of commercial sponsors supported Independence Day events. Coffel Aire Industries Inc. Express Electronics Mobil Micronesia Nishimatsu Construction Co. Ltd. Pacific Savings Bank Tia Belau and Ulechong Construction Co. were platinum sponsors. A list of gold silver other and in-kind sponsors will be featured in “Corporate Giving” in the upcoming Journal.

The occasion was the 12th anniversary of Palau’s independence which was also celebrated with events that began on Sept. 25 and included a walk/run a fishing derby the Guam Harley-Davidson “Rock the Island Tour ” on Sept. 30 (See separate brief); an official dinner on Sept. 30; and exhibitions by Taekwondo Harley-Davidson and canoe groups on Oct. 2. Canoe and boat races also took place on Oct. 2 at the same location — around the Japan-Palau Friendship Bridge that links Koror and Airai. A list of corporate sponsors of the boat races will be featured in “Corporate Giving” in the upcoming Journal.

About 250 members of around 2 500 government personnel were due to complete the move to the new 94 00 square-meter Capitol complex in Melekeok by Oct. 7 — the full moon and an auspicious moving date according to Palauan custom. Official ceremonies and blessing ceremonies by a variety of religious groups were held on Oct. 5 from 7 p.m. to midnight. The executive branch the two houses of the Olbiil Era Kalulau — the bi-cameral National Congress; the judiciary; and the traditional Council of Chiefs; were due to move into the Capitol on Oct. 6 also the date of an official luncheon in Melekeok.

The Capitol was funded by a U.S. grant of $2 million in November 1994 which largely funded the $2.2 million design and by loans and grants from the Republic of China Taiwan. Architects Hawaii designed the capitol complex which was built by Black Construction at a cost of $23.4 million. Other companies who worked on the project included Telesource International which completed exterior cladding construction of the colonnade and gazebos site electrical draining and sewer systems at a cost of $6.4 million; Overseas Engineering and Construction Corp. (Taiwan) which constructed the frontage and service road parking lots and part of the storm drainage system at $2.8 million; Sysview Corp. which completed telecommunications work of $1.9 million; LU Rent and Lift Construction which completed earthworks and site preparation of $1.1 million; and Socio Micronesia which completed landscaping of $400 000.

The new $149-million 53-mile Compact Road that leads from Airai on the East side of the island to the new capital is due to officially open in December (See “A capital economic opportunity for Palau ” on Page 21 and “Focus” on Page 17 for further coverage.) MBJ