Kuniwo Nakamura
Nov. 24, 1943 to Oct. 14, 2020

Kuniwo Nakamura was president of Palau from 1993 to 2001.

Although he told Guam Business Magazine in April 2000, “I spent too much time in politics,” which at that point was 31 years, his presidency will be remembered as a time when an abundance of infrastructure was built or begun – to include the $149 million Compact Road, the rebuilt Koror-Babeldaob bridge. Palau’s capitol in Melekeok was already in planning.

The late president Kuniwo Nakamura is shown (center) with other Palau leaders on the April 2000 cover of Guam Business Magazine

Nakamura saw the electrification of Palau completed; running water became available 24 hours a day, and telephones connected Palau to the outreaches of the world during his presidency.

While the Palau Pacific Resort opened in 1984, and the Palasia Hotel Palau in 1998, the president was confident that infrastructure development he had overseen would bring further economic progress to Palau.

“I can see it astronomically evolve. You will see tourist developments,” he said in 2000.

Indeed, the Palau Royal Resort opened in 2005, followed by a list of other resorts and tourist attractions.

Nakamura’s expertise was in the shipping industry as a major stockholder in Belau Transfer and Terminal Co. and Western Pacific Shipping. He also variously owned a construction company, a service station, a laundromat, a beauty shop and a fish market.

He told the magazine in 2000 that part of his credo was, “Never be afraid to try something different,” and he would later venture into hotel ownership himself, in Malakal.

Born in Pelilieu, Kuniwo Nakamura was the son of a Japanese shipbuilder and a Palauan mother. He attended Tumon High School in Guam, where his classmates included former governor Joseph F. Ada and entertainer Jimmy “Dee” D. Flores.

He hosted 20 Class of 1963 classmates from Guam and Saipan in 1995, with a trip to the Rock Islands.

Nakamura graduated from the University of Hawaii in 1967 with a bachelor’s in economics. After a stint as a teacher, Nakamura served as an economist in Saipan and later Yap for the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands.

In 1975 he entered the Congress of Micronesia where he was chairman of the Appropriations Committee of the House of Representatives.

A regional approach is important, he said in 2000. “Even for a small region like Micronesia, we need to know each other better. The degree of interdependence is becoming critical.”

His wide contacts and enjoyment of working in the Congress served him well to continue in politics.

Following the dissolution of the Congress in 1978, Nakamura returned to Palau as a member of the 6th Palau Legislature. He represented Koror as a delegate to the 1978 Palau Constitutional Convention.

After serving two terms in the Palau National Congress as a senator he was elected vice president in 1989.

Kuniwo Nakamura is survived by former first lady Elong Nakamura, and daughters, Carolyn Takada, Jill Eryiyar and Sherry Nastacio. mbj