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Tuesday, 11 February 1986
Page: 105

(Question No. 640)

Senator Mason asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 4 November 1985:

(1) Has the Minister for Foreign Affairs been informed of the recent assassination of Mr Haruo Remeliik, the President of Palau, a tiny group of islands located approximately 2500 km north of Darwin, and under the trusteeship of the United States (US).

(2) Is the Minister aware that:

(a) the nation of Palau is the subject of enormous pressure from the US to allow the establishment there of US naval bases, which would be of great value to the US in its nuclear strategic program;

(b) repeated plebiscites of the Palauan people have failed to ratify the ``compact of free association'' with the US which would allow the building of these bases; and

(c) Mr Remeliik was steadfast in resisting pressures from the US.

(3) Will the Minister advance the case with an independent body, such as the United Nations, for an independent inquiry into the assassination of Mr Remeliik in the light of all these matters.

Senator Gareth Evans —The Minister for Foreign Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) Yes. President Remeliik was killed on 30 June last year. Four persons charged with his murder were subsequently released and charges dropped ``with pre- judice'' (that is to say, the suspects could be recharged at any time). Three of the four suspects were recharged in December 1985. Mr Lazarus Salii, Palau's former Ambassador for Status Negotiations with the United States of America, has since been elected President of Palau.

(2) (a) It is incorrect to say Palau is the subject of enormous pressure from the United States of America to allow the establishment there of United States naval bases. There are no United States defence facilities on Palau at present and, while under the terms of a proposed Compact the United States would have the right to utilise land there for defence purposes, there is no present intention by United States authorities to exercise that right. The United States does of course have strategic facilities on Guam and in the Mariana Islands.

(2) (b) A Compact of Free Association, which was intended to govern relations between Palau and the United States for a period of fifty years, was signed in August 1982 and was approved by the people of Palau, in a United Nations-observed plebiscite, by vote of 62 percent in February 1983. Under the Compact the United States was to continue to be responsible for defence matters after Palau ceased to be a trust territory. An internal referendum was conducted in conjunction with the plebiscite. This was on a proposition aimed at reconciling provisions of the Compact relating to the United States defence responsibilities (which would require the possible transit of nuclear materials) with those in the Palau constitution proscribing the use, testing, storage or disposal of nuclear, chemical, gas or biological weapons. This proposition did not receive the 75 percent approval prescribed under the constitution. As a result that Compact was not completed. A revised Compact, with a similar provision about defence responsibilities but devoid of any specific reference to nuclear material, was signed in May 1984, and approved in September 1984 by 67 percent of Palau's voters. As this vote was below the mark of 75 percent required to make the Compact override the Constitution-should there ever be a conflict over their respective provisions-further negotiations are taking place between the principals.

(2) (c) The terms of each of the Compacts of Free Association agreed to date were negotiated by the Government of President Remeliik.

(3) No. The question of inquiries into the death of President Remeliik is solely a matter for the Palauan authorities.