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Chief Justice Arthur Ngiraklsong dismissed a case brought forth by eight (8) plaintiffs who had run for Ngatpang State Legislature on December 21, 2010. The case ultimately became a question of “…whether the members of the Ngatpang State Legislature, under the State’s Constitution, are elected by the majority of the votes cast or by the majority of registered voters.”
The plaintiffs: Lee T. Otobed, Siles Ngiraremiang, Ridep R. Emesiochel, Razi C-Boy Rimirch, Elin R. Kloulechad, Francisca Otong, Johnson Emesiochel and Ibuuch Tomoichi filed their case against the Palau Election Commission, Santos Borja (Chairman of the Palau Election Commission) and the Republic of Palau (as represented by President Johnson Toribiong).
Semantics and linguistics were at the heart of the lawsuit: “…There is a conflict between the English version of Article IV, section 2 of the Constitution and the Palauan version. The English version requires only the majority of the votes cast and the Palauan requires the majority of the registered voters. Both cannot exist.”
The English version of the Ngatpang State Constitution asserts: Members (of the Legislature) shall be elected…by majority of the registered voters of Ngatpang State who voted in such election for the term of four (4) years.
The Palauan version of the Ngatpang State Constitution asserts: A rechedal a mo mengilt er a rubdois er a rechad el sengkyo er a beluu er a Ngatpang el mo eua (4) el rrak a klsir.
Unlike the Ngeremlengui State and National Constitutions, in which the Palauan language prevails over English in cases of translation ambiguity, Ngatpang’s State Constitution makes no reference to language.
The words “who voted in such an election” were noted as present only in the English translation, but it was also noted that those five words then nullified the previous phrase: “the majority of registered voters.” The Court concluded that the five words were inserted into the Constitution erroneously and were to be removed.
“Common sense dictates that one does not choose a convoluted way of expressing a well-known practice when there exists a better and well-known way to express it.”
It was duly-noted, after multiple affidavits, that “…the framers of the [Ngatpang State] Constitution went out of their way to be different,” by requiring such a high degree of voters’ participation of the election of their legislators and chief executives.
The dismissal decision was handed down on February 01, 2012 by Chief Justice Arthur Ngiraklsong.