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Definition: Palau from Merriam-Webster's Collegiate(R) Dictionary

island group W

Pacific comprising a republic; usu. considered part of the Carolines pop 19,907

Pa•lau•an \pə-॑lau̇-ən\ n


Summary Article: Palau
from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Country comprising more than 350 islands and atolls (mostly uninhabited) in the west Pacific Ocean.

Government Palau has a presidential political executive. Its 1981 constitution, amended in 1992, provides for a two-chamber legislature, the Palau National Congress. It consists of an upper house, the Senate, with 11 members elected in multi-seat constituencies, and a lower house, the House of Delegates, with 16 members, one elected in each of the country's 16 states. Members of both chambers serve four-year terms. The president, who is head of state and government, is directly elected for a similar term using a two-round system. The president heads an eight-member cabinet, which includes a vice-president. A president is limited to two consecutive terms. There is also a council of the paramount chiefs of the country's 16 constituent states, which advises the president on traditional laws and customs. Each state has its own elected legislature and governor.

History The islands were initially settled in the 2nd millennium BC by migrants from Indonesia. They were visited by British traders in the 18th century AD and were colonized by Spain in the 19th century. After Spain's defeat in the Spanish American war, Spain sold the islands to Germany in 1899, when they were known as Palau. They were placed under Japanese administration by the League of Nations in 1921. In 1944 the USA took the islands from Japan, after the battle of Peleliu, which claimed 10,000 Japanese and 2,000 American lives. The USA made the archipelago a base for its forces as they moved across the Pacific towards Japan, and in 1947 it became part of the United Nations (UN) Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands.

Following a referendum in 1978, the islands decided not to join other trust territories in a single federated Micronesian state in 1979. They became autonomous, with republican status in 1981, under the name of Palau (Belau in the Palauan language). The US policy of agreeing a Compact of Free Association with the trust territories, as a prelude to self-determination throughout Micronesia, was complicated in the case of Palau because its constitution precluded the transit and storage of nuclear materials on the islands, as requested by the USA. Successive referenda failed to secure the 75% majority support required to amend the constitution until in 1992 the requirement was reduced to a simple majority. A further referendum in November 1993 approved the necessary constitutional amendments.

Independence under a Compact of Free Association In May 1994 the US trusteeship was cancelled and in October 1994 Palau became an independent nation. Under a Compact of Free Association, the USA retained responsibility for Palau's defence and foreign policy, and the US military granted access to the islands for 50 years. In return, the USA continued to provide substantial direct financial aid. In November 1994, Palau joined the United Nations.

Two of the country's presidents have suffered violent deaths: Haruo Remeliik in 1985, at the hands of political opponents, and Lazarus Salii in 1988, by his own hand. Kuniwo Nakamura was elected president in 1992, when the constitution was amended to allow for internal self-government.

Remengesau is president for two terms In January 2001, Tommy Remengesau, who had been vice-president since 1992, became president. He was re-elected in 2004 by a large margin and did much to promote tourism as a means of reducing Palau's dependence on US aid. He was also active in launching environmental initiatives to conserve coastal waters and forest lands across Micronesia and greater awareness of the adverse effects of global warming on the South Pacific region.

With the constitution restricting presidents to two consecutive terms, Remengesau stood down as president in January 2009.

Toribiong seeks to diversify the economy Remengesau was succeeded as president by Johnson Toribiong, a former ambassador to Taiwan, who narrowly won the November 2008 election.

President Toribiong sought to increase spending on public health and diversify the economy, but his government's standing was undermined by corruption allegations.

Remengesau returns as president Toribiong stood for re-election but was decisively defeated in November 2012 by Remengesau, who became president again in January 2013.

In November 2013 a number of islands in Palau suffered severe damage from Typhoon Haiyan.

In February 2014, President Remengesau announced plans to ban commercial fishing, carried out mainly by Japanese and Taiwanese vessels, in Palau's territorial waters, on the grounds that it was detrimental to tourism.

Remengesau encouraged foreign investment to improve the economy and was re-elected for a further term in the November 2016 presidential elections, narrowly defeating Surangel Whipps, his brother-in-law, by a 51% to 49% margin of the vote.

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