by Donald R. Shuster
The Palau archipelago is a small island state located in the north-western corner of the north Pacific. Having been a Spanish, German, and Japanese colony, Palau became part of the US-American Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands (TTPI) in 1947. In July 1980, with the ratification of the Republic's Constitution by the people of Palau, the Republic of Palau came into being as a self-governing territory subject to the authority of the High Commissioner of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands. Since then, separate legislative and executive offices have been popularly elected. After the ratification of a Compact of Free Association agreement with the United States, the Republic of Palau declared its independence and full sovereignty in 1994.
Palau had been governed since 1947 by a High Commissioner appointed by the President of the United States, who reported to the Secretary of the Interior (a position in the President's cabinet). Even though its Constitution was in place, Palau remained subject to the 1947 Trusteeship Agreement and the orders of the Secretary of the Interior, to the extent that the Palau Constitution or laws enacted by the Palau National Congress did not conflict with such Agreement or secretarial orders. The High Commissioner position was abolished in 1987, and the higher authority of the trusteeship agreement and Secretary of Interior ended when Palau established a new political relationship of free association with the United States on 1 October 1994.
In response to the United Nations' criticism and a high level review of the TTPI during the Kennedy Administration (1961-1963), the U.S. established the Congress of Micronesia, a bicameral assembly of representatives from the six major ethnic areas of Micronesia: Palau, Yap, the Northern Mariana Islands, Chuuk, Pohnpei, and the Marshall Islands. In 1978 the population of Palau (as the Marshall Islands before) decided not to ratify the Constitution of the Federated States of Micronesia