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Palau to Probe Sale of Police Guns

Palau Horizon

19 March 2003

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KOROR, Palau -- The Committee on Judiciary and Governmental Affairs of the House of Delegates will conduct an inquiry into the recent sale of government firearms and ammunitions to foreigners.

Del. Augustine Mesebeluu, the committee chairman, said they were informed recently about the sale of eight outdated firearms to MY Tattoosh, the vessel reportedly owned by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.

Mesebeluu said lawmakers want to know how many firearms and ammunition are left for sale in Palau, and whether these purchases comply with applicable laws.

Last Feb. 21, the Palau government signed a memorandum of understanding with Edmund Wilkinson, an authorized representative of MY Tattoosh, for the sale of the outdated firearms.

Justice Minister Michael Rosenthal, in his response to Mesebeluu's letter, said the firearms sale complied with Palau laws, adding that the money received by the national government will be used to buy modern firearms for local law enforcers.

The old firearms were worth $5,000, Rosenthal said, and they included three shotguns, one M-1 carbine, four .38 caliber handguns, and 30 rounds of ammunition per firearm.

The MOU states that MY Tattoosh expressed "legitimate security concerns regarding transit on the high seas to the next port of call" thus it needed to acquire more firearms and ammunition.

The agreement stated that firearms were for the protection of persons and property on board the Tatoosh and the vessel itself, and would be used for defensive purposes outside the territorial jurisdiction of Palau.

Rosenthal said the sale of the "outdated" firearms was in the best interest of Palau, and that the proceeds would be used to purchase new and more useful firearms for the Bureau of Public Safety.

He said the crew of the Tattoosh would be traveling through the Philippine seas "where piracy is widespread."

ID: N94

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