Palau is mourning the passing of former President Kuniwo Nakamura, who passed away Oct. 14. He was 76.
Nakamura served as the president of Palau from 1993 to 2001 and was awarded the World Peace Prize Top Honor in 1997 for his leadership in bringing independence and increased democracy to Palau, promoting political stability, and preserving the natural environment.
He served as vice president of Palau from 1989 to 1993, under Ngiratkel Etpison. Nakamura was the son of a Japanese immigrant from Matsusaka, Ise Province and a Palauan chieftain's daughter. He was studying in his second year of primary school when the surrender of Japan ended World War II. He graduated from high school under the U.S. occupation of Palau and went on to study at the University of Hawaii.
Palau President Tommy Remengesau credited Nakamura for leading the young Pacific nation to its independence.
"We cannot begin to express how much of a loss President Nakamura’s passing is to us all. Today, we, as one Palauan people, mourn this great loss to the republic.
"President Nakamura’s life of public service, which included eight years as President of our Republic, reflected his commitment to serve and empower all Palauans. He was present from the earliest of Palau’s trust territory days; led us as we proudly declared our independence; and was with us through the first 25 years of sovereign statehood," Remengesau said.
He said Nakamura helped build Palau into what it is today, a nation that has managed to keep its heritage and identity intact.
"From grassroots efforts to the private sector enterprises, from women and youth to our fishermen and senior citizens, President Nakamura was truly a man of and for all the people," Raemengesau said. "When our nation faced some of its greatest choices, including the choice to seek independence, he led us through our critical decisions, ensuring that the Palauan people– now and in future generations – will have their identity preserved and protected."
When Palau faced some of its greatest urgencies, including economic downturns and the fall of the Koror-Babeldaob Bridge, Nakamura helped the nation "overcome what seemed like insurmountable challenges, leading our young nation into some of the greatest economic recoveries and past some of the worst disasters we have ever experienced."
On behalf of Japan, Ambassador Akira Karasawa said the late president contributed to the establishment of a strong bond of friendship between Japan and Palau.
"He actively toiled to develop public infrastructures that are seen throughout Palau today, which undoubtedly have improved the life of the Palauan people, "Karasawa said. "I am deeply saddened by the sudden demise of Former President Kuniwo Nakamura. I had the honor to meet him several times and had great respect for him."
Karasawa described Nakamura as "a great leader," whose demise "is not only a great loss to his family, but of course to the Republic of Palau."
"On behalf of all the Japanese people residing in Palau and the Embassy of Japan, I would like to express my deepest condolences to the family of His Excellency the Late President Kuniwo Nakamura. May he rest in peace."
Speaker Tina Muña Barnes extended her condolences to Palau on behalf of her family, as well as the 35th Guam Legislature.
"Our islands have definitely been able to flourish due to the long mutually-beneficial relationship between the people of Guam and the people of the Republic of Palau. This relationship is testament of President Nakamura’s leadership and commitment to his People and all those who call this Blue Continent Home. We lost a friend, an ally, and a partner for sustainability, political stability, and prosperity – and as Honorary Palauan, Mr. President, you will be cherished in the hearts of those you touched” Muña Barnes said.
President of the Republic of Palau