Koror— He used to be referred to as the presidential brother-in-law. Now, Surangel Whipps Jr., 52, distinguishes himself as Tommy Remengesau’s successor, having been catapulted to the top political post during last year’s election.
Whipps became Palau’s president on Jan. 21, tasked to govern a nation of 18,000 population, along with his vice president Uduch Sengebau Senior.
“The task ahead, for our business, education, public health and economic recovery, is not to change the course but to take the next step,” Whipps said in his inaugural speech.
Palau’s accomplishment on the world stage, Whipps said, should be felt at home. “We should see them on our dinner tables; we should feel them in our pockets. That is the next step: it is one that we must make together.”
Whipps vows to strengthen Palau’s partnerships with the U.S. and Taiwan as the nation seeks to become the first country in the world to recover. “Now is time to open the border; now is the time to get our lives back on track,” he said.
He is ready to hit the ground running as the nation emerges from the Covid-related isolation and struggles to navigate an unfamiliar economic landscape.
“I am hopeful,” said the former senator said in an interview with the Pacific Island Times. “I know that we are at the bottom and we can turn the corner by 2021 and hopefully get out of the woods in 2024. It's not going to be easy and we will need everybody to roll up their sleeves and get to work.”