16 year old Kolonia ordinance banning drinking in Pohnrakiet to be enforced again

By Bill Jaynes

The Kaselehlie Press


September 18, 2020

Pohnrahkiet, Pohnpei—Some local residents of Pohnrahkiet were astounded at the end of last month to find notices posted in their village telling them that it was against the law to consume alcohol in the village.  One resident wrote a strongly worded letter to Kolonia Town Mayor Peterigo Jacob with copies to Kolonia Town council members, the Chief Justice, the Prosecutor, the Pohnrakiet Head Chief, and to the Kaselehlie Press.  In it she claimed that she felt that her fundamental civil rights had been violated and she threatened to sue.

“This is an old law and someone’s going to challenge it,” said Mayor Jacob. “I’m not a lawyer but it seems like discrimination to me and I think someone does need to take it to court.”

Kolonia Town Prosecutor Nixon Aldan said that the ordinance (6C-018-04) was initially passed in 2004 at the request of the village leaders. It has been on the books since then.  He said that when it was first passed Kolonia Town police arrested many people for violating the ordinance.  One of the people arrested and charged with violating the ordinance argued as part of his defense that the law was unconstitutional according to Kolonia Town’s Constitution.  Aldan said that legal advisers then recommended that enforcement of the ordinance should be stopped until the Court had ruled in that case.

But the Court never ruled on that case.  The defendant took a plea bargain deal requiring him to pay a small fine. The Court never had opportunity to rule on the Constitutionality of the ordinance that banned alcohol consumption only in a small part of Kolonia Town’s jurisdiction.  But the legal advisers never told Kolonia Town’s law enforcement officers that it should start enforcing the ordinance again.

The ordinance essentially languished in obscurity until last month when, during an oversight hearing, the Kolonia Town Council asked for a report on enforcement efforts of the long dormant ordinance.  In response, the notices went up to remind residents of the 16 year old ordinance and the intention to start enforcing it again.

Aldan opined that it is an unusual ordinance in that both Kolonia Town and Pohnpei State have laws regarding open alcohol containers and laws that prohibit drinking in public. The old but still active ordinance completely bans consumption of alcohol including within the homes of residents in Pohnrahkiet but nowhere else in Kolonia Town.

The ordinance applies only in the area set aside by the Pohnpei State Government for people of Kapingamarangi who resides in Pohnpei. It does not apply to private properties such as that owned by the family of Senator Ferny Perman. It does not apply to their Hideaway Bar and Grill where they sell alcohol.

Miyuki Perman said that after the notices went up last month, some residents of Pohnrahkiet have again taken to making the short walk to her private property so that they can drink.  Just as when the ordinance was originally passed, and many times since then, her family has been forced to call police to handle rowdy drunks on their property, including at their hotel and restaurant.

For now, whether the ordinance is old, whether it has been consistently enforced, and whether it is Constitutional, it is in place and the Executive Branch of the Kolonia Town government is required by law to enforce it.

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