The Obama administration may be celebrating the agreement with Palau that gets 13 of the al-Qaeda-trained Uighurs out of Gitmo, but the Palauans have a much different reaction to the news. Jake Tapper reports that the editor of Palau’s main newspaper gets accosted on the street by angry citizens demanding to know what idiot thought bringing violent Muslim separatists into their tourist haven was a good idea:
The decision by Johnson Toribiong, president of the obscure Pacific nation of Palau, to take in up to 13 Uighurs — Muslim Chinese — currently being held at Guantanamo is meeting some resistance from the general population.
As ABC News’ polling director Gary Langer points out, proportional to population, sending 13 Uighurs to Palau is like sending 188,993 Uighurs to the United States.
The Associated Press reports that Fermin Nariang, editor of the Palau newspaper Island Times, has “been stopped in the streets of the capital Koror by locals venting their anger. ‘This is a very small country … and some are saying if the whole world doesn’t want these folks, why are we taking them?’ Nariang said. The government has ‘fumbled the ball on this one.'”
The AP also reports on more of the surprising sentiment in Palau about having trained terrorists set free among them:
Palau President Johnson Toribiong explained his decision to grant the Uighurs entry as traditional hospitality, but public opinion has appeared overwhelmingly negative. Some complained Friday that the government failed to consult the people.
“I totally disagree” with allowing the Uighurs onto Palau, Natalia Baulis, a 30-year-old mother of two, told The Associated Press by telephone.
“It’s good to be humanitarian and all, but still these people … to me are scary,” she said. …
The newspaper quoted islander Debedebk Mongami as saying, “I’m also afraid this news is going to scare the tourists who plan to come to Palau.”
Tourism accounts for 80% of Palau’s GDP. As I wrote in my “fear-gripped” post earlier this week, the nation depends on Palau’s status as a South Pacific haven, a status which could get damaged by the presence of trained terrorists who allied themselves with groups that like to attack tourist destinations. That is a rational concern, especially given the proximity of another Muslim separatist terror effort in the Philippines, just 2500 miles from Palau. The global economic crisis will hit Palau hard enough without making it into a halfway house for al-Qaeda’s allies.
Image from the Foreign Policy blog Passport, where a commenter left this pithy response:
Wage war on the West -your reward is paradise in this life, AND the next. Wow. I hope recruitment doesn’t go up too much. Sounds like a ticket out of poverty.
See Palau! Bermuda! Just wage war against the West, and travel the world!