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Guam Medical Examiner To Help In Autopsy of President

August 22, 1988

KOROR, Palau (AP) _ A handgun found next to the body of President Lazarus Salii had been given to him four months earlier at his request by a member of his security team, authorities said.

″I don’t know why he requested it,″ presidential aide Bonifacio Basilius said Sunday.

Salii, 54, was found with a single gunshot wound to the head in the living room of his home on Saturday, a day before he was scheduled to announce his candidacy for re-election. He was pronounced dead about an hour later.

He was the second president of the Western Pacific island republic, and the second to die by gunfire within three years.

″We’re not ruling out anything,″ Basilius said when asked if the shooting was murder or suicide.

Guam’s chief medical examiner, Dr. Hee Yong Park, planned to assist in an autopsy tonight of Salii to determine if the fatal shooting was a suicide or assassination.

Dr. Victor Yano had planned to perform the autopsy this morning while in telephone contact with Park. But Park decided to make the 1,000-mile flight to Palau after consulting with Yano, Basilius said.

The gun, a .357-caliber Magnum, will be taken to the FBI laboratory in Washington by agent Robert Heafner, Palau Attorney General Philip Isaac said.

Chester Pavolvski, the U.S. State Department representative in Palau, said the police investigation indicated a self-inflicted wound.

A state funeral has been scheduled for Friday.

Thomas Remengesau Sr., Palau’s vice president, was sworn in as president Saturday.

Salii was elected in August 1985, shortly after President Haruo Remeliik was shot to death outside his house. Three men were convicted of killing Remeliik, but were acquitted on appeal.

In April, U.S. Rep. Morris K. Udall, D-Ariz., and Ron de Lugo, the non- voting representative in Congress of the U.S. Virgin Islands, charged that Salii and two other Palau officials were paid $475,000 in 1983 and 1984 out of a $32 million loan made by British banks to Palau for construction of a power plant.

Salii acknowledged receiving $100,000 from Gordon Mochrie, managing director of International Power Systems Co. Ltd. (IPSECO) of London, but said the money was paid to a travel agency he owned to be used for a potential airline in Palau. The airline never came into being.

Udall and de Lugo wrote to Rep. Dante Fascell, D-Fla., chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, charging that several senior Palauan government officials have been connected to shipment of Southeast Asian heroin through Palau. They did not elaborate on those charges.

A federal judge in New York ruled Aug. 8 that Palau must pay an international consortium of banks more than $44 million on defaulted loans for the IPSECO power plant.

Palau, with a population of about 15,000, has been administered by the United States as part of a far-flung United Nations strategic trusteeship since 1947.

Palau’s effort to negotiate an independent political relationship with the United States has been stymied by opponents of nuclear weapons. Palau’s constitution bans nuclear weapons or power plants, unless approved by 75 percent of the voters. A proposed compact of free association, which would permit U.S. Navy ships to call in Palau, has never received more than 73 percent approval.