28 Apr 2004

Nauru needs regional assistance package says opposition MP

3:35 pm on 28 April 2004

There are urgent calls for a regional assistance package for Nauru over concerns the country is facing a crisis comparable to that of Solomon Islands.

Opposition MP and doctor, Kieren Keke, says the government, which is the country's biggest employer, owes public servants nine to twelve months wages.

He says some people are being forced to live off fish and coconuts.

Dr Keke was one of six people, including two other MPs, who were arrested on the second day of demonstrations by hundreds of Nauruans outside parliament last week.

He says the government also hasn't explained what its doing to avert the threat of bankruptcy or the state of its finances.

"Government failed to present any budget at all to parliament so that added to the frustration and it's also left us in a constitutional dilemma where government is operating without a budget passed by parliament. Our constitution requires that parliament approves any expenditure by government so we in the opposition say that government's operating illegally."

Dr Keke says any arrangement the government has struck with Australia will be insufficient and regional help is required.

Dr Keke, who's been charged with participating in a riot and trespassing, says there's video footage clearly showing the demonstration was peaceful.

The secretary general of the Pacific Islands Forum, Greg Urwin, says he has been in contact with the Nauru high commission in Suva.

Mr Urwin says he is aware of the difficulties but would need an invitation from the Nauru government for a Forum role.

And he says he can travel at short notice.

I've made the offer that I can go over there when the government would like me to do that and just see what the Forum and the family of regional organisations in the region might be able to do to support them.