Nauru opposition MPs still in limbo over suspensions
Five opposition MPs suspended from Nauru's parliament continue to remain in limbo as they to wait to challenge their suspensions.
One of five opposition MPs suspended from Nauru's parliament says the group remains in limbo as they continue to wait to challenge their suspensions.
Three opposition MPs were banned from Parliament in May and another two - former president Sprent Dabwido and Squire Jeremiah - were suspended in June for behaving in what the Government claims was an unruly manner.
The pair had opposed the earlier suspensions of Roland Kun, Kieren Keke and Mathew Batsiua.
Mr Batsiua spoke to Amelia Langford about being in limbo and why he will never apologise to the speaker of parliament for challenging government policy.
MATHEW BATSIUA: Myself and two other colleagues are waiting for the Supreme Court because we are going to file a claim against the action against us, but the Supreme Court is not functioning normally because there is no Chief Justice. Until that situation has been remedied we will wait.
AMELIA LANGFORD: So you're in a limbo-land?
MB: Yeah, unfortunately we are. It is rather concerning that the state of our courts has been left in limbo for a long time now by the government. Their inability to appoint a Chief Justice has crippled Nauru's judicial system and has crippled our Supreme Court. Nothing can be progressed in our courts because there is no Chief Justice and so Nauru [has been left] in limbo by the inaction of the government.
AL: When do you think a Chief Justice will actually be appointed?
MB: Look, that's anyone's guess because the government has not been forthcoming; there's no transparency in what they're doing - how they're recruiting - we've heard things along their lines but we haven't received anything official from the government that has given me confidence that what they are doing is progressing towards recruiting a reputable Chief Justice to head our judicial system. The government has been quiet about what they are doing, we've heard bits and pieces around the place but there's nothing confirmed. So it remains a big concern of ours that our judicial system has been left in limbo by way of lack of appointment in terms of the Chief Justice.
AL: So, once there is a Chief Justice and once the Supreme Court is operating again as normal, how confident are you that you'll be able to challenge this suspension successfully?
MB: We are very confident. We think that the motion to suspend us is invalid. There's no precedent to this type of action; what we say in the public media and what we say in criticising the government policy is our role as an opposition. In any vibrant democracy a functioning opposition is should expect that, and for us to be suspended because we spoke our minds and because we criticised government policy is just absurd. So we think that we have very strong grounds to challenge our suspension and we look forward - when the time comes - to take our issue to the Supreme Court.
AL: And in the meantime, the MPs are still without their entitlements, their offices and salaries?
MB: Yep, all that has been suspended as well which has been very strange because we are still representatives of our people, we still have a mandate to represent our people, we are still elected members of parliament. What we are suspended from is attending sittings of parliament, so there is a clear distinction but the government has seen fit to suspend even our entitlements and our salaries and so that will also be put into question when we take our matters to the courts.
AL: Do you think the international community should be doing more here?
MB: Look, I think every partner that Nauru has out there, including New Zealand and Australia will be looking for the Nauru government to observe the rule of law, we strongly believe that they have not been observing the rule of law. So it is in everyone's interest for Nauru to be acting as a responsible country observing the rule of law and that's all anyone can ask for.
AL: As you say, you are still an elected member of parliament. So in the meantime are you still continuing to deal with your constituents and issues that come up?
MB: Yes that's right. So my constituents have been approaching me over this period because they're just as concerned at what's happening. There's a lot of anger out there as well, but what we advise people and our supporters is that we should try to remain civil about all these issues and rather than become unruly about it let's try to deal with it through the court system and have our grievance addressed through that channel rather than taking matters into our own hands. A lot of people have been supporting us, a lot of people have been giving us encouragement to fight our suspension. A lot of people agree with us that it is our democratic entitlement as members of parliament and indeed as Nauruan citizens to voice our disagreement with government policy. That is normal, that is expected, and for us to be suspended over that period, you know, we are not running a military dictatorship in Nauru; we are a republic and we are a democracy.
AL: The speaker, Ludwig Scotty, has said the MP group might be allowed back if they were to apologise. What do you say to that?
MB: Well, again, that lies to the principle of the whole thing. Why should we apologise for acting normally as an elected member to criticise government policy? I'm an opposition member and we have not broken any laws, we have not breached any laws in Nauru and I'm just acting as a member of parliament criticising and scrutinising government policy, that's all I've done and I should not be suspended because of that and I should not be apologising because of that.
Mathew Batsiua says two of the suspended MPs, Sprent Dabwido and Squire Jeremiah, will have their suspensions considered by the Privileges Committee, which is yet to meet.
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