Suspended Nauru MPs get no satisfaction from courts
MPs in Nauru lose legal bid to overturn suspension from parliament.
Five opposition MPs in Nauru have lost their bid to overturn a decision by the government to suspend them from parliament.
Three of the MPs were banned in May and another two, including a former president, were suspended in June after they campaigned in support of their colleagues.
The suspensions had been justified on the grounds that the MPs, by criticising controversial government moves such as the removal of the then resident magistrate and chief justice, had harmed the international reputation of Nauru.
One of the suspended MPs is former justice minister Mathew Batsiua and Don Wiseman asked him about the Supreme Court ruling.
MATHEW BATSIUA: So they've actually dismissed our claims that the motions were unlawful and that parliament acted unlawfully. I guess the gist of their thinking is that they do not want to interfere in the procedures of parliament. And so as whether or not they have jurisdiction and they believe as conveyed in their decision that they did not have jurisdiction.
DON WISEMAN: If they don't have jurisdiction then they surely don't make a ruling?
MB: Well look I've got ample respect for the judges and I've got also ample respect for the system. The decision handed down was a disappointing one for us. But it's something that we have to comply with and respect. We are looking at our options from here and we will make our decisions over the next few days on what actions we are to take.
DW: What are the options for you? There wouldn't be too many, would there?
MB: We are seeking legal advice on whether or not there are options for appeal. So I guess that's the main obvious legal avenue to look at. Whether or not we can appeal such a decision noting that it is a civil action. But we'll leave that to the lawyers to contemplate and get back to us.
DW: Did the government when they suspended you put a time limit on it or are you out until the next election effectively?
MB: No as far as I know the conditions of the suspensions were indefinite until we table apologies to the House and a written apology to all the media outlets that we have been speaking to regarding our criticisms of the governments actions in the past. Especially in relation to how they treated the former Chief Justice and the former Resident Magistrate. So those are the things that got us into trouble with the government. And so they moved the motion and until we apologise, firstly to the parliament regarding those criticisms and secondly to all the media outlets that we spoke to, several apologies saying that we were wrong. Until then we remain suspended.
DW: And as far as apologies go, I presume you have no intention of making those?
MB: We stand by the view that our system here is democratic and Nauru is a robust democracy and part and parcel of that as a Westminster system that has an opposition. And the opposition's role is to scrutinise and criticise the actions of government from time to time. And at the time when we made those criticisms we were not criticising Nauru as government will lead people to believe. We were actually criticising what they were doing. And how they were not following or complying with Nauru law. And how they were not respecting rule of law. That's the thrust of our criticism. It was not against Nauru, it was against the government of Nauru, which we thought was doing things that were detrimental to the respect and to the reputation of Nauru. And if we have been made to apologise for that, then we cannot, for obvious reasons.
DW: The President Baron Waqa put out a speech earlier this week, talking about how his government has been making huge efforts to ensure human rights in Nauru. Do you think they are doing a good job in that regard?
MB: No, I saw that statement and it actually is a puzzling statement because in my view they've done nothing but erode the confidence of people in Nauru's ability to respect human rights. They've done actually quite the opposite and they've, they've now instigated actions against members of parliament who scrutinise their actions. And not respect our rights as members of parliament and as opposition members to scrutinise their actions. And I don't think they quite understand what human rights is all about and what rule of law is all about. Because what they are doing is contrary to that.
DW: Okay well there are five MPs who haven't been in parliament for, well, the best part of a year now. There must be a significant part of the electorate that's upset about that or is it?
MB: Yeah look we've got, I mean we represent one third, the five MPs you mention represent roughly about one third of the voting population in Nauru, so that's a significant number of people that are now being deprived of having proper representation in parliament and that is a concern. You know, we are worried about the ramifications of what this decision will mean for future parliaments in Nauru and how governments who have, who control numbers in parliament will behave here in Nauru. You know we respect the ruling but you know, I just think about the ramifications from this ruling and I think they do not spell a promising future for our parliaments here in Nauru. Because frankly it gives an open cheque book to governments who control numbers in the house to wreak havoc if they want to.
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