Nauru court ruling worrying for democracy
Nauru's suspended opposition MPs fear a Supreme Court decision upholding their suspension sets a worrying precedent for democracy.
The opposition MPs who remain suspended from Nauru's parliament say the Supreme Court's decision upholding their suspension sets a worrying precedent for democracy.
Earlier this year five MPs were stripped of office for speaking out against the current government but they challenged the ruling, arguing in court it was a breach of the constitution.
A spokesman for the group, Roland Kun, told Sally Round the court's decision that it must respect the right of parliament to regulate the conduct of its own affairs has deep consequences.
ROLAND KUN: What the decision is effectively saying is that the government of the day can do whatever they want to do in terms of excluding elected members of parliament if they are uncomfortable with what the members of parliament are expressing inside and outside parliament. In our situation they are disagreeing with speaking with the international media in regards to the lack of rule of law when they removed the previous Chief Justice from his post. We have concerns with what that means for the ongoing running of democracy in the Republic.
SALLY ROUND: So what happens now then? What other avenues are open to you? You remain suspended. Are you going to take this any further?
RK: There's limits to what we can do. The Supreme Court of Nauru has sole jurisdiction over any Nauru constitutional reference matters and this is a constitutional reference matter. Even though they are saying they don't have jurisdiction to entertain the question because of parliamentary privilege, this is still the last stop for us basically. We are still examining other opportunities to have the question put as a fresh submission to the Supreme Court of Nauru. We don't know the viability of that as yet but that is something that we're examining.
SR: What happens if you don't win again in court? Are you looking at going forward for re-election at the next election?
RK: All the suspended members do intend on fighting this issue and we of course have reservations about the future effectiveness of any parliamentarian if they should find themselves in the minority in the parliament, because the government, if this current decision stands, is more than capable of excluding them from parliament for no proper reason. As you know, in our situation, we've been called on to apologise and retract statements we have made to the international media in the past, something that we are not prepared to do. And so we're effectively excluded from parliament for as long as we don't apologise and that may go to the end of the term. We represent a large part of the opposition body at the moment and 25% of our small parliament is under suspension indefinitely. That is a major concern for us in terms of the working of our democratic system.
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