Opposition MPs arrest not related to speaking out against Govt
Nauru says the arrest of three opposition MPs has nothing to do with them speaking out against the government.
They're accused of being the ringleaders of an anti-government protest last week in which police and protestors were injured.
The government says the protest was a riot in which several police were injured.
In a statement Nauru's President Baron Waqa expressed concern that the organisers got children as young as 12 to participate, and that alcohol was provided to encourage teenagers.
"The organisers were not fighting for freedom of speech. They were trying to topple a democratically elected government in order to further their thirst for political power."
Two of the MPs including a former President of Nauru Sprent Dabwido remain in custody awaiting a court hearing to face criminal charges in relation to the protest.
Another opposition MP Mathew Batsiua faces similar charges but is on bail.
Two others have had their passports cancelled including Roland Kun who was pulled off a plane last week as he tried to return to New Zealand where he's been living since the MPs' expulsions from parliament about a year ago.
"I received a letter from the minister confirming that he directed the cancellation of my passport with very vague reasons provided. I was deemed a security risk to the nation and the other reason is that there's criminal investigations on the way that I am directly linked to."
Mr Kun's denied the allegations and is challenging the decision in court.
"We have spoken in media in regards to Nauru government's lack of regard for rule of law. That's the limit of what I have done. That is just what members of opposition do in a democratic system."
The Nauruan president said:
"It must be emphasised that members of the Opposition have been speaking loudly and freely against the reform measures of our Government for some time. They have a right to do that, but they have no right to create violence and break the law."
New Zealand's Foreign Minister Murray McCully says it's an understatement to say he's deeply concerned about developments in Nauru.
He says he will have what he calls a pretty direct conversation with Mr Waqa at a meeting of Pacific Islands Forum Foreign Ministers in just over a week's time.
"I'll certainly take the opportunity in any informal discussions to raise these issues and to see if we can find a pathway forward. We need to take pretty seriously the reports that are coming out and we need to have some focused conversations about these developments."
As Nauru continues to accuse the foreign media of bias, Mr McCully says he will again raise with Nauru its US$7000 journalist's visa which he says has diminished scrutiny of developments.
He says he will check whether Nauru is measuring up to its earlier assurances about the integrity of its judicial system.
New Zealand provides US$600,000 a year to fund the system and last year Mr McCully called Nauru ministers to Wellington after the Nauru government deported the country's only magistrate and cancelled the visa of the Chief Justice.
But he does not want to put Nauru's judicial system under any further pressure by pulling aid.
"If we were simply to depart the scene, then that leaves the Australians carrying effectively all of the burden and also means we put under further pressure the judicial systems we're already concerned about. So our starting point is always to find a way of dealing with the issues and finding a way forward rather than pulling the plug on what is not a big development initiative."
But that would be a weak response for Nauru's former Chief Justice Geoffrey Eames, who resigned after not being allowed to return to Nauru from his Australian base.
"It should not be supporting it. It should be saying this is an absolutely appalling abuse of power. I think the minister has got to make himself so plain to the present government that they accept that a change must occur and unless something is done well New Zealand will be propping up a system which is simply unjust."
Mr Waqa emphasises there will be due process and fair hearings for the MPs in court but Mr Eames says the judicial system remains deficient.
"All of these terribly complex and didfficult actions, now including a range of criminal proceedings, are pretty much all being represented by one person, by what is known as a pleader, and he's an extremely intelligent and helpful advocate but he is not a trained lawyer. and he's being pitted against trained lawyers and complex law and the government is just stacking the odds against them."
Meanwhile Mr Waqa has confirmed that some government workers who took part in the protests have lost their jobs.
"Sadly, the organisers of this riot did not advise those they influenced that participating in a criminal act would jeopardise their jobs, and this has resulted in the employment of some Government workers being terminated. Again, we reject suggestions that this is somehow stifling freedom of speech, an argument being used by the Opposition to justify criminality."
Roland Kun says the government is spreading propaganda that he is informing the New Zealand government of goings on in Nauru.
The Inter Parliamentary Union, a coalition or international parliaments, says it stands ready to offer the Nauru parliament help.
The IPU's Secretary-General, Martin Chungong, says a strong and effective opposition is an important part of democracy.
"We are going to look at it and we are saying that democracy is under siege everywhere in the world. This is an instance where one of the key tenets of democracy is in jeopardy and so we have to look into that."
Mr Chungong says the union could help mediate between the opposition and the government and it will offer its services in a neutral and impartial manner.
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