Nauru claims New Zealand move misguided and interfering
Nauru hits back at New Zealand after the suspension of aid to its justice sector, accusing it of interfering in its domestic affairs.
Nauru has issued a hard hitting dismissal of New Zealand's claims about the state of its judicial sector, saying its suspension of aid funding is misguided.
In a statement it further accuses New Zealand of attempting to undermine the island's national sovereignty and interfering in its domestic affairs.
Don Wiseman reports:
The Nauru Justice Minister, David Adeang, claims the move is based on misinformation from Opposition MP Roland Kun and his wife, who he says have been lobbying the New Zealand Government. He says any suggestion the Nauru justice system is not independent or that the rule of law is not being upheld is completely wrong and offensive to the country's judges.
But Nauru's former chief justice, Australian Geoffrey Eames, says the island's government cannot ignore New Zealand's decision. Mr Eames was one of several key officials forced out last year by the government - the move that prompted New Zealand's first look at whether its aid money was being well spent. It got assurances then from Mr Adeang, but an assessment done since the seizure of Roland Kun's passport in June and the temporary imprisonment of other MPs, prompted further investigation, leading to this week's decision by Foreign Minister Murray McCully to stop the spend. Mr Eames says New Zealand's decision sends a strong message to Nauru that the rule of law does matter.
GEOFFREY EAMES: The fact of the matter is the message will get across by this action but it is a serious event and they can't simply dismiss it and pass it off to the local people in Nauru as if it's merely a matter of an attack on sovereignty.
Geoffrey Eames says if Canberra remains silent over New Zealand's decision it will be a very sad commentary on Australia. Australian Greens Senator, Sarah Hanson-Young, says Australia has been silent on corruption and the disarray in the justice sector, but it needs to be clearer with Nauru about what its expectations are in terms of a fairer legal system.
SARAH HANSON-YOUNG: This is not the type of democracy that we want to see happening in the Pacific region and Australia needs to take a/ some responsibility and b/ do what we can to get Nauru back on track.
David Adeang claims his government implicitly respects the rule of law and the separation of powers, but stands by its right to uphold the law, which he says includes the current investigation of Mr Kun for his alleged part in instigating what the government deemed a riot at Parliament House in June. Mr Adeang says since these investigations are continuing New Zealand is trying to undermine Nauru's sovereignty and influence a criminal investigation.
Mr Kun, who is one of the five Opposition MPs suspended from parliament since the middle of last year after challenging the government's actions, says it is disappointing that New Zealand has been forced to suspend the aid. He has been stuck on Nauru, away from his New Zealand resident family for the past 3 months, after his passport was seized during the anti government protests the government calls a riot. No charges have been brought against him and attempts to win back his passport have been frustrated by the Government changing the rules on visas, so his Australian lawyer needs a visa costing nearly $US5000 instead of a special purpose visa of $US75. He says he fears the New Zealand decision may hinder his case since David Adeang had already begun to spread what he calls misinformation through a statement in parliament 3 weeks ago.
ROLAND KUN: He pointed to my case and said that that was the sole reason and the sole concern of the New Zealand government. So already the Minister for Justice was trying to shift blame. So obviously it's misinformation, but that's what he had done in advance of this New Zealand government announcement.
But Mr Kun says he is happy that New Zealand has acknowledged the problems with the lack of rule of law and the Nauru government's disregard for human rights. He says there is no point in supporting a justice system if what is happening on the ground is the opposite of what was intended.
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