Governance issues linger over Nauru
The head of the Pacific Research Centre at New Zealand's Massey University says Nauru continues to face difficult issues in terms of its governance.
A political scientist says Nauru continues to face difficult issues in terms of governance. This comes nearly four weeks after the Waqa/Adeang government was re-elected, with the poll reducing opposition numbers to just three of the 19 MPs. This came after a two year long suspension of the bulk of the previous opposition MPs, most of whom failed to retain their seats. There have been accusations of bribery leading up to the poll but election observers have given it the all clear. The island, reliant on Australian financial support through its controversial asylum seeker detention programme, has shut out almost all international scrutiny by imposing onerous visa conditions on journalists. New Zealand has suspended some aid in protest at the previous government's actions while the government strives to keep out foreign lawyers representing people who oppose it. Massey University's Pacific Research and Policy Centre head, Malakai Koloamatangi, told Don Wiseman the island is not showing signs of being able to resolve some of these things.
MALAKAI KOLOAMATANGI: Nauru faces some difficult issues in terms of governance and in terms of politicking, if you like. It's not looking like it is able to resolve some of these things and you know there was some hope that the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat would be able to help in that way but of course the Forum's hands are tied because really it only can help if the government in question or the nation in question invites it to help. The Forum is wary of meddling in the affairs of sovereign nations.
DON WISEMAN: That's a huge flaw in the Forum's set up isn't it?
MK: Yes it is. But I wonder, given the Forum's inability to assist formally and in areas where the assistance is needed, I wonder why Australia for example can't use its influence to bring about more democratic decision-making and more democratic politics in Nauru. Obviously Nauru relies on Australia a lot, more so than it does on the Forum and also on New Zealand of course.
DW: Yes, but Australia just does not want to rock the boat. It's perfectly happy with how things are isn't it?
MK: Yes it is and that's ironic, given the fact that Australia, of course, has benifited a great deal from the phosphate, the so-called economic development in Nauru. But I think if Australia was serious enough ... (there are) not a lot of people on Nauru, round about 10,000 people ... the economy is not doing well. The phosphate, they're into the secondary phase, is not that great either. It will run out obviously. There are health problems. You know there are other problems on Nauru but I wonder whether Australia, despite all that, could say, look, we will help Nauru because in a way Australia has contributed to the problems in Nauru.
DW: Another issue that came to the surface in the election, as you say the population I think is somewhere between 10 and 11,000 but they had just shy of 8,000 people registered to vote. That seems awfully high to me.
MK: There are elections where you get a lot more registrations of course than voter turnout so it's not unusual but it is unusual for a country of 11,000 people to have 8,000 registered voters registering. I mean that's very very high. Of course Nauru is a very complicated electoral system. It needs to be assessed properly and examined. I'm not saying that election observers did not do a good job on the surface ot it, I'm just saying that seems to be on the high side to me.
DW: Speaking of election observers, they are invariably politicians, usually retired politicians, or politicians who have lost their seats. Very often of course, these people who know the incumbents and so on. There are a lot of vested interests aren't there? Isn't it time that these so-called observer teams started incorporating other people? Media for instance?
MK: I agree. I agree wholeheartedly and I've seen the work of the results of these election observers in other countries as well. I wonder whether, you are right, whether ... why not have a mixed team that is made up of ex politicians, academics, the press, media, NGOs and so on. So that way you bring a diverse range of views but also it gives its work more credibility, otherwise, particularly in the very small nations, such as Nauru, there is also the danger that everyone knows everyone else, so you need to guard against that by having a mixed group that will bring it some credibility and guard against this old boys' network type of approach.
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