New Zealand places some checks on aid programmes with Nauru
The foreign ministers of Nauru and New Zealand meet after Wellington became concerned at the removal of key officials from the judiciary on the island.
The foreign ministers of Nauru and New Zealand have met in Wellington after New Zealand became concerned at the removal of key officials from the judiciary on the island.
Last month Nauru's resident magistrate, an Australian, was deported and the Australian based chief justice was denied a visa to the island.
The New Zealand aid programme has been supporting the law and order and justice sector, and last month foreign minister Murray McCully said this aid was being reviewed.
This prompted a visit to Wellington by Nauru's justice and finance minister, David Adeang, and home affairs minister, Charmaine Scotty.
Mr McCully says, in principle, New Zealand will continue with the aid programme but has placed some riders on Nauru.
MURRAY MCCULLY: The justice sector is obviously important and the terms we've agreed on with the Justice Minister are such that we are comfortable. We've made it clear that there's some rebuilding of public confidence, international confidence that is required now after these events. The key issues for us are that there should be both a respected and credible process for the appointment of new judicial officers and that there should be people of good quality occupying those roles. Those have always been the objectives of New Zealand's funding arrangements in that sector and if we can continue to meet them we'll continue to fund it.
DON WISEMAN: Yes, although the critics of these actions by the Nauru government say that what they've done is illegal, that they are undermining the judiciary, the justice sector there.
MM: Those are obviously the concerns that we've conveyed to the Nauru government and told them we want to work through with them. As is always the case on these occasions and particularly in smaller countries, there are often different views on what has actually happened and different perspectives on who has acted correctly and who hasn't, and we're being careful not to get too close to that exchange. What is clear is that it's unlikely that we'll see at least one of those judicial officers continue to serve. We've got a broader investment in that justice sector and provided there is a credible and respected process by which we go through that appointment process, I think I can say we will continue to fund. Now, we've agreed those things in principle. We've agreed to amend the funding agreement under which we fund the justice sector to reflect those requirements and as long as the Nauruan government act in accordance with that agreement, we think the best contribution we can make is to keep on funding.
DW: What changes are you making?
MM: Well, we're doing some work on amendments to the funding agreements to ensure that there's a little more transparency and a little more accountability built into it. Obviously if we're going to continue funding the justice sector we want to be able to ensure that the appointment process is respectable and it's going to generate good candidates. So we've got amendments being made that will give us visibility on the process and the ability to exercise our rights if you like if we're not satisfied that the spirit of our agreement's being met.
DW: I guess the key issue facing Nauru is that they've got these asylum seeker camps there. They've had something like sixteen months now of assessing people for their refugee status; no one has been publicly declared as a refugee although it's understood that there are a whole lot. This is the work of the justice sector in Nauru - when we talk about transparency are you concerned about this?
MM: Obviously the justice sector in Nauru is more important than you might normally find in a Pacific country for those reasons. And it's normally very important in any Pacific country but this additional feature in Nauru does make it important and clearly some of the events of recent times have not made the workings of the justice sector very smooth or productive. The background to this is that our funding of the justice sector is a very small part of the overall support that Nauru receives. The Australian government is a much more substantial funder than we are. It would be a call that we would wish to avoid to pull out of funding the justice sector when it is so important and we carry a relatively small part compared with our Australian friends. So those are all factors that we've looked at in deciding that we want to keep investing in that sector provided we can meet the objectives.
DW: But if this transparency wasn't forthcoming you could well pull out?
MM: Yeah the effective clauses we've agreed to and inserted into the new agreement is to give us the flexibility to withdraw if we have concerns going forward. We're going to take the assurances we've been given today at face value and act accordingly but if anything untoward was to happen in future, we've got more scope to pull out of our arrangements. But based on today's conversation, I'm comfortable that there's good intent on the other side.
DW: Now one of the other things that has happened in Nauru is that they've dramatically hiked visas for journalists which most journalists recognise is an attempt to shut the media out of that country, is this something you raised with Mr Adeang?
MM: Yes, in an act of unbelievable generosity towards New Zealand's journalist fraternity I did raise that issue. I did point out to the minister that if we were to rebuild international confidence in the justice sector in Nauru, the media scrutiny of events would play its part. And while it was not for me to try and propose domestic policies for Nauru, it seems to me they might want to consider the role of the media and the impact of that visa policy on our overall objective of rebuilding confidence. So I raised it in that context and I'll leave the matter for them to consider as part of this rebuilding process they need to go through.
To embed this content on your own webpage, cut and paste the following: