Police circle Nauru parliament and move in to eject Keke
Wrestling breaks out between the police and opposition MPs in Nauru's parliament during efforts to eject a member over claims he's damaging the country's reputation.
Chaos broke out in Nauru's parliament on Wednesday when police moved in to remove an opposition MP from the chamber.
Parliament had resumed after Tuesday's urgent motion by the Justice Minister, David Adeang, to have three opposition MPs suspended, including Kieren Keke.
Mr Adeang says the MPs had hurt Nauru's development by giving damaging interviews to foreign media.
Dr Keke told Sally Round how the parliamentary session unfolded.
KIEREN KEKE: Police came in and tried to remove me and my colleagues assisted me in not being removed. So the police came in and were obviously given orders to not negotiate and to physically remove me from parliament. So they tried to pull me out, carry me out, and we were successful in resisting their efforts. You could say that there was a period of wrestling between members of parliament, former presidents, former speaker, members of the police.
SALLY ROUND: The former president, Mr Dabwido?
KK: Yes. Mr Sprent Dabwido, former president, and Marcus Stephen, former president, Riddell Akua, former speaker, and myself and a couple of other members of parliament.
SR: Was anyone hurt in this scuffle?
KK: Mr Dabwido was a bit unwell. He's fine now. There was certainly some concern about his welfare and I think the police, they managed the situation well, we believe, they stood down when they saw that Mr Dabwido was struggling and brought in the ambulance and some nursing assistance.
SR: Why was he struggling, was he hit?
KK: They didn't strike any of us. They were trying to pull us and push us and lift us and move us, but they did not strike us. They maintained respect in terms of how they talked to us, but it was very physical.
SR: And when you say unwell, what was the problem there?
KK: He almost collapsed, fainted. It was physical exertion. There was a lot of wrestling, a lot of physical exertion, pushing and shoving.
SR: Were people on the ground?
KK: Yes. It was a bit of a melee in terms of numbers of police pulling and pushing and numbers falling on the ground.
SR: How many police were there?
KK: It's a bit hard to tell. We had backed ourselves into a corner. There was some directly involved with us and there was a large number sort of beyond, that were I guess their back up and support.
SR: So are we talking dozens?
KK: Certainly dozens around the precinct. There's a large number of police around parliament patrolling public outside, and there's a large number of public demonstrating outside and shouting that they want their representatives in parliament.
SR: And how many did actually enter the chamber? How many police?
KK: I would say there were probably at least 20 that came in, around that sort of number.
SR: Were there any other protests from within the chamber, apart from those opposition MPs?
KK: The cabinet and government caucus MPs promptly vacated the chamber as soon as the speaker called for a recess.
SR: And what's going to happen now? Has the speaker indicated at all when parliament will resume?
KK: No, he hasn't yet. We are waiting for a reply from the speaker. Basically we have put to the speaker that the motion to suspend members was unlawful, it's unconstitutional and it doesn't comply with parliamentary rules, and that he should rule the motion out of order and invalid. If he does so, then parliament should proceed as normal and myself and the other members of parliament not be suspended. If the speaker chooses to side with government and support this unlawful motion, then I think we will be left with the power of the people and avenues through the courts, once we get a court that functions.
SR: So what exactly was the motion brought by the Justice Minister, David Adeang?
KK: It was a very brief motion, that didn't have any detail, and simply moved that three members be suspended because of statements that they had made in foreign media that were damaging to Nauru's development in their opinion.
SR: Those opposition members, Mathew Batsiua, Roland Kun, what do they have to say about this?
KK: You know, this is a bit of the shameful tactics that this government has employed. These two members are not on island and government knew that, so they've had little opportunity to respond and participate in the events. I've spoken with one of them, and obviously he's very angry with the actions taken by government and will be jointly proceeding to combat what the government is trying to do.
SR: What are the numbers in parliament, government versus opposition?
KK: The government has 10 votes at the moment, and the opposition has eight. There's a strong belief on my part that this is really a camouflage to try and prevent some of the breakdown that's occurring within government. There's been a lot of talk about splits within government and members within the current cabinet leaving this government and reforming government within the coalition with some of the opposition members. I see this move really as part of President Waqa's and David Adeang's tactics to try to prevent the split from within their own ranks, by removing numbers in the pool within parliament that they can negotiate with.
SR: Do you think other Pacific Island countries should be concerned about what is happening in Nauru?
KK: Certainly, this is most definitely issues for the forum countries to consider. Not just what has happened today, but the pattern of governance from this Waqa-led government since they came into office last June. Lack of accountability, their censorship of media, their interference in the judiciary, their failures in financial accountability. There's a long list of issues that are core to the principles of the forum in terms of good governance and the rule of law, and those are issues that all countries have signed onto in the forum. They are issues that are core to the Biketawa Declaration that the forum has as a mechanism to enable forum countries to respond or take action against countries that are not abiding by principles of good governance that the forum upholds.
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