Call for Pacific Forum to try and resolve crisis in Nauru
There are suggestions that an eminent persons group should be sent to Nauru ass the small island is again enveloped in a debiliting political crisis.
A New Zealand academic says an eminent persons' group should be sent to Nauru by the Pacific Islands Forum to try and resolve a political crisis.
Five of the eight opposition MPs have been expelled indefinitely from Nauru's parliament and one, a former justice minister, Mathew Batsiua, says they have now been stripped of their entitlements, offices and salaries.
He says they were fulfilling their roles as opposition MPs by challenging government policy, and believe their expulsions are unconstitutional.
The head of the Pasifika Department at Massey University, Malakai Koloamatangi, spoke with Don Wiseman and began by outlining how Nauru got to this point.
MALAKAI KOLOAMATANGI: It's an odd situation in an odd country. Nauru has no parallel in the Pacific, indeed maybe in the whole world. It is a small country and it is struggling particularly after the depletion of phosphate and its relegation in terms of economic development and so since then Nauru has tried to struggle with, in fact probably relearning, how to live as a poor country as opposed to a very wealthy country in the 60s and 70s. So politicians and its system of government which has been influenced a lot by Australia is struggling to come to terms with that - it is a problem for them and I don't think the politicians themselves or the actual structure or the system itself is geared to overcome these political challenges so they are having to relearn a lot of these things as opposed for example to other Pacific Islands who have struggled throughout their life as independent countries so Nauru is a unique case, but it is also involved in other things, for example, the tuna fishing and so forth, which might be a saviour if you like through all these problems, because if the country was doing well I don't think you would find these political challenges.
DON WISEMAN: One argument could well be that perhaps it is doing too well, at least some people there, and this is the reason for the latest political shenanigans. There is a very large amount of money coming into the country from Australia because of the asylum seeker camp and to a certain extent you can talk about Nauru being poor but right now it is not so poor.
MK: Yes, again, it is a volatile and challenging situation for Nauru. I mean, having thrown in the asylum seekers equation then I think that it makes it more problematic rather than leading to solutions to the issue. And so Nauru has been caught up in the so-called Pacific Solution by Australia and it is an uncomfortable place to be because really even that dimension of it, even the asylum seekers aspect, has not been resolved amicably by Australia and say other countries in the world that deal with asylum seekers. So it is caught up in a place that it cannot extract itself from. I think it is layered, these issues, and Nauru is not coping well with it.
DW: In the meantime of course, we have got these five MPs who say they were unjustly removed from parliament, it wouldn't certainly seem to be a heavy handed move by parliament yet to a certain extent in a country where there is little media they would seem to get forgotten, it would seem, and now we have the government itself taking their offices off them and their salaries and so on.
MK: Yeah, you know, Nauru is small enough and in some respects certainly in the Pacific context I think it is right, if you can put it that way, for it to be not to be seen on the radar for example and for many years Nauru was regarded by many in the Pacific, certainly many politicians in the Pacific, as being the odd man out if you like and so these issues and these problems, political problems, are perhaps seen by the Pacific Islands Forum and perhaps the Micronesian grouping which Nauru is closer to, as a problem for Nauru itself and not a regional issue. It should be a regional issue because if that happens in Nauru what would happen if there was a domino effect for other Pacific islands.
DW: Former Foreign Minister, Kieren Keke, who is one of the excluded MPs, he has said this is an issue that really an organisation like the Pacific Islands Forum should be looking at under the Biketawa Declaration.
MK: I agree, I agree. I mean, again, the Biketawa Declaration, itself, is unclear on many issues, in many respects, and this is one of them. You know, what would it take for the Pacific Islands Forum to get involved in a situation such as what is happening in Nauru. We saw the same kind of issue, in for example, before the Pacific Island Forum took up the case of the Solomon Islands and RAMSI [the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands] was sent. For some years, the Solomon Islands Prime Minister at the time tried to use the Biketawa Declaration to get help from outside the Solomons but it didn't eventuate and so we are seeing the same kind of thing being replayed with Nauru.
DW: What do you think the Pacific community can do to try and turn round the situation in Nauru?
MK: I think the best thing to do for the Pacific Islands Forum is maybe, and it is very good at this, sending perhaps an expert or eminent persons' group, EPG, to Nauru even just as a fact-finding exercise to see what is going on because obviously we are not seeing from the outside what really is taking place on the ground so to assess the situation of course the Nauru government itself has to ask for this to happen. The PI Forum is very clear on that - it cannot impose its will on member states, it has to be asked. But there are ways around it as well, you could encourage the Nauruans to ask for this but of course the Nauruans have to agree themselves that something is wrong in their own country. Now, that is a bit of a dilemma but apart from that nothing will happen so the forum, I think, has to push maybe softly to get this EPG or similar type of group into Nauru to see what's going on.
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