30 May 2013

Nauru President defends state of emergency declaration

5:38 pm on 30 May 2013

Nauru's president has defended his decision to declare a state of emergency ahead of next week's election.

Following months of political deadlock, Sprent Dabwido issued the declaration this week, claiming the country was in economic crisis, and bringing the election forward by two weeks.

Mr Dabwido spoke to Johnny Blades and began by justifying his directive to local media that if any politician wants to be interviewed, it must go through him first.

SPRENT DABWIDO: So I am not banning media, as [in] they cannot talk to politicians, but before airing that I'll see. Because in the past, for so many years, politicians have used the nauru government media to promote themselves during elections. They're using government resources to get an advantage [over] other, let's say, new candidates in each district, in each constituency. So I thought that's a bit unfair on the new potential members of parliament at the coming election if the ministers or the current MPs do get an advantage of always promoting themselves on the media. And I think other members want to have fame then I probably should text and context or what they're trying to say in the media 'cause otherwise it'll be going back to the good old days where they promote themselves and they put down up and coming members. So it's really a ban on politicians using the media for any political reason.

JOHNNY BLADES: Now, you've declared this state of emergency ahead of the election, and I suppose there is some concern that, because that gives your caretaker government access to treasury funds, in fact, you might use those funds to in some way give yourself a boost in the election, an advantage.

SD: There's always that perception out there. That'll be fuelled by the opposition or those who have a very different view on how government operates. But whatever I do during the state of emergency, I have to be responsible for this special committee that is set up to observe and to monitor the state of emergency. And that includes the Chief Justice, a person appointed by the Chief Justice and a person appointed by cabinet. And if any government during a state of emergency decides to do anything that is inappropriate they will have to answer to this committee who has the right to take you to court. So it's not, as people would see it, that you have full power. You can't do anything. You still have to be responsible, you still have to be accountable to the authority that is set up by the state of emergency.

JB: But the timing of it just before this election, why didn't you do it months ago before the latest deadlock?

SD: Well, if I call for a financial state of emergency there has to be two reasons. There has to be a security problem, like civil unrest, or there has to be a financial problem. The financial problem was only brought to me on Monday, that the Ministry of Health do not have sufficient funds to cover hospital meals, do not have sufficient funds to cover overseas referral patients, and that is what triggered the state of emergency.