An analyst says Nauru's institutions are severely compromised
An analyst says Nauru's essential institutions are severely compromised.
The Nauru government is rejecting media reports that the country has abandoned the rule of law.
The country has faced stiff criticism this week after the sacking and deportation of the resident magistrate, Peter Law, the cancellation of the Chief Justice's visa and attempts to remove other key expatriates.
The Nauru government also hugely escalated the cost of visas for journalists, a move seen by many as an attempt to shut down foreign media criticism of the controversial camps on the island for Australia's asylum seekers.
The president Baron Waqa says Nauru will determine who can enter the country but a research associate with the Australian National University's Development Policy Unit, Tess Newton Cain, says essential institutions have been severely compromised.
In a blog piece she quoted a former Nauru secretary of Justice, David Lambourne, calling what has happened a coup by stealth.
Don Wiseman asked her if she agreed with this assessment.
TESS NEWTON CAIN: Oh, look, I think obviously normally when we think of a coup we think of a situation where one, a democratically elected government is overthrown by a group that has not been democratically elected. And obviously that's not what's happened in Nauru. The government was elected last year and remains in place. The situation that we have in Nauru is that decisions are being made and implemented without any reference to what we would understand the rule of law to be. So basically decisions are being made by cabinet and they're being executed by officials without any consideration as to whether those decisions have any lawful basis. And normally what would happen in a democratic system is that there would be checks and balances in place, i.e. through the courts, as one example. And those checks and balances there is just no guarantee that they're in place and even more so, it looks like basically those checks and balances, or even a commitment to accepting those checks and balances is not currently operating in Nauru.
DON WISEMAN: So no rule of law?
TNC: Yes, effectively.
DW: What does that say to the refugees who are waiting for the legal system there to decide whether or not they are refugees?
TNC: I think it says to anybody who is currently subject to executive decision making in Nauru that they are living in an environment in which there is no legal protection for their rights and interests. And that extends to refugees who are waiting to have claims processed through the legal processes for dealing with that, and it says the same to the citizens of Nauru, that they are living in an environment in which they cannot expect there to be any recourse for protection of legal rights or interests of whatever kind.
DW: It's odd isn't it, that this has happened, without putting too finer point on it, Nauru has been creaming it over the last 12 months or so with the money coming into the country as a result of the deal with Australia on the so-called Pacific Solution. So what's driven this?
TNC: I think what we've seen is, the point that you make about the economic impacts of the RPC is a very significant one. Because the government of Nauru for the first time in a long time has access to significant amounts of cash. So obviously what we're seeing is something like the Pacific Solution has the potential to be extremely significant in a small economy such as that of Nauru and in a small society. So what we've got is we've got a combination of the government having access to cash, it's less reliant on aid so it's not necessarily needing to take benefit of aid for example through supporting the legal sector, and that combined with a situation in which there are people in very significant positions of power who do not see that following the general precepts of good governance is something that they feel they need to be particularly bound by. And that's created what, you know, I described in the blog as something of a perfect storm.
DW: They're in an impregnable position, really.
TNC: Well obviously neither the government or Nauru, nor the government of Australia, has any short term interest in seeking to change the situation in relation to the RPC. So it solves a perceived problem for the government of Australia and obviously the government of Nauru is not going to kill a goose that's laying golden eggs to the tune of, I think, around in terms of visa fees what you're looking at is something like 900,000 dollars a month, which is a straight cash transfer from the government of Australia to the government of Nauru. And in addition to that, the RPC is generating a lot of revenue for the government through things like customs duties and revenues because of goods and services being imported.
DW: A lot of it is just pure profit really isn't it for the government, they're not spending a lot to acquire that.
TNC: That's absolutely right. All the infrastructure costs and running costs of the RPC are met by the government of Australia so it's simply is, it's pretty much just a top up to the public revenue. As I say, it's a very small country there are less than 10,000 people. It's a small economy so those sorts of steady income injections are very significant in an economy of that size.
DW: Now, for many years, David Ardeang, who is understood to be the architect behind all of this, was on the outer. He was involved in a number of very controversial dealings, he was accused of corruption. Are these related, these issues?
TNC: Look, I think when you look at the politics of Nauru going back over numerous years back to independence in 1968 generally the political framework is characterised by a lot of self interest. So there are no political parties in Nauru, people are not elected on the basis of policy platforms as such, so it's largely about putting together a sufficient number to guarantee your interest whatever they might be. And obviously those interests change overtime depending on what resources are available. Certainly, Adeang at the moment holds two very significant portfolios, Justice and Finance, and I think what we're seeing here is him taking steps of varying types and of varying degrees of "out-thereness", if that's a word, to cement his position and that of the group within parliament currently that support him.
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