CALLS FOR HARRIS RESIGNATION IN BANKRUPT NAURU

SUVA, Fiji (PINA, Jan. 7) - A new crisis is growing on financially crippled Nauru, with the Government’s budget defeated again and President Rene Harris refusing to resign, Opposition members said.

President Harris and his Cabinet have boycotted Parliament to prevent a motion of no confidence being moved, prominent Opposition MP David Adeang alleged.

Efforts to contact President Harris for comment have so far been unsuccessful.

The no-confidence motion is supported by the majority of the 21-square-kilometer island nation’s 18-member parliament, Mr Adeang said.

He said in the past three months, President Harris has seen the defection to the opposition of two backbenchers, two Cabinet Ministers, and the Speaker.

The Opposition group said President Harris is now supported only by "globe-trotting" Cabinet ministers and a small group of MPs, some appointed to head government corporations.

There has been a chorus of claims of Government corruption, mismanagement and incompetence, the Opposition group alleged.

They said with the expiration of the second Supply Budget by 31 December and defeat of Finance Minister Aloysius Amwano’s new budget the Government is denied Parliamentary approval for expenditure.

In calling for the Government’s resignation, Mr Adeang said:

"Since his re-election to the presidency two years ago, President Harris has been responsible for the rapid decline of Nauru to a level of poverty described by the elders of Nauru as unseen since World War II. Government workers have been unpaid for up to four months. Senior public servants continue to resign. Petrol, power, water and food shortages recurred. The Bank of Nauru is bankrupt and insolvent, even restricted by a directive from President Harris to $100 withdrawals per customer on Christmas Eve. Riots have broken out twice at the refugee camps, incurring injuries to Nauruan and Australian security personnel."

Australia has helped prop up key government services, agreeing to provide A$24.5 million aid in return for Nauru hosting the Australian-run asylum seeker processing center.

The country of 12,000 - once the wealthiest per capita in the Pacific Islands thanks to phosphate mining - is now described as virtually financially bankrupt.

The Opposition group alleged President Harris spent only two months on Nauru last year, and 10 months on overseas travels. This included long periods in Melbourne receiving state-of-the-art medical treatment and dialysis treatment because of kidney problems, the Opposition group said.

Mr Adeang said President Harris should do the honorable thing and allow the country to regain some stability by resigning his presidency.

Nauru also faces increasing pressure and international sanctions over its offshore banking business. This is alleged linked to international money laundering.

January 8, 2003

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