NAURU SUPREME COURT STOPS NEW PRESIDENT

NAURU (Radio Australia, Jan.10) - The Nauru Supreme Court has issued an injunction against Bernard Dowiyogo from claiming he is Nauru’s new president.

This is the latest development in a political crisis that emerged in Parliament on New Year’s Eve, when opposition MP David Adeang moved a vote of no confidence in the government.

That vote was passed 8-3 on Wednesday, even though the incumbent, President Rene Harris, and his Cabinet boycotted Parliament.

Only eleven of the eighteen members of Parliament attended the meeting. Since the vote, Harris has reportedly remained in his office, refusing to move out.

Dowiyogo was reportedly sworn in last Thursday afternoon, ahead of a parliamentary meeting on Friday. Parliament sat for just 30 minutes and it's understood there may be a weekend sitting. However, no-one on Nauru would discuss what happened during the sitting.

Suva-based High Commissioner, Camilla Solomon could only advise to "keep trying Nauru."

"I have been trying to get through to Nauru but so far I have not been able to get anything on what is happening on the island,". Solomon told PACNEWS.

However, on Friday, Harris successfully applied to the Supreme Court, sitting in Melbourne, Australia, ordering Dowiyogo from "asserting that he is the lawful President of Nauru; appointing persons to be members of Cabinet" giving orders to the civil servants and police and exercising powers that are the prerogative of the President.

Chief Justice, Barry Connell, issued the orders for 72 hours.

In recent months, opposition MPs had criticized President Harris' government for economic mismanagement and corruption.

Nauru has attracted the ire of international bank regulators in recent years for allowing money laundering, has been caught up in a diplomatic tug of war between China and Taiwan, and helped out Australia by accepting more than 1,000 asylum seekers in return for cash, after a series of disastrous investments.

MP David Adeang says Harris and his Cabinet have delayed the payment of public servants and mismanaged the Nauru Phosphate Corporation.

On 9 December, Australia's Foreign Minister Alexander Downer extended the Memorandum of Understanding with Nauru - part of the Howard government's Pacific Solution - for a further twelve months, under which up to 1,500 asylum seekers can be held in the country at a time.

Currently 580 refugees and asylum seekers, mainly Afghans and Iraqis, are detained in two camps in Nauru.

Australian government also pledged a further $A14.5 million in development aid for Nauru, on top of $A7 million already allocated in the 2002 budget.

Nearly $11 million of this aid will go to essential infrastructure, including power and water supply, $A1.6 million for health and $A1.3 million for education.

Both Dowiyogo and Harris have refused to comment on the crisis.

The next elections are due in April, 2003.

January 13, 2003

Radio Australia: www.abc.net.au 

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