By Peter Wagner

HONOLULU, (Pacific Islands Report, July 23) – The Nauru government has abruptly closed two of its diplomatic posts, opened just five months ago in Beijing and Washington, D.C..

Nauru president Ludwig Scotty made the announcement yesterday, citing economic constraints. But the president also noted that the missions – set up to address U.S. concerns about money laundering and terrorism – were not staffed by Nauru citizens and "were not serving their intended purposes."

Scotty said all appointments of non-Nauruans at the two missions were rescinded.

"Our country has not weakened in its resolve to assist the United States and other governments, including China, in the fight against international criminal organizations money-laundering, or terrorism," he said in a prepared statement.

The two posts were opened in February, shortly after a visit to Washington by late Nauru president Bernard Dowiyogo. The missions were meant, in part, to address concerns raised by the U.S. over money-laundering activities associated with Nauru’s once-flourishing offshore banking industry and the sale of Nauru passports.

Yesterday’s announcement drew a sharp response from Steven M. Ray, Nauru’s Consul General Designate in Washington, who called Scotty’s announcement "politically suspect."

"President Ludwig Scotty has not formally notified us of his decision to close the diplomatic mission here in Washington, D.C.," Ray said in a press release.

He noted Scotty’s announcement came on the heels of an action by newly elected Member of Parliament Russel Kun, a reform candidate, against parties suspected of illegal passport dealing in Nauru. Ray said Kun had ordered records of suspected dealers turned over to the Washington diplomatic office last week.

"If President Scotty is truly the reformer he claims to be, then he would support the efforts of the two diplomatic missions, instead of trying to justify his decision by claiming "economic" reasons," Ray said. "Both of the diplomatic missions cost Nauru nothing. There was no physical property in Washington, only a mail drop. Nauru did not front any of the costs involved in the Beijing Embassy, and there was certainly never any salary or expenses paid to either representative. The reasons behind his decision and the timing of this announcement are remarkable."

Scotty said the mission closures were temporary, "until Nauru resolves appropriate staffing and other functional issues."

July 23, 2003


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