DEMOCRACY LOSES GROUND IN KIRIBATI

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Minister resigns after elders’ threats

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, August 28, 2009) – Kiribati’s Environment Minister, Tetabo Nakara, has resigned after violence erupted on the Island of Maiana between the two ruling bodies there.

Tetabo Nakara stepped down after feeling the government should have intervened earlier to assist.

Last month the traditional old men’s association known as Te Bau Ni Maiana handed down to the elected council an ultimatum to vacate their seats for a new election.

The Mayor and a few of his councillors refused, bringing the case to the High Court, where they received a judgment in their favor.

Kiribati’s High Court said Te Bau could not remove a democratically elected local government unless the councilors wished to vacate their seats or it is a result of a referendum.

But Te Bau insisted the council be abolished.

The Mayor’s house was later burned to the ground and he and his colleagues finally vacated their seats.

MP Tetabo Nakara compared the Maiana episode with what had happened on Butaritari Island two years ago.

In Butaritari, the old men also punished some families for not complying with their decisions.

Houses were burned and a man died.

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