28 Apr 2004

Nauru faces crisis comparable to Solomon Islands says MP

11:31 am on 28 April 2004

An opposition politician in Nauru says the country is on the verge of a crisis comparable to that which faced Solomon Islands.

Dr Kieren Keke says the government is operating without a budget and public servants wages are nine to twelve months in arrears.

He says as the government is the biggest employer, many people are being forced to live off fish and coconuts after receiving just over 70 U.S. dollars pay in the last three months.

Dr Keke was one of six people who were arrested at a peaceful demonstration by hundreds against the government at the end of last week.

It was the second day in a row in which hundreds of Nauruans had demonstrated outside the parliament.

Dr Keke says the president, Rene Harris, has not explained how the government is going to get the country out of the dire situation it faces.

"Realistically, I think Nauru is verging on the crisis that struck Solomon Islands and without some sort of regional assistance package, we'll be fast setting down the same track. It's very serious. Most of the population are employed by the government or government corporations, and most of them have not been paid. If we weren't living on the ocean and luckily we are, we're able to live off the fish and things that we can get off the reef, people would literally be starving."

Dr Keke says there's an impasse in parliament with numbers evenly split in the 18 member house.

He says the opposition is taking the government to court, alleging that it's operating illegally as a budget hasn't been presented.

The country is reported to be facing bankruptcy.