17 Mar 2016

Pacific Forum says no Nauru monitors without govt invite

11:33 am on 17 March 2016

The Pacific Islands Forum says it would only send an election observer team to Nauru if the island's government requested it.

This comes after two former presidents of Nauru called for observers to be sent immediately in the wake of controversial changes to voting legislation.

The government, which has little opposition, is forcing public servants wanting to stand to resign their jobs three months before the poll and dramatically increased charges for prospective candidates and people moving constituencies.

The Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat Secretary-General, Dame Meg Taylor.

The Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat Secretary-General, Dame Meg Taylor. Photo: RNZI

The former presidents - Marcus Stephen and Sprent Dabwido - want the Forum and the Commonwealth to send monitors now because the changes are undermining the democratic process.

The Forum secretary general, Dame Meg Taylor, said the agency takes any allegations of electoral impropriety very seriously.

But she said the Forum would need an invitation from the Nauru government before it could send in a team of suitably qualified regional electoral experts.

However, A New Zealand-based academic, Malakai Koloamatangi from Massey University's Pasifika Centre, felt the request from two senior Nauru politicians should be taken very seriously.

"I know though that these two organisations are somewhat reluctant sometimes to get involved in what they see as national politics, but I think in this case, given the problems Nauru has gone through, I think it's advisable that Commonwealth Secretariat, ComSec, and PIFs abide by these two obviously senior people's request."

Meanwhile, a commentator on Pacific affairs is backing Dame Meg Taylor's response.

TNC Pacific's principal, Tess Newton Cain, said her reference to regional co-ordination in times of crisis was appropriate given the protocols and procedures around sending election observer teams.

"I'm very pleased to see that she's referenced Nauru's accession to the Biketawa Declaration and what that means for principals of good governance. And I'm also pleased to see that she's acknowleged that she's taken note of the issues that the members of the current opposition in Nauru have read in their letter."

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